One of the great things about self-hosted WordPress blogging is the amount of plugins available to help you make your blog just the way you want it.
For anyone not on WordPress, plugins are additional solutions that you can install to your site’s admin area, and they then offer extra functionality to your blog and how your readers interact with it.
These can range from social sharing options, design tools, subscription options, e-commerce solutions and much more.
In my last post, I spoke about the process that went into the redesign here, and Ken Mueller (an awesome part of anyone’s blog community) suggested sharing the plugins I use on here.
So, here they are.
If you look to the bottom of my posts, you’ll see a simple reminder to subscribe to the blog. This is created using afterRead, a great little plugin to offer a call-to-action to your readers after they’ve read your content.
One of the most-used anti-spam plugins around, Akismet is one of these plugins that’s pretty much a given on any WordPress site or blog. As well as blocking its idea of spam, it’s also pretty effective at learning from your manual filters to improve its anti-spam filters.
3. Align RSS Images
This one is more cosmetic, as it’s a plugin that works on your RSS feed (this is where subscribers can read your blog). What I like about Align RSS Images is that it keeps the image formatting used on your blog post in the RSS feed, as opposed to losing the alignment like normal RSS feeds.
Probably one of my favourites, and definitely one that any blogger serious about their content needs, BackUpBuddy saves your content, widgets and themes in case your site crashes. It also makes migration to a new host or server super easy. It’s a premium purchase, but highly recommended.
5. Clicky for WordPress
For any site owner, analytics are key to monitor reader behaviour and where your traffic is coming from. Clicky is an awesome alternative to Google Analytics, and less scary for the average blogger. My friend Brankica wrote a great overview of Clicky – check it out.
6. Clicky Popular Posts Widget
While not a standalone plugin per se, the Clicky Popular Posts Widget is a nice addition from developer Konstantin Obenland that monitors your analytics and shows the most popular posts based on visitor interaction, as opposed to social sharing or page visits. Which, for me, is more useful.
7. Fix RSS Feeds
One of the possible dangers of changing designs or web hosts is it can mess up your blog’s RSS feed, and your subscribers aren’t aware of new posts. Fix RSS Feeds does exactly what it says on the tin, and fixes any errors caused by a migration or design change.
8. Genesis Responsive Slider
Officially my favourite WordPress framework, Genesis (affiliate link) offers a rock-solid theme platform with great plugins. Like the Genesis Responsive Slider, which offers a cool slider gallery for images which also resizes itself based on the browser you visit on (including mobile). A very cool plugin, and used on this blog’s home page.
9. Genesis Simple Edits
While I did the redesign of this blog myself, I’m no coder, so plugins like Genesis Simple Edits are hugely useful. It allows you to edit your footer code, as well as post meta and byline without messing around with the style CSS. So, perfect for coding idiots like me.
10. Genesis Simple Hooks
Again, perfect for non-coders (although more experienced WordPress users will make this plugin sing), Genesis Simple Hooks gives you a ton of control over various aspects of your blog, and singles out the area you want to change then lets you insert code without touching your main CSS.
11. Google XML Sitemaps
While your blog might be full of awesome content, if the search engines don’t know how to read it properly, you’re screwed. Google XML Sitemaps makes it easy for search engines to index your blog and point people to the content they want to find.
12. Gravity Forms
Along with BackupBuddy and Livefyre, Gravity Forms is one of my favourites. Much more than a simple form builder, this plugin lets you create contact forms, add pricing options, create feedback questionnaires and much more. Incredibly flexible and worth the purchase price.
13. Livefyre Realtime Comments
One of the best parts of any blog is the comments section, and Livefyre is the best comments platform bar none. Realtime updates, social network comment integration, friend tagging on Twitter and Facebook, commenter moderation and way more besides. Oh, and the new Livefyre 3 is due imminently and plain out rocks (sneak peek below)!
14. Login Lockdown
Like any popular product or platform, WordPress attracts its fair share of hackers. To help prevent your site being compromised, Login Lockdown disables sign-in attempts if the wrong user and password details are entered more than the amount of times you set. Very useful.
For any bloggers looking to monetize their blog (or simply grow traffic), Premise (affiliate link) is perfect. From the guys behind Genesis, this plugin lets you create landing sales pages, membership site solutions, social sharing for extra content options, and much more. Very comprehensive, highly recommended.
16. RSS Cloud
Because not everyone knows what an RSS feed is, the RSS Cloud plugin is a great way to make it easy for readers to subscribe. It points RSS Readers to the right format and content, makes the subscription process easier, and also updates servers when a new post goes live.
17. RSS Footer
There’s nothing worse than writing great content, then seeing an automated feed scrape pull your content and used on another blog. RSS Footer offers some protection by inserting a link and copyright at the end of each post, and linking scraped content back to your original source.
18. SEO Data Transporter
One of the biggest pains in changing WordPress themes is that you can lose all your SEO settings you so carefully cultivated. Thanks to SEO Data Transporter, this allows you to migrate all your SEO settings from plugins like Yoast SEO to a new theme with SEO built in, like Genesis. All the major platforms are supported and makes this plugin essential for any blogger.
19. Simple Lightbox Ever been on a blog, clicked an image and it expands to full size? That’s a lightbox effect, and Simple Lightbox does exactly what the name of the plugin suggests – offers a pain-free way to have an elegant lightbox image gallery on your blog. (After a comment from Jon Loomer, I checked Simple Lightbox load times, and it was close to a second each time, which is a lot of load. Therefore, i deactivated the plugin and am removing its recommendation here).
20. Simple Social Icons
With the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others showing the benefits of using social networks to build your audience, making it easy to follow you is important. Simple Social Icons allows a clean and customizable selection of the top networks to display, so your readers can find you on your chosen networks.
21. Simple Trackback Validation
One of the ways spammers attack your blog (if they can’t bypass your comment filter) is by linking to your blog with their crappy content, which affects your standing in search engines if you’re linked with questionable content. Simple Trackback Validation checks the IP with the URL of the link and confirms it’s valid before approving.
Similar to Simple Social Icons, SocialBox is a smarter way to display your chosen networks, with follower and subscriber count on show too – always a great way to highlight your social currency when looking to attract advertisers to your blog (or even new subscribers – a high subscriber number usually equates to consistent quality).
23. Social Sharing Toolkit
You write great content – you want it shared, right? Social Sharing Toolkit does this and much more. As well as offering a host of the most popular sharing networks to allow your readers to share your content, it also has enhanced features like auto-linking Twitter names and hashtags, and offering more following options for your readers to connect with. A great social plugin.
24. Timthumb Vulnerability Scanner
Earlier last year, there was a major hack on WordPress sites using the code used to display thumbnails next to blog post excerpts. This caused huge headaches for a lot of bloggers, so the Timthumb Vulnerability Scanner plugin was released. This scans your database, highlight potential risks, and cleans these files for you. A must-have for any blogger that uses images.
25. Ultimate Maintenance Mode
If you want to make changes to your blog, or redesign it, but you don’t want to build offline and then transfer the data, Ultimate Maintenance Mode lets you create a maintenance message for your readers, and overlays it on top of a faded screenshot of your blog (or an image you upload). It’s one of the sleekest maintenance options out there, and I love it.
26. Viper’s Video Quicktags
If your blog is one that has a lot of videos on it, it can be a pain in the ass to grab the embed code, insert in your post, format and make sure it’s mobile-friendly too. Viper’s Video Quicktags does all this for you, and even inserts a little message with a direct link in your feed to say the post contains a video, in case it’s not displayed properly via email subscription.
27. W3 Total Cache
There’s nothing worse for a reader than visiting a blog and waiting for it to load. And waiting. And waiting. If your blog is taking too long to load, then you not only risk losing readers, but being punished by search engines too. W3 Total Cache is one of the most comprehensive options out there for scrunching your blog into less memory chunks, thus making it load faster.
And there you have it – my preferred plugins, some of which are always on, some of which are used when necessary.
There are other plugins that I haven’t mentioned here – WordPress SEO by Yoast, for instance, is great for getting you found on search engines. Since Genesis has a rock-solid SEO component built in, I don’t need to use any SEO plugins here.
Most of the above plugins will be great options for you to check out, some less so – for example, the Genesis plugins (with the exception of Simple Social Icons) are made for the Genesis framework only.
One thing to keep in mind – the more plugins you use, the more chance of impacting your site speed, so be careful with how many you use at any given time.
How about you – do you use any of these or, if not, which plugins are a must for your blog? Share away in the comments!