One of the great things about a self-hosted WordPress blog is that you get to play with a powerful array of plugins. WordPress plugins are small bits of software that can add functionality, provide a better customer experience for your visitors and give you the technology to generate more traffic to your blog.
If you are a veteran blogger and have some technical ability most of the WordPress plugins available will be easy to use and manage and you should be able to steer clear of any pitfalls.
If you are new to the game you will need to be aware of the essential WordPress plugins to use, the ones to avoid and the more powerful but technically challenging ones that you might need help with.
So what is good about WordPress plugins?
I tend to split this into five different types. For each one I have given a link to the plugins that apply. This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are alternatives which may suit your blog better. These are the ones that work and add value. I tend to use these on the blogs I write and manage.
Traffic generation WordPress Plugins.
All in One SEO Pack – allows you to optimise posts and pages with keywords and appropriate titles and descriptions.
XML Sitemaps – easy way for you to create and submit site-maps to search engines.
Or just use
WP SEO by Yoast– I use this one on all my sites as it’s updated regularly to keep up to date with Google changes.
Social Media WordPress Plugins.
Social Warfare – A premium plugin that you need to put your hand in your pocket for. Fortunately not too deep! I used many different social media plugins and I don’t mind buying something that works so well. Go on over and take a look at how it delivers.
Simple Facebook Connect– allows visitors to like your posts and pages and much more.
Xhanch My Twitter – visitors can see your recent tweets and connect with you on Twitter.
ShareThis – allows visitors to add your content to almost all social media sites.
Subscribe To Comments Reloaded – allows visitors to subscribe to comments.
CommentLuv – I like this and intend to install it as it rewards other bloggers who comment by giving a link to their latest blog post when they have commented. Share the luv and it might come back to you. It does encourage more contribution from your audience. This is probably better for personal blogs rather than business blogs. (Caution – no longer supported so use with care)
Widget Context – you could do a lot of coding to manage widgets in your sidebars. This allows you to customise your blog layout without coding knowledge.
Assessing blog effectiveness.
Feedburner Feedsmith – allows you to deliver user-friendly RSS feeds via a reader or email, get statistics on subscribers and see what people are reading.
Topsy Retweet Button – I like this as you can see how many times your post or page has been tweeted and see who has tweeted or retweeted it. Gives you a feel as to what is popular.
WordPress plugins to administer your blog.
UpdraftPlus – simplifies backups and restoration. It’s the world’s highest ranking and most popular scheduled backup plugin, with over a million currently-active installs. You can link it to your DropBox too.
WP Super Cache – speeds up delivery of your blog to visitors. This helps with Search Engine Optimisation as 9 out of 10 search engines prefer faster-loading sites! You may need a bit of geekery to get this working. I’ve had a bit of trouble getting this one to work myself. Possibly should be under the “Ugly” list as it might be a bit intimidating for the beginner. Update: The instructions to use this have improved recently so probably not that intimidating anymore.
Revision Control – how many times do you edit a post? You could have quite a few revisions bloating your database. This keeps your revisions at a manageable limit.
WP-Sweep – not only deals with your revisions but optimises your database too. You need to use this with care as you can delete draft posts accidentally!
You will need to read part 2 for the bad and the ugly. This post expanded more than I thought it would!