Choosing The Right Plugins For Your WordPress Blog

Now is the time you have all been waiting for…we get to search the WordPress.org database for cool plugins that will enhance the usability of your blog and catapult you to the top of search engine rankings.

Now…do you want to know what 99% of beginning bloggers with WordPress installed do? They search the WordPress.org database for every possible plugin that might help them at some time in the future…they install it…and spend all of their time looking for more great plugins to install on their blog.

In all reality, you want to limit the amount of plugins you install on your blog to those that you absolutely need. Plugins can do the following to your blog if you are not careful:

  • Add code and features that slows down load times which can decrease pageviews and visitors.
  • Clutter your articles and pages with features that most of your users do not need which also leads to decreased pageviews and visitors.

Plugins can add essential functionality to your blog, but they can also lead to your eventual downfall as a blogger. Use them wisely.

How To Install WordPress Plugins

The easiest way to install plugins on your WordPress blog is through the WordPress admin you are already used to.

Visit Plugins –> Add New –> Fill In Blank With Plugin Name –> Hit Search –> Select the Plugin –> Click Install –> Click Activate

Once activated, you will find the configuration panel on the left bar of your blog under Tools or Settings. Some plugins will actually have their own section on the sidebar as well.

You also have two other options:

  1. Download the .zip file of the WordPress plugin. Go to the “upload” link under the Plugins admin and select the zip file to install. WordPress will upload and expand the plugin for you.
  2. Upload the expanded plugin folder from your hard drive into the plugins directory via your FTP program (located under wp-content/plugins). After uploading, you can refresh the plugins page and activate your new plugin.

Recommended WordPress Plugins for Your Blog

The following plugins are ones that I have personal experience with on my blogs. They are a recommended list and you need to make the final decision on whether they will work for you blog.

SEO for WordPress

Platinum SEO Pack – The Platinum SEO Pack plugin is a spin off of the popular All-In-One SEO Pack with one key difference. The Platinum SEO Pack will automatically 301 redirect changes in permalink structure. Remember in the last article when I said “don’t change your permalink structure yet”? This is why. If you install and configure the Platinum SEO Pack on your WordPress blog, all of the redirects are done automatically.

Google XML Sitemaps – Google XML Sitemaps automatically generates your sitemaps and submits them to the most popular search engines. While registering a webmaster account with the respective search engines is not a requirement, I do recommend that you follow through with that step of the process. By having your sitemap automatically submitted to search engines, you no longer have to manually submit that can take up valuable time in your blogging.

Yoast Breadcrumbs – Yoast Breadcrumbs not only helps search engine robots navigate your blog, but it also helps your readers see where they are in your blog content.

SPAM Prevention

Akismet – Akismet does a great job at catching SPAM comments before they hit your blog. For Akismet to work after you activate the plugin, you need to register a WordPress.com account (links to take you through the process show up as soon as you activate) and paste your API key into the plugin settings. Akismet is also included with your WordPress install.

Social Media and Reader Engagement

Sociable – Sociable automatically inserts social media icons in your posts and rss feed. This highly configurable plugin allows you to change the icons and choose the social media sites to display (almost every social media site is available). In my opinion, you should limit the amount of options to your top 5…anymore icons may look cluttered on your blog and be counteractive to reader submission.

Tweetmeme – The Tweetmeme plugin inserts a Retweet button on your blog that shows your readers how many time your article has been tweeted on Twitter and allows them to Tweet your article straight from the button. If you are looking to get your articles on Twitter via your readers, the Tweetmeme button is a fantastic way to increase reader participation and that equals more visitors and subscribers for your blog.

WP Greet Box – This social media plugin for WordPress shows a box in your blog that welcomes your readers. This box can be configured based on the source your new visitor came from. If your reader came from Facebook, you can configure the box to welcome your new Facebook friend and welcomes them to update their Facebook status with a link to your article.

Twitter for WordPress – This Twitter plugin for your WordPress blog displays your latest Tweets and makes following easy by providing your readers a link to your Twitter profile. If you are an active Twitter user, you will want to display your Tweets in an efficient manner on your blog to attract more followers. The Twitter for WordPress plugin is a great tool to accomplish that.

FlickrRSS – FlickrRSS will show your latest uploads to Flickr. I use this plugin in two ways. 1 – To show where I am on robbsutton.com. 2 – To increase reader participation on Mountain Biking by 198 by creating a pool that other Flickr users can submit photos to that show on the blog. If you are in a niche where your readers take a lot of related shots, creating a Flickr group and installing this plugin can make your blog more sticky in a big way.

Similar Posts – Trying to get your readers to dive deeper into your blog? Similar Posts is a WordPress plugin that will automatically insert related posts at the end of your articles to increase pageviews and help your readers find related content on your blog.

WP-Polls – This cool little plugin allows you to run polls on your blog to get more reader feedback and engagement. Polls are a great way to get new article ideas and get feedback on your readers and their demographic. I would wait to run polls until you have the readership to support results.

podPress – If you are going to record audio interviews with people in your niche, podPress is a must have to stream that audio content in your blog article seamlessly.

FeedFooter – FeedFooter allows you to insert advertising, newsletter sign-up or any other text/code into the footer of your articles in your rss feed. This plugin will allow you to easily monitise or grow your blog through your feed and let you pick different items for the first 10 articles in your feed.

jQuery Lightbox For Native Galleries – On Mountain Biking by 198, I made the switch to Lightbox photo viewing in the galleries. This makes for much easier viewing within a web browser when you are using the default picture gallery feature in WordPress.

Contact and Email Communication Through Plugins

cForms – There are other, easier to configure contact form plugins for WordPress, but I like the customization features of cForms for my blogs.

Comment Relish – Coded by the other half of the oneninety8 family, Justin Shattuck, Comment Relish emails new commentors on your blog to increase repeat visits, rss subscribers and newsletter subscribers. You can customize your email to say anything you want.

Subscribe to Comments – This plugin allows your readers to subscribe to the comments of one of your blog articles so they are instantly updated of new comments. This plugin will increase the conversations in your comments section of your blog.

Advertising and Affiliate Advertising

OiOPublisher – OiOPublisher is a great premium plugin that allows you to sell direct advertising on your blog and have it automatically controlled by the plugin itself. Advertisers can submit, pay and see their stats all through the use of OiOPublisher.

MaxBlogPress Ninja Affiliate – Ninja Affiliate is a must have premium plugin for any blogger looking to include affiliate links on their blog. The Ninja Affiliate plugin will automatically search your blog articles for keywords that you determine and link those keywords using your affiliate link. If that wasn’t enough already…it only scratches the surface of what this plugin is capable of for bloggers.

UBD Block Ad Plugin – Created by Unique Blog Designs, the UBD Block Ad plugin is a free 125×125 ad spot rotator for you sidebar.

Blog Administration Plugins

WP-DBManager – In the case of a blogging disaster, you are going to be really glad to have recent database backups. The WP-DBManager plugin will automatically backup your database, store a copy of it on your server and send you a copy via email during a schedule you set. You can never be too safe with backups.

FD Feedburner Plugin – Automatically converts every one of your feed links in your blog to your Feedburner URL.

Thesis OpenHook – Great plugin for Thesis users that gives you easier access to the custom_functions.php, custom.css and Thesis hooks to customize your Thesis Theme for WordPress.

Another Word On Plugins

Like I mentioned earlier, only install the plugins that you absolutely need to have on your WordPress blog. I do not use all of these on every blog I own…only the ones that need that feature. Try not to get plugin happy and end up with a slow blog with too many features that no one uses! If you are looking into getting a custom design created for your blog, try to work in features that you would normally use with plugins directly into the theme itself. You can speed up load times and get a really custom look through integration where you would not be able to get the same results with a plugin.

One of the things that make an open source project like WordPress so great for its users is the vast amount of customization you can do through items like 3rd party plugins. As you look for plugins to compliment the content on your blog, ask yourself one simple question…is over 1/2 my readership going to use the benefits of these new features? If the answer is no…do not install. If you think that answer is yes, install, configure and test out the results on your blog. If you are not getting the desired result, you do not need that plugin on your blog clogging up the place.