This post feaatures 9 of my favorite blog-saving plugins. Plugins are simple tools used within WordPress to help you customize, format, keep track of, and connect your content across the web. Let’s say you want to add the ability for people to share your blog posts on Facebook or LinkedIn. There is a plugin for that. In essence, Plugins do for your WordPress website what Apps do for your smart phone. You don’t absolutely need them, but they sure make things a lot easier if you use them.
At the writing of this post, there were already over 23,000 plugins in the WordPress directory. So how do you go about choosing good plugins for your blog? The first thing you need to decide is what you would like to do with your content that is currently not an option for you in the standard Post or Page editor. For instance, if you want a to add a table to display a list or comparison side by side in your post, you could install a Shortcodes plugin to make it easy to add a simple table without needing to know html code. Or let’s say you want to add a video, there are several plugins that allow you to embed a video from the major video sharing sites like YouTube, Vimeo or Daily Motion without having to know html code. Once you have an idea of what additional functions or customizations you want to add, search the WordPress directory to see if there is a plugin that exists to help you.
Sometimes there are several plugins that do the same thing, and in that case you may need to narrow down your options. Even if there are not several options to choose from, it’s a good idea to make sure the plugin has been updated to work with the latest version of WordPress.
Use this quick checklist to help you determine whether or not to use a certain plugin for your blog.
7-Step Checklist For Evaluating and Choosing A WordPress Plugin
- How long has the plugin been around?
- How many times has it been downloaded? The more (5,000 or more) the better.
- How many people have reviewed it. The more the better.
- What are the ratings? 4.5 or above is better – this way I know people have used it and like it. But if only 1 or 2 people have reviewed it, it’s not much to go on.
- When was it last updated? A plugin that has been abandoned is not going to serve my blog well.
- How is the support? Good plugin developers are committed to their product. Though, I don’t expect full support for a free plugin, I do want to see FAQ’s or a set of documentation in case I have trouble. And I have no problem making donations for really good plugins in hopes the developers will continue to support it.
- Is it easy to use? There is nothing worse than looking for something to make your life easier only to find out that it’s more work than not. You can check the Screenshots and/or the Plugin’s demo to help you get an idea of whether it’s easy to use before you install it.
Using this very checklist, I combed through the WordPress Plugin Directory and pulled out 9 of my favorite WordPress Plugins for the Business Blog. Let me know what you think. Are you using these for your blog?
1. Ultimate TinyMCE: Format Your Content With Ease
Want to split your post into 2 or more columns? Or add pricing tables? What about headings or subtitles? Don’t you hate it when you highlight your subtitle and choose a Heading, but the rest of your post gets taken over with the bigger, bolder font? Have no fear, the Ultimate TinyMCE plugin is here (by authors Josh401 and Marventus). Now you can easily add color, embed images, and even change your bullets lists for all your posts and pages without touching any code. Go ahead, give it a whirl – there are dozens of shortcodes to choose from.
2. Black Studio TinyMCE Widget: Add Images, Videos and Color To Your Widgets Without Code
What the Ultimate TinyMCE does for your Posts, this plugin, Black Studio TinyMCE (by authors Marcochiesi & The Dark Mist), brings the same power to your Widgets. Have you ever wanted to just upload a picture or video into your Widget section without having to copy the html code? This solves your problem. Simply install it, go to your Widgets section, and drag a Black Studio TinyMCE Widget into your Widget area to create easy, breezy beautiful widgets (oh, wait, that’s Cover Girl…well, you get the picture).
3. Display Widgets: Show or Hide Sidebar Content On Each Page/Post
I use the Display Widgets plugin (by SSwells) to only show certain widgets on each page or post of my site. For instance, if I wanted to only show the Free E-zine Sign Up Widget on certain pages, all I do is select “Show Only On” and choose from my list of pages in the drop down menu. It’s that easy!
4. Yoast’s WordPress SEO: Create Short and Sweet Titles & Excerpts For SEO
I can’t speak highly enough of the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin (by Joost DeValk). The nice thing about this plugin is it gives you the option of writing your own excerpt and title for each of your posts so that when you share the post online or if someone finds your post in the search engine, your customized title and excerpt are there to tell them exactly what the post is about. Without the plugin, social media platforms and search engines simply pull in the first few words of the post which are usually not enough to give readers information to determine if they want to read the entire post.
Here’s an example of a before and after to give you an idea of how the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast can save your blog’s life:
Blog Post Snippet/Description Before Using Yoast SEO Plugin
Blog Post Snippet/Description After Using Yoast SEO Plugin
No more issues with how my blog post snippets show up on social media and search engines. Love this!
5. Google XML Site Maps: Tell Search Engines How To Navigate Your Site
When search engine bots crawl your site, it helps to have your information organized by Pages, posts, categories, etc. This is why having a content management system like WordPress is indeed a good thing to do. A Sitemap is a list of the pages on your website. By installing this plugin, your site’s navigation is indexed using the right structure. Think of it as a table of contents for your blog so search engines can easily find and display your website content.
6. Super Simple Google Analytics: Connect Your Blog With Google To Track Website Visitors
Google Analytics keeps track of how many people visit your blog, what pages they visit and how long they stay on the site. Keeping up with your data is important for because it takes out much of the guess work when it comes to producing better content, getting found online and marketing your products and services. Data analysis is KEY to growing your business online because if you can’t measure how much time you’re putting into an objective with the amount of customers you’re getting as well as the amount of money you’re making, you are simply WASTING YOUR TIME. As a business owner, you owe it to yourself to know what kind of traffic your site generates and what actions your website visitors are taking.
Google Analytics helps you keep track of this data. What the Super Simple Google Analytics plugin (by Bitacre) does is connects your blog to your Google Analytics account so Google knows to attribute clicks and links to your website with a unique Google Analytics ID. You’ll need to create your Google Analytics account first for this to work. For those of you who see the value of being able to keep track of your website data, but would rather not deal with the technical side of setting it all up, we can help. Click here to see if one of our Google For Business Set Up options is for you.
7. Better WP Security: Backup, Protect and Secure Your WordPress Site From Hackers
Unfortunately there are people in the world who do dumb things like hack into websites. BUT, fortunately, since we know that, we can protect our sites with security and back ups. The Better WP Security plugin (by Bit51) is a gem. It walks you through step-by-step and tells you what you can do to make your site more secure, giving you warning messages and suggestions for improvement. The plugin author does advise you to read the installation instructions carefully before you activate this plugin since it will require you to be able to make a few changes with your host. It’s important for me and my readers to keep my site up and running smoothly, so I am all over this one.
8. WordPress Social Ring: Add Social Media Sharing To All Your Posts
Get the word out about your awesome content with social sharing links. WordPress Social Ring (by Niccolo Tapparo) is a very simple to use plugin that lets you add share links to the major social media platforms so anyone who reads your posts can also share them with their friends.
9. Akismet: Protect Your Blog From Spam
The Akismet plugin (by Automattic) is truly a lifesaver because it blocks your website from unwanted spam. Now you don’t have to spend all day weeding through legitimate commenters and the ones that are automated with fluff content so they call spam your blog with links to their websites. The plugin should have come preinstalled with your WordPress install, but if not, search for “Akismet” in your plugins directory. To install it, you will be asked to provide a Key, which you can get from the link they provide in the activation instructions. Since you are a business, choose the Pro Plan and sign up for $5/month.
This plugin is way more powerful than meets the eye. Keeping spammers at bay helps your website rank higher in search engines, keeps your blog from being bogged down with “fake” comments to approve, and keeps your readers happy because they see that not any and everybody is allowed to leave comments on your site, which in turn increases the value of your blog. Worth every penny!
Be sure to check back or sign up for our Free e-zine for the 10th Day of Content: 10 Lessons I’ve Learned About Using Content To Build A List of Customers, Followers and Fans. See you soon!