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This is the eighth and final instalment (for now) in a series of posts discussing how to set up and run a WordPress blog from a relatively experienced expert, which will feature many helpful and hopefully relevant tangents.

Last week I covered the big move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. A move that will have now opened up the highly exclusive and endlessly varied world of WordPress plugins.

A plugin is a piece of software that acts as an add-on feature to your website or blog, offering additional functionality. 

These can be developed by WordPress itself or by a third-party company and range in function from social media integration to automatic search engine optimisation to spam comment filtering. There's a huge array of choice.

Only WordPress.org users (those who host their own site and who don’t mind getting their hands dirty with coding and other technical matters) have access to these third-party plugins.

So this week I’ll be recommending the most vital of these plugins for your brand new WordPress.org site.

You can access plugins directly from the left hand sidebar.

This will reveal a list of all of the plugins you currently have installed. This is also where you can activate, deactivate or customise the settings for your plugins.

To find brand new plugins, click ‘Add New’. This will take you to a search page. 

Here you can search for keywords, click on the most popular tags or scroll down lists of most ‘popular’ or ‘featured’ plugins.

Although I have linked to the plugin homepages within each of the headings below, each is easily searchable in your dashboard.

WordPress SEO by Yoast

I covered SEO for WordPress in SEO best practice tips for WordPress last week and hopefully these guidelines will soon become second nature when writing your own articles. 

This SEO plugin by Yoast however, goes many extra miles further.

It automatically assists your SEO endeavours by helping you choose keywords that you want to rank for, it reminds you to create a snippet for SERPs, will tell you whether your title and the content itself is too long or too short and whether your meta description makes sense in the context of a search result. 

Then within the CMS, it will tell you how well optimised your post is using a traffic light system of colours. This is an invaluable tool, super easy to use, and will mean you’ll always be striving for the green light.

All in One Favicon

You know that little square icon next to the name of your website, either on the tab or a bookmarked page? You can create and upload your very own with this plugin. 

Supports all three Favicon types (ico,png,gif) and gives your site that subtly professional touch.

Jetpack

This is developed by WordPress itself and is a one-stop shop for lots of different site admin needs.

  • It gives you access to simple and concise stats with no additional load on your server.
  • Allows visitors to sign up for email notifications for your blog's posts and your post's comments.
  • Social networking enabled comment system.
  • Access to a URL shortener.
  • Easily embeddable media from sites like YouTube, Digg, and Vimeo.
  • The ability to post to your blog from any email client.
  • Social media integration with Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • A CSS editor that lets you customise your site design without modifying your theme.
  • A mobile responsive theme that automatically streamlines your site for visitors on mobile devices.

Captcha

An absolute must. As entertaining as some spam comments can be, they will only do your site’s credibility harm and cause much unnecessary and time-consuming moderation.

Captcha is your front-line defence. It figures out whether a visitor leaving a comment is a human being or a spam robot by asking it a maths question.

NextGen Gallery

The inbuilt image library manager within WordPress isn’t that great. This one is much better. It allows you to batch upload, edit and manage large photo galleries.

You can choose from 10 gallery and album display types. All the galleries available are also fully responsive and you can add watermarks to your images.

W3 Total Cache

Give your site at least 10 times the improvement in its performance, reduce page load times, provide instant second page views and reduce download times.

This plugin is also recommended by Matt Cutts, so you know this is only going to help your Google ranking.

Pinterest Pin it Button for Images

Add a "Pin It" button over your images, so users can add it to Pinterest easily.

The button only appears when you hover over it.

WP-PageNavi

This replaces the ‘older posts’ and ‘newer posts’ at the bottom of your page with links that are more customisable, relevant or creative.

The Custom Facebook Feed Pro

There are many different Facebook integration tools that display your statuses, photos, videos, events, links and offers from your Facebook page, but this one can also adopt the style of your website or be completely customised to look however you like.

It is completely responsive and search engine crawlable.

Google XML Sitemaps

This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com to better index your blog.

It also notifies all major search engines every time you create a new blog post.

Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress 

Go beyond the stats offered in Jetpack with this simple to install plugin. It displays detailed analytics about the number of visits, number of unique visitors, bounce rates, pages per visit and loads more statistics all directly on your dashboard.

Shareaholic 

Get all your social sharing buttons in one, with many customisable display options including ‘floating’ buttons.

This also includes share counts, content recommendation features and analytics tools.

WP-DraftsForFriends

If want to show someone a draft of your post within your site, without actually making them an account user, this plugin will create a unique link that you can send to anyone you choose so they are able to review your draft. You can also set an expiry time for the link.

Leaflet Maps Marker

The best map plugin available. Any map can be pinned, organised and shared easily within your site.

You can use maps from OpenStreetMap, Google Maps, Google Earth, or Bing Maps. 

Maps can even be displayed through augmented reality browsers.

Broken Link Checker

This plugin will automatically monitor your blog looking for broken links, anywhere within your posts, pages or comments.

It will notify you when it finds one, then it will change the look of the link and even prevent search engines from finding it.

SEO Friendly Images

This automatically updates all images with proper ALT and TITLE attributes to improve your SEO. If your images do not have ALT and TITLE already set, this plugin will add them for you.

Confirm Publishing Actions

Accidentally deleting or even prematurely publishing a post can be a massive hassle.

This simply prompts a user to click a confirm button whenever they try to submit, publish, update or delete a post.

Swiftype Search

This plugin replaces the standard WordPress search with a better, more relevant search engine. One that also provides autocomplete.

It also gives detailed insight into what your users are searching for so you know which keywords to target for SEO.

Custom Login

Use this to customise your user login screen. Get rid of the WordPress logos and use your own branding for a more professional look.

Woocommerce

Transform your humble blog into an ecommerce site. With loads of customisable themes and widgets available, it also comes with many payment options as standard including PayPal integration.

Further WordPress reading...

This is the eighth post in my WordPress series. Here are the others:

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 20 March, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

686 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Mickey

Good list! Two thoughts:

1 -- I wouldn't say that Captcha is a "must have". It can help for sites with huge traffic (>20k/day, perhaps?), but for most of us it'll just be a deterrent to getting comments and Akismet will handle things well enough.

2 -- Google XML Sitemaps isn't needed if you use WordPress SEO, as it has that capability built-in.

You could make similar arguments for some of the social and gallery-related pieces since you already have Jetpack, but the ones you show certainly have some advantages over their Jetpack counterparts.

about 2 years ago

David Sealey

David Sealey, Head of Digital Consulting at CACIEnterprise

Good list. I'm going to give Shareaholic a try as I've not been satisfied with the current sharing plug-in I'm using.

Some other recommendations from my blog:

- Shortcodes Ultimate - provides great flexibility in designing custom page layouts. Also can handle responsive features and provides JQuery functionality on the page (example: http://sealey.in/1oBgF8k)

- Contact Form 7 and Contact Form DB - use this for the contact form and subscribe form. There are tools available to connect it to MailChimp

- Disqus comment system

- Google Tag Manager

- Visual Biography Editor

- WP Top Bar

- Easy Digital Downloads - not easy to setup but a simple way of monetising a blog

about 2 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

AJPC Solutions

I'm not sure about the Confirm Publishing Actions plugin. Wordpress now offers a rollback feature and personally I would find it a bit of a pain to constantly have to confirm what I was doing.

However, if you have a number of contributors in a company and want to make sure they are sure about what they are doing, then perhaps it's useful.

People are also getting very tired of Captcha and I echo the comments of Mickey above on this.

One plugin I would add to this list is Better WP Security (soon to become iThemes Security), which takes the best WordPress security features and techniques and combines them in a single plugin, ensuring that as many security holes as possible are patched.

about 2 years ago

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