A few friends are currently working on creating a new blog. Within a week three asked me about using WordPress (WP) and which plugins (aka widgets) are worth considering.
A Short Word on WordPress .COM and WordPress .ORG
If you are considering the use of plugins, you have already made the decision to self-host your blog using WP. Some have wondered the difference between what www.wordpress.com
Wordpress.com is the commercial service-side of WordPress. Sign up, select a template, and be blogging within 15 minutes. The Pro, they take care all the housekeeping chores and you just write. The Con, your level of overall control and flexibility is constrained.
Wordpress.org is for all the DIY
folk. In this case, you have your own ISP and domain, install the WordPress software (often an auto-install provided by your ISP), select a template, and start blogging. The Pro, complete control, flexibility, and ability to customize. The Con, you’ve assumed responsibility for administration, updates, and backups. Sounds worse than it is, but if you’re not prepared for it, you might need to stick with having someone do it all for you (e.g. .COM)
The Plugin List
The following list is based on my own experience, self-hosting WordPress, over the past two years. My site
does not currently entail ecommerce and primarily exists to support my personal branding and marketing efforts. Your own needs may vary. In no particular order of importance:
- AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget
A social bookmarking widget simply serves to provide the tools for your users to quickly share your site with others. Your making your content publicly viewable…make sure you have a plug-in to make it easy for people to extend your visibility. Step 1 to any sort of ‘viral’ activity.
Watches for Comment SPAM being posted to your site. Amazingly effective, among the top-ranked solutions of it’s kind, and a must-have for any site with Comments enabled.
While your ISP may provide an ability to backup ‘your site,’ those backups are often not suitable for properly restoring your WP site and it’s related databases. Tools like BackUpWordPress specifically address—and automate—this process.
- Broken Link Checker
Over time, you will accumulate 100s, 1,000s of links in the body of your content. This plugin monitors all your links in the background, notifying you whenever it finds one that no longer works. It provides an easy facility for quickly updating or deleting each individual link.
- FaceBook Share
Places a Facebook button on your articles. You can control where (top, bottom, with or without share-count #s, etc.). This has worked well for me, though I’ve seen some quirks of late, and is slightly redundant if you have a social bookmarking widget.
- FeedBurner FeedSmith
If you are using FeedBurner as part of your analytics solution this widget detects all the different ways to access your original WordPress feeds and redirects them to your FeedBurner feed so you can track every possible subscriber.
- Replace WP-Version
A security consideration: If you're running an older version of WordPress, anyone can view source to see what attacks might work against your blog. This plugin replaces the reported WP-version with a random string for WP versions 2.4 and earlier, and eliminates the string for newer versions.
- Twitter Mentions as Comments
A newer plugin for me, it uses the Twitter.com API (programming interface) to monitor tweets about your posts, and creates Comments for your approval. A nice, automatic way to create comments illustrating others’ activity around your posts. Primary Con I’ve not yet solved: It catches your own tweets as well…which can be seen as excessive self-promotion. Solution: Delete the comments.
- WordPress.com Stats
Provides site statistics describing visitor activity on your site. Has both a ‘dashboard view’ of things like most-active articles, as well a much more granular detail (e.g. what is the all-time Top Post?). If you also use Google Analytics (see Web Analytics. Why Should You Care?), you will note a fair amount of overlap. The use of both solutions, recommended, is larger than the scope of this post.
- WordPress Editorial Calendar
Let’s you see all your posts, represented on a calendar, and serves as a tool to help manager your writing activities. Makes changing scheduled post dates a snap.
- Wordpress Gravatars
A Gravatar is an image that follows you from site to site and is tied to your email address. If your visitors have their own gravatar, and leave a comment on your site, this plugin is what displays their image adjacent to it.
- WordPress Related Posts
Ever read someone’s blog article and see a list of ‘possibly related posts’ at the end? Want to do the same for your own posts? Use this plugin.
Now we’re moving into slightly more advanced administration chores. Over time, you will clutter your WP database (e.g. grown your overall website size) with multiple post revisions, unapproved or SPAM comments, and the like. WP-Optimize provides the tools for automatically removing the clutter and keeping your databases healthy and clean.
- WP Smush.it
Behind the scenes, automatically optimizes the sizing of images used on your site. An easy tool for helping managing database size and—more importantly—load times of your pages.
As you select your plugins for use, pay particular attention to the ones being used on the site itself (e.g more so than the behind-the-scenes plugins). These can dramatically impact your site’s page load times. As pages take longer to load, readers rapidly start abandoning the site.
If you have other suggestions, feel free to provide your own and why they’re of use to you.