Today’s training will focus on choosing and installing the best plugins for your site. There are thousands of plugins out there and no list of best WordPress plugins can ever be complete. For every plugin that performs a certain function there are 10 others that do the same thing that other people will swear by.
This tutorial will detail the plugins that we have found to be most helpful and essential to optimizing your WordPress blog and how to install them. We will go into further detail on how to set them up and use them in later tutorials.
1) AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget – AddThis is a social bookmarking utility and their WordPress plugin is one of the best of its kind. When this plugin is activated it will automatically attach sharing buttons to each of your posts. Some popular alternatives are Sexy Bookmarks, and ShareThis.
Installation – Most of these plugins will be installed through the WordPress dashboard. Go to Plugins – Add New and in the search plugins box type addthis. It should be the first one in the search results but make sure the author is actually AddThis to be sure you are installing the right plugin. Often times there are many knockoff plugins with similar names that will turn up in the search results.
Click on details, if you like, to read about the plugin. When you are ready to download it simply press the install now button. We will wait until the next tutorial to activate and set up the plugins so just click return to plugin installer on the install confirmation page.
**Unless otherwise specified, repeat this installation process for each of the following plugins, typing the full name of the plugin into the search box. If you are unsure whether the plugin you are about to install is the right one, click on the provided link for the plugin and compare the name, download version, and author.**
2) Akismet – Akismet is a comment spam moderating plugin and comes pre-installed with WordPress. We will activate it and set it up in a later tutorial.
3) All in One SEO Pack – All in One SEO is a plugin that optimizes your blog for search engines. There is much competition for this type of plugin but this is by far the most popular as far as number of downloads is concerned. However you may want to take a look at some of the alternatives as the feature set of these plugins is always changing and many of them now actually offer more functionality than All in One SEO does.
When searching for new plugins of your own, pay attention to the number of downloads as that is a good indication to the quality of the plugin.
4) AWeber Web Forms – AWeber is one of the best email marketing services around. An integral part of the marketing strategy for your home business is developing capture pages that link to email campaigns that people can opt into, as well as adding capture forms to your blog’s sidebar for the same purpose. AWeber takes care of all of this and it is one of the best at what it does. If you like to weigh your options the other major name in email marketing is Get Response, which is also great.
This AWeber plugin allows you to add capture forms to your blog with ease but you’ll need an AWeber account to use it.
Click on the button below if you are interested in using AWeber to manage your email marketing needs. AWeber costs $19 a month and it is well worth the price. Both Aweber and Get Response are about the same price and offer similar services including web forms for your blog.
5) Blog Metrics – The Blog Metrics plugin keeps statistics on your blogging activity. This is a great way to set goals and keep track of your progress.
6) Dagon Design Sitemap Generator – This is a nice little plugin that will generate a sitemap page that visitors can use to better navigate your site. Some themes come with their own sitemap generator but this is a well-known widely used version.
Installation – Dagon Sitemap Generator used to be available in the WordPress marketplace but recent versions are now only hosted on the author’s website. Visit Dagon Design’s website and click on the Latest Release. Save the zip file somewhere on your computer for easy retrieval. Return to your blog’s plugin installation page and click on the upload link.
Browse for the saved zip file and then click the install button. Again, leave the plugin unactivated as we will do that in a later tutorial.
7) Disqus Comment System – Disqus is a popular comment system that enhances the discussion features of WordPress. When activated this plugin will replace the default WordPress comment system.
A popular alternative is Comment Luv.
8.) Easy WP SEO – Easy WP SEO is the only paid plugin on this list and it wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t worth it. Most of the time paying for plugins is a waste of money, but this is one of the few exceptions. It was worth including Easy WP SEO because it will increase your blogging effectiveness tremendously, especially when you’re just getting started.
Easy WP SEO is a plugin that automates on page seo for your posts and pages. When you are ready to start adding content to your site you will be glad you have this plugin because it will instruct you in how to create content that gets ranked in search engines.
This plugin also provides a complete set of very concise and helpful video tutorials that explain everything you need to know about using the plugin. This is refreshing and quite rare, especially for a product at such a low price point.
Installation – After you have purchased and downloaded Easy WP SEO follow the instructions detailed in the installation section of Dagon Sitemap Generator above to upload it to your site.
9.) Edit Author Slug – This plugin may be unnecessary depending on what your author name is. If your author name is your first and last name, or any name with a space, then when someone clicks on the author name listed at the top of each post it will return an error page. This is an error that has still not been corrected by WordPress at the time of this writing. To remedy this problem Edit Author Slug allows you to edit your author name.
10) FD Feedburner Plugin – This plugin is needed to redirect your default WordPress feed to a FeedBurner Feed. Of course, you will need to set up a feedburner feed first, which is very easy, but we will get to that at a later time. For now, simply install the plugin.
11) Google Analytics for WordPress– Google Analytics is an extremely useful tool that gathers information about your visitors such as what search engine they used to find you, which keywords they typed in, how long they spent on your site, which pages they viewed, which links they clicked on, which page they exited your site from and more. This plugin allows you to easily integrate a Google Analytics account with your WordPress site. Some premium themes will also have a utility for this purpose, but if not this is an excellent alternative.
12) Google XML Sitemaps – This is another sitemap generator like Dagon Design’s except that this one is only for search engines. This will be later integrated into the Dagon sitemap.
13) Internal Link Building – Internal linking is a very important part of building a strong website but it can be one of the most tedious things you’ll ever do. Manually revisiting past posts to look for instances where you have used a certain keyword so that you can link them all to a new post you have just created about that topic is a nightmare.
With Internal Link Building it is a snap. You can simply specify what keyword you want linked, where you want it to link to, set a few other preferences and it automatically sifts through your entire website adding all the links for you. This is a great way to promote affiliate products as well.
Installation – This is another instance where the plugin has to be downloaded straight from the developer. This plugin is developed by SEO ROI and they require that you sign up for their newsfeed in which they include a link to the plugin at the bottom of each post. It used to be that you would visit their website and click on a link to their feed, but at the time of this writing that link is not working.
To obtain this plugin log into your Gmail account and in the upper left corner of the screen click on reader, or use any other similar feed reading programs. Click on add a subscription and do a search for SEO ROI.
You can click to subscribe or you can simply open the latest item, scroll to the bottom and download the plugin. They would like for you to subscribe however so that would be the polite thing to do. They don’t overload you with spam or anything like that so don’t worry.
After you download the plugin just repeat the installation process you performed for the Dagon Sitemap Generator.
Alternatively, the plugin SEO Ultimate has a similar internal linking feature built-in.
14) Jetpack by WordPress.com – Jetpack is a suite of WordPress.com services. Some you will use and some you won’t, but it has some really great features.
15) MaxBlogPress Ping Optimizer – MaxBlogPress has some really great plugins and this one is essential. Every time you make a change to a post or page, even if the page is already published, WordPress by default re-pings your blog to all of the ping services you have listed in your update services section. In extreme cases this can even lead to your blog being banned by those services. This plugin corrects the problem by ensuring that only new posts and pages get pinged and only once.
Installation – Visit MaxBlogPress.com. If a pop-up window appears asking you to enter a username and password just close it. Scroll to the bottom and click on the download button. Once you have downloaded the plugin return to WordPress and install it.
16) Pretty Link Lite – Pretty Links is a plugin that works much like a url shortening service (such as bitly, tinyurl, etc.) except that it allows you to use your website domain to populate the link (ex: yourdomainname/sampleprettylink). This produces a very nice, professional, customized shortened url.
17) Social Media Widget – This plugin allows you to easily place a widget in a sidebar with links to all your social networking profiles, as well as your feedburner feed and email feed.
18) What Would Seth Godin Do – This is a handy plugin that allows you to create a message that all new users will see that will then disappear after a set number of visits. The plugin uses visitor’s browser cookies to accomplish this.
20) WP-DBManager – Any time you do an update or make any significant change to your site you will want to perform a backup of your site first. This plugin makes the update process a one click affair.
21) WP Super Cache – Caching plugins are useful for speeding up your site if it is under performing by serving up cached versions off your pages to visitors. We do not recommend activating this plugin now however, as you will be making frequent changes to your blog and caching plugins can complicate the process.
The problem is that, when activated, if you change something around on your blog and then go to see how it looks live, the changes will not show up because you are viewing a cached version of your page and it won’t refresh for probably 10 minutes. This can be extremely frustrating, especially if you don’t know why it is happening, causing you to think something is wrong with your site.
Super Cache does have an option in their settings to turn caching off for logged in users but it still does not always work. Bottom line, leave this plugin unactivated until you think you need it (your blog has a lot of content and a lot of visitors and performance is suffering).
22) Contact Form 7 – This plugin is listed last because if you decide to purchase a premium theme it is almost guaranteed that it will come with its own contact form creator. However, if your theme does not have this functionality Contact Form 7 is an extremely popular alternative.
There you have it, our entire list of recommended essential plugins. We hope you have found this tutorial useful and we will see you in the next one!