Although WordPress comes complete with some pretty useful and nifty stuff to begin with, plug-ins are a handy way to make it even better! As I mentioned last time, not only can they help you customize your blogging site, but they can also make it much more efficient.
To begin with, what is a plug-in exactly?
I’m gonna give you the easier to understand and simplified version, because if you’re like me, you might not understand all of the crazy techno jargon.
Basically, a plug-in is a piece of software that can be added to a website or program in order to alter it in some way or another. For example, you can find a plug-in that adds your social networking links to your blog site so that the reader can click on the icon and go directly to your page.
Plug-ins can add things to your blog site, change the format of certain parts of your site, or even make it more efficient.
If you want to make a change or add something to your site, chances are there is a plug-in that you can install that will do it for you.
That having been said, below are 8 plug-ins that I think are not only very useful, but that are super easy to manage for the WordPress beginners out there.
1. GoogleXML SiteMap
If you only install one outside plug-in to your blogging site, this should be it. The GoogleXML SiteMap plug-in generates a sitemap that helps Google and other search engines to better index and navigate your blog. Not only that, but it notifies all search engines when you create a new blog post.
This is an extremely helpful plug-in in terms of SEO and if you want readers to find you blog, it is a MUST HAVE.
Even better, it’s FREE…so take advantage of it!
2. Contact Me
It is paramount that readers and prospective clients do not have to search for your contact information and that it is always readily available to them. If it isn’t, there’s a good chance that they won’t take the time to find it.
This is such a great plug-in because it ensures that you will never have to worry about losing clients for that reason.
The “Contact Me” plug-in gives you a form that you fill out with all of your contact info. After installation, a stationary link with that information is incorporated into your blog page.
Do you see the blue tab on the right hand side of my blog post? That is what installing it will do for you. Not bad, right?
Cost for this depends on how far you want to go. The simplest version, and the one that I use, is FREE. With it you get a contact form, unlimited contacts and unlimited groups. If you want more features, there are packages starting at about $4.00 a month and increasing depending on what you want.
3. Subscribe 2
One way to make sure that people who have read and liked your blog come back to read more is to incorporate a subscribers list to, or in effect “like,” your blog. The more often someone views your content and is reminded how great of a resource you are, the more likely they will want to use your services.
The reason that the Subscribe 2 plug-in can be so beneficial to you is because it not only creates and maintains a subscriber list for you, but it sends an e-mail out to everyone on that list each time you publish a new post. It also generates a form for your readers to fill out in order to subscribe to your site.
You can customize the e-mails that get sent out to your subscribers as well as the settings for when the e-mails are sent out.
Subscribe 2 can save you a lot of time and effort and will ensure that your readers remain up to date at all times. It is also FREE, meaning that the benefits substantially outweigh the costs because there are none! ; )
Akismet comes installed with your WordPress blog site, a perk because that means you don’t have to take the time or effort to install it yourself. That being said, you do have to get an API key to activate it.
What Akismet does is prevent comment spam from being posted on your blog. Although I prefer to go over comments myself and manually accept or deny them, it is a great plug-in for people who do not have the time to put into doing blog maintenance every day.
It is a convenience thing, plain and simple. You do not want a blog filled with comment spam. It looks unprofessional and is overall just a turnoff to readers. Akismet filters out all of your spam for you, which leaves you with more time to focus on other things and a pristine wall ready for quality comments and discussion.
5. Digg Digg
Digg Digg is a great little plug-in that adds your social media icons to your blog site. It ensures that it is super easy for your readers to connect with you via FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many other social networking sites.
Not only does it allow you to connect to those sites, but it integrates buttons that show how many users have “liked” or followed your through each networking site as well.
It makes it easy for your readers and potential clients to stay updated on what you are doing and offering and will create more traffic to your networking profiles.
6. All in One SEO Pack
The All in One SEO Pack plug-in is another great SEO tool. It is a plug-in that modifies the options that you have when writing blog posts. What it does is it allows you to add a meta title, meta description, and keywords to your post. These additions increase your search engine optimization exponentially.
The reason why I have not included this higher on my list is because it is not as easy to use as some of the other ones. You cannot just install it and then expect it to work swimmingly for you.
In order to reap the full benefits of this plug-in, you have to put in a little bit of extra work. It is by no means difficult; it just takes a little bit more time, three to five minutes at the most.
Enter in the title of your post, a short description of what your post is about, and your main keywords for better SEO…and voila! Your blog post is set to go and has a better chance of being found by prospective clients.
The basic package is free, or you can buy the pro pack for $40.00-$70.00
7. WordPress Policy Pack
This pack comes equipped with templates for a bunch of important policy pages. You do need to put a little bit of work into it to make sure that each page fits your company and exactly what you want it to say, but all things considered, it makes it a much, Much! easier and less painful process than creating them from scratch.
After you first install the pack, you will need to fill in a form with the necessary information about you and your business. Once this is done, the info will automatically be incorporated into each of the pages that come with the pack.
The next step is deciding which pages you want to be incorporated into your blog. There is a good chance that you will not want to activate each and every page. That’s fine; just don’t check it off when you are choosing the pages that you want.
Simple as that.
You can also edit each page if you feel it does not already address everything, or says something that does not pertain to you and your business, before you put it up.
If you don’t want six to ten new pages created in your Pages menu, it’s simple enough to create one Parent page titled Terms, Policies and Disclaimers. Then you just go in to edit each of the policy pages and select each page’s parent to be your Terms, Policies and Disclaimers page. That way you can set it so that the only page that needs to show up on your menu is the parent page, and each of the individual policy pages can be accessed from the parent page.
Unlike the other plug-ins that I have featured for today, this one isn’t free unfortunately. The package costs a onetime fee of $20.00. Not free, but also not that expensive. And for the time and frustration it saved me, it was very well worth it in my opinion.
Because instead of spending hours creating the terms and policies and disclaimers pages, I spent about 20 minutes total reviewing the pages, and I made a few little tweaks to make them more appropriate to my sites, and it was super simple and painless.
Twenty dollars saved me literally hours upon hours of research and writing time that we would have spent to create our own version of each of the pages.
8. Twitter Tools
Twitter tools can be great, BUT only if you are a Twitter user. What the plug-in does is fully integrate your WP blogging site with your Twitter account. This is great because if people follow either your blog or your Twitter, they in effect get updates on both.
You can alter the settings in order to use it for different things. You can set it up so that each time you make a blog post, a tweet is automatically created with a link to that post. You can also set it up so that recent tweets appear on the right side of your blog, posts are created from each tweet, and you can pass your tweets along to another service.
The extent to which you incorporate your Twitter activity into your blog and vice-versa is completely up to you.
Plug-ins enhance the appearance and functionality of your blog. Above are some of my favorites that are really easy, but also very effective. There are MILLIONS out there.
What plug-ins have you found to be especially helpful? Is there one out there that you thought you would really like, but turned out to be a big headache? Share your stories by clicking on the bubble in the upper right hand side of this post or by leaving a comment below.
Until we meet again…make it great!