My Top 8 Easy and Effective WP Plug-ins

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! ; )

4. Akismet

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

I have just recently found this plug-in, and I love it. Including a terms of use, and disclosure/disclaimer policy in your blog site is very important. However, writing these things can not only be a huge pain in the butt, but super time consuming.

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!

 

 

WordPress: The Best Business Blog Hosting Platform Out There

Last week I briefly went into some of the benefits that having a business blog can hold for you and your business.

Although there are a number of perks that come hand in hand with maintaining a blog, it truly is one of the best measures that you can take to humanize your company for your target audience. However, you want to make sure that the blogging platform that you choose allows you to showcase your strengths.

So is there one blog hosting platform that is better to use than others?

In my opinion, the answer is YES!

WordPress is the cream of the crop when it comes to blogging.

“Why?” you may ask…I’ll tell ya!

The first thing that you need to know about WordPress is that there are two different versions: wordpress.com and wordpress.org. Although they have a lot of similarities, there are a few differences between the two that are important to understand before creating your blog.

WordPress.com is a website where you can create your blog, and your blog address is going to be a wordpress.com address. In other words, not at your own domain – not at yourbusiness.com. This impacts your ability to brand yourself.

So WordPress.com is good for bloggers who do not have their own website/domain. It allows you to create and maintain your own site on their platform.

However, if you already have a website, which as a business owner YOU SHOULD, wordpress.org is a better choice for you. Not only does downloading the software version allow you to use it on your own website, but it allows you to use your own custom domain name or url as well.

This is extremely beneficial with respect to SEO (search engine optimization) and it will make it easier for people to both find and remember your site.

Aside from that obvious benefit, there are many other reasons why I recommend WP as a blogging platform as well.

For one, it is 100% FREE. Why pay money for something when you can get it for free? Especially when it offers essentially everything you could ever need for your blog.

Oh, and…it is constantly being updated and enhanced to better meet your wants and needs.

Compared to most other blog hosting platforms, WP is super versatile. You can customize it to fit your needs and business in a number of ways.

One of the first things that you do after you install your new WP blog on your domain is to pick a theme or template that will be the base of your blog. This is the visual layout of your blog, which of course needs to be attractive and engaging and represent who you are and how you want your audience to perceive you.

Not only are there thousands of premade themes – many of them free, and some of them paid – but you can create your own if you have the skills, or you can outsource the task to someone fairly cheaply on oDesk or http://www.fiverr.com/ if you like.

With most pre-designed themes, once you have installed it, you can customize it by putting in your own pictures and ideas.

What’s more, if there are certain aspects of a theme that you don’t like – say the contacts form- there is usually a plug-in (or add-on) that will allow you to change it. There are thousands of plug-ins that are easy to install and that serve as easy to use tools to help you create your ideal blogging site.

You also have a lot of choices about the organization of your blog site. You can choose which widgets – which are essentially helpful tools – that you want to incorporate in your sidebar.

If you blog often, it would be a good idea to include the archive widget, which allows readers to pick a month and see which posts you have written during that month.

If you are familiar with a lot of other websites that you know would be beneficial to your readers/clients, you can include them in your blogroll.

Again, one of the best things about WP is it is so customizable and can be manipulated to showcase you and your business in exactly the way that YOU want it to. It does require a degree of expertise to design new templates, etc., but as long as you don’t want to go too design-crazy, the basic functionality is easy to use.

Although the steps and concepts that I described above may sound complicated, WP is set up in a way that is really straight forward, and easy to use and understand.

Trust me, when I first decided to install WP in order to create my first blog, I was terrified that it was going to be overwhelming and that I would have to hire someone just to set everything up the way I wanted it. I am not exactly the most tech-savvy person when it comes to website design and coding and all of that jazz.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have gotten some help here and there. BUT, for the most part I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the whole thing was, and I’m confident you will be too.

And of course, that means it’s easy to train my interns to use the blogging platform as well – that’s important because they generally come in with no WordPress experience at all.

Another bonus is that when you are confused or have questions, WP has some great resources available to clear them up. WP has a huge archive of tutorials that cover a ton of different concepts.

If you don’t understand how to install a plug-in, all you have to do is go to the search bar, type in what you need to know, and a ton of articles will show up that will cover everything you could ever possibly want or need to know about plug-in installation.

It makes solving a problem really easy and it can be done in a snap.

If for some reason you can’t find what you need to know in any of the tutorial articles, the WordPress team is at your disposal as well. All you have to do is join the forum, which takes about two seconds, and then post your question. You can expect a reply within a day or two.

They are the techno-geniuses, and are there with the very specific purpose of helping YOU. When I was having a difficult time understanding the process that I would have to go through to change some visual elements of my blog, they not only told me what I would have to do in order to make the changes, but were very willing to provide coding help. Their confidence and willingness to help allayed my fears, and strengthened my own confidence.

The main dashboard is extremely straightforward, and it will notify you automatically if there are new comments for you to moderate or if there are any updates for the software or plug-ins. You can easily access every aspect of your blog site from the dashboard.

When writing posts, there are a number of options for you. You can either save your writing as a draft, schedule it to be posted at a certain date and time, or post it on the spot.

The tools bar at the top of the post makes it simple to add pictures, videos and hyperlinks to your post. And what’s more, WP uses the same shortcut commands as Microsoft Word does, so you don’t have to learn any new methods in order to quickly customize and change your fonts.

Another advantage to WP is that it is very SEO friendly. Not only is it keyword oriented, but WP make it really easy for Google to rate your content. The “category” option for each of your blog posts, the ability to name your links, and the inclusion of keywords makes it much easier for Google to find your posts and to rank them higher on search results pages.

Overall, WordPress is an awesome blogging platform. It exceeds expectations where many other blogging platforms are lacking.

So if you feel like you want to incorporate a blog into your business website, keep WordPress.org and their downloadable software on the top of your list of blogging platforms.

Do you have any WordPress stories of your own? Are there things that you just don’t like about it? Let me know your thoughts by clicking on the talk bubble icon on the upper right hand side of this post or by leaving a comment below.

Take the world by storm – why not? It’s yours!!

Make it Great!