This post kicks off a series called The 10 Essential WordPress Plugins for the Brand New Blog. Though there are more than ten essential WordPress plugins every blog should have, I recommend that you install the ten plugins on this list before you ever write a single post.
That’s right. These plugins should be added to your WordPress blog and configured before you start writing. Why? Because they help get your message out there, help bring in readers, and when they find you, help keep them coming back.
In other words, the following plugins prime your blog for maximum exposure to search engines and social networks, and help you write your posts with Search Engines and Readers in mind. It may take a while for readers to find your blog, but when they do, these plugins will help them to return and tell others about your blog.
All of this is crucial for growing your readership.
What is a Plugin?
Maybe you don’t know what a plugin is. A plugin is a little program that you can “plug in” to your WordPress blog which adds a cool feature, tool, or setting to your blog. There are thousands of available plugins which do almost anything you can imagine. This is one reason you should purchase hosting for your own blog rather than go with a free service. You cannot use these plugins on a free blogging service.
10 Essential WordPress Plugins
Here the list of Ten Essential WordPress Plugins. In the posts that follow, I will write an individual blog post on each plugin, showing you why it is essential, and how you can configure it for optimal impact on your blog.
I have divided the plugins into categories of what they accomplish on your blog.
Plugins to Increase Blog Functionality
WordPress is great right from the start, but it is lacking a few helpful features and tools. We fix that with the following three plugins.
1. Akismet – Unless your blog is about London Escort Services and Male Enhancement products, you probably don’t want comments about these things appearing on your blog. This plugin stops spammers from posting them.
2. JetPack – This plugin is from the makers of WordPress, and adds some helpful tools like blog statistics, link shortening, and hovercards. Don’t know what those are? Don’t worry. I’ll explain more in the blog post on this plugin.
3. Tentblogger Video Plugin – It is not easy to embed video in blog posts. WordPress loves to strip out the code. This plugin makes it insanely easy.
Plugins To Help Search Engines Find you
4. WordPress SEO – This is a workhorse of plugins. It does so many things for you, I cannot begin to describe them all here. But let me say this: Listing this plugin here is kind-of like cheating because it does the work of about ten individual plugins. You should have a plugin that strips the “/category/” from your category pages. You should have a plugin that creates an XML sitemap for search engines. You should have a plugin that helps add meta titles, meta descriptions, and meta keywords to every post and page. You should have a plugin that notifies search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo whenever there is new content. You should have a plugin that adds information to the bottom of your RSS feed.
While you can find individual plugins that do all of these various things, WordPress does them all, and more! The plugin takes a while to set up, but it is worth the effort.
5. Broken Link Checker – Search Engines do not broken links. But how are you going to know which links are broken unless you go through your entire site every couple days, clicking on each and every link? Sound fun? Of course not. So let a this plugin do it for you.
To Help Readers Find You
Social networking is the single greatest key to finding readers for your blog. At the bare minimum, you need a way to connect with both Twitter and Facebook.
First, you need a way for readers to share your content on their social networking sites. I do not have to install a plugin in for this, because Standard Theme comes with sharing built right in. See that floater bar on the left-hand side of this post? That is part of Standard Theme. If you don’t have Standard Theme, the Jetpack plugin has some sharing options, but if you don’t like those, you will have to find your own.
Also, I recommend you have a way for your posts to automatically get sent to Twitter and Facebook. For Twitter, there are numerous plugins that will do this, but I just use the Twitter feature that is already built in to Feedburner.
So that leaves us just with Facebook. I do use a plugin for that.
6. Add Link to Facebook – This is a wonderful, beautiful plugin, which has generated more readers and comments on my blogs than any other plugin.
Plugins To Keep Readers Clicking and Returning
The WordPress comment system is quite good, but it lacks a few features, such as the ability to subscribe to comments, Tweet your comments, or reply to comments by email. So you need some plugins to accomplish these functions.
Here on GraceBlogger, I initially installed a commenting system called Disqus to try to accomplish some of these things, but I ran into some problems with it and how it interacted with some of my other essential plugins, such as Add Link to Facebook.
So I deactivated it, and am sticking with the tried-and-true default WordPress Comments. I am looking for plugins that will replicate some of the features that were in Disqus, and so far, I only have one:
7. Subscribe to Comments. Readers want to know when someone replies to their comment, and this plugin sends them an email any time someone makes a comment on a particular post. Such notifications keep readers involved and returning to continue the conversation.
Plugins To Increase Blog Speed
8. WP Super Cache – This plugin should help speed up your blog for both readers and search engines.
9. Smush.it – Images are one of the main things that slows down a blog. This plugin optimizes your images to make sure they they slim and trim for quick loading times.
Update: For some reason, I cannot get this plugin to work on my blogs anymore. I am not sure why. It always times out.
10. Tentblogger Optimize WPDB – A database that has lots of unnecessary information in it can slow down your blog. This plugin cleans up your database to keep things running smooth.
And that’s it! I will be writing posts on each one of these plugins over the next two weeks, so if you have any questions about what they do or how to install them, make sure you Subscribe to the posts so you don’t miss a single one.
What do you think of the list? Are there any plugins you are surprised to see on the list? Any which are not on the list, but should be?