In part 5 of this series, we created our first WordPress blog post and published that post to the internet. We are now 1 in over 70 million WordPress blogs on the internet. I feel so small. 🙂
As we continue to add new posts to our site, we might want to think about installing some add-ons to enhance the performance of our site and to protect it. To do this, we will install WordPress plugins.
What to Expect from this “Learning to Blog” Series
This is the sixth part of a series on the topic of starting a travel blog or really starting any type of blog for that matter.
- Part 1: Introduction to Blogging
- Part 2: Blog Setup Basics
- Part 3: Installing WordPress
- Part 4: Configuring Your New Blog
- Part 5: Your First Blog Post
- Part 6: WordPress Plugins (This post)
- Part 7: Getting the word out: Marketing Your Blog (Next Up)
- Part 8: Making Money with your Travel Blog
The WordPress blogging platform uses plugins to extend the capabilities of WordPress which allows it to do just about anything you can imagine. Examples of plugins you might see:
- Contact Form
- Social Media
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization
- Site Security
- Spam Protection
- Site Speed Improvement
- Blog Backup
And the list goes on. If you have an idea, search for it in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory and you will most likely find a plugin for it. Sounds like a familiar slogan from Apple.
Installing WordPress Plugins
To begin, click on Plugins over in the left sidebar to get something like this below:
After clicking on Plugins, the Installed Plugins page will open and show you which plugins are currently installed on your site. If you have a new WordPress installation like I do on my example site seaoauditservice.com, then you should only see two plugins. Let’s use them as examples before we go looking for new plugins.
First off, the “Hello Dolly” plugin, when activated, will place a song lyric in the upper right hand corner of your admin screen. Not necessarily useful, so I delete it. Just press Delete below the plugin name “Hello Dolly”. It will then ask you to verify and if you want to delete all files. Press Yes, Delete these files and you should now be down to one plugin.
Akismet Plugin – Say Adios to Comment Spam
I wrote about the Akismet plugin earlier in this series, but now let me explain it a little better. This is a plugin that you will grow to LOVE. The Akismet plugin uses an online database to block spam in your comments and can also be used with contact forms.
As your blog becomes more popular, you’ll receive more and more comments which will take time to manage, especially if you’re getting bombarded by comment spam.
To use this plugin, you just need to click on Activate and then you will need to click on Settings and click on the link to go create a new API key.
Then you will copy and paste the API key you were assigned into the API key field on the Akismet Settings page. Once complete, your site will be validated and Akismet will start blocking comment spam. Oh, and it’s FREE!
So far, Akismet has protected Traveling Troy from 566 spam comments. Excellent!
How to Install New WordPress Plugins
Like I said earlier, to install new WordPress plugins, all you need to do is click on Plugins –> Add New and you will see a search option like the image to the left.
From here, you can type keywords in the search box and see what results WordPress will pull up for you or you could use one of the pre-determined links at the top of the plugin search page.
- Plugin Search Options:
- Search – Keyword search (scans plugins for keywords you enter)
- Featured – A list of plugins that WordPress is featuring
- Popular – The most popular plugins based on views
- Newest – Fresh out of the box plugins (Probably no ratings either)
- Favorites – You can mark you Favorite plugins to create this list
- Upload – When you download a plugin from a place other than the WordPress plugin directory, you will use this Upload option to install the plugin
Let’s say you have a few posts on your site and you want to show your readers which post are most popular. Well, there are many plugins that will do this, so let’s do a search for “popular post” and see what we get:
After doing a search, you will see many results come up so you need to look through the results to find the plugin that will do what you want. To do this, you should check the Rating, click on Details and look over the description, check out the screenshots and verify that the current version of the plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress.
It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Once you’ve found your plugin, click Install Now. The page will then ask you to verify that you want to install and then the plugin gets installed. Next, click on Activate and from there you can go play around with the settings to get it the way you want it.
Free and Useful WordPress Plugins to Get You Started
Below is a list of plugins that I use on my sites plus some alternatives to what I use. This isn’t a complete list of what I use but it’s a good start for a new site.
- Get a good SEO Plugin
- Get your Backup Process setup early to avoid disaster
- Get Social – Offer ways for your readers to Share your posts
- Shrink, Organize and Track your Links
- Image Management and Performance
- Install an Automated Contact Form
- Enhance Reader Engagement
- Site Security – Protect your site from hackers and plug security holes
- WordPress Site Speed Improvement
W3 Total Cache (My Pick)
Like the security plugin, these cache improvement plugins are a bit more difficult to understand for the novice WordPress user. As your site gets bigger with more posts, pages, images and a large database, your site will begin to slow down. This is where a cache improvement plugin will help and improve page load speed.
WordPress SEO by Yoast (My Pick)
When writing a post on your blog, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) isn’t as important as providing quality content for your readers but this plugin makes it easy. While typing up a post, this plugin will score your SEO effectiveness on a red, yellow & green light scale and guide you through steps to improve your SEO. Excellent plugin and I consider it a must have.
For more details on how to use this plugin as well as other effective SEO strategies, check out my Free guide:
Free WordPress SEO Guide
All in One SEO Pack (an alternative)
WordPress Backup to Dropbox (My Pick)
Let’s face it. Even the WordPress geniuses make mistakes, so it’s important for everyone to make sure they have their WordPress site backed up. I like this backup plugin because it allows you to backup your whole site. Be careful of other plugins that only backup the WordPress database. You want to backup your files, folders and media as well.
With this plugin, you need to have a Free Dropbox account, then you choose the files and folders, setup a schedule and it automatically backs up your files to the internet. If something were to happen to your site and you need to restore it, you could access these files from your computer, a library pc, a friends house or just about anywhere.
Google Drive for WordPress (an alternative)
I tested this backup plugin as well and it did a great job. It backs up both your files and database online for easy access from anywhere. You do have to connect it to your Google account which I’m not real comfortable with, but overall it does a fine job.
Digg Digg – The Floating Share Bar (My Pick)
This bar floats on the left side of your site and allows readers to easily share to multiple social media sites. I personally have my set up for Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and I added Comments. You can tweak it the way you want it in the Digg Digg settings. I see most sites with the default settings as they never even make any adjustments.
There are MANY options for social plugins, but I prefer to keep it simple and Digg Digg is my choice.
Pretty Link Lite (My Pick)
Pretty Link is very useful. First I like to use it to shrink long URLs into easier to remember URLs. For instance, the link to purchase my book from Amazon is an ugly link so I shorten it, see below:
You can also use Pretty Link to redirect a deleted page or post on your site so the reader doesn’t get a 404 error when they try to visit a page no longer on your site. It’s a slick plugin.
As a bonus, Pretty Link will track each click on those links and show you the totals.
WP Smush It (My Pick)
Once installed, this plugin will attempt to optimize your images by compressing them which decreases the image file size without compromising quality. Every new image you upload will automatically be optimized which will speed up page load times. You can also go through your Media Library and “Smush” the images that your installed before getting the Smush It plugin.
Fast Secure Contact Form (My Pick)
This is the contact form I use on my sites. It allows for multiple forms, offers super customization and installs with an easy short code to a Contact Page.
Contact Form 7 (an alternative and most popular)
This form has been download about 12.8 million times compared to the one above at only 4 million, so it must be great. I have used it in the past, but switched over the one above. Take your pick or try them both.
WordPress Popular Posts (My Pick)
This plugin will show your visitors which posts are the most popular on your site based on either comments or views. The plugin is typically installed as a widget in the sidebar or it could also be installed in the footer.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (My Pick Too)
This plugin adds a list of related posts from your site at the end of each Post and allows you to show them in list format or thumbnail format. This is a great way to keep your site visitors engaged with your content.
Better WP Security (My Pick)
Let’s face it, securing your WordPress blog may be a little bit over your head, but this plugin scans your site, lists the issues and takes you to where you need to go to fix the issues and plug the holes. It may not be the easiest security plugin but I have grown accustomed to using it. Just make sure you backup your site before making security changes, regardless of which security plugin you use.
Start a Blog That Matters
Anyone can start a blog, so if you want your blog to catch on a build an audience, then you need to Start a Blog That Matters. This means you should strive to help others with your blog, whether you’re explaining how to get discounts on travel or showing how to fix a leaking propane tank. Make your content great and make your blog matter.
After you have completed my 8-part series on starting a blog, you should try Corbett Barr’s blogging course.
<--Start a Blog That Matters-->
- What’s included in Corbett’s course?
- 13 Weekly Lessons and Action Plans
- Over 8 hours of video
- FAQ full of previously asked questions from 800+ students
- 60-Day Money Back Guarantee (No Questions Asked)
- The 90-Day Action Plan to turn nothing to a Blog That Matters
What Are Your Thoughts?
Well, that’s my list of what I consider very useful plugins. I hope you found something new on the list. Do you have any questions about plugins or perhaps you would like to mention one of your favorite plugins? Feel free to do so in the comments below.
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