The Irresistible Plug In
What’s the truth about plug-ins? Are they the fastest way to cripple a WordPress blog? Or are they the essential ingredient that makes WordPress blogs so useful?
The answer – as you probably guessed – is both! A bad plug in can take down your blog. Even a good plug in can go bad and suddenly render your blog invisible.
Ah, but those good plug ins are irresistible…
Plug ins (which WordPress likes to spell “plugins”) are tiny add-on bits of code that extend the ability of your blog to do something cool (what geeks call “functionality”).
For instance, if you want to add Google Analytics to your blog’s code, but you don’t want to copy and paste the script into every single relevant template on you blog, you’d look for a Google Analytics plug-in to do the work for you. And you’d be in luck, because there are so many to choose from.
As the 18 pages of results for “Google Analytics Plugins” above demonstrates, finding just the right plug-in can be difficult. Be prepared slog through apparently unrelated plugins while you do your research and comparisons. When the task seems overwhelming, try doing the search on Google (instead of WordPress.org). If you want to confine your search just to WordPress.org, so you can quickly check comments and download history, use Google’s Advanced Search option and confine the search to the domain “http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/”
What Plug Ins Can Do For You
You can divide plug-ins into several major categories. Some will improve your blog’s SEO. Some will improve your readers’ experience. Some will make the day to day management of your blog easier. Some will improve your blog’s appearance. And some will enable your readers to recommend your blog to new readers. No two blogs need the exact same set of plug-ins, but most blogs will benefit from a handful of plug-ins in each of these categories.
Although WordPress is pretty well optimized for SEO right out of the box, you can always improve the default installation with one or two SEO plug-ins.
Better navigation through your blog means better internal linking. And better internal linking is something both Google and your readers will appreciate. Try adding a Recent Posts widget to your sidebar or a Related Posts plug in to your posts. There are lots of plug ins that will do the job, so read the reviews before you decide. And don’t hesitate to disable one and try another. Here are a few I like:
- Similar Posts and WordPress Related Posts both add links to other posts on your blog with suggestions for related reading.
- Breadcrumb NavXT helps readers find their way about your blog. Some themes have breadcrumbs already built in.
- Search Suggest makes WordPress’ default search much more useful by suggesting similar terms, instead of returning a “No matching posts” result, if a reader mistypes or misspells a word.
There are two parts of blog maintenance you don’t want to lose control of: your RSS feed and WordPress updates. Automate them!
- Feedburner Feedsmith will integrate all your feeds into your Feedburner account. Readers will be able to subscribe more easily, without the confusion of dozens of sidebar chicklets.
- WordPress Automatic Upgrade will guide you through the nerve-racking process of safely upgrading your blog. Considering how frequently WordPress issues upgrades, this plugin is essential.
Eye candy may not be as important as content, but the best blogs are a feast for the eyes as well as the mind. Take advantage of plug-ins for photography, text formatting, and anything else that specifically relates to your niche.
BOOKMARKING, SHARING, SOCIAL MEDIA
There are so many plug ins for social media that I don’t even know where to start in recommending a few. You’ll want to use those that are most relevant to your readers. For instance, you might want to add a Subscribe to Comments option to your RSS feeds. You’ll want to enable Digg, StumbleUpon, and Delicious recommendations, in both your feeds and your posts. Be sure to closely check both the “Optimize” and “Publicize” features in Feedburner. To avoid sidebar clutter, consider an all-in-one typ plug-in such as
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