I confess. I had no idea what blogger plugins were when I created my first site. I only knew I needed them.
Blogger plugins are software “snippets” that add additional functionality and features to your WordPress website. You need them too! They will make your blogging life so much easier and help you build an audience that much faster.
Here are some of the features you can add with plugins:
- Contact forms
- Search optimization
- Social media share links
- List-building pop-ups
- and tons more…
There are literally tons and tons of blogger plugins to choose from. So how do you know which ones you really need?
Today I’m sharing some of the plugins I have installed on my blog. Some I use for SEO, some for social media, some are more administrative, and others are for email list building. These are grouped in order of priority (what to install first, what to install next), and I’m hoping that a few of these will be useful for your blog too.
INSTALL THESE BLOGGER PLUGINS FIRST:
USE TO: BLOCK COMMENT SPAM
You get so excited when you see 25 comments on our dashboard, but then find that 95% of those are spam. Bleh, who has time for that? You don’t! Time to shut down spam comments before they happen.
Spam is such a huge issue for WordPress sites that each install actually comes with a spam filter plugin called Akismet. I’ve never used it, though, because the set up seemed like too much work. Plus, I’ve heard that the filtering can be too aggressive, meaning that it will block valid comments as spam so you won’t have a chance to see real, true reader comments.
WP-SpamShack is very effective and easy to use. Just activate it and you’re good to go. What can be easier than that?
USE TO: HELP SEARCH ENGINES FIND YOUR CONTENT
WordPress is by default a search engine-friendly platform. But you’ll need the help of Yoast SEO to optimize your site even more for search engines. I use it on every one of my posts. If you want to make it easy for people to find your work on Google, you need to use it too!
Yoast SEO will analyze your posts and give you a checklist for headings, content, post title, description, and images and even URLs to make sure that everything on your page is optimized for any keyword you choose. It does a whole bunch of other things too, like Facebook OpenGraph data and XML sitemap generator.
Just download it and play around with it a bit!
USE TO: CREATE CONTACT FORMS
Do you even need contact forms anymore? Not many people actually use them, but I like knowing that my audience can reach me easily. Anything that gives readers a channel to get in touch with you is a good thing, so why not include?
I actually prefer Contact Form 7 to Gravity Forms because it’s prettier on the back end and easier to use, but alas, CF7 doesn’t integrate with my email marketing platform. I had to make a switch to Gravity Forms simply because it has integrations with more email marketing platforms. Contact Form 7 does integrate with most of the email marketing tools out there, but not Infusionsoft (which is what I use). If you use MailChimp, Aweber, MadMimi or Constant Contact, CF7 is a good choice.
USE TO: TRACK YOUR BLOG’S PERFORMANCE
This one is optional and I’ll explain why.
You know you need Google Analytics to monitor your site’s traffic and performance. But sometimes this thing can be tricky to set up. For most WordPress themes, adding your tracking code is pretty straightforward. Theme developers usually include a section to add GA tracking that’s easy to find. Then others are not as easy. I know this because I placed the tracking code on my site and then realized it was in the wrong section when my Analytics had nothing to report. It’s not just a one-off. It’s happened to me before too.
If you feel a bit flustered about how to add the code to your theme, I highly recommend installing this plugin. Just enter your tracking code ID and the plugin takes care of the rest. What could be easier?
INSTALL THESE BLOGGER PLUGINS NEXT:
Click to Tweet
USE TO: ENCOURAGE SOCIAL MEDIA SHARING
I keep telling myself to use this more because it’s such a killer plugin.
Click to Tweet gives you a pretty box with a tweet quote that readers to share with their followers. It’s really simple to use and a great way to encourage sharing.
Here’s an example:Check out this post on 12 Blogger Plugins that will skyrocket your blog Click To Tweet
What you should know: When you create a Click-to-Tweet, keep the “username” box checked once you enter your tweet text.
USE TO: ENCOURAGE SOCIAL MEDIA SHARING
See the share buttons at the bottom of this post? That’s Shareaholic in action. Shareaholic is a social media plugin that makes it easy for readers to share your amazing posts. They’re also a form of social proof – the more shares you have on your post, the more new readers will want to share it too.
Here’s what it will look like at the bottom of your posts:
Just install it, and you’re done. It will sync with the API of your social media platforms to track the share counts. You can also use the Shareaholic (or SumoMe) plugin to add share buttons to your post images, which is yet another way to encourage sharing. See this post for how to create share buttons.
What you should know: Before you install this plugin, head over to Google Webmaster Tools. Create an account, verify your website, and then choose your preferred domain. This is just a techy way of saying to tell Google how you want your site to appear in browser windows, as the “www” version or the “non-www” version. Mine was originally “www” and I recently changed it to the “non-www”. No big deal, except that Pinterest and Google+ recognize them as completely different sites. With this change, I lost my share counts and had to start again from zero. I don’t want this to happen to you, so be sure you set your preferred domain beforehand!
USE TO: BUILD AN EMAIL LIST
I’ve written pretty extensively about Thrive Leads in this post and in this post, partly because I love it so much and mostly because it does so much. For me, this plugin blows away SumoMe and the other form plugins. It’s not free, but it’s also not expensive (about $65 for a license) vs SumoMe ListBuilder Pro, which is $20 per month.
Here’s what it can do:
- Standard pop-ups, slide-ins, top or bottom forms
- Full-page opt-ins: fill the entire screen with your form when someone lands on your site
- In-content pop-ups: triggered from a link, button, or image in your post
- Menu-triggered pop-ups: great for creating a Resource Library tab on your site
- Different pop-up states: readers who have already subscribed will see another opt-in or nothing at all.
What you should know: The features in this plugin are fierce but it’s not the easiest to use. If you’re a new blogger, you may prefer to start with a form plugin like Popup Ally. As your blog builds up a bit and you need more functionality, I highly recommend checking out Thrive Leads. It will become your go-to form builder for sure!
USE TO: ENCOURAGE READERS TO STAY ON YOUR SITE
Related posts are a great way to keep readers on your site longer which is always a good thing. Plus, as I covered in this post, internal linking is like a popularity vote for your site which will help you rank higher in Google.
With a plugin like Contextual-Related Posts, a list of related posts will appear at the bottom of your article, which you can either show with thumbnails or links only.
What you should know: If your site is hosted on a managed WordPress hosting company like WPEngine or Flywheel, Contextual-Related Posts will be blocked. The reason is that plugins like this can potentially slow your site down. In that case you can try Jetpack, Related Posts for WordPress, or even Shareaholic. If you decide to go with Jetpack, make sure you disable their other features as this plugin can seriously slow down your site speed.
USE TO: CLONE A PAGE DESIGN
I love this plugin! I used to pull my hair out designing pages manually one by one, until I discovered Duplicate Post.
Duplicate Post does just what it says, only I use it for pages instead of posts.
Here’s why it’s so great. Say you’ve spent hours tweaking the design of your About page and want to use it as a design template for the Services page. With Duplicate Post you don’t have to start from scratch or spend hours copying CSS styles. Simply clone the page and you have a custom design template for the new page.
What you should know: You want to duplicate the design of the page and not the actual content. Make sure you change the title, content, keywords, images, buttons and anything else on the page so that Google sees it as an entirely new page and not duplicate content, which will hurt your SEO.
USE TO: REDUCE “PAGE NOT FOUND” ERRORS
Let’s say you’re playing around in Google Keyword Planner and stumble upon the perfect keyword for one of your published posts. It looks like you have a great chance to rank for it and you want to replace your old keyword with this new one. No biggie, right? Just change the keyword and follow the Yoast SEO checklist to update it on your page.
But hold on, friend! You already published the post with the old URL, which means that Google is looking for the old one and not the new one you just created. By updating the keyword in your URL (which you will have to do), you’ve created a new path for your post that Google doesn’t know about.
That’s where the Redirection plugin comes in. Any time you update the actual URL of a page or post on your site, use this plugin to redirect google from the old URL to the new one. This way you won’t wind up with 404 errors on your site.
Pretty Link Lite
USE TO: MAKE BRANDED LINKS
Pretty Link Lite is a plugin for creating shortened links, similar to Bitly but better. They’re like “vanity” links that include your domain and help to solidify your brand so that people recognize it.
Pretty Link Lite is great for affiliate links, which are generally long and not so “pretty”. People are more inclined to click on simple, short links than they are long ones that are hard to read.
This plugin will also track and analyze how your links are performing, much like Bitly.
WordPress Editorial Calendar
USE TO: PLAN + ORGANIZE YOUR POSTS
I haven’t used this yet, but I have it installed and it’s next on my list!
This plugin is designed to help you organize and plan your posts in advance, which you can mark as drafts or scheduled. Sounds like a much better system than what I’m currently using, which a Google spreadsheet that I never seem to keep updated. From the little I’ve experimented with the Editorial Calendar plugin, it looks like you can specify your calendar view (1 week, 2 weeks, etc) and then enter post titles on the days you plan to publish. You can then use the calendar to write/edit your post directly from the plugin. I can’t wait to give it a try and think you should too!
Before you install any blogger plugins:
- Don’t install more plugins than you will use. Plugins tend to bloat your site and can seriously affect your page load speed.
- Start out with plugins 1-4 and then gradually add the others as you need.
- Before you install any plugin take a look at the number of active installs (anything over 50K is good) and make sure it’s compatible with your version of WordPress.
- If you find what seems to be an awesome plugin but the last update was 1-2 years back, this means that the developer hasn’t continued updating the plugin and there’s a good chance it’ll cause conflicts with WordPress. You’re better off looking for another similar plugin that is compatible.
- Check your site after you install a plugin to make sure everything looks/functions okay (page load speed good, no white screen, everything intact, etc).