Blogging basics: Best plugins for your blog
If you’ve been running a WordPress blog for any length of time, chances are you’ve come across the term “plugin” at some point. But what are plugins, exactly? Well, besides a scented oil product you can use to make your home smell like Pure Vanilla Joy, plugins are little bits of software that can be added to your site to make it do things.
What kinds of things? All kinds of things! Whether you want to make your blog easier for search engines to find, your content more shareable, or your commenting more streamlined, with 43,269 WordPress plugins listed in the official directory alone, there’s probably a plugin—or a hundred—designed for that specific purpose.
While it’s great to have so many cheats and fixes at your fingertips, sorting the wheat from the chaff can be tough, especially when you’re just starting out. That’s why today we’re sharing our list of the six plugins we think every WordPress blogger should know about. Here are our must-haves and our MVPs, the best plugins for your blog—you’ll wonder how you lived without them.
As a blogger, you’re probably familiar with the pain of having a program crash, freeze, or unexpectedly log out before you’ve saved your post. Now amplify that feeling by 1,000 and you’ll have an idea of what it feels like to have your site hacked and not have a backup of your database. Fortunately, there are plenty of backup plugins out there, probably the most beginner-friendly of which is BackupBuddy. It lets you schedule automatic backups, encrypt data, upload copies to preferred storage locations, and helps you sleep at night.
One of the most important and all-too-often neglected parts of blogs is the comment box. While WordPress’ default commenting system does the trick if you’re only getting a few comments per post, for in-depth discussions you’re better off with Disqus’s super powerful (and pretty) plugin. Besides providing users with a superior social interface, it makes managing and responding to comments way easier, and blocks spam like nobody’s business.
Floating Social Bar
These days, having social media on your blog is about as important as having post titles and a search bar. Unfortunately, most social plugins come with about three social networks you want and dozens more that you don’t, which can be a real drag on page load speed. What makes Floating Social Bar stand out is that it only supports a handful of major social networks—Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest—meaning you’ll get all the retweets and likes and upvotes you crave, without being weighed down by platforms nobody’s heard of.
Do you have one of those laminated calendars over your desk that’s been written over so many times it’s streaky and grey? If so, it’s time to ditch the calendar and invest in some art. And a plugin. Editorial Calendar is great for staying organized and getting into a groove of regular posting. It grabs all of your scheduled posts and drafts, and places them on a tidy calendar to give you an overview of what’s coming up and what still needs to be done. It’s an especially useful tool for managing multiple author blogs and keeping everyone up-to-date and in sync.
Your readers need to be able to contact you, whether it’s to ask a question or find out about advertising on your site. With Gravity Forms’ simple drag-and-drop interface, you can build not just a stunning contact form, but all kinds of surveys, quizzes, newsletter signups, donation forms, and more. As testimonial writer Tom Westervelt put it, “This is the mack daddy of form plugins!” Nailed it.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
Before this post goes to print, we’ll be running it through Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin to make sure everything from the frequency of our keywords to the length of our title get the green light. It only takes about 90 seconds, and the benefits to site traffic and usability are huge. If you’re worried that you won’t know how to use it because terms like “canonical” and “breadcrumbs” and even “SEO” mean nothing to you, don’t worry—the plugin walks you through each step. Before you know it you’ll be optimizing like a pro.