The writing life should be about sitting in front of your keyboard and creating. Even better if a roaring fire, quietly content children, and an adoring dog and spouse are thrown in.
But, for most of us, it’s not that simple. We blog. We take to the blogosphere, not out of a desire to create and communicate, but because it’s good for business. Website builders and their plugins can boggle the creative mind.
When I decided to get serious about blogging, I looked to my small business and non-fiction authoring idol, Stephanie Chandler. Back in 2011, she had published 8 Favorite WordPress Plugins for Business Blogs. Although not all her favorites are my favorites, I found it a great starting place.
Of course, the plugin landscape keeps changing. It’s time for a fresh list.
This is in no way an exhaustive or thoroughly researched list of the best plugins on WordPress.org. Rather, it’s a pay-it-forward for others that find the technology a little overwhelming. It’s simply some of the (free) plugins I’ve found most useful.
Open Source Developers
A note about plug for open-source plugin developers: Many of these developers offer you a convenient donate link and ask if you’d like to buy them “a cup of coffee.” Once you’ve used their plugins and find they work for you, I advocate donating to them. Most of them have day jobs and develop for the rest of us as a public service.
My favorite plugins
Akismet topped Stephanie’s list in 2011 and it tops my list in 2015. Akismet is “an anti-spam service aimed at thwarting the underbelly of the web.” You’ll need a one-time setup, which involves setting up an account and getting a key code. After that, Akismet keeps your comment threads free of spam.
Broken Link Checker: Broken links not only appear unprofessional. They also often represent lost opportunities. Once visitors land on the 404 error page, they often jump ship. This plugin notifies you if a link in your site has gone bad, allowing you to fix it before your readers encounter it.
P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler): There is a limit to the number of plugins you can add to your site before they start to slow down your website’s load time too much. In general, if you site takes longer than 1 – 2 seconds to load, it’s too slow. There’s not a hard number of allowable plugins, however. Some, such as plugins that help you write posts or map your site with Google, have little or no effect on load time. P3 lets you know which plugins affect your site’s speed and your overall load time.
Jetpack: Jetpack is a package of features in one plugin. You don’t have to use them all; you can pick which ones you want to activate. Its functions include things like site performance enhancements, comment management, sharing buttons, proof reading, short links, and anti-spam.
Related Posts: Getting visitors to your site to read your latest post is only half the battle. You want them to stay and read more (and come back often). Related Posts by WordPress.com helps you do that by showing thumbnails of relevant links to your other content at the end of your posts.
WordPress SEO (by Yoast): If visitors come to your site by way of Google, Bing, or other search engines, SEO should matter to you. Of course you don’t want to write just for SEO, but Yoast helps you tweak your content for maximum search engine visibility.
Yoast also does some techy things to make WordPress.org even more SEO friendly, but the true beauty lies in its “page analysis.” It checks your post or page and returns a list of graded attributes. Red dots indicate something that is bad for SEO. Yellow can be improved. Green is good. Those attributes vary from using a keyword phrase in your title, naming your photographs, to the reading level of your writing. The result is that instead of writing for SEO, you tweak your writing to help search engines find your quality content. Caveat: If you have a choice between good content and SEO content, choose good content.
Further Plugin Reading
Need more help? Do you just love reading about this stuff? Try WPMU Dev’s 25+ Must-Have WordPress Plugins for 2014.
What’s your favorite?
Okay, fellow WordPress.org users—What’s your favorite plugin? Let’s see some comments!