Blogging for Beginners: 7 WordPress Plugins to Build a Successful Blog

WordPress Plugins: Where to Start?

Once you have your WordPress.org blog up and running, the next step is installing WordPress Plugins in order to streamline your blog and attract an audience.

The following are some of my favorite Plugins that I use on my blogs. They're my favorites because they make my blogging life easier. Without them, successful search engine optimization (SEO), social media sharing, and communication with readers would be close to impossible.

Using WordPress Plugins, there's no need to know how to use code or even understand many of the technical aspects of running a website. If you need to know more about the basics of Plugins and how to use them, check out Blogging for Beginners: How to Install WordPress Plugins.

This is what the Image Widget looks like in the sidebar of your website.
This is what the Image Widget looks like in the sidebar of your website. | Source
This is what the Image Widget looks like on the dashboard.
This is what the Image Widget looks like on the dashboard. | Source

Image Widget

There are many out there in the blogosphere who are out to make a buck without concern for the well-being of their readers.

And these days, it's difficult to trust someone you've met in person, let alone an individual you've never seen in real life.

Displaying a photo of yourself along with some get-to-know-you information helps break down the walls of distrust.

Think about it: don't you feel more comfortable seeing a friendly face than a generic blue and white silhouette avatar when you're roaming around the internet?

Unless you're an internet vigilante, anonymity is rarely rewarded with fans.

The Image Widget is simple to install and modify:

  • Go to Plugins, then Add New. Type Image Widget in the search field.
  • Activate the Image Widget on the Plugins page.
  • Find the Image Widget in your section of Available Widgets (link for Widgets is under Appearance in the left-side menu).
  • Drag it over to your Main Sidebar, then click the arrow to the right of the Widget's title.
  • Upload a profile pic and write a little something about yourself.

You can also use HTML in the caption of the Image Widget.

This is what the Shareaholic buttons look like on the website. You may customize them differently, but this gives you a basic idea.
This is what the Shareaholic buttons look like on the website. You may customize them differently, but this gives you a basic idea. | Source
These are all of the Shareaholic buttons you can choose from. I've never even heard of most of these!
These are all of the Shareaholic buttons you can choose from. I've never even heard of most of these! | Source

Shareaholic

Shareaholic is a Plugin that allows you to create those cool buttons at the beginning or end of your post.

It makes it easy for your readers to click and share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or whatever social media outlets you choose in the Settings area (by the way, don't get overwhelmed in the Settings for this Plugin--just go with what you know and leave the rest at their default settings).

I narrowed the buttons down quite a bit on my website because I don't want people to be overwhelmed by a million sharing options. You'll want to pick the top three social media sites, for sure. If you have a recipes site, the Print with Print-Friendly button is another good one.

  • Go to Plugins, then Add New. Type Shareaholic in the search field.
  • Install and Activate Shareaholic in the Plugins menu.
  • Click on Settings under Shareaholic, then Settings under SexyBookmarks.
  • Pick the social media sites you'd like to include in your set of sharing buttons.
  • Look at the other settings, but don't get overwhelmed. Change what you want to change, but if you don't know what it is just leave it alone.
  • Click the big green button that says Save Settings.

Social media sharing buttons will automatically be added at the end of your posts, and the introduction to your posts on your main page.

This is what the Contact Form looks like on a page of its own.
This is what the Contact Form looks like on a page of its own. | Source
Add a new page for your Contact Form.
Add a new page for your Contact Form. | Source

Contact Form 7

If you add your email address or a link to your email, you're opening yourself up to spammers.

Writing out your email address: johndoe [at] g mail [dot] com helps to protect you from spam bots, but looks funny and makes things more complicated for your readers. Here is where the Contact Form makes things easier.

Follow these simple steps:

  • First, go to the Pages link on your dashboard.
  • Click on Add New.
  • In the title field, type Contact Me. Click Publish.
  • Go to Plugins, then Add New, then type Contact Form 7 in the search field.
  • Install, then go to Plugins and activate Contact Form 7.
  • Click on the button called Contact that's in the menu to the left side of your screen to find your Shortcode. If you don't see it, click on Settings under Contact Form 7 on your Plugins page to find the Shortcode that will be used to create your contact form (see the photo below).
  • Don't panic over that word "Shortcode". Just copy that line, including the brackets, and paste it into the body of your Contact Me page.

Above the Shortcode that you copied and pasted, you can type whatever you'd like to appear on the page above your form. In the photo, you can see that I wrote, "Have a request or comment? I'd love to hear from you!" above my Shortcode.

Then . . . voilĂ ! A beautiful contact form miraculously appears. When readers submit the form, you will receive it as a regular email.

Find your Contact Form's Shortcode when you click on Settings from the Plugins page.
Find your Contact Form's Shortcode when you click on Settings from the Plugins page. | Source
Source
The WordPress SEO page analysis is straightforward and easy to understand.
The WordPress SEO page analysis is straightforward and easy to understand. | Source

WordPress SEO by Yoast

Search Engine Optimization can be a drag.

Some of the basics aren't so complicated, but successful SEO goes beyond keyword research and density.

WordPress SEO by Yoast makes SEO simple. It tells you what you should change on your page and why. A green light/red light system makes it easy to see where you need to improve, whether it be readability, the meta description, or the Flesch Reading score.

Don't worry if you have no idea what these things mean because they make it simple to figure out.

This Plugin is easy to implement:

  • Go to Plugins, then Add New.
  • Search for WordPress SEO in the search field.
  • Install, then Activate on the Plugins page.
  • Click on Settings. You'll see a button to click that will tell you all about the Plugin and how to use it. It's really not hard to figure out on your own and for the most part requires only a little common sense.

Anti-Spam

Spam is such a pain in the butt.

For a long time, I had a spam filter on one site but not the other. Don't ask me why--that's just how I roll.

It's a waste of time and energy to have to look through the bazillion comments to manually send spam comments to the spam folder.

(The only benefit is that some of them are so stupid, they will make you laugh out loud).

I like the Anti-Spam Plugin because it doesn't require readers to enter a Captcha in order to comment. Captcha can be more trouble than it's worth, causing potential commenters to click away rather than try to read those funhouse-mirror words.

Anti-Spam is easy to set in motion on your blog. Simply follow the steps, going from Add New on the Plugins menu and adding Anti-Spam to the search field. Install, Activate, and you're done.

Google Analytics for WordPress

It's important to sign up for free with Google Analytics in order to keep track of your page views.

Analytics also figures out your bounce rate and breaks down the sources of your traffic.

The scary thing about signing up for Google Analytics is that you are required to copy and paste a piece of code into your website. If you're anything like me, getting under the hood of your site is a scary thing. Put the thingamabob in the wrong whadyacallit, and the entire operation falls apart.

The Google Analytics for WordPress Plugin does it all for you, making the process risk-free.

  • Sign up for Google Analytics.
  • Once you're signed up, simply copy the UA code that Google gives you (see the photo below) and paste it in the field that says Manually Enter Your UA Code.
  • Make sure that "Manually enter your UA code" underneath the field is check-marked.
  • Click Update Google Analytics Settings, and you're done!

Sign up for Google Analytics, then copy and paste your UA code in the settings.
Sign up for Google Analytics, then copy and paste your UA code in the settings. | Source
An example of what a MailChimp email subscription box looks like on your website. You can change the color and other settings, too.
An example of what a MailChimp email subscription box looks like on your website. You can change the color and other settings, too. | Source

MailChimp Email Subscription Service

MailChimp is an email program that sends your new posts to subscribers, as well as any newsletters or other kinds of marketing you want to send out.

MailChimp gives you a number of customizable options. First, you need to sign up at the MailChimp website. This is a free service when you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers.

MailChimp's website makes it simple to set up your account. Do this first before dealing with the Plugin.

Going back to WordPress, the MailChimp Plugin connects your blog to your MailChimp account.

  • Search for MailChimp in the Add New section of your Plugins page.
  • Install and Activate the MailChimp plugin.
  • Click on Settings in the Plugin menu, and select the list you've created in MailChimp.
  • Type in what you want the email subscription box on your website to say. For example, you can see in the photo that my header content says "For a Painless Delivery of PPG Updates". You may also add text to the button (you can see that mine says "Push").
  • You may also change other parts of your subscription box in the MailChimp settings, including the background color and the color of your text.
  • At the bottom of the page, you'll see a table with checkboxes. This determines what information will be required from those signing up for your email list. I would suggest that you only require an email address, or email and first name. We are all protective of our personal information and prefer to give out as little as possible.

If you don't use MailChimp, you also have the option of installing the Feedburner Email Widget Plugin. This is a Google-owned, bare-bones kind of subscription service that's perfectly fine for starting out.

When you become internet-famous, you may want to switch to a high-end email subscription service (among other things) like AWeber. AWeber isn't free, but is the favorite amongst the popular bloggers.

Off You Go!

This list of WordPress Plugins should provide the boost you need to get your blog off and running. The process of installing WordPress plugins may seem complicated at first, but once you get going it's easy to figure out. Take the time to Google what you need for your particular website, and you'll soon have your own list of favorites.

More by this Author


Do you have a favorite WordPress Plugin? Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 18 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Here she goes again, trying to teach this old fart some technical stuff. When will you ever learn, Lizzy, that I am brain dead when it comes to all of this. Thank God I have Bev in my corner to cover up all of my mistakes.

Two hubs this week? You are a writing machine.

Nice job my charming friend.

bill


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 3 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Are you impressed? Then I've achieved my goal. :)

You have a tech-genius inside of you, Bill. Let him out!

Thank you, Dahling.


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 3 years ago from Sydney

I'd be interested to know what you think of Jetpack. I first installed because you can use it instead of Analytics, and I find Analytics confusing so I was happy to find an alternative.

Then I discovered you can use it to replace a whole host of other plugins - it has the equivalent of Contact Form 7, Image Widget, Shareaholic and Anti Spam all built in. It also has an equivalent of the Mailchimp one though of course it doesn't interface with Mailchimp.

The other nice thing is that it gets you into the Wordpress.com community even though your blog is Wordpress.org - I've picked up a few contacts that way.

What I haven't checked is the effect on the speed of my blog. I'm hoping it's fine, because it's enabled me to delete so many other plugins - but I haven't checked! I'll leave that to "tech-heads" like you!


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 3 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Oooooh! That sounds like a cool plugin. I've never heard of it, but I'm gonna check it out. I'm no techie, that's for sure! But I've picked up a few things along the way that I like to share.

Thanks for your comment, Marisa! I appreciate your input.


bydojo profile image

bydojo 3 years ago from Romania

You also need a cache plugin, otherwise your blog will use up many resources and drive your hosting costs over the roof ;)

Great list though, thanks for sharing.


hawaiianodysseus profile image

hawaiianodysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

Hi, Liz! Guess my tech genius is still in the closet, too shy to come out. Oops, what did I just say there? Uh, never mind...

I read through this once, and Baby Boomer mind said, "Huh?" So I thought it best to bookmark this hub and piecemeal-process it to my yet-uncaffeinated brain line by line later. I really want to get a WordPress blog going sometime this year, so there is intrinsic value in this piece yet to be mined by yours truly.

In the meantime, you've got my head spinning!

Thanks for writing this. You've planted a seed in my coconut head. Let's give it time to germinate and see what happens...

Aloha, my friend, and have a great weekend! Keep in touch!

Joe


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 3 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

You're right, bydojo. I have W3 Total Cache on my sites.

Thanks for your input!


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 3 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Hi Joe!

Look! You *are* funny! hahah!

Whenever you want to start a blog of your own, you know I'm here for you. I'm no interweb genius, but whatever I have in this brain, you're free to pick.

I love coconuts.

Aloha, and you know I will!

Liz


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Hi, I am one of those people who, however long I have been using a pc, still can't grasp the basics of some stuff! lol! so this is so helpful to me if I want to get started, thank you, now for the first try! lol!


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 3 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Hi, Nell!

It's not so complicated. Like many other things, it just takes some time to learn the ropes!

Thanks for stopping by,

Liz


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 3 years ago from Sydney

I have to eat humble pie here. I finally got around to testing Jetpack properly and find to my horror that using the individual plugins is probably better. I just wrote a Hub on it. Oops!


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 3 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Oh man! That stinks. Please feel free to add the link to your hub here in the comments if you'd like. Thanks for coming back to let us know, Marisa!


Tolovaj profile image

Tolovaj 2 years ago

Thanks for this list of useful plugins. I noticed there are few plugins available which are particularly popular among internet marketers. Do you think there will be some sort of black list for blogs using some of these (e. g. some very aggressive plugins trying to squeeze certain info from the visitor, or redirecting traffic etc.)?


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Hi, Tolovaj! I'm no expert, but I think schemes like those can come back to bite you. If something looks iffy, I would steer clear of it. See if you can find out more about those kinds of plug-ins from some of the blog-expert blogs, like Problogger. Thanks for stopping by!


ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

This is something I need to come back to when I build my first WordPress site. I hear there is a lot to learn.


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

ologsinquito: Yes, there is. I think YouTube videos are the best resources (it's much clearer when you can watch what people are doing). Take notes or keep a folder of bookmarks so that you have references if you decide to create more sites. Thanks for stopping by!


ktnptl profile image

ktnptl 2 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Very informative, some great tips for beginners. Can you give some tips on how to make the wordpress blog looks nice and attractive?If possible give some url examples so we can go on that blog and see.


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Thank you, ktnptl. I could do that. And thanks for the idea--I'll work on it!

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