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.
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.
WordPress Plugins Basics
- Blogging for Beginners: How to Install WordPress Plugins
Do you need help activating WordPress Plugins on your website? This article provides a clear, step-by-step explanation along with photos to teach you how to get these Plugins on your blog.
Popular WordPress Guides to Make You a Master Blogger
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.
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 . . . voilà! A beautiful contact form miraculously appears. When readers submit the form, you will receive it as a regular email.
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.
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!
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.