WordPress plugin recommendations

WordPress plugin recommendations

I’ve been using WordPress for a few years and I’m now using quite a few plugins. Since I made use of other’s blog posts to find them I thought I’d return the favour and list the ones I’m using. So, here they are:

Plugins to make life easier for visitors

Visitors are the main reason blogs exist. If nobody is looking at your blog why bother writing it? So here’s a few plugins that make things a little easier for your visitors.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – website, wordpress directory

This plugins adds a list of related posts to the end of each post. It’s almost magical in how it works; it somehow just does the “right thing” without any configuration or input from you. It also adds related posts to your RSS feed, which is a great way to pull people back in to your site.

Since I’ve been adding excerpts to my posts lately I’ve configured this plugin to display excerpts in their entirety. I suppose if I write many more posts I might want to shorten them.

Subscribe To Comments – website, wordpress directory

Do you find it annoying having to check back on blogs you’ve commented on to see if others have commented too? If so, this plugin is almost for you. It will allow visitors to subscribe to comments being added to a post on your blog; when someone else comments they’ll receive an email update.

Sadly it won’t do anything to make your life easier visiting other blogs, but the more people that take it up the better. In fact, I’d go as far as to say this should be integrated in to WordPress itself.

Top 10 – website, wordpress directory

This is a handy little plugin that’ll keep track of visits to your site and allow you to display a list of the top 10 visited posts. It’s pretty basic but does the job. I’d like to see it have an expiry on it so you could list the top 10 posts over the last 30 days, for example (this is already possible – see the first comment below).

I did try and use StatPress Reloaded (see below) to do this, but its listing was pretty naff (didn’t display post titles) and it worked on a URL basis rather than a post basis.

Add to Any: Share/Save/Bookmark Button – website, wordpress directory

There’s a whole load of sites out there for bookmarking and discussing other sites, so it makes sense to allow readers to quickly link to your blog posts. This plugin does just that – it adds a button to the end of each post which allows visitors to share, bookmark and email your posts to all sorts of services and people.

In addition, there’s a Subscribe Button plugin, which I don’t use, that allows readers to quickly subscribe to your blog in a multitude of readers.

Search Engine Optimisation

To get visitors your blog needs to be found. As well as the automatic pings that WordPress sends out we need to make sure our blogs are easily found and indexed by search engines. These plugins help out with that process.

All in One SEO Pack – website, wordpress directory

This is the most popular plugin in the wordpress directory, and with good reason. It does various small tweaks to your site such as page titles and metadata, which in my experience do have a positive effect on the number of visitors. It’s surprising to see how little changes can make such a difference, but I won’t complain!

The nice thing about this plugin is that it’s all set to go after installation. You don’t even need to do anything to configure it, although it has plenty of options if you want to.

I highly recommend this plugin to all WordPress users.

Google XML Sitemaps – website, wordpress directory

I don’t have much experience with this plugin, or Google sitemaps for that matter, but given Google’s dominance of the search market it makes sense to play along with it. This plugin creates a map of your site (actually just a list of posts, categories, etc) and submits it to Google. In theory this allows Google to properly index your site, but I’d have thought it’d do a pretty good job of that on it’s own.

It’s pretty straight-forward to set up, although if you have your blog under a sub-directory you might want to add a few static entries for the rest of your site. Then fire up the Google webmaster tools and submit the URL.

It turns out Google can also use your RSS feeds as sitemaps, so I did that as well.

Plugins to make things better for you!

We’ve looked at plugins to make life easier for your visitors and to bring more visitors to your site, but what about you? I’ve haven’t forgotten about the hard working blogger behind the site. Here’s a few plugins to help you out.

StatPress Reloaded – website, wordpress directory

This is an alternative version of the StatPress plugin. It gathers statistics about visitors including which posts they visit, where they came from, and what search terms they used to get there. It’s all information that’s available through Google Analytics (I’ve added that to my template, although there is a plugin to do it for you), but it’s nice to have it easily accessible within your admin area.

The information it provides is pretty interesting. I’ve found a few sites talking about my stuff and linking to me that I wouldn’t have found if the stats weren’t so readily available. I recommend giving it a try.

All in One Adsense and YPN – website, wordpress directory

Pretty much every personal site you visit these days has some form of advertising on it. Most overdo it, but done subtly it can be unobtrusive and provide an income stream. Don’t get me wrong, blogging isn’t a good way to make money – I certainly don’t make much – you have to put in a lot of work before you get anything worthwhile out of it. But if you enjoy writing blog posts why not make a little out of it?

This plugin makes it easy to insert adverts within the text of posts. In fact, there’s probably one somewhere within this post. It’s fully configurable and does most of the hard work for you. However, you will need an Adsense or YPN (which I don’t use) account to do it.

I have had some reservations about the way the donation code works, but it turned out to be just badly written code. Still, it gives me reason to not feel completely confident with this plugin, but until I find an alternative I’ll stick with it.

Math Comment Spam Protection – website, wordpress directory

Up until recently I had a graphical captcha plugin to help weed out spammers’ comments. After the problems I had with it I decided to switch to MCSP instead. It’s a simple plugin – it gives readers a simple mathematical sum to solve when posting a comment. That’s enough to keep the spammers at bay, but simple enough that any human should be able to do it.

I’m still in two minds about this one. On the one hand it is a lot easier than a graphical captcha, but at the same time those are what people are used to these days. I’ll give it some time and see how it goes, but the problem is that you never know if someone has given up on a comment because they couldn’t figure out the captcha.

Theme Test Drive – website, wordpress directory

The theme I currently have is based on the WordPress default and I’ve had it for a few year now. Lately I’ve been thinking about getting a new theme, but I was left with the problem of how to test them. That’s where this plugin comes in – it allows you, as an admin, to see a different theme on your site to your normal visitors. This allows for testing and development of new themes without making your site look like a mess whilst you do it.

I guess this plugin isn’t something that everyone would need, unless you’re addicted to changing your theme of course. But it’s a good one to have around, maybe disabled, until you do need it.

Plugins to help out lost visitors

My last group of plugins are those for dealing with people landing on a 404 page (this happens when the page they’re looking for doesn’t exist). If we can get the visitor to the page they’re looking for they’ll be much happier!

Useful 404’s – website, wordpress directory

This is the most useful of the 404 plugins that I have installed. It analyses what’s happened and both notifies the user of the problem and sends you an email to let you know. It distinguishes between broken internal links, broken incoming external links and out of date search results, and acts accordingly for each situation.

On its own this plugin only does half the job, but it’s still a useful part of the overall 404 solution.

Smart 404 – website, wordpress directory

This plugin sits nicely with Useful 404. It attempts to figure out possible posts the visitor could have been looking for and gives a list of those for them to choose from. It’s not perfect – its algorithms seem quite basic – but I guess it doesn’t have much information to work from.

Google 404 – wordpress directory

This plugin is fairly similar in purpose to Smart 404, but instead uses the Google 404 widget to provide visitors with useful information. However, at the moment it’s not doing anything useful for me, but I’ll give it some more time before I decide to drop it.

That’s the end of my plugin recommendations. I hope you’ve found them useful.

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