Blogging is one of the things one can do to share ideas or experiences on the internet. Blogging has exploded in recent years but the fact that it is a platform of expression is not the only reason its popularity has increased. The fact that one can earn while blogging is one of the reasons blogs have sprouted online.
There are many blogging platforms to choose from but the most popular ones are those on Blogspot and WordPress. I for one chose WordPress because it’s easy to use and there are tons of plugins that improve the blogging experience. Listed below are 20 of the best free plugins one can use on a WordPress blog. There are other alternatives to these plugins but based on experience, these are the ones that are effective and useful.
20 Best WordPress Plugins for Blogs
If you are new to blogging, you should know that you need some Search Engine Optimization or SEO. It is simply optimizing your blog so that it ranks well in search engines. An SEO plugin helps improve your blog’s performance and the best one out there, in my opinion at least, is All in One SEO Pack. The other best option is Wordress SEO by Yoast. Both plugins have the most number of features in an SEO plugin and you cannot do wrong with either one.
Every blog needs comment spam filtering. If you’re not using any third party commenting system, Akismet is a must. It is probably the best one for filtering that unwanted spam comments. Akismet is of course free and you only need to sign up to get your API key.
Apart from an SEO plugin, you also need a site map for your blog. A site map makes it easy for search engines to index your website and it’s easy to make. Just install Google XML Sitemaps and it automates the submission of your site map to Google and other search engines.
WordPress by default uses “previous post” and “next post” buttons in presenting your posts in your homepage. This is hard for readers sometimes. WP-PageNavi is a page navigation system for your WordPress blog that presents numeric buttons instead of previous or next buttons. This way, readers can skip much further when looking for articles to read.
Websites take too much memory from servers so they tend to be slow especially when posts start to build up. In order to speed up your blog, you need a caching plugin. I have tried WordPress plugins WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache and found them complicated. I then stumbled into a caching plugin called Hyper Cache and it works beautifully. You don’t need to tinker with too much options or customizations for it to work well. It’s easy to use and it’s effective.
There are many free commenting systems for WordPress and the best two are Disqus and Livefyre. I used to admire how Disqus works but after updating to the latest version, it generated several 404 errors and there appears to be no solution to this. So I tried Livefyre as an alternative and it so far does the things that I need for a commenting system to do. It has several login options for users and it syncs well with Facebook comments.
EWWW Image Optimizer is a WordPress plugin that reduces file sizes for images. Photos tend to slow down page load times especially if they are huge. With EWWW Image Optimizer, you can minimize page load time without really compromising the quality of the photos in your posts.
Readers need to contact you sometimes. Contact Form 7 can help you with that. You can easily create a Contact page with this plugin and it offers a lot of options. You simply need to create a template and paste the code on any page you want it to appear.
If you use WordPress, you know that your username is set to “admin” by default. This makes it easy to hack your website so you need to change your username to something else. Wordpress does not allow users to change the admin name and this is where the WPVN – Username Changer plugin comes in.
WordPress has a built-in comments plugin for your sidebar but it is limited in features. With Get Recent Comments, you can display the recent comments on your sidebar the way you want to. It offers a lot of options like setting the number of words to display and whether to display the post title or not.
If you own a blog, you need to monitor its performance. Google Analytics is one of the best ways to check your blog’s performance and the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin helps you easily set up your blog so you can use Google’s web analytics facility.
So let’s say you have attracted readers to your blog. You would want them to keep engaged after reading a post so you need a “related posts” plugin. There are a lot of plugins like these. You can try YARPP (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin) or Linkwithin but for me, the best is nRelate. YARPP has limited customization options and Linkwithin routes links to its main website so that could be an issue with leaking “link juice”. nRelate has good customozation options and it keeps links within your site. You can also try other plugins like Outbrain but those ones show posts from other websites.
If you blog because you want to earn, you need something like the Quick Adsense plugin to make ad placements easier. This WordPress plugin offers several placement options and it’s as easy as pasting your ad code in boxes.
SEO Smart Links is a really good plugin. Internal links is essential to improving SEO and this plugin makes it easy to create those links. You simply have to assign post links to keywords or phrases and everytime those words come up, the link is automatically created. This WordPress plugin will save you a lot of time.
The latest WordPress version has a good YouTube embedding function but Smart YouTube plugin is still much better. It is the easiest way to embed YouTube videos. You just set your desired video dimensions and everytime you want to embed a video, you just need to add a letter or two to the link.
Smart YouTube also offers options to pick video quality apart of course from giving users the option to customize the appearance of every YouTube video embedded.
Subscribe / Connect / Follow widget is a plugin that shows buttons that link to social networking sites. This is a perfect way to get Facebook or Twitter followers. There are options to include links to popular sites like Tumblr, Pinterest and others.
Tweet Old Post does as described. It tweets your old posts automatically so Twitter followers who previously missed your posts can be made aware that such a post existed. It gets additional readers to posts that are otherwise hidden in your post archives. Tweet Old Post also offers the option to include hashtags and lets users set the interval between tweets.
Getting your readers perpetually engaged is a tough task. Something like the upPrev Previous Post Animated Notification plugin helps in getting your readers’ attention to your other posts. upPrev Previous Post Animated Notification plugin is a flyout box that displays other posts in your blog. You can set the locations that trigger the flyout box.
WordPress Popular Posts simply shows the popular articles in your blog. You can choose whether to use number of reads or number of comments as basis.
I saw Engadget use a “Show” button for press releases and I wondered what plugin the site used. After some searching, I stumbled into the “Show/Hide Press Release” plugin. This WordPress plugin simply offers an option for blogs to have a “Show” button which expands to reveal a full press release.