Whether you have just set up your blog or if you are an established blogger, there are a few plugins that you should definitely be using. So let’s start at the beginning, if you are new to blogging, you probably had the same, very basic, question that I did: “What is a plugin and why do I need it?”
What is a plugin?
A plugin is a piece of software that acts as an add-on to a web browser and gives the browser additional functionality. Plugins can allow a web browser to display additional content it was not originally designed to display.
Even if you are not very tech savvy, many plugins are setup such that all you need to do is download it to be able to use it on your blog. From your dashboard, you are able to access plugins.
Click on PLUGINS, then ADD NEW, and you will see a search box at the top right, a few popular plugins, and popular plugin topic searches at the bottom.
There are literally thousands of plugins to choose from. Some are more functional than others, or may work better with one version of WordPress or blogger than another. You will want to review the details of the plugin before you download to see if it looks like something you might like.
So here are a few things I look at when deciding which plugin may work well for my blog:
- How many people have downloaded it?
- What do the reviews say?
- Has this plugin been tested on my version of WordPress?
Remember, if you download a plugin and don’t like it, you can always deactivate it and download another. You may have to try out a few different versions before you find the one you like for certain plugins.
Many of the plugins that you will want are probably just based on personal preference with what you want to do with your blog, how you want for it to look, or how you want it to function. However, there are five plugins that I would say are universally necessary across ANY blog:
Akismet is literally the first plugin that you need to download and activate once you get your blog set up. This plugin is absolutely necessary to help filter out spam comments. If you don’t currently have a spam filter, you are probably inundated with so many spam comments that it is hard to keep up with them all. I know that before I had Akismet, it was literally minutes of having my blog set up that I was getting random—spam!—comments. This is so nice because the legitimate comments will still go through, pending your approval, and you won’t have to sort through the junk anymore.
The Jetpack plugin is sort of the all-around necessary plugin. Jetpack allows you to customize the look of your blog with features, such as: custom CSS, contact forms, sidebar widgets, infinite scroll, and tiled galleries. It also provides several options for content creation: post by email, shortcode embeds, spelling, and VideoPress. Jetpack also gives your site social sharing abilities, which will draw readers in and also options that help visitors to interact while on your site, like related posts, subscriptions, comments. You are also able to access site performance and visitor stats. And this list is just focusing on some of the great things that Jetpack can do.
Create great content and they will come. Well, that is partly correct. You must have great content. However, you must also be able to be found. If no one can find your content then it doesn’t matter how great it is. Of course, social media sharing is a big part of getting your content in front of more readers. Basically, google analytics adds tracking codes to each of your blog pages that will help people who are searching for certain topics find your content.
If you are not currently using Pinterest for posting articles from your blog, you should be. Pinterest Master allows readers to click on any image within your article and directly pin that image, and the article, to Pinterest. Even if you have different social media sharing buttons at the bottom or top of your article, this just gives an added layer of sharing ability for your readers. As the reader scrolls down the article, the Pin It button will appear over the image. It is a very subtle, non-distracting, way to encourage social media sharing of your blog’s content. Make sure the images that you are using within your articles are clear, eye-catching images and your readers will be even more likely to want to pin it to one of their Pinterest boards or share it through other social media channels.
This allows you to add a favicon to your website. So what is a favicon? It is a symbol that is associated with your website; it will show up by the http address in the URL window of a web browser. This helps to differentiate your blog and make it stand out. It is also a very basic way to tie in your blog’s look and feel in a professional way; it is really an extension of your brand. If you are designing your own favicon, make sure to keep it simple. A favicon is very small, so detail won’t show up very well.