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Monday, 20 November 2017

Blogger's Corner: Best Plugins for Wordpress



In the latest instalment of Blogger's Corner, I invited Heather Wallace from Bride & Bone to give her expertise on what plugins have helped her make her blog what it is today through a self-hosted Wordpress blog.

So get cosy, sit back and pick up some of the tips that can help you make all of your already great blogging efforts that little bit better!


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Best Plugins for Self Hosted Wordpress Blogs


When I began my blog, Bridle & Bone, a year ago in December I never knew how much I would learn in such a short time. I’ve grown as a writer, photographer, social media influencer, and yes, even as a web programmer (of sorts). I will never profess to be an expert on coding. But I did start on Squarespace and within 6 months I successfully moved to self-hosted Wordpress within only a few panicking phone calls to a professional with whom I’m friendly. I could not be happier with the change to Wordpress and with the array of customization available.



Of course, customization means having to decide what the best plugins are for my blog. There are an incredible, and sometimes intimidating, amount of choices. So I’ve scoured WP Beginner, barraged my fellow pet bloggers with questions, and tried and sometimes failed on my own. Our blogs are always a work in progress and with updates, sometimes I have to make changes. But I finally feel like my blog is a reflection of me. 

Equestrian blogger, Sophie Tunnah of Team Tunnah Eventing publishes the extremely helpful Blogger’s Corner on her website. As part of that I’m happy to provide my tips for my favorite Wordpress plugins for bloggers. This comes from personal experience as a professional equestrian blogger and I hope you find it helpful. 

Just a reminder that these recommendations are for self-hosted Wordpress. 

How do I select which plugins to use for each function I need?

I always choose a plugin that is rated compatible with my version. I look at the number of active installs, the ratings, and I read the reviews. Often I’ve installed a plugin I thought I would like just to deactivate it later because I was not thrilled. So keep in mind, what is good for me may not necessarily be good for your blog.

Insight and Analytics

Monster Insights 

This is a great snapshot look at your Google Analytics right on your Wordpress Admin dashboard. The overview addresses the most “important” metrics for your blog: pageviews, top posts and pages, top referrers, and top countries. 

This is a great way to see where traffic is coming from with a single click. If you want more detail, you can get that directly from Google Analytics or through a plugin such as Jetpack.

Jetpack

Jetpack is, in my opinion, very easy to use. Integrating easily with Google Analytics, you can view a snapshot version on your Admin Dashboard and then click to view detailed analytics. It tracks, days, weeks, months, and years and even tracks the most visited day and time for your blog.



The lovely thing is I can see who is following me on Wordpress, how my most recent post is doing, and even what internal and external links are clicked from my site. All in one plugin.

How are these insights and analytics helpful? I know when to post my most important articles. I know who is clicking on what external links, and from what sites I am being found so I can tailor my needs to better use this to my advantage. 

Social Plugins 

Publicize 

Publicize is incredibly easy to use. One time set up for your preferred social media you want to use, and when you publish a new post it automatically sends to the intended channels. I prefer this to Buffer to be honest. When editing or updating my post prior to publication, I have the ability to uncheck a social media channel with infinite ease. For example, when publishing a sponsored post I must uncheck it for Facebook. This is because I need to manually add the Facebook handshake tool to my sponsored post directly through FB. Still, it’s incredibly easy. Here’s the thing- I can change the share text to whatever I want and add #sponsored easily to adhere to FTC guidelines.


Better Click to Tweet

I can’t believe it took me 5 months to find this. Such an amazing plugin! My largest following is on Twitter, and so I want to make it very easy for my readers to share snippets. This plugin not only creates a snippet but allows it to be shared with a single click. What could more simple? 

MaxButtons

This is a great plugin where I create icons for social sharing as well as buttons for my Contact and Shop pages. All in one place. Once created, they are easy to insert with a shortcode. My settings are such that the share buttons are included at the end of every post, but this can be customized. 

Social Media and Share Icons (Ultimate Social Media)

Another great social share plugin! Highly customizable with upper levels (paid of course) to really make your icons pop. But the free version has plenty of choices. I use this for my sidebar, and can determine the size, color, and placement of the icons however I like. And I do like. 


Pinterest WordPress Plugin- AccessPress Pinterest

I really like Pinterest as a search engine, but it isn’t something I have concentrated on up to this point. So a few months ago I found this plugin and installed it on my site. Easy to install and works like a charm. 

Anyone with a blog, especially blogs that have a lot of graphics or photographs, should have this plugin. Every photo on my site may be pinned by hovering over it. Simple as that. Make sure to use the rich pin function on Pinterest to really help your SEO. 


Contact forms 

Let’s face it, social media is great in many ways. But with developers changing the rules for bloggers and advertising at any given time the only audience we really “own” are our email subscribers. An area where a lot of bloggers do not concentrate. Big mistake. 

So what is the best plugin for subscriptions? It really depends on your preference. The three most popular choices are:
  • Mailchimp
  • Constant Contact
  • Sumo


All have free versions and you may choose to upgrade if needed. I use both Mailchimp and Sumo on Bridle & Bone. I prefer the way Sumo customizes the pop up subscription box, which I cannot get through Mailchimp. I hate pop ups but they are extremely useful for encouraging email subscription. With Sumo, I control where and how often the pop up appears. Hint: bottom of the blog pages only, and no more than once a month per reader. 


Security

CleanTalk

$12.99 per year this security features blocks bots, gives daily reports, and has really helped reduce my spam comments. In the few months I’ve been using it I feel so much safer. 

Akismet

Highly referred by top bloggers. This is another paid service varying from free (which in my opinion is basically useless), $5, and $50 per month.



SEO Optimization

Jetpack

I have the Jetpack plugin on my site but surprisingly do not use it for SEO purposes, although it is quite capable.

Yoast SEO

I find Yoast very helpful. It rates the readability and the SEO and easily shows you how good it is by using the ever global (red light = bad, orange = okay, green = good). More, you can edit Yoast directly at the end of your post and see how the Google snippet will appear when published. The free version allows for only a single keyword or keyword string, but you can upgrade for approximately $90 a year to have more detail added. I think it is very easy to use and would definitely recommend it.


All in One SEO pack

The original option for Wordpress users.

Squirrely

Touted as beginner friendly the benefits of this SEO is that you don’t need to know anything about search engine optimization to benefit from it. And guess what? It integrates with Yoast and All in One SEO. 
Here’s a down side according to the developer: “You’ll start with the free version of Squirrly SEO. It will help you if you have small content marketing needs, such as 5 articles published / month, 5 keyword analysis and a weekly SEO audit tool report. When you’ll require more, you can pay for the PRO Plan.”

I post 2-3 times per week, so unless I want to pay for the service, it’s currently off the table. 

Most Helpful Plugins for Bloggers

WP Broken Link Status Checker

There is nothing worse than internal and external links that result in errors. I loaded this on to Wordpress and periodically run a report to make sure all my hyperlinks are working correctly. Easy, breezy. 

Redirection

Because I switched from Squarespace to Wordpress I had a lot of 301 redircts to my new site. Most worked beautifully. But my Squarespace site is now shut down. You would never know because of the redirects, which are incredibly important. But that isn’t all. Broken links (see above WP Broken Link Status Checker) happen internally and externally from time to time. After I run my report, I use the Redirection plugin to fix these so Google bots can more easily crawl my site as can readers. 

Rel Nofollow Checkbox

This is, in my opinion, a must for professional bloggers on Wordpress. FTC guidelines are very specific if you are paid to publish a post and link to the site, it must have a NO FOLLOW attribute in the HTML. Now, in Squarespace I was manually adding this on the back end. Doable but incredibly time consuming. It was much easier to do this in the text editor on the Wordpress Dashboard. I had tried other Nofollow plugins but they didn’t work, or were uncompatible with my version. This plugin works a gem, and is so easy to use. Edit the link and click “nofollow”. As simple as that. 

Public Post Preview

An optional plugin, but one I find very useful when publishing guest posts, sponsored posts, or interviews. Often it will be necessary to see a draft to make sure your information is correct or the photo credits are appropriate. The Public Post Preview allows me to click the box and retrieve a one time URL. The recipient can then see a complete final, formatted draft of the post without access to your Admin dashboard or other important information. No copy and pasting text into email. I’ve found the brands I work with love this ability to see a final, formatted version prior to publication.

Co-Authors Plus

This plugin is great for those who publish guest posts. In Wordpress, as a default, the Administrator is listed as the author on all posts. With Co-Authors Plus, I simply scroll down to the author name in the draft, and enter a new name. *Note: contributors must be added first in the User Setting. When published, the post appears under the author’s name, and not mine. 

*Currently you cannot list more than one author in the metadata, which is unfortunate. I would love to see an update allowing multiple authors to be listed. When I have multiple authors in the past, I tend to choose one author for the metadata and include a full author list at the top of the post text.

Profile Widget Ninja

Another optional plugin, but one I find very useful. My blog is hosted on my business website. My business, Bridle & Bone Wellness provides holistic wellness for horses and dogs and I have a business partner. But the blog is my own. I host it there because our clients benefit and it drives traffic to our business website. I use the Profile Widget Ninja to include a profile photo and bio text about me on all the related blog pages. It fits with shortcode in the sidebar, or wherever you choose to place it.
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About the author


Heather Wallace is a certified equine and canine sports massage therapist and equestrian blogger at Bridle & Bone. She is an adult amateur equestrian in unrequited loved with an OTTB and has two rescue dogs always up to no good. You can follow her on social media @bridleandbone or at www.bridleandbone.com


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