I use WordPress to power my website. One of the benefits is the number of plugins available. They’re simple to install and can improve your blog’s user-friendliness and functionality.
Here are five WordPress plugins I find useful.
#1 Subscribe to comments
The ‘subscribe to comments‘ plugin is one of the most important plugins you can install for WordPress. It adds a check-box below the comment form on each post, and when checked by a commenter, they then receive an email update as soon as someone adds a new comment after theirs.
This helps the conversation flow, which is what blogging is all about. People are genuinely interested in knowing what people think of their specific comments, and this WordPress plugin saves them having to return to your blog on the off-chance there’s a response.
One thing you have to decide about, is whether to leave the box checked, or un-checked. I believe it should be un-checked, letting the commenter opt-in, rather than having them receive un-wanted emails without realising what it is. Some other people wonder what the best route is, such as SEO expert, Rob, and Bobby at Bestest Blog.
Installation: Download the Plugin to your computer, upload the ‘subscribe-to-comments.php’ file to your wp-content/plugins/ directory, activate it in the WordPress administration panel, and you’re done.
#2 Similar posts
The ‘similar posts‘ plugin displays a set number of related blog articles at the foot of every blog post. This encourages readers to move around your site more, and improves internal linking. Not to be confused with the ‘related posts’ plugin, this one is easier to set up, requiring very little knowledge of web coding.
Installation: A little more complex than the ‘subscribe to comments’ instructions above, and you can view full details on the plugin’s web page.
#3 Google sitemap generator
The ‘Google sitemap generator‘ plugin for WordPress automatically generates a new XML sitemap every time your content is updated.
To speed up the page indexing process, Google allows webmasters to upload a specially formatted XML file, called a ‘sitemap’, containing links to all the pages in a given website, and the frequency of their updates. This not only increases the chances of a new, or updated page being picked up quickly, but also optimizes the indexing job. Instead of a random crawl, web spiders can now be sent directly to your new content.
Installation: Download the Zip-Archive and extract all files into your wp-content/plugins/ directory. Go into your WordPress administration page, click on Plugins, and activate it. After that you will have a new menu point called “Sitemap” under the “Options” menu. Click once on “Rebuild Sitemap” to create your sitemap for the first time. There are a few settings you should change, and Chris mentions these in the link below.
#4 Contact forms
The ‘cforms II‘ plugin adds a contact form to your WordPress blog. When people have the option to contact you in a variety of ways, you’re making it more likely that they’ll contact you in the first place.
On my own contact page I have a contact form up top, followed by my email address for those who prefer to contact me that way. I also show my mailing address here in Scotland, letting people know that there’s a physical address behind my online presence. This helps to build trust online.
Installation: Download and extract the plugin using its default directory. Upload the plugin directory to the wp-content/plugins/ directory. Activate the plugin through the ‘plugins’ menu in WordPress. Optionally, check cforms.css for individual styling of your contact forms.
The ‘MyAvatars‘ plugin puts a face to the name of your commenters, displaying a user-chosen image beside each comment left. I’ve talked before about how to use your avatar to build brand recognition, and the MyAvatars plugin is a great way to help.
Installation: Download the file myavatars.zip, extract and copy it in your wp-content/plugins/ directory, making sure to preserve the folder name. Activate the plugin through the ‘plugins’ menu in WordPress. Once at this stage, you need to tell WordPress where to show commenter avatars, and you can read more about this simple step on the plugin web page.
What are your favourite WordPress plugins?
It’s easy to go overboard with plugins, slowing site load times, but for me it’s about keeping the design as clean and uncluttered as possible. Those I choose are unobtrusive, small in file size, and improve the blog for search engines and readers.