WordPress Plugins

I want to talk a little about WordPress plugins. These little “tools” can take the already powerful WordPress and completely change everything about it! You can add functions that you never thought were possible as well as adding (or removing) security features, editing current functions and most importantly, just make life easier in the blogosphere!

Near the bottom of this post, I made a list of my favorite plugins and reasons why you should add them to your WordPress install. But, before I show you the list, I want to make sure you have a handle on this subject. I want to give you a few notes to remember before you start adding everything that comes your way.

First off, plugins are made by anyone. You can find plugins created by actual software companies and some you even have to pay for, but the majority of plugins are created by users like you and I. One day, they were on WordPress and though to themselves, “I really wish I could…” and then all of a sudden a plugin was born to allow that user to do something different.

I mention this because when dealing with software on computers, especially serverside software, you always want to be concerned with security and stability. With that said, remember these key items:

  • The official WordPress plugin respository is located here: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/
  • The plugin help site is located here: http://codex.wordpress.org/Plugins
  • Always check the version number of WordPress you’re using and match it to the “tested” version number of the plugin you wish to install.
  • Always keep current and consistant backups of your WordPress database in case something goes wrong.

Now, I always recommend installing plugins directly from your WordPress install. You’ll notice the Add New Plugins button after clicking on the Plugins menu item. This is a very easy process and it installs the plugin directly into the proper place and activates it afterward. It also pulls the plugin directly from the repository so you can be assured that the plugin is authentic.

You will notice that every plugin has it’s own website link. Some authors create many plugins and like to showcase them on their own website. This leads to the second way to install plugins. You can download them as a compressed file, extract them and upload them via FTP to your server if you’d like. Once the files are uploaded, you then have to log into WordPress, go to Plugins and activate it.

Paid Plugins

Not every plugin is free (although most are). Some developers out there feel that they have created a really valuable tool and wish to earn money from it. There’s nothing wrong with this as everyone should be paid for their time. My only hope is, for those who have paid for plugins, that they are getting proper support!

Paid plugins are not available from the WordPress repository. You will need to access them from the developer’s website and you will want to carefully review their terms and conditions while also checking to ensure that the payment process is secured.

My Top 5 Plugins

I use over 20 plugins and most of them are simply to make things easier managing this site, but I’ve picked out five that I think are must-haves. In time, this may grow to be a top 10 and so on!





Ninja Affiliate This little tool allows you to cloak your outbound links for whatever purpose you deem necessary. Click on the link to read much more about this plugin, but to put it simply: let’s say you have an affiliate program that offers you a link to promote. This link might look like: http://offers.12.offersite.com/refer=12345&id=24432. The idea is to get that link to look much nicer without having to perform a redirect. Ninja Affiliate does just this. You may have noticed some links around my site that are similar to: https://www.ledfrog.com/jump/ecm. Cloaking the link not only cleans up your page, but it also makes it appear as though you don’t have tons of offers all over your site. $97 From MaxBlogPress
All in One SEO Pack Out-of-the-box SEO for your WordPress blog. There is also a pro version of this that adds more features (costs money). View the differences and purchase it from here. FREE From WordPress
IntenseDebate Comments IntenseDebate Comments enhance and encourage conversation on your blog or website. Full comment and account data sync between IntenseDebate and WordPress ensures that you will always have your comments. Custom integration with your WordPress admin panel makes moderation a piece of cake. Comment threading, reply-by-email, user accounts and reputations, comment voting, along with Twitter and friendfeed integrations enrich your readers’ experience and make more of the internet aware of your blog and comments which drives traffic to you! To get started, please activate the plugin and adjust your IntenseDebate settings. FREE From WordPress
WordBooker This plugin allows you to cross-post your blog posts to your Facebook Wall/Fan Page Wall/Group Wall. You can Post as an Extract, A Status Update or even as a Note. FREE From WordPress
NextGen Gallery NextGEN Gallery is a full integrated Image Gallery plugin for WordPress with a Flash slideshow option. Before I start writing the plugin I study all photo and picture plugins for WordPress, I figure out that some of them are really good and well designed, but I missed a simple and easy administration back end to handle multiple photos, galleries and albums. FREE From WordPress

Searching the repository is a great way to start looking for all those extra functions your site needs. You’d be surprised what kinds of things you thought you could live without!

13 Ways to Kill Your Blog

Matt Mullenweg is the creator of WordPress and founder of Automattic. Over on his blog, he mentioned 6 ways to kill your community an added 7 more on top of that. I found these tips to be extremely useful, so I’m posting them here all together for a total of 13 ways to kill your blog.

I won’t list them as sarcastically as Matt did–rather, I’ll give them to you straight.

  1. Don’t Moderate — If you choose not to moderate your blog, you’re missing out on an important opportunity to keep you blog organized and relavent. If you’re noticing your posts getting lots of comments, but most them are not adding any real value to the topic, you’re actually doing a dis-service to your site. Clean up those comments and make sure that they stay on topic. Your readers will appreciate it too!
  2. Spam Comments — Your blog should (at the very least) be running some type of spam filter plugin. Akismet is just that and it comes with every install of WordPress so there’s no excuse not to use it! If you end up letting spam in, you’re just opening the door for MUCH, MUCH more spam to come your way. Also, if the spammer starts spamming the links of your authors, they’re not going to be too happy either.
  3. Forceful Signups — You probably experienced this one personally when wanting to comment on a blog somewhere. How many times have you really wanted to post something, but as soon as your forced to signup as a member, you simply close the page and move on? You don’t like it and neither does anyone else! Allow your visitors to post comments freely.
  4. Comment Participation — If you intend to ignore your visitors, why are you blogging in the first place? You should be thankful that people are even coming to your site. One way to do this is to respond to comments as part of the dialog. This is especially true when a user asks questions.
  5. Posting Random Junk — The Internet is filled with crap and LOTS of it! Don’t add to the trash heap by posting automated comments from people’s Twitter accounts, Facebook, MySpace, etc. Eventually it becomes too much to follow and along with making your site look cluttered, it’ll be a surefire way to send people packin’.
  6. “Design like NASCAR” — I had to quote this one because there was no other way to describe it! If your blog is covered in widgets, banners, ads, sharing buttons, etc., then you won’t have much of a blog left in short time. Some bloggers think that adding more “function” to their site(s) creates loyalty and having too little creates a lack of substance. The fact is, if you focus more on your content and less on your “experience”, you’ll notice that in time, your content will become the experience. As time moves forward, you’ll discover new things that you need to add to your site, but do it in small doses.
  7. Search Engines — Hosting comments on external systems and then injecting them into your site in an effort to make your site appear differently to search engines as it appears to your users is a shady practice and you don’t want to get caught doing it. Getting ranked in the search engines is a never-ending game, but the most important things you can do is create original content and have other important sites link to yours. Both of these requires time. Take the time to make your blog relavent and unique and the results will come naturally.
  8. Comment Pruning — While you’re advised to prune unnecessary comments and other irrelevant notes, don’t go deleting comments just because they shine a negative light over you or your site in an attempt to make it seem like you can do no wrong. This is just bad business and if people catch on, you’re going to look a lot worse.
  9. Comment Box Placement — Keep the comments below the post. Not to the side, not on top–at the bottom. The point of having such a place to leave comments is because people are supposed to read your blog and then make a statement. What sense does it make to have comments anywhere else but after the post?
  10. Subscriptions — Give your visitors a reason to come back. If they don’t want to come back, at least give them a way to still get your content via services such as RSS or email. This allows users to keep getting your content without having to come back and look for the latest stuff.
  11. Too much Clicking — K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple, Stupid. It’s really that obvious. As a web user yourself, you already know how annoying it is when you’re on a website and you’re looking for something, but to get there you have to click about 15 times. On blogs, this is usually related to loooong posts that get separated onto multiple pages or huge comments lists. My advice: just let it ride. Leave that content on one long page if you have to. The user will be happy to know that everything they need is right there.
  12. Comment Moderation — There’s an option in WordPress to moderate comments before they’re posted to the site. Although this is a great tool for filtering spam, it’s also a great slap in the face to posters that have previously posted and been approved for their comment(s). Make sure these users can get through without the extra hurdle. They will appreciate that you know they’re not spammers.
  13. Audience Participation — Get your users excited about coming to your site. They love participating in polls, surveys, contests, etc. These features are generally used when your site starts to have regular traffic, but in most cases, it’s not too early to start. Just don’t forget rule 6!

This of course is just a smidgen of the things you should be weary of. As a rule of thumb, if you’re not sure what to do, just post content. Just post what you feel, what you want to talk about, what you’re passionate about and everything will come in due time. Your blog may not be ranked high in the search engines and it may not be considered popular, but as more and more of your words get out into the world, the more action you’ll see on your site. Don’t get discouraged and happy blogging!