By Joe Dysart
Turbocharging Your Blog
10 Essential, Free Plugins for Your WordPress Blog
While marketing via company blog on WordPress remains an extremely popular way for businesses to get attention, many have not ensured that their blogs are turbocharged with all the latest plug-ins. These tools, which are generally free, can ensure that a blog appears as high as possible in search-engine returns, downloads blazingly quickly for readers, and is well-protected from spammers and others looking to compromise your efforts.
More importantly, installing these tools—which takes only a few seconds—will save your company hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the programming development costs you’d otherwise incur going after the same results.
Ordinarily, sorting through all the WordPress plug-ins available on the web can be daunting. After all, Google returns more than 39 million links for the keyphrase “WordPress plug-ins.” Fortunately, however, WordPress plug-in guru Chad Tennant has done all the legwork for you.
Sergey Brin, Google co-founder. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP enables company bloggers to display Brin’s Google Analytics reports on their WordPress dashboards.
Author of The Best WordPress Plugins: 500 Free WP Plugins for Creating an Amazing and Profitable Website, Tennant said that the following free WordPress plug-ins are among the most popular and most useful he’s ever found.
AddToAny Share Buttons: One of the easiest ways to enable your blog content to travel around the web is to add “Share on Facebook” and similar buttons to every post. This plug-in automatically adds these buttons so that visitors can instantly share your post to their friends and colleagues on more than 100 social networks and sharing sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and WhatsApp.
The plug-in also gives you the option of placing share buttons before or after content. And it automatically integrates with Google Analytics, so you’ll be able to study how people are sharing your content and where your content is popping up in the social network universe. (Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars.)
Yoast SEO: While many businesses are aware that they need to optimize their blogs for search engines, fewer have the technical know-how. This plug-in automatically handles all the technical aspects of search-engine optimization for you. It also guides you on how to write posts that will pop up higher on the search engines, ensures that your posts are long enough and prompts you to create descriptions for your pictures that will tickle the search engines the right way. (Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.)
Good Reviews for WordPress: Word-of-mouth kudos are one of the most powerful ways to promote your company blog. This plug-in makes its simple for your blog visitors to write reviews and testimonials about your blog, which can be displayed in your posts and elsewhere on your site. You’ll also be able to add photos of each reviewer next to a review, implement a five-star or numbered rating system and add a link to the reviewer’s website to add greater credibility. Reviews can be shown singly, in a category, or simply displayed all in one location. (Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars.)
WP-Optimize: Ensuring that your WordPress blog runs as quickly as possible is not simply good business but will also help your blog pop up higher in search-engine returns. “Google values the user experience and doesn’t want a user to be inconvenienced by slow page loads,” Tennant said. “Your goal should be to score at least a 75 or higher without compromising features you desire to have on your site.”
WP-Optimize makes a site run faster by regularly cleaning up and optimizing the WordPress database, including auto-removal of spam and cleaning of post trash. (Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars.)
WP Fastest Cache: Cache optimization of a WordPress site also helps ensure that the site runs as fast as possible. But unlike WP-Optimize, this plug-in is specially designed to keep your site running its fastest when the site is being visited by a number of people simultaneously. (Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars.)
WordPress-SpamShield Anti-Spam: This is a powerful ally against that scourge of the earth: spammers across the world who post unwanted advertising and comments on blogs and other web properties. The plug-in goes after all sorts of spam, including comment spam, trackback spam, contact-form spam and registration spam.
Unlike other anti-spam plug-ins that force your visitors to answer challenge questions or overcome other obstacles before commenting, WP-SpamShield works silently in background. The plug-in also guarantees “zero false positives.” Essentially, if a real human triggers the plug-in, the poster is given immediate feedback by the plug-in on how to alter a post to ensure that it’s not perceived as spam. (Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars.)
UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration: IT security pros often wanly observe that the only people who truly appreciate backing up are those who’ve lost everything in a system crash. Don’t let it happen to you. Instead, use this plug-in to back up onto various cloud services, including Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace Cloud, DreamObjects, FTP, Openstack Swift, UpdraftPlus Vault and e-mail. With UpdraftPlus, you can restore with a single click, and you can also back up automatically on a repeating schedule.
Anti-Malware Security and Brute-Force Firewall: “WordPress is a fantastic content-management system, but it too has vulnerabilities that diligent hackers look to exploit,” Tennant said. With this plug-in, you’ll be able to better counter hackers by running a complete scan to automatically remove known security threats and backdoor scripts. Plus, you’ll be able to continually update the plug-in to guard against new malware that surfaces on the web. (Rating 4.9 out of 5 stars.)
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP: Once you’ve signed up for a free account with Google Analytics, you can use this plug-in to display Google Analytics reports on your WordPress Dashboard, and it will also insert Google Analytics tracking code on all your blog pages. Data you’ll have at your fingertips includes how people are interacting with your blog once they get to your site, where they came from, what search terms they’re using to get to your blog and more. (Rating 4.4 out of 5 stars.)
Jetpack by WordPress.com: Jetpack is a popular suite of some of the most popular tools WordPress bloggers are looking for to get the most from their blogs. You may find other, individualized tools that do a specific job a bit better than Jetpack, but if you’re looking for an easy, introductory, all-in-one suite of tools, Jetpack is a good bet.
One of the most powerful tools in the arsenal is Jetpack’s Custom CSS editor. While pro web designers use Custom CSS editor all the time to make changes to WordPress websites and templates, Custom CSS editor is also accessible to the novice.
Essentially, Jetpack’s Custom CSS editor enables you to make very minor changes to your WordPress blog (such as changing column widths, changing font sizes or changing colors) without compromising the integrity of your blog’s underlying code. It’s able to do that by helping you create short snippets of code that “sit on top” of the code that comes with WordPress and ensuring that the new code you create has priority over the original code.
The reason the Custom CSS editor is so killer: If you make a minor code change that does not work for some reason (say you change the size of a font and instead your blog disappears from the web), you can simply delete what you did with Custom CSS editor and all will be forgiven.
More than 35 tools currently come with the plug-in. (Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.)