Hello, Daisies! Let’s talk WordPress plugins. They can bring reality to your vision of your blog and brand, open your world of engagement, and make your blog smarter, safer, and chicer. They can make or (literally) break your blog. Get the right ones, and your blog comes to life. Get the wrong ones, and you’ve got headaches for days…but we’re not going there because I’m offering up 12 of my favorite WordPress plugins that I’ve personally tested and use that will help you have a smarter, safer, and chicer blog. Better yet…they’re all free and won’t slow your blog down.
Have you ever had a comment on your blog that made you cringe or sent you into a tizzy because it was nothing more than a sneaky link to a “health supplement” company? Then, you might want to consider Askimet–a spam comment filter plugin, saving you time and credibility. Askimet catches the spam comments before you, your readers, or your future collaborators do. You can choose to review the marked comments or have them automatically deleted without you ever being bothered with them.
We spend a lot of time developing and nurturing our credibility as reliable sources of information to our readers. A broken link or missing photo–or, heaven forbid, two or three–can put a dent in that reputation. Still, who in their right mind has the patience and time to go through all of their links and photos on a regular basis to verify that they’re still reliable?
Broken Link Checker to the rescue! This plugin automatically and regularly scans all of the links (inbound and outbound) and photos on your blog, notifies you of any errors, and allows you to edit the link from the dashboard rather than from each individual post. There are fistfuls of hair NOT on my floor because of this plugin.
Image load times slowing down your blog, frustrating your readers, and affecting your SEO? EWWW Image Optimizer does just what it says…it optimizes the images on your blog to decrease your blog loading speed, which makes for happy readers and a happy Google. Better still? It optimizes your images as you upload them, so you don’t have to lift a finger.
I know, I know. Blog speed is not the sexy, dazzling stuff…but it is the stuff that can cost us readers, so we can’t ignore it. W3 Total Cache is a performance optimization plugin that helps speed up your blog and decrease download times. This will make you and Google Analytics very happy campers because you won’t have to get all of those cache and minify warnings that affect your SEO.
I almost feel silly including this plugin on the list because I’m sure that you must have heard about it and must be using it by now. If not, and you care anything at all about SEO, whataya doin’? I love this plugin because it removes all of the hard work of SEO. I don’t have to calculate whether I’ve used my keyword enough or code my own meta description…and I don’t have to stress that SEO is keeping my audience from me. Yoast SEO operates as my SEO guide as I write my post or page–monitoring, scoring, and recommending my way to a better SEO score.
Disqus replaces your WordPress comment system. I prefer it because it is more dynamic and visually appealing than the inherent comment system and more compatible with social media sharing. Disqus provides full moderation control, including whitelist and blacklist capabilities. If you’re using Disqus, you do not have to use Askimet or another spam comment filter because it is already included.
There is a debate between Disqus and Commentluv. I’ve used both of them and personally prefer Disqus because I found that having Commentluv attracted a high number of low quality comments, which means I was getting visitors, but not readers. I would prefer to slowly build up a reliable and engaged readership than to have dodgy visitor numbers for numbers’ sake. In the end, I figured that fellow bloggers are savvy enough to include their links in their ID’s or in their comment and that it would be less intimidating to my non-blogger readers. (Oh, and the spammy link seekers have gone to zero since I made the switch and removed the incentive.)
Easy Custom Sidebars allows you to replace any sidebar or widget area through your dashboard or Customizer without coding. This is an especially ideal plugin when you have different categories that you cover on your blog spread across more than one page. You may not want the same information in your “Crafts for Kids” page sidebar as you do in your “Yoga” page sidebar.
Posts for Page is how I create my individual blog pages. I can pull posts by category (or other characteristics) and display them (in full or in summary) on a categorized page, such as my Beauty page. There is some coding involved; but it is minimal, all of the coding you need is provided to you in fill-in-the-blank format, and is done right in the page without need to fuss with your Editor or CSS Style Sheet.
I have tried a couple of other “post to page” plugins with disappointing results because they didn’t create a visually appealing and cohesive appearance and didn’t allow for the measure of customization and control that Posts for Pages does. The only downside to this plugin is that it does not currently allow you to select the featured image or even pull the pre-selected featured image for a post, but pulls the first image that it comes across on the page. However, you can choose not to show a photo with your post if it is bothersome.
I’ve talked about this plugin before, so I won’t belabor the point. You can read more about why I think it’s so hot in How to Give Your Blog a Makeover for the New Year. Suffice to say, Google Easy Fonts gives you greater control in the appearance and branding of your blog.
I have tried three different sharing WordPress plugins now, and Add To Any Share Buttons is my favorite. First, it’s customizable without coding. (Notice that my social sharing buttons match my blog rather than looking like Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors.) I also appreciate that this plugin is unobtrusive, mobile responsive, and offers a huge range of social platforms across which to share your amazing content. It is the most visually appealing of the social media sharing WordPress plugins that I’ve tried and considered…and you know that I am a sucker for pretty.
Yes, you could just create a widget for your Pinterest profile, board, or pin from within Pinterest…but then you’d be stuck with a kind of boring widget. With the Pinterest Widgets plugin, you get to add a personality to your Pinterest widgets, determining their layout, size, and more. This is another plugin that will require you to do a little coding, but fret not because it’s easy and of the fill-in-the-blank variety of coding.
I was just getting ready to have a meltdown of the nuclear reactor sort when I found this WordPress plugin. I was using another Pin It button plugin until I discovered that it doesn’t work with another plugin that I have no intention of giving up. Speaking of intentions, it was also very clear that the developer had no intention of rectifying this long-standing and known problem judging from its responses to users inquiring about the incompatibility bug. So, the hunt began and I found one of my favorite WordPress plugins.
I love jQuery Pin It Button for Images because…well, I’m a sucker for customization much like I am for pretty. Location, size, and transparency of the Pin It button are all available to be personalized. You can also select on which images the Pin It button appears.
One of my two favorite features is that you can upload your own custom Pin It button easily. (Did you notice my new Pin It button that I made with PicMonkey? What do you think?) The second best feature is that you select the source of the pin description–no more goofy pin descriptions that totally ignore all of the hard work you put into coming up with just the right SEO-optimized pin description and destroy it with some random programming nonsense.
There you are…my 12 favorite WordPress plugins for a smarter, safer, and chicer blog. I would love to hear from you! What are your “must have” WordPress plugins? (And which WordPress plugins are full of bunk?) Share in the comments.
I am linking up with some wonderful bloggers in every area of life–fashion, health, family, DIY, beauty, fitness and more. For inspiration and information, check them out at the link parties below:
Share the Joy / The Joy Chaser
Mingle Monday / Life of Meg
Big Pink Link / This Mum’s Life
#WAYWOW / View From in Here
Pinbellish / Purfylle
Brilliant Blog Posts / Honest Mum
Fab Favorites / Style Elixir
Friday Favorites / The Closet by Christie
Saturday Sharefest / The SITS Girls
Link Love / Running With Spoons