20 Most Useful Blog Plugins For Non-Geeks

Blog plugins are short pieces of programming code that add various features and behaviors your blog.

If you’re a less technically inclined blogger like me, think of plugins as specialized wizards that seamlessly perform specific functions you need with limited work on your part.

Working with plugins is like working under the hood of your car to add features they didn’t put in at the factory. (Here’s the WordPress introduction to plugins for a more information.)

While there’s a wide variety of blog plugins available, here are twenty of the most useful WordPress plugins explained in plain English for non-geeks. (Note: My webmaster, Larry Aronson, helped me compile this list.)

Editorial plugins

  1. WordPress Editorial Calendar. Helps manage and schedule all your posts with a drag and drop editorial calendar interface. This is a useful addition to your content management as it allows you to see your past posts and schedule future ones.
  2. TinyMCE Advanced.  Enables advanced tools and features in the WordPress visual editor. This is great for those of us who aren’t HTML whiz kids.

SEO plugins. (Here are some blog SEO tips.)

  1. All in One SEO Pack. Provides out-of-the-box (i.e. you install it and turn it on), easy-to-configure optimization for search engines. It was developed by Semper FI Web Design.
  2. WordPress SEO. Another option you can use in lieu of the All In One SEO Pack. It has a clean, modern admin interface. It was developed by Yoast. NOTE: You should only use All in One SEO Pack or WordPress SEO, NOT both.
  3. Google XML Sitemaps. Creates a standard sitemap of your blog or website. It helps the search bots know what to look for on your site.
  4. Google Integration Toolkit. Is a three-in-one tool including Webmaster Tools, Analytics and Adsense. It helps register your site with the major search engines. It basically says hello robots, I’m here, come search me.
  5. SEO Friendly ImagesHelps optimize photos and graphic images which are eye candy for blog posts.

Site administration

  1. WordPress Database Backup.  Provides an on-demand backup of your WordPress database. Included are all your posts, pages, comments and settings – everything except your uploaded media files. It also allows you to get your backups emailed to you on a regular schedule. This is like insurance for the content on your blog.
  2. WPtouch.  Switches your site to a mobile-friendly theme for visitors on most mobile devices. It was developed by BraveNewCode.
  3. WordPress Super Cache.  Speeds up a large site’s performance.  You need to be careful using any caching technology because it won’t necessarily speed up performance for every blog. It may also conflict with other plugins (Here’s where a friendly geek is helpful!) It was created by by Donncha O Caoimh.
  4. Jetpack. Adds many of the extra features available on WordPress.com hosted sites.  It’s a great plug-in for people moving from WordPress.com to a self hosted option and for newbies. Again it’s all-in-one approach may not suit every blog. It’s from  WordPress.com
  5. Contact Forms 7. A widely used plugin that allows you to design interactive forms to collect data from your site visitors, format that information and have it emailed to you. Includes Captchas to block spammers.
  6. Hello Dolly. Is included in every WordPress installation. When activated, it displays a cheery message at the top of any dashboard page. Although rarely used, it’s on this list because it’s emblematic of the friendly spirit of the WordPress community and serves as a starter kit for any developer who wants to learn how to write their own plugins.

Social sharing

  1. ShareThis. Adds configurable sharing buttons to your posts and pages so you can choose the options that are best for your audience.
  2. The Slide.  Recommends related reading to visitors with a sleek slide-in message at the bottom of a post.  This plugin was developed by SimpleReach.

Comment management

  1. Akismet. Manages spam comments (that every blog seems to attract.)  This must-have plugin is from Automatic.com.
  2. Disqus Comment System. Is a replacement for the built-in WordPress comments manager. It allows visitors to see their comments without waiting for moderation. (Here’s how to get massive blog comments.)

Blog metrics

  1. Google Analyticator.  Adds the tracking codes for Google Analytics (as does the Google Integration Toolkit mentioned above.) This is a must for measuring your blog results against your goals.
  2. Google Analytics Dashboard. Provides a quick look at your traffic stats from the WordPress dashboard.
  3. WP Click Info. Tracks visitors click activity across your site. It allows you to mark external links wiki-style.

As with other elements of your blog, the plugins you use should be aligned with your overall blog goals and the related metrics to track them. Before you rush out and install many of these plug-ins, remember that they are contributed software without any guarantee so get some input from your technical support person or other bloggers. A badly written plugin can cause problems and having too many plugins installed on your site can slow it down.

Do you use any other blog plugins that you’d add to this list? If so, what are they and why do you use them?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

For more blog plugin insights, please join tonight’s #BlogChat at 9.00pm New York time.

Here are some related articles you may find of use.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cjc4454/3424987151/

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19 Responses to 20 Most Useful Blog Plugins For Non-Geeks

  1. nir levi says:

    very nice, and most of the stuff are still relevant today

  2. Hem Shrestha says:

    ow ! it is a nice information related website. I already bookmark this website & visit regularly. thanks

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  3. have using almost all plugin listed here 🙂

  4. Norvegi says:

    Thank you:)

  5. Andrea says:

    Wow, this has got to be one of the most helpful WordPress/blog posts ever. Thanks so much Heidi for taking the time to compile all of these items. I know I am late on the curve for this post, but it’s helpful nonetheless. I came to this post from your recent post of the Starting your blog – 23 point checklist. Thanks for providing such helpful insight on topics. You’re truly a great mentor!

  6. Dawson says:

    The Google Integration ToolKit is really an useful plugin and as you say, its  multipurpose one – Adsense, Webmaster Tools, Analytics. I am not aware of the Akismet. How can it manage Spam comments? I think then I will need it for sure. Anyways, thanks for the informative share. 

  7. Rajni Shriram says:

    Hi, Heidi! A very informative post, indeed. Could you churn out one for bloggers at blogspot as well. Would appreciate it immensely. Thanks.

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  9. seoexpert says:

    Awesome post, thanks for providing such useful info. I appreciate the list of plugins provided by you. I have not tried out Jetpack  yet but I will try it out for sure in near future. 

  10. I like your list a lot — there are at least five things I consider ultra-essential such as Super Cache, Editorial Calendar, WP Touch and Contact Forms 7. When I’m teaching people WordPress, a lot of times I’ll tell them, if there’s some wacky thing you want to do with your blog, chances are a plugin exists for it out there somewhere. 

    Like one of the other commenters, I’m not a big fan of Disqus. I like Intense Debate as an alternative. Better yet is Facebook comments — that’s a great way to drive up engagement with your blog. 

    I’ve never loved Share This as a social plugin, I think it’s often best to focus on the items users want most (Facebook “like” button and Tweet button) rather than using an everything but the kitchen sink approach. Maybe I just haven’t looked at it in a while — the sharing tools you have on your site all look great. Recently I’ve started to use a “share bar” — Socialize or Socializer I think it’s called. Nice way to groom all of that clutter. 

    I did a quick peruse of my plugins folder and here a a few that you might enjoy: Instapress, an easy way of displaying Instagram photos, Pretty Links Lite, a great way of making marketing-friendly URL redirects, and Lightbox 2, which produces a really pretty overlay for images. 

    Thanks for the article! 

  11. Patrick says:

    I would strongly recommend Livefyre as a comment alternative.  I had troubles with synching with Disqus that they could never seem to work out.  Livefyre has not only brought more comments to my blog, but it has also helped increase community.

    • Heidi Cohen says:

      Patrick–Thank you for the insights. I might change since Diqus lets a lot of spam in. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

    • Gail Gardner says:

      Bloggers need to give VERY careful consideration to what commenting system they use because it will seriously impact who their audience is and who will comment in and share their content. As commenting systems go, Livefyre is the one I most recommend AGAINST using. 

      Disqus is far better than Livefyre but it is no secret that I believe CommentLuv to be vastly superior to any other commenting system including Intense Debate and Disqus. At least Disqus users can also offer CommentLuv if they wish to participate in the CommentLuv community. Livefyre discriminates against all other commenting systems outside their own and the main thing I have against them is that I caught them censoring what I shared using the share function they offer on some major sites. 

      Blogging communities are already mostly separate and with Livefyre copying CommentLuv but limiting the benefits to only those bloggers willing to install it that divide will grow ever larger. Bloggers need to select the community they wish to participate in – and you do that by what commenting system you use. 

      Nothing grows readership and comments faster than CommentLuv and especially CommentLuv Premium because it makes it obvious to each blogger and commentator what their commenters care about so they can easily follow them back to their own blogs. The benefits become more obvious when bloggers are wise enough to comment primarily in blogs in their own niche and geographic location so that they build a community of related blogs. 

      If this were a CommentLuv enabled blog I could select the post or page on my site that elaborates on what I said in this comment. Without it, there is no way for me to know whether offering a link would get my comment deleted or start a relationship with the owner of this blog off on the wrong foot. With it bloggers know they are invited to share with each other. 

      Anyone who wants to know more is welcome to ask me on Twitter or in the comments of my blog or on Skype. I am GrowMap everywhere. My blog is also where you can find information on why I do NOT recommend Akismet and the free GASP plugin (GrowMap anti-spambot plugin named after my blog by created by Andy Bailey who created CommentLuv). If you have ever checked a box asking you to confirm you are not a spammer when commenting (or anything similar – the plugin makes that text really easy to change) you have seen GASP in action. The latest version blocks automated trackback spam.  

      DISCLAIMER: I am NOT paid by Andy or CommentLuv for being one of their supporters – I truly believe we can improve the economy and create a better world using it. I AM an affiliate and IF someone were to buy CommentLuv PREMIUM ONLY (there is a free version) through my affiliate link I would receive a commission.  That is NOT why I recommend it or have bloggers I mentor in collaborations install it. 

    • Gail Gardner says:

      I offer this link in case anyone wants additional information: http://www.growmap.com/commentluv-your-way-to-business-prosperity/

      I put it in a separate comment so that Heidi can remove it if she prefers. 

  12. Steve says:

    Love your stuff Heidi, have been following it for some time now 🙂 just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you.

    Best Regards Steve

    • Heidi Cohen says:

      Steve–Thank you for following us! Hope you found this article useful. (I get some big help from my webmaster who’s my favorite geek!) Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  13. Anonymous says:

    Great Work Heidi!  I love your ability to share selflessly and help us all to become greater. 

    It is a testament to your expert writing and giving!


    • Heidi Cohen says:

      Greg–Thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s important to be generous and support the community on blogs and other forms of social media. Hope you’ll keep on reading! Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen