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.

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

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