Friday, March 26, 2010

Top 10 Wordpress Plugins (from Solostream)

I use a template by Solostream called Sublime that I love and I found this useful information on their site. I downloaded a bunch of plugins; it was so exciting like opening presents at Christmas as a kid. But, I didn't realize that some plugins are not compatible with either your blog template or each other.
Rule of Thumb: Don't have two plugins active that do the same thing. I had two newsletter plugins fighting each other. Result: blog meltdown resulting in completely blank page.
The good folks at Solostream were very helpful. Alastair, aka Rockstar, turned off all the plugins and then turned them on one at a time to find the problem child.
I loved the YAARP plugin which finds related posts and lists them below your post, but that seemed to cause problems on my blog resulting in blog meltdown again. (2nd time was less stressful than the first because I have Alastair's email address now!).
So..the upshot is:
1)check the plugins before you install them. There should be ratings on them at Wordpress or you can google to see if anyone has had trouble with them. Solostream has a help bulletin board that is searchable.
2) Install one at a time. Make sure everything is hunky dory with your blog before adding another one.
3) If there is a problem, deactivate and uninstall the problem one
4) Don't add plugins that do the same thing. Reseach first and just use one. Or try one, remove/deactivate and THEN try the other.
Enjoy though! These are really fun, cool ones! I wish I could add them to my blogger blog!
Pragmatic Mom
http://pragmaticmom.com
Type A Parenting for the Modern World
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From Solostream, the good folks who make beautiful Wordpress Templates for Blogs.

24

One of the best things about WordPress is the community of savvy developers who create all those wonderful plugins. If you visit the WordPress Plugin Directory, however, you’ll find over 8000 available plugins to give your WordPress site a little extra bling.

Phew. That’s a lot to pick from. Unless you like to experiment ALOT, how can you possibly know which ones you should be using? So, with that in mind, here are 5 of my current top 10 favorite plugins for 2010.


If you get any traffic at all to your site, you will get some SPAM comments and trackbacks. The more traffic you get, the more SPAM you get. And you certainly don’t want Viagra ads popping up (no pun intended) all over the comments section of your site. So, you need some protection.

Akismet, created by the same folks who develop WordPress, is an awesome first line of defense. In fact, it’s the only SPAM filter we use on all Solostream sites. The only minor drawback is you need to set up an account at WordPress.com, and get an API key to make Akisment work. And if you’re using it for a commercial site, you’ll need to shell out $5 per month.

If you’re not into paying for SPAM prevention, a great free alternative is WP-SpamFree. I’ve used it on a few sites, and it seems to work just as well as Akismet.

Did you know there are little computerized critters crawling around out there on the Interwebs just looking to gobble up email addresses that are published on your site? It’s true. Spammers love to create automated bots and spiders that go around collecting email addresses to add to their SPAM lists.

Anytime you post an email address on your site, it’s vulnerable to such attacks. And who needs that, especially when there’s a relatively simple solution.

SpamShiv Lite converts any email addresses on your site to code that is not recognized as an email addres. So, for example, michael@solostream.com shows up in the site source code like this:

michael@solostream.com

Pretty cool, huh. However, the plugin creators admit that the system is not full-proof. There will always be some wily developers out there who will figure out a way to get around such measures, but at least it’s a good start.

According to one one source, As of December 2009, Google performs over 85% of searches done on the Internet. Comscore says it’s only around 65%. Regardless of who’s correct, the fact remains that Google needs to know about all the pages on your site so they can get those pages into their search results … so you can get more search engine traffic.

One way to make sure Google is aware of every page on your site is to submit an XML sitemap. An XML site map is basically a directory of all the pages on your site, and according to Google Webmasters Central:

Creating and submitting a Sitemap helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google’s normal crawling process.

Google XML Sitemaps plugin automates the process of submitting a sitemap to Google, as well as Yahoo, Bing and Ask. Once the plugin is installed and activated, it will automatically create and submit a new sitemap to these search engine each time you add or modify content on your site. Does it guarantee you’ll get more traffic from search engine? Of course not, but it can certainly help ensure that all your pages gets indexed a bit quicker.

Reader engagement is crucial to a successful blog. Not only does it help develop a community around your blog and/or your business, it can also provide you with crucial intelligence about what your readers or customers like and don’t like about your content.

Blog comments are a one way to engage with readers, but not everyone has the time or interest to post comments on a blog, so you need to find other ways to engage folks. One way to do that is through polls and ratings. And Polldaddy, owned by the developers of WordPress, provides a simple solution to implement these tools on your site.

With the Polldaddy plugin, you can create polls that can easily be embedded into your posts, pages or sidebar via the widgets panel. After the poll has been created, there’s also a cool little reports section in your WP control panel that displays the results of the poll.

The plugin also gives you the ability to add a ratings function to your posts and/or pages so folks can rate your content. See the bottom of this post for an example. We’re using the Nero (thumbs-up, thumbs-down) rating function.

There’s also a 5-star rating function available, and you can select either via your WordPress control panel once the plugin is installed and activated. And just like the polls, there’s a reports section in the WordPress control panel that tells you how your stuff is being rated.

Maybe this has happened to you. You read something really great, and you want to share it with your friends and colleagues. But hey, you’re a busy person, and you just don’t have the time to type and send an email or open up your twitter account to tweet about it. So, you move on to your next task without sharing the great, new idea you just read. It happens all the time. People ARE busy, and you have to make it as quick and easy as possible for them to share your stuff with their network.

That’s where AddToAny comes to the rescue. You can see this plugin in action also at the bottom of this post. Once the plugin is installed and activated, it automatically places either a text link or button at the bottom of your posts so that folks can easily share your content on various social networking sites or via email.

28

In part one of this post, I offered up 5 plugins that I think are must-haves for any WordPress site in 2010. So, lets move on to part two for 5 more of my favorite WordPress plugins.

By default, WordPress is a very search-engine-friendly publishing platform. Likewise, so are most WordPress themes. Whenever we develop a new theme here at Solostream, SEO is a key factor in deciding how it’s put together. Still, you can never have enough SEO for your site, and the All-in-One SEO plugin offers a set of features that can take your SEO to the next level.

All-in-one SEO gives you complete control over two key elements of SEO. First, it gives you the ability to determine the Title tag for all the pages on your site, including your home page, individual post pages and individual static pages.

This is a crucial feature, because the words in your Title tag are what appear as the clickable link on search engine results pages (SERPs). And according most SEO experts, the Title tag is one of the most important factors in achieving high search engine rankings.


The way most WordPress themes work, the Title tag is determined by the “Blog Title” field on your General Settings page or the post/page title used when creating a new post or page. And often, it’s a combination of the two. So, for example, the default title tag for this page would look like this:

Top Ten WordPress Plugins for 2010 (Part Two) | Solostream

All-in-One SEO adds a module at the bottom of your Write Post and Write Page console that allows your to use a different page Title tag for your page or post if you want to. So, if I wanted to use a slightly different title to show up in SERPs, I could easily change it via the plugin. In this case, I’m not going to change it, however.

The plugin also lets you control another key component of SEO, which is the meta description tag (click thumbnail right). The meta description includes the words that will appear in SERPs just under the Title. According to SEOMoz, the meta description serves 3 important purposes:

  1. To describe the content of the page accurately and succinctly.
  2. To serve as a short, text “advertisement” to click on your results in the search results.
  3. To display targeted keywords, not for ranking purposes, but to indicate the content to searchers.

Many WordPress themes don’t include the meta description tag. In such a case, the description that appears in SERPs is pulled from the content of the page or post. And that’s okay, but it really gives you no control over how the description shows up, so you really need to be using this plugin.

As for Solostream themes, we do not include the meta description tag in our themes. Instead, we encourage our customers to use a plugin such as this one so they can have complete control over their SEO.

As WordPress continues to mature from a mere blogging platform into a full-fledged content managment sytem (CMS), it’s becoming more important to be able to control how posts appear on a site. Currently, there are several ways posts can be ordered beyond reverse-chronological, which is the standard for most blogs. With WordPress, posts can be ordered as follows:

  • by post author
  • by post date
  • by post title
  • by date post was modified
  • by post parent
  • by post ID
  • random order
  • by post custom field meta_value
  • by post comment_count

That’s a lot of options. The problem is that you have to hack into the code of your WordPress theme to change the order. Further, even if you were able to do that, it still fails to give you complete control over the order of your posts.

What if there was a way you could see all your posts in one place, and simply drag and drop them into the order you want them to appear.

PostMash (Filter) allows you to do just that. As an example, look at the Tutorials category of this site. You’ll notice the posts are not in reverse chronological order. When I built this site, I wanted the tutorials to appear in an order that a new WordPress user would likely want to see them. If I didn’t know anything about WordPress, and I wanted to get started, I would probably want to see how to install it first, so I placed that post near the top of the category.

When you install and activate PostMash (Filter), a new page is created in your WordPress control panel. If you visit that page, you’ll see all your posts presented in reverse chronological order. You can then drag-and-drop the posts into whatever order you want then to appear (click thumbnail to see an example). You can order all the posts on your site, or you can order a specific category of posts as I did with our Tutorials category.

The one drawback I’ve found with this plugin is that if you change the order of a post in one category, you also affect its order in other categories (if the post is in multiple categories). Still, this is a nice little plugin, and as of right now, there are no other simple options out there to have complete control over your post order. At least none that I know of.

With most WordPress themes, your site navigation menu is based on your pages. For each page, a link is created in the navigation menu, and the link text is based on the title you choose for the page. This method of creating a site navigation menu is inferior for many reasons, some of which are these.

  1. It doesn’t allow you to include 1 or more category pages in your nav menu.
  2. It doesn’t allow you to exclude 1 or more pages from the nav menu.
  3. It doesn’t allow you to include links to an external site in your nav menu.
  4. It doesn’t make it easy for you to control the order of the links in your nav menu.
  5. It doesn’t allow you to use navigation link text that’s different from the page title.

To deal with such issues, I’ve seen some WordPress theme developers who are building a custom navigation menu function into their themes. At first glance, this seems like a great feature to include in a WordPress theme, and I’ve considered it for Solostream themes.

Ultimately, though, I decided against it, because what happens when you decide to change your theme? Once you move to a different theme, your navigation structure is toast. It’s great for the theme developer, because you’re less likely to switch to a competitor’s theme, but it limits you as the user.

That’s what I love about Menu Manager. It gives you complete control over your navigation menu without locking you into using a specific theme. With Menu Manager, you can include or exclude any page or category you like. You can also create links to external pages if you like.

As far as the link text, you can make it whatever you want. So, if you have a page with the title “Learn a Little More About Me,” you can just use “About” as the navigation link. Further, there’s a drag-and-drop function that allows you to order you navigation links any way you choose.

I’ve already talked about the importance of reader engagement and developing a community around your site, and this relatively new plugin can certainly help further that cause. Mingle WordPress is a plugin I recently discovered, and I have to say I’m quite impressed, both with it’s functionality and its ease of implementation.

Once you have Mingle WordPress installed and activated, your site has the potential to become its own social network. Imagine a scaled-down version of Facebook, only right here on your own site. Here some of the current features provided by the plugin:

  • Members can set up there own user profile page complete with a bio and photo.
  • Members can “friend” other members and communicate with them via direct comment to them on the site.
  • Member directory page.
  • Email Notifications for members.

For a full list of the features and an example of how a Mingle-powered site runs, visit WordPress Mingle, and set up your own user profile. As I said, this is a relatively new plugin, and I’ve heard talk that there will be additional features rolling out in the near future.

One reason blogs are such a powerful business tool is they can help you develop and nurture a relationship with your readers and/or customers. That relationship is created mainly through your content. So, naturally, the more of your content someone consumes – assuming it’s good, relavant content – the quicker and easier it is to develop and maintain that relationship.

When someone visits your site for the first time, it’s likely because they followed a link from a search engine or another site. They’re likely here looking for a specific post or article. And once they’ve finished reading that post, they’ll likely be on their way to the next site. That is, unless you give them a reason to stick around and read more of your content.

That’s where Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) comes in. YARPP will automatically scout out other posts on your site that are related to the post being read. It will then present those related posts at the end of the post being read. You can see YARPP in action at the bottom of this post. And with any luck, you’ll see something in that list that you may want to read beyond this post.

1. WP-DBManager – This is a great little plugin to help you back-up your WordPress database consistently and automatically. I already wrote about it in this post.

2. WP-PageNavi – A cool little plugin that adds page numbers to the bottom of your blog pages instead of the typical “next page, previous page” links.

3. W3 Total Cache – This plugin can help make your site run a bit faster through automatic page caching, database caching and minification.

4. Broken Link Checker – Don’t you hate to click on a link only to discover it doesn’t go anywhere? So do your readers. This plugin will scout out any and all broken links on your site, tell you where they are and help you fix them.

5. Google Analyticator – If you use Google Analytics (and you should), this plugin adds the necessary JavaScript code to enable Google’s Analytics on your site.

2 comments:

  1. Ahh that is pretty sweeet. Thanks for sharing. awesome to look at a cool site about this stuff again and find out whats going on in the industry.

    --BurnList--

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ahh that is pretty sweeet. Thanks for sharing. awesome to look at a cool site about this stuff again and find out whats going on in the industry.

    --BurnList--

    ReplyDelete