How Plugins Can Take Your Author Website from Okay to Outstanding

by Joel Friedlander on August 10, 2012 · 25 comments

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by Laura Pepper Wu (@LauraPepWu)

Laura is a best-selling self-published author and a blogger who likes WordPress so much she is busy working on ways to help authors make the most of the blogging experience. She is a frequent commenter here and I was happy that she wanted to bring some of her WordPress research to readers. Here’s her report:



Hi, my name is Laura and I’m a “wordie”.

Since 2010 I’ve been completely smitten with WordPress.

There are a gazillion reasons why I fell in love with it, for both blogging and for my author website.

The reason I’m going to focus on today is the fact that WordPress has these awesome “add-ons”, called ‘plugins’, which are essentially pre-written codes that allow you to do almost anything to your site.

HOLD UP!!

If you consider yourself a non-techy and are about to click away from the page, please stay and get comfortable. The great thing about WordPress is that it requires very technical know-how. You don’t need to know the tiniest bit of code or even how a plugin works.

ALL you need to know is that plugins extend the core features of your WordPress website and allow you to do more. And many of them are free! This means that you can customize the look and feel of a basic site in almost any way you like.

Focusing on functionality and usability, here are 16 of my favorite plugins to help improve your author website right away. Download these through WordPress at wordpress.org/extend/plugins/, or from their sites where listed. (Ed: You can also find them using the “Add New” button from the plugin page on your WordPress blog.)

Security & Backing Up

1. Back Up Buddy (Paid)—Back Up Buddy will save your site and your sanity! It backs up your WordPress installation—widgets, themes, plugins, files etc.—so that in the case of a disastrous server problem (ex. a virus) you can quickly restore or move your site to a new server. This is great if you need to move your domain hosting or change your URL too. Pricing plans are available on their site.

2. Akismet—Identifies and blocks comment spam—it doesn’t catch everything but it’s pretty darn good and the best one I’ve found.

3. Better WP Security—Just as it’s name suggests, Better WP Security gives better protection to your WordPress site against hackers and viruses than WordPress alone offers. According to the developer’s page, it acts as your safety net, ensuring that “as many security holes as possible are patched up without having to worry about conflicting features or the possibility of missing anything on your site.”

Performing & Functioning Optimally

4. WP Super Cache—Caches your site’s pages and blog posts so they load much faster and your site performs faster as a result—hooray for that!

5. Google Analytics for WordPress—This plugin makes it easy to install Analytics to your blog so you can stay on top of your traffic and statistics. WordPress has it’s own Stats counter on the dashboard but Google Analytics is far more extensive.

6. What Would Seth Godin Do? Plugin—Funny name, great idea. This plugin allows you to display two different messages if someone is new to your blog, vs. if they have visited before. Super useful!

Building Your Newsletter List/Email Followers

7. Pop Up Domination (Paid)—You know that annoying lightbox that pops up when you visit some sites and tries to capture your email address? It’s probably this one—“The World’s Leading Lightbox Software”.

Sometimes we should try to be annoying! If we truly believe that our readers and fans would find our newsletters informative and entertaining, then being assertive in asking them to subscribe to our newsletters is not necessarily a bad thing. According to the Pop Up Domination site you can “increase your opt-in rate by over 300%” by using this plugin.

You can set when and where to show the popup—when people first arrive on your site, a period of time after they have arrived, or when they are about to leave (when their mouse cursor goes up to the address bar in their browser). Worth the $77 and the possible annoyance? You decide!

8. Notification Bar—A little less intrusive than a Pop Up, this notification bar displays a bar on top of your screen, without disturbing your users’ browsing (see below). This one’s a keeper for me.

author blogging

9. Bottom of every post—Allows you to add content to the bottom of each post without having to add it to each post manually. This might be your newsletter sign up form, your author bio or a link to your latest book or offering. I do all three!

author blogging

Search Engine Optimization

10. Google XML Sitemaps—Creates a map of your site and it’s pages for Google to read & index—essentially it ensures that your site is “Googleable”. SUPER important!

11. All-in-one SEO—This smart little thing allows you to add title, description, and keyword tags to each of your WordPress pages and posts. This means that they will rank better in the search engines without you really having to understand much SEO. Fab stuff!

Making Your Blog a Better Place

12. Add New Default Avatar—You know that little grey man that keeps popping up in the comment section? This plugin banishes him forever! You can add a branded Avatar for commenters who haven’t uploaded their profile pic to Gravatar.com yet. Gravatar is the central database that connects profile pics and blog comments—if you haven’t got yours go do it quick (takes 2 minutes, Gravatar.com, I’ll wait for you.)

author blogging

13. Digg Digg—This plugin shows all of the social media sharing buttons you wish for it to, and floats on the left hand side of your blog posts making it easy for your readers to share your stuff with their social networks.

14. WordPress Popular Posts—This little thing creates a list of popular posts based on a variety of criteria and displays in the sidebar. Always good for first-time visitors to your blog.

author blogging

15. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin—Displays related posts with thumbnails at the end of your blog posts.

author blogging

16. Tweet Old Posts—Get more traffic to your blog and re-share/ promote all those old blog posts that new followers may never have read. Tweet Old Posts picks your blog posts at random and then tweets them based on whatever interval you have set. I have my settings defined to share a post no more than once every 12 hours, and the posts should be over 30 days old. I have also excluded posts which I feel are no longer relevant or outdated.

Do you have any WordPress plugins that make your site better? And what plugins are you excited to go ahead and download and start using right away? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Laura-Pepper-WuLaura Pepper Wu is the co-founder of the book studio 30 Day Books and the founder of Ladies Who Critique.com. She is the author of Wow! Glowing Bride in 30 Days and 51 Ways to Save Money & Still Have a Chic & Fabulous Wedding, Kindle best-sellers. Laura’s on a mission to help authors create a sustainable, long-term income and their ideal lifestyle from their writing and books. Be sure to sign up for her weekly ‘Magic Monday’ marketing tips, and read about Authorlicious—a WordPress solution for indie authors coming from the book studio very soon!

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    { 21 comments… read them below or add one }

    Anne April 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Hello,

    Please forgive the following basic questoins, but I am new to WordPress and to me the answers are not obvious. I want to install Digg Digg, but the directions do not help. The steps include:

    1.Download the plugin from this page and extract it
    2.Copy the digg-digg folder to the “/wp-content/plugins/” directory
    *MY QUESTION*: Where is the wp-content/plugins directory?
    3.Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress
    *MY QUESTION*: Where is the Plugins menu?

    Thank you,

    Anne

    Reply

    Grace Brannigan September 4, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Great article. I’m still trying to find my way around Wordpress, but this certainly helps.

    Reply

    Nina August 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Thank you for this! I just switched from wp.com to self-hosted, and I’m drowning in plug in options.

    Quick question: why the related posts plug in over some of the others out there. Is there anything particularly special about that one?

    Thanks again!

    Reply

    Maria Umar August 12, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Wow – these are some really great plugins you got listed here. I DO hate the annoying pop-up nudging you to sign up for stuff. But the top bar plugin is certainly something I’d like to try soon as I get my pro blog.

    Reply

    Laura Pep Wu August 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Hi Yesenia, glad it was useful. For the email subscription box, you’ll need the code for the embedded form from your email management provider (if you’re using MailChimp you should be able to find it under ‘Forms for your website’) and paste that into the TXT file. For the Twitter follow button, see this page: https://twitter.com/about/resources/buttons. If you have any problems feel free to email me & I’ll explain further. Thanks for your comment!

    Reply

    Yesenia Vargas August 30, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Got it! Thanks for your help!

    Reply

    Yesenia Vargas August 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Hi Laura, this is an awesome post! I love finding handy new plugins.

    I installed the Bottom of Every Post plugin right away, but don’t know how to configure it besides adding text. I’d love for mine to have an email subscription box or the Twitter follow button. Mind sharing how you did that?

    Reply

    Brandon Wu August 10, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Nice list! And if anyone feels comfortable with CSS, I also like the CSS & JavaScript Toolbox plugin that allows you to create CSS styling for individual pages. Neat! :)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 10, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Thanks for that one Brandon. A couple more I use and like:

    WPtouch—Creates a plain-vanilla mobile-friendly version of your site for people using a smartphone, much better than tryin to read the regular version on a tiny screen.
    Subscribe to comments—Gives you a checkbox commenters can use to stay in touch with the conversation.
    Audio player—Makes adding MP3 files to your blog easy, with a customizable look.

    And they are all free!

    Reply

    Laura Pep Wu August 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Joel, WPtouch sounds great! I forget the number offhand but a staggering percentage of people surf the net on their phones now. We designed the new author website theme from 30 Day Books (shameless plug!) to be mobile friendly for that reason. It’s definitely something worth keeping in mind these days.
    Thank you SO much for hosting me today. It’s been a pleasure.

    Reply

    Ilana Waters August 10, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I’ll agree that many of these plugins look great–except the pop-up one. And their site says it increases opt-ins by 300%? May want to consider the source. Just sayin’ . . . otherwise excellent information!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 10, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Ilana, although I know it seems like “internet hype” almost every blogger I’ve asked about Popup Domination has told me the exact same thing. And that includes bloggers who don’t particularly like popups but admit that they are incredibly effective!

    Reply

    Laura Pep Wu August 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    I can believe it – I would imagine it varies tremendously depending on the audience though. Thanks for stopping by, Ilana!

    Reply

    Melissa August 10, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Holy cow! I had NO idea there were so many cool plugins. I guess I never thought to look. You better believe I’ll be adding these to my (lame) site to make it much cooler and user-friendly. Thanks for the great tips – I’m bookmarking it.

    Reply

    Laura Pep Wu August 10, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Awesome Melissa! So glad it was useful. Would love to know what improvements you make to your site. AND you finally got a Gravatar profile pic. I’m so proud!

    Reply

    Kathrese McKee August 10, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Honestly, I wish I’d seen this yesterday. I spent the entire day working on my new author website. This is a strong list. I had to laugh about the WWSGD plug-in. Are there bracelets for that? Seems sacrilegious. Thank you, Laura, for a useful post. I’ll be clipping it to Evernote.

    Reply

    Laura Pep Wu August 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Hi Kathrese, probably on Etsy.com! Seth has a super strong following and for good reason. But maybe not THAT strong.

    Reply

    Kathy Lynn Harris August 10, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Tremendously helpful, Laura. I honestly didn’t even know some of these things existed, being a non-techie person to say the least. But I do use Wordpress for both my blog and author website, so I will definitely be looking into this further. Thanks, thanks, thanks!

    Reply

    Laura Pep Wu August 10, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Kathy, we’ll make a techie out of you yet!

    Reply

    Lauren Clark August 10, 2012 at 7:25 am

    Laura ~ Great information! And I’m a wordie, too. Wordpress has been fabulous for my blog/website and I will definitely explore all of the great suggestions you’ve included on this post!

    xx, Lauren

    Reply

    Laura Pep Wu August 10, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Lauren – you have a great website! Hopefully you can still find some useful ways to improve it with these suggestions though :)

    Reply

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