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