Previously, I’d been a pretty strong advocate of remaining on Blogger, which is why my blog lasted a good six and a half years over on Blogger. However, after toying with the idea for quite a long time, there was one thing that finally persuaded me to attempt the switch from Blogger to Hosted WordPress, and that was Plugins. I’d heard so many wonderful things about WordPress plugins and how much easier they make life, and I was finally enticed over to “the dark side” as I’d seen it then.
Well, after six months of blogging on WordPress, I can now officially say that this is the light side baby-the bright side. Plugins ARE worth it. I mean, there are a lot of other awesome reasons to move to WordPress such as the right to own your own data (if you blog on Blogger, Google owns your data-it’s in their TOS) and clearer tools, but if there’s one main reason to make the switch-I still firmly belive it’s plugins. Plugins have made this little blog run SO much smoother. Now when I want to add a feature to my site, instead of googling how to do it and then playing in the code for hours and hours to finally get it semi-right (or just giving up and dealing without it because it is too much hassle), I pull up the Plugins section of my blog and do a quick little search. I’d say about 90% of the time they have exactly what I’m looking for-and it’s marvelous.
My Favorite WordPress Plugins
Over the last six months I’ve installed, used, tested, and removed countless plugins from my blog. At this point in my blogging life, I have it pretty narrowed down to what plugins I need to keep using-and I haven’t added a new one in a little while because I’m quite happy with how it’s running. So, today I’d like to share with you my list of favorite WordPress plugins in hopes that those of you using WordPress may find a new one to love and use, and those of you who aren’t on hosted WordPress can see if these plugins make it worth it for you to make the switch or not.
If there’s one WordPress plugin I can recommend above all others, it’s Yoast SEO. One of the most confusing things when I first started paying attention to blogging was SEO, and the Yoast plugin makes it SO much easier to understand and prioritize. Not only does it add a fully-functional SEO sitemap to your site to help indexing and searching, but it also adds it’s lovely little plugin to the bottom of every post to help you optimize your SEO presence on each and every post.
The plugin lets you set a focus keyword (which is important for SEO-it’s all about the keywords and searchable terms), edit the title and meta description (this is how they’ll show up in search results), and then it gives you a list of check points to make sure that you are really utilizing that SEO. As you can see from the above image, my SEO on this post is mostly good, but Yoast is also encouraging me to move the placement of my keyword in the title and the first paragraph. I’m not going to, because I like how it’s set up and my SEO is still pretty good, but if I were to it would improve it even more. I also love that it scans the page and lets you know how easy to read it is and other SEO tips.
Plus, it works throughout your blog in other ways also. If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll see that there’s a little stoplight icon next to “Move to Trash” in the bottom right hand corner. That gives me a nice quick look at what my SEO score looks like for the post so far. If you look at the one below, I can see from my list of posts which ones have good SEO and which have bad. It looks like I need to go back and update my “Top Tips for Contact Lens Wearers” posts because I forgot to set up the SEO on that one. Oops. But see? So useful.
Click to Tweet
Click to Tweet is made by CoSchedule (who I’ll mention talk about in a minute, and it is a simple little plugin that inputs a quick little tweetable box right into your post. This makes your post super shareable to twitter, so if someone’s reading and see’s the little box, all they have to do is click on it. Just see for yourself here:
See how easy that was? From my end, when I’m editing my post, all I have to do is click on the cute little Twitter bird up by my other post editing options, enter what I’d like my tweet to say, and it’s ready to go for publishing.
Okay, CoSchedule isn’t free-I know that’s the biggest hang up that most people have (trust me, so did I at first) but man… I could write sonnets about CoSchedule. It’s an editorial calendar that has built in social sharing and analytics. I wrote a more in-depth post about why you should be using CoSchedule before, but since then I’ve come to rely on it even more heavily.
I tried out several social sharing plugins before finally settling on Filament. I really like the way it works, and how it counts things (it even seems to see shares that weren’t done via those buttons-but don’t quote me on that). Plus it’s customizable and looks great hanging out to the left of my post there-have a look, click a button, test it out. 🙂
JQuery Pin it Button for WordPress
This was one of those things that when I was on Blogger I had to mess around with the coding to input a custom Pin It button on my blog. JQuery Pin It Button for WordPress totally made it easy-I installed, set a few settings, and then uploaded my pretty custom Pin It button that matched my theme. Trust me, I tried several other pin it plugins before I found the beauty of this one.
MailMunch was a fantastic find-it totally helps add great sign-up forms to your site for your mailing lists and allows you to customize them and control them. I mean, look how cute my little sign up form just under this post is. Adorable.
This one is only applicable if you do affiliate marketing via Affiliate Window, but man do they make it simple. This is why they’re my preferred affiliate program to work through. They have a link builder (which I use occasionally if I post to other sites or my social networks) but here on the blog all I had to do was install the plugin and it automatically converts the link of any link of an affiliate program that I participate in into my affiliate link. This was great, since it even went back and scanned all my old posts and converted those links, and when I’m writing up a post I don’t have to convert every single affiliate link before putting it into my post. I simply copy and paste it, and the plugin does it for me.
For example, see my Update Your Home with the 2016 Pantone Colors of the Year post. That post already took me hours to research, edit, and put together-it would have doubled my time if I’d had to convert every single link in it prior to putting it into the post.
Use Any Font
Use Any Font is great because I can upload the fun and unique fonts I’ve purchased for my design work and use them in my actual blog. I can select them from the font drop down in my post editor and change the words to any font… For example, the two main fonts I use around here for blog images are Jacques & Gills and Pathway Gothic. For a while I used Carolinea, but when I updated my blog design I changed it to swich things around.
Not only can I change fonts in my post, but I can set rules in the plugin so that every time I set a post to H1/H2/etc. it sets to a certain font. That’s fun if you want all of your headers to be a certain font without creating images. Interesting fat: images instead of actual text actually are detrimental to your SEO-so I don’t recommend doing it that way. I did for a while, trust me, and changing back helped.
JetPack by WordPress
Okay, JetPack is a default WordPress Plugin, but it does SO much. In fact, there were several other third party plugins I was able to eliminate simply because Jetpack had it covered in a way I preferred (such as my related posts section). It even does analytics. If you aren’t taking advantage of. Just look at all of these features:
Simple Author Box
When I was looking at other blogs that were self-hosted WordPress blogs, I noticed wonderful little author boxes at the bottom and went on a mission to find the right one. I tried so many plugins, but Simple Author Box was really the one that stuck for me. They seem like a great way to get a little bit of info about the person behind the blog at the end of the post, and if you have multiple contributors on your blog you can set it up so it shows the info of that person specifically. I like it better than just inputting a signature because I don’t have to think about it-it’s just there, and it has links to my social media and everything.
What are your favorite plugins?
A couple of the links in this post are affiliate links, by signing up or purchasing through them I may receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much for doing so, you really help keep this blog of mine afloat!
The Better Your Blog Series is a series of posts written by myself, Angie of My So-Called Chaos, from my own personal experience as a long-time blogger, small-business owner, and as someone who’s worked with technology and customer service for many many years. They are written with the intent of sharing the knowledge I’ve acquired through years of practice and education (both self-taught and school-taught) with others in the blogging community.
In this collection of posts you’ll not only find tips for maintaining your blog, but also for anything that goes along with being a blogger and/or small business owner-like design tips and tutorials, social media, tools, and more.
The posts in this series are constantly being updated to make sure they stay current, and the series is constantly being added to. Please contact me if there’s something you’d like to learn.