So, you are thinking of creating your own website? Congratulations! It's a great adventure that you are on and one that comes with many rewards and opportunities for professional growth. For many of you, you will be hearing words like “WordPress.com” and “WordPress.org.” If you are new to blogging, you will probably want to choose to create your first blog on a site such as WordPress.com or Edublogs.org. These two blogging sites come with free options with plenty of room to grow that is surrounded by a safe and secure ecosystem where you practically can't do anything wrong.
If you are interested in venturing off the grid and creating your own self-hosted WordPress website, there are several options that will quickly become pressing issues on your To-Do list. Quickly after choosing your hosting and picking your theme, you will be looking to build your website and decide what functions you wish to have for the website. These functionalities generally come in two varieties, the type that is beneficial to your readers, and the type that will beneficial your website. What are the popular plugins? What are the best plugins? These aren't always the best questions to ask. What works for one website doesn't always work on another. Plugins often make a website slower and cause errors when a website creator starts to add them to their project without much background information on what exactly the plugin does.
Over the last 4 years, I have had the privilege of getting to know WordPress projects and although I can't exactly go on the record to say that all of these plugins on the list today are “perfect” for your particular website, I do highly recommend these 10 plugins for any website newbie.
Jetpack by WordPress.com
Jetpack by WordPress.com is one of the essential plugins that your website would only benefit by activating. When you first start on a WordPress.org website, your site starts pretty bare. Do you want to share your content on social media? (you can't do this) Do you want to have analytics about your website traffic? (you can't do this) Do you want to be able to access your website remotely? (you also can't do this)
Jetpack is the “go-between” that links your self-hosted WordPress website with all of the features of WordPress.com. The free plugin features more than 20 modules which can be activated to include analytics, email to post creation, social sharing, auto-posting and so much more. The big advantage fo this is that by using Jetpack, your self-hosted website can be connected to the WordPress.com apps on your mobile devices where you can quickly create new content outside of your office.
Yoast SEO for WordPress
Once you get your self-hosted website up and running, you will want to make it available to the outside world. Luckily, WordPress by default is one of the most SEO friendly out of the box solutions you can find. But what can you do to make your website stand apart from all others in the eyes of search engines? I introduce to you to Yoast SEO. Through Yoast, you can set create your post and give it a some extra “Google Mojo” that will allow search engines the ability to track and see your awesome content.Have you seen this great list of #WordPress Plugins for new educational bloggers? Click To Tweet
Having a website that looks awesome and can be found by Google isn't as much fun as knowing just what happens to your website after you are done creating your awesome content. There are several great free plugins in the WordPress repository to help track web stats and analyze traffic. Many of them are great. My analytics plugin of choice is Google Analyticator. Once installing this plugin, your web stats will visual very neatly in a very readable format on your website dashboard. It is a plugin that is simple to install and very lightweight so it won't slow down your website.
MailChimp for WordPress
At this point, you have your website up, Google loves you and you are ready to rock …… right? Not quite. The first thing you should be thinking about is how to drive traffic to your website and how to engage with them when they are not thinking about you. For these reasons, it's never too early to start thinking about your mailing list. I have been using MailChimp for several years now and I find it's one of the easiest interfaces to learn with one of the most eye appealing template libraries on the market. There are several great MailChimp plugins, MailChimp for WordPress happens to be the one that I am currently using on several of my websites.
Once you have hundreds if not thousands of people checking out your blog every day, you will eventually be faced with the fact that you have thousands if not millions of comments coming into your posts. These comments might be legit, but in many cases, these comments are coming from individuals who write programs designed to leave comments on websites to promote their own brand. We call this COMMENT SPAM. To combat this, I always install Akismet (A-Kiz-Mit). This plugin will filter the good comments from the bad comments and if interested, will automatically delete the unwanted comment SPAM to keep your website running as efficient as possible.
Got content… Got visitors… Got Stats… Now it's time to get creative. One of the best things you can do to your blog is spice it up with media content such as audio and video. One of the most popular media plugins is Blubrry PowerPress. Used by thousands of Podcasters, all you need to do to create an amazing audio based post is to paste the .mp3 file in the menu box. The plugin does the rest.Did you see that @blubrry was featured as a great #Podcasting #plugin for #WordPress on @TeacherCast Click To Tweet
With a great blog comes great responsibility. It's totally awesome to create a great post and share it, but as they say in radio, you're only as good as your latest piece of content. WordPress comes with several options to write posts and save them as drafts, but it doesn't give you a visual overview of the work you have done over a long period of time. Edit Flow is a multiuse plugin that allows you see a full months worth of posts and schedule them over the course of several days. It provides a calendar where you can quickly plan out posts in advance without having to enter the post editor several times. This plugin works great for multi-author blogs just as easy as it works for single user blogs looking to set up a full year editorial calendar.
Pretty Link Lite
One of the burdens of a popular blog is the knowledge of dozens of resources, links, and other websites. Of course, you can keep a running list of all of the important links that might come in handy during the course of your blogging career or you can use the Pretty Link Lite plugin. Pretty Links are actual URL's that you set up inside of your WordPress website that redirects to other links. For example, when you click on TeacherCast.net/Voicemail, it actually takes you to my profile page on SpeakPipe where you can leave me a voicemail. By using a Pretty Link, you create a branded URL that is easy for you to remember and share with your audience.
Every blog theme has its ups and downs. Generally, a good theme offers a user several options inside of the post editor to create that perfect visual for your content. It might take you several minutes to set up the same settings on all of your posts. If you find yourself doing the same thing on every page or post you might want to check out Duplicate Post. This plugin comes in handy when you are first creating your blog because it speeds up the design and creation process tenfold.
Broken Link Checker
Over time, things change, other websites get updated, and you realize that many of your visitors are getting something known as a “404 Error.” It's not a bad idea every now and again to activate and run the Broken Link Checker Plugin. This will crawl your site and identify posts which need to be updated to links that are no longer valid. This is a time saver and certainly something you should think about doing a few times a year.
What are your favorite plugins?
As the TeacherCast website grows and developes, we are looking to hear from you. What are your favorite plugins and why do you use them on your website? Please leave a commenet below.
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