As bloggers most of us have come to appreciate the simplicity that the WordPress platform offers. It’s an extremely flexible blogging tool that takes away most, if not all, of the heavy “coding” tasks from us so we can focus on writing.
Out of the box WordPress is pretty powerful. With no knowledge of code we can easily create posts and web pages, upload images, and download themes to stylize our content.
But what if you need features that are not included in WordPress? Commonly requested functionality that bloggers request for development include creating custom forms, optimizing sites for SEO, using SSL and more.
If more advanced features like these are what you need, chances are that the WordPress community has developed a plugin for that. There are literally 10’s of thousands of plugins available (and FREE). The plugin in the plugin directory will show ratings, how many installations are “out in the wild”, when the plugin was last updated, and if it is compatible with your version of WordPress.
We’ve picked some of our favorite and most useful plugins and listed them here. These will help boost your ability to take full advantage of WordPress.
AddToAny is a plugin that enables users to share your content on an external service like FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram and more.
Once installed and activated AddToAny will automatically be added to all of your blog posts, and you can tell it what services to allow a user to share to. Easily configurable, it’s a must have if you want your content to be easily shareable across a wide variety of platforms.
If you do any blogging about code, chances are you’ve wanted to “prettify” your code blocks in your blog post. This is where the plugin “Code Syntax Block” comes in. It’s an easy way to make your code look like, well, like code.
The nice thing about the Code Syntax Block plugin is that it has support for most (if not all) of the most commonly used programming languages. You just need to add your code sample to the block, choose the language it should use as it’s format template, and it will format it correctly for you.
The Follow US Badges plugin is a very simple way to add stylized social media links to your social sites. With options like being able to show your follower account and customizing the size of the badge, this is a no-brainer if you want a quick way to give your users the ability to follow you.
Sure there are more robust analytics plugins available for WordPress, but we prefer the simplicity of GA Google Analytics. If you want to track the traffic that comes to your site (and you do), then you just need to get a tracking ID from google and add it to this plugin. All of the heavy lifting will be done for you.
While other analytics plugins give you a dashboard to be able to easily access your analytics data without having to leave the comfort of WordPress, we prefer to keep things lightweight, and just use the tracking ID feature that’s availabe in this plugin. We can get our analytics from Google’s dashboard, while using this plugin to manage making the tracking ID available on all the pages on our blog.
These days Google is expecting blogs and sites to have implemented SSL. Fortunately many hosting providers offer SSL certs as part of their hosting solution, and that’s easy enough to configure. But how do you get WordPress to use SSL? Easy, with Really Simple SSL.
WP Forms gives bloggers the ability to create contact forms without needing to hire a developer. It has a drag and drop interface which makes it simple to add the fields you need on your customized form.
It comes loaded with form templates and is touted as being “the most beginner friendly contact form plugin in the market”. The form designs are responsive, so you won’t need to worry if they will work on a mobile device, and they are optimized for quick performance.
If you want your blog to rank in Google you’ll need to optimize the content so Google knows what to look for. Sometimes it can be hard to know if your blog post optimized for search engines (SEO). Yoast can help. It analyzes your content and lets you know if if it’s matching common SEO rules.
In addition checking your content for SEO it also checks it for readability, shows you how your post will look in search results and more. It’s an invaluable tool for anyone looking to rank in the search engine wars.
If you’ve upgraded WordPress recently you likely realized that your author images have all disappeared from your posts. This is because currently WordPress only allows you to upload custom avatars via Gravatar.
With WP User Avatar you can use photos uploaded to your Media Library as your avatar.
WordPress is an immensely powerful tool for bloggers and web developers alike. There’s a lot of potential for customization if you want to get away from an out-of-the-box WordPress solution, and these are some of the plugins that can help you achieve that.
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