WordPress is a great blogging platform and a powerful CMS (Content Management System) even for standard web site. But it really comes into its own with the huge number of plugins (extensions) that can be easily downloaded and installed.
To install a plugin go to your WordPress administrator dashboard and select Add New from the Plugins section in the left hand navigation menu. You can search for plugins or upload them from your local computer, all from within WordPress.
Here are the seven plugins I have installed so far. I have selected these based on recommendations from several established marketers. Each plugin may or may not be the best in its class, but every one is well established and well maintained and that’s an important consideration when selecting tools you will rely heavily on and would hate to see disappear at some future time.
First up is Askimet, the comment spam filter. This comes as part if the WordPress basic installation. All you have to do is activate it. Askimet will take care of all that pesky spam commentary that would otherwise litter your blog if you left things unguarded. You’ll need to get a special key from WordPress to activate it, this is an easy process – just follow the on-screen instructions during the activation process.
Next is All In One SEO Pack. This plugin optimises your blog for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Once activated you can set a suitable title and description for your home page and add your keyword and key phrases. The plugin has many options and features but the basic settings are good enough to go with, at least initially.
Next up is Google XML Sitemaps. This will create a compliant Google sitemap and update it as you post. This improves the chance of Google indexing your whole site and releases you from the burden of manually producing a site map page and keeping it maintained.
If you have a Google account and you have signed up for Google Analytics (you should), then the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin is a must. It integrates the Google Analytics tracking code into your blog pages without you having to do any editing of the WordPress templates. Google Analytics is a free traffic reporting tool. Some love it, some loathe it. In my opinion it does the job perfectly well and for a grand total of zero pounds and pence who can really complain? To get a Google account go to google.com and click the Sign-In link at the top right of the page (once the silly new fade effects have revealed it). Go through the registration process, including the requirement to give out your mobile phone number so you can receive an activation SMS (naughty Google) and once you are signed up you get a great email service and access to a whole host of other tools and services including Analytics.
For easing the task of social networking I have select two plugins, AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget and Twitter Tools. AddThis will add a nice social bookmarking widget to each of your posts and currently includes links for quick access to about 45 bookmarking and social networking services. This plugin allows your readers to let others know about your content if they like what they are reading. Twitter Tools synchronises your blog with Twitter. It allows you to tweet directly from WordPress and will auto-tweet your blog posts in real time. Very useful.
To find any of these plugins listed above just copy the plugin name from this page, go to the Plugins section in your administrator dashboard, select Add New and paste into the search box. Run the search and you should find what you are looking for. Click the install link next to the plugin you want and WordPress will take it from there. You’ll need to activate the plugin and maybe do some minor and straightforward configuration.
All this for free or the cost of a small donation to the plugin author if you are feeling generous!