Ten WordPress plugins to make your blog shine

Good content produced at the right time is at the heart of any successful blog. Good content often needs a helping hand courtesy of sensible promotion too. All of which is to say that fiddling with the technical details can be a tempting distraction from main business at hand, but it can make a difference even if it isn’t the main factor in success or failure.

One of the reasons I’m such a fan of WordPress (as used on my own blog, for my news aggregator and on various other sites I’ve had a hand in previously such as Lib Dem Voice and Lynne Featherstone’s site) is that there is a wide-range of free or cheap plugins available. These make it quick (and cost-effective) to add the sort of features to a site that can take considerable time or money with bespoke systems.

Here’s my latest annual round-up of my top ten recommendations for other bloggers to try out. Cutting my list down to ten took some doing, and aside from those I chose not to include there are, I’m sure, good choices I didn’t even consider in the first place. So do use the comments thread to add your own suggestions.

My list of ten WordPress plugins

But first, here’s the top ten WordPress plugins list:

  1. Akismet – essential for blocking comment spam. It’s not infallible, but it does most of the work most of the time, leaving you more time to write posts or eat chocolate.
  2. All in One SEO pack – does what it says in the name, giving you a wide range of features to optimise your blog’s appearance in search engines.
  3. Amazon Associate Filter – automatically replaces all your Amazon links with affiliate ones. A neat way of saving time as you therefore don’t have to get the right affiliate version of each link you add. The plugin does the work for you. (By the way, don’t be worried about its age. It has been working reliably for me for years, including on the different new versions of WordPress issued in the last year.)
  4. Google Doc Embedder – this plugin lets you easily embed pdf and other files into posts (see an example in this post of mine). It uses the Google Document Viewer to do so, hence the name. In 2013 I switched over to using this from external third party document hosting as this plugin is easier to use and gives a better result for mobile and tablet users. It also means all the documents are stored on your own site, making future management easier.
  5. Jetpack – now a behemoth of a plugin from the WordPress team, this is packed full of so many features that the only sensible advice is to go and read about them all yourself. The last year has been a particularly good one for the plugin, with lots of useful new features added in. Watch out for the updates; always read the change log as they quite often slip in new features without that much of a fanfare.
  6. PopUp Domination – this makes it easy to configure, test and use not only pop-up boxes to get people to sign up to email newsletters but also to embed forms at the foot of posts and elsewhere. I’ve still not really got to grips with all its options, but even the limited set I use make it well worth the price, and better than the alternatives out there (especially if you are running WordPress multisite edition).
  7. Post Template – lets you create a set of templates for posts which commonly contain similar content. For example, my Local Liberal Heroes series all have the same basic layout, so using a template saved time when creating new ones.
  8. Safe Redirect Manager – makes it easy to redirect one web address for your site to another one. Very useful if, for example, you have a link coming in that goes to a page which has since moved. Rather than having to ask the other person to change their link, you can just redirect it yourself.
  9. WordTwit – generates tweets when new blog posts are published. I’ve tried out quite a few such plugins over the years and settled on this one as offering by far the best combination of features and reliability. As an added bonus, the Pro version has become the free version, so you now have free access to a great range of features.
  10. UK Cookie Consent – a neat, simple plugin that makes dealing with the weird and wonderful complexities of European cookie regulations much easier.

What’s your view on this WordPress plugin list?

Hate any of these WordPress plugins? Use a WordPress plugin and are amazed that it isn’t in this list? Share your views in the comments below…

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