Bloggers Toolkit is a new series here on Food Bloggers guiding you through the best tools available to make the job of blogging easier. These tools can increase your productivity and in some cases completely automate tasks you would have otherwise performed manually. We hope you find this series informative and find some great tools to help make your job as a blogger easier. In this first series we look at Essential WordPress Plugins.
One of the benefits of a self hosted WordPress blog is the ability to install plugins. There are thousands available, all differing in the functions they perform, so at times at can be a bit overwhelming working out the right plugins for your blog. Here are what we consider essential plugins.
The plugins outlined below are what I consider absolute essentials for any blogger, food blogger or otherwise.
A caching plugin is essential. Why is it essential? Well, not only will it speed up your blog loading time it will also reduce the load that your blog places on the server on which it is hosted on at your hosting company. This means you can essentially stay on a smaller hosting plan for longer than if you didn’t run a caching plugin.
There are a number of caching plugins available, some more advanced than others. What I consider the Rolls Royce of caching plugins is W3 Total Cache. I use it for my blog Delicieux and it’s greatly reduced the time it takes to load my blog. Another benefit of W3 Total Cache is it’s CDN (Content Delivery Network) integration. The only downside of W3 Total Cache is that it can be a bit overwhelming to configure and the settings you need to use can vary depending on your hosting company.
The importance of backing up your blog cannot be overstated. It is not your hosting companies responsibility to back up your blog. You need to take charge and ensure that you have regular backups in place. This will be your saving grace for times when you install a plugin and it messes up your blog, or when you mess with the code and want to revert back to before you started fiddling.
The best plan of attack is to install a backup plugin to automate the task of backing up for you. There are a number available, some offering free backup options, others paid. I use BackWPup. It’s a free plugin and enables me to backup my blog to Amazon which I already use as my CDN.
Again, a security plugin is another plugin I consider to be a non negotiable. Unfortunately there are a lot of nasty people out there who would love to hack into your blog for whatever nefarious purpose they have in mind. A security plugin will help prevent unwanted people from logging into and attacking your blog. Some great security plugins to check out include BulletProof Security, Better WP Security and Wordfence, which is what I use.
While many might not consider this an absolute essential, in my mind a SEO Plugin is essential. It’s the back bone of your blog and good SEO will bring the visitors. There are many SEO Plugins available, but my favourite is Yoast SEO. It handles your SEO and your Sitemap management and can even implement breadcrumbs. No need for multiple plugins when it’s all here in Yoast SEO.
Spam and the internet are quite simply two things that go together. There are plugins that can make managing spam, or blocking the amount of spam you receive, easier though. One I consider an absolute essential is Akismet. While Akismet is great, and does block a lot of spam, it’s not infallible, so I also use Growmap Anti Spambot which helps prevent any spam that slips between the cracks.
Bells and Whistles
While not essential, the plugins below provide great functionality that makes your job as a bloggers easier.
What the heck are 404′s I hear you ask? Well, 404 errors are where someone has tried to visit your website using an incorrect link or address. For example they might have been trying to visit a particular page and have typed in the address incorrectly. In that case they would receive a 404 error telling them that WordPress could not find the page they were looking for.
What a 404 plugin can do for you is record the 404 errors you are receiving, and also enable you to setup a redirection (i.e. if someone else uses the incorrect address you can redirect them to the correct page automatically). More importantly 404 plugins are useful from a SEO point of view because if visitors to your website receive a lot of 404 errors this can negatively impact your Search Engine Ranking, which of course none of us want. As far as 404 Plugins go I use 404 Redirected, which has a wonderful feature where it will automatically try to correct 404 errors for visitors and redirect them to the page the plugin thinks they were looking for. Pretty neat huh?
Social Bookmarking Plugins
Social Bookmarking plugins enable your readers to share your content with people on Facebook, Twitter and hundreds of other social media websites. This can then lead to visitors from those websites coming to your blogs. Neat Huh?
There are hundreds of different plugins available and which one you choose really depends on what features you want. Some great ones to check out are Digg Digg, Get Social, ShareThis, AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget and Social Sharing Toolkit.
As a food blogger part of what you do is share recipes, and it’s vital that your recipes are formatted in an easy to read format, not only for your readers, but for search engines too. So a recipe plugin is a great addition to your blog. There are many out there, but some great recipe plugins to consider include Easy Recipe, hRecipe, ZipList, RecipePress, and Kitchenbug.
Related Posts Plugin
Using a related posts plugin is a great way to increase the page views on your blog by showcasing to your readers other posts that they might be interested in. Some of the best related posts plugins include LinkWithin, nRelate Related Content, and YARP.
Comment Reply Plugin
Ever had a reader ask you a question about a recipe and you haven’t been sure they’ve seen your response? Well, by installing a Comment Reply plugin worry no more as your commenter will receive an email when you respond to their comment. Check out ReplyMe and Comment Reply Notification.
Do you have any plugins you consider essential? We’d love to hear about your favourite plugins.