Today’s post is my first advice column. I am obviously no big name blogger so if you are looking for advice about how to earn money via blogging, how to drive traffic to your blog or how to optimize for Google, I am not your go-to girl. I am however a big fan of self-hosting WordPress, so that’s what I am going to talk about today.
When I first started out, there was no doubt about it for me that I wanted to host something myself. I wanted the maximum freedom, to pick any theme that’s out there, to be able to mess around with HTML/CSS myself, and choose which plugins to install. I picked WordPress as blogging system because it is free and can be expanded in functionality. There is an astounding number of plugins out there, and a lot of them are very useful for blogging. I think a few of them are actually quite essential, so here’s my look at the ones I wouldn’t want to go without anymore, in alphabetical order.
- Antispam Bee – Spam protection is essential for a blog. As soon as you put yourself out there, the bots will find you and start leaving their nonsensical crap in your blog. Comment moderation is not enough to keep the spam out of your blog. Now, most WordPress users will likely use Akismet which is the antispam plugin from the WordPress creators themselves. However, Akismet has a huge downside. It sends data from the comments (IP address, comment, author ID, etc.) to US servers. This violates German privacy laws so to use it I would have to put a data protection clause in my blog. Too much hassle. Instead, I use the very reliable Antispam Bee. Anonymous, fast, with a very easy configuration. The author is very active on G+, so I can’t recommend it often enough. If you want to be safe from spam and value the privacy of your readers at the same time, please consider using it instead of Akismet.
- Better Blogroll – I like sharing link love. One of my ways for doing that is to use a blogroll widget that will display a random set of blogs from my blogroll. I use a lot of different categories in my blogroll, and if I wanted to, I could only have MMO blogs listed in the widget. I think it’s a nice way to showcase your blogroll, without having a huge list of blogs listed.
- Blogroll Links – I like having a blogroll page where I have the creative freedom to list the different link categories in any way that I see fit. This is where Blogroll Links comes in for me. It allows you to display your blogroll on any page via shortcode, or only selected blogroll categories. You can see it in action on my blogroll page. It’s no huge deal, it’s a quality of life improvement for me.
- CommentLuv – This plugin is a huge deal for me on the other hand. I wouldn’t want to be without it. It’s a gesture of saying thank you to fellow bloggers who leave a comment on your site by offering a dofollow link back to one of their most recent posts, listing the title of the post. This might be interesting enough to bring traffic back to their own site, which also means people might be more keen on leaving a comment. The non-premium version of this plugin works just fine, I highly recommend it.
- Google XML Sitemaps Generator – If you want your blog to be found on Google, and you want to, then you need a sitemap. A sitemap you submit to Google, Yahoo, etc. will help you with getting indexed faster. The plugin does all the work for you and creates the XML file the crawlers need to index the site. Easy to use for sure.
- Organize Series – I am a big fan of this plugin because it comes in very handy if you post a series of articles, like my NBI posts, GW2 or my blogging challenge. It adds an extra box on the new post page where you can create a series, select if your current post belongs to one, or manually set which part of the series it is. Once you have posted, it will display that this is a series of posts. On the single page for the post, it will link back to all previous posts in the series as well. I find this incredibly handy.
- WP to Twitter – Twitter has been awesome for me as a blogger. Day to day, I talk to fellow bloggers on Twitter, get links to their most recent posts, and have interesting, 140 character conversations with folks there. Even if you are doubtful and think Twitter is a fad, give it a try. If you don’t like it, you can always delete your account again. If you do enjoy it and start talking to other bloggers, you surely want to post your most recent post to Twitter, the moment you have blogged it. You can automate this with this plugin. It lets you choose what URL shortener to use, what text you want to use to tweet, and if the tweet for some reason doesn’t go out allows you to tweet manually. The instructions on how to connect it to your Twitter account are very clear as well.
- WordPress SEO – If you are looking for more SEO assistance than just a sitemap, then this plugin might be for you. It will generate SEO title and meta data for you based on your templates, can create sitemaps, allows you to keep posts and pages from being indexed if that’s your thing, etc. I find it fairly easy to use, but I also don’t do a whole lot with it. Of the free SEO plugins, I thought this was the one that’s documented best.
That’s pretty much my list of most relevant blogging plugins. I am always keen on discovering more plugins, so if any reader has more suggestions, or is looking for a specific plugin, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear what else others are using!