Now days there are many, many different platforms you can chose to create your blog on, from SquareSpace, to Blogger or Weeebly, but one of the most used, and my personal favourite is WordPress. WordPress comes as a blank installation, and from there you can really customise how you want it to look, with the use of plugins. WordPress plugins are additional programs or functions that you add to your site, in order to add some more features to your site or backend. There are over a million plugins available to WordPress users, both free and paid, but today I’ve rounded up my personal top 5 free plugins for bloggers.
If you only download one plugin from this list it should definitely be this one. I used to work for a hosting company, and on a daily basis whilst there, I would come across WordPress sites that had been hacked and the poor owner was left with a huge mess which can take weeks to sort out, if at all. Sometimes the hacks can lay dormant for a long time, and by the time the websites owner has noticed, all of their backups also contain the malicious code and there’s not much that can be done except hire a web developer to sort out the mess or start their website again from scratch. This obviously is costly, both in terms of money and time, and is very stressful so it is definitely best avoided! I used to hear a lot of ‘why would someone want to hack my site?’, or people being naive to the situation, but honestly it can happen to everyone, and I would actually bet that every someone has tried to access every single WordPress site at one time or another maliciously. I chose to get a monthly email from Wordfence which shows me the amount of people that have tried to access the admin area of my site, and honestly it still shocks me every month. Wordfence is a security plugin that I recommend to everyone with a WordPress site – not just bloggers, as it can really help to save you from all of these problems in the long run. The plugin has some really great features such as blocking IP addresses that try to login incorrectly too many times, letting you know when your core files change and scanning your site for malicious content. You can pay for their pro version which includes more features, but I’ve found that the free version is more than good enough for me.
If you’re getting very little views or none at all from Google, you need this plugin. I get over 50% of my views coming from Google and I’m no SEO (search engine optimisation) expert by any means, I just use a few SEO plugins, this one being my absolute favourite. It adds this little box to the bottom of your page editor within WordPress, so you can easily add a focus keyword, SEO title and meta description to all of your posts. It will also tell you where you are going wrong, and areas you could improve in, e.g. you aren’t using your keywords enough in your post, or you don’t have a lot of outbound links. This plugin has really, really helped me with my SEO, it’s just a couple of extra bits you have to add into your post each time, that make all the difference where Google is concerned.
Ultimate No Follow
If you’re a blogger and are lucky enough to receive PR samples or payments for sponsored posts, you should be using no follow links on these posts. When you link sites in your posts, Google see’s it as you saying ‘yes here’s a good, trustworthy site’, and this will then help towards that sites Google ranking. If you use a ‘no-follow’ link, then Google doesn’t follow the link and this doesn’t help with their ranking. Google doesn’t like the idea of companies paying people, whether in products or payment, to increase their own Google ranking by links. Obviously, Google isn’t the law, so if you chose to continue using follow links for paid content, that’s up to you, but personally I wouldn’t recommend it. I would say it is quite unlikely (although definitely possible) that you could get ‘caught’, if you do this can wipe out your Google ranking altogether, which you may have worked very hard to reach – I definitely don’t want this to happen!
I believe that Blogger already has an inbuilt feature allowing you to add no-follow links, but this isn’t the case with WordPress. This simple plugin just add’s the option to the ‘Insert Link’ button, making it super easy to add a no follow link, or turn any existing links into no-follow.
I personally think that Disqus is the best commenting system out there, and is definitely one of my favourite plugins I have installed on my blog. It makes it so easy for my readers to comment on my posts, and it notifies them when I’ve replied, which is not the case with many other commenting systems. Once you’ve originally created a Disqus account (which is super easy) you can comment away on thousands, if not millions of blogs that use it with so much ease. If you don’t fancy signing up, you can also log in with Facebook, Twitter or Google +, making it available for the masses. It’s also works great on mobile devices, and with html coding (unlike Google+ comments) so you can leave your embedded blog links & anchor texts as desired. I love commenting on other blogs, and will honestly often be put off if Disqus isn’t installed and they’re using a really complicated commenting system that asks you for 4 different verification methods. It’s easy to install, and once it’s done, you haven’t got to worry about a thing – perfect!
If you’re viewing this post on a computer or laptop you should be able to see my ‘popular posts’ section on my sidebar, which has been created by this plugin. I absolutely love this as there are so many options you can configure. Want to show the first couple of lines of your post? Sure. Don’t want the thumbnail image? No problem. Want to chose which posts are shown or re-order them? Easy. I’ve seen my traffic increase a lot since adding these to my sidebar, and my bounce rate (when people leave after only viewing one post) has dropped significantly. I haven’t got a bad thing to say about this plugin, it does everything I wanted and more, in such a simple format.
So that’s my top 5 free plugins for WordPress. What are your favourite plugins/addons you use for your site – I’d love to hear in the comments!