So you’ve got a WordPress blog, and you’re ready to start customizing it. You know that plugins are an essential part of any blog, so you start doing some online research to find the best plugins for each purpose, and how to install them.
Two hours later, you emerge from your office more confused and frustrated than ever.
There are literally thousands of different resources online, all trying to tell you which plugins are “best”. Well, those plugins might be the best for some people – but not necessarily for you.
In this post, we’re going to talk about some essential plugins for any wordpress blog. Whether you’re creating a blog from scratch or simply using this as a checklist for a blog you’ve recently bought, this will ensure your site runs smoothly with minimal hiccups.
Let’s go step-by-step through how to find our first plugin, the Google Analytics Plugin, and install it. From there, I’ll give you a list of the remaining plugins that you need, and you can repeat the steps until you’re done!
**Note : This tutorial assumes that you’re using the most updated version of WordPress. If you aren’t sure what version you’re using, or if you need to upgrade, see “Step 1″ of the “How to Transfer a Blog” tutorial here.
As a side note, I fully recommend using Thesis as your WordPress theme. It is fully compatible with all of the plugins below, completely customizable (so your blog won’t look like everyone else’s!), and offers advanced features for search engine optimization, improving page load times, improving readability, and more. If you’re new to wordpress this is probably the quickest way to hit the ground running and they offer full support for any customisation issues that you may have. Check out the video here to see exactly what is does.
Step One: See What Plugins You Have Installed Already
First, you’ll want to login to your WordPress dashboard (typically this is at “yourblogurl.com/wp-admin”) using your username and password. When you login, you’ll see your Dashboard. Look down on the left hand side for the Plugins menu:
Click on it, and you’ll see a screen come up listing all of your current plugins. If this is a new installation of WordPress, and you haven’t installed any plugins yet, you’ll probably see “Akismet” and “Hello Dolly”. Akismet may show that it needs to be updated. You can do that by clicking the link below the plugin, like this:
Come back to the plugins page, and click “Activate” under “Akismet” (this is one of the best anti-spam plugins available, so you’ll want to use it.) A warning will now come up on the top of your screen, saying that Akismet is almost ready – but you have to insert your WordPress API key to use it.
Click the link inside the warning, and it will take you to a page where you can get (and enter) your key.
Click on “Get your Key” and signup for a WordPress account. When your API key is emailed to you, insert it in the box and click “Update options”.
Once all of your plugins are updated, you can begin adding new ones. We’re going to install the Google Analytics Plugin.
Step Two: Search for plugins
While you’re still inside the “Plugins” area of your WordPress dashboard, look for the button that says “Add New” at the top.
Click on it, and a screen will come up that allows you to search. Enter your search criteria into the box (in this case, “Google Analytics”), and click the “Search Plugins” button:
A list of plugins will come up with their details, rating, and an “Install” link. You want to select the first plugin in this list, “Google Analyticator” and install.
Step Three: Install Your Plugin
When you click on the “Install” link, a window will pop up with the plugin details. You want to click “Install now”.
The plugin will install automatically, and you’ll come to a screen that will allow you to activate your new plugin. Click “Activate Plugin” on the page:
That’s it! You’re done. Google Analyticator is now installed.
Step Four: Configure Google Analyticator
You won’t have to change the settings for every plugin you install, but it is important to do this with Google Analyticator – otherwise, it won’t work.
Click on “Settings” on your plugins page for Google Analyticator
And then you’ll come to a screen like this.
In the first box, that says “Google Analytics logging is:”, you’ll want to click on the drop-down and select “Enabled”. If you don’t do this, the plugin won’t work at all!
**Note : We’re going to assume that you already have a Google Analytics Account. If not, go here to get one.
Next, you want to Authenticate with Google. Click the link that says “Click here to login to Google, thus authenticating Google Analyticator with your Analytics account.” And follow the steps. Once Google Analyticator is authenticated, you’ll be able to select your account from a drop-down list. Make sure that Google Analytics logging is still enabled, it may have changed when you went to Authenticate!
One more step – since we’re going to assume that once in a while, you’re going to actually visit the blog to add content and manage it, we don’t want to track your visits. Under “Advanced Settings”, where it says “Track all logged in WordPress users:” you want to select “No”.
That means that when you’re logged in to WordPress, your visits will not be tracked by Analytics – and the data that Google Analytics gives you will actually mean something.
Go down to the very bottom and click “Save Changes”.
Congratulations, Google Analyticator is now installed – and you know how to install a WordPress Plugin!
Here is a list of the best recommended plugins for site flippers:
Remember, all you have to do to install these plugins is follow steps one and two above!
“After the Deadline” – This plugin is useful if you’re going to be creating your own blog content. It is a contextual spelling, style, and grammar checker that will proofread all of your posts for you. It won’t eliminate the need to read things over, but it will help you spell check your work easier!
“All in One SEO Pack” – One of the most highly recommended SEO plugins, this one does everything automatically. Meaning you don’t have to input keywords manually for each post. VERY handy!
“CommentLuv” – This will depend on what type of blog you’re creating, but if you’re going to be encouraging comments from readers than there is no better way to do that than with CommentLuv. It will display your commenter’s last blog post below their comment, giving them some link love and encouraging them to return and comment again!
“Contextual Related Posts” – Great for SEO purposes, and for human navigation. It will keep people on your site longer if they can quickly and easily find posts related to what they’re reading (which is likely how they found you to begin with.) This plugin shows related posts based on the content of the post itself, not just on categories – so when you have a huge content database, visitors will still see the most relevant content to their needs.
“FD Feedburner Plugin” – If you’re going to be using Feedburner to track your RSS statistics and allow users to subscribe via email, this plugin will redirect ALL of the links to your rss feed – including those built into your WordPress theme – to your Feedburner page automatically. No more manually changing the links to your RSS feeds, this plugin does it for you!
“Photo Dropper” – Also useful if you’re creating your own content. This plugin allows you to drop photos from Flickr (that have the Creative Commons License and are allowed to be used for commercial purposes) into your blog posts. A great tool for SEO, as you can set the “alt” tag to your own keywords, and boost your rankings!
“SexyBookmarks” – The essential plugin if you’ll be using social media on your blog. If at any point in time, you ever want anyone to Tweet, Stumble, Facebook, Digg, or otherwise share your content – THIS is the plugin to get.
“TweetMeme Retweet Button” – If you use Twitter marketing at all with your blog, you’ll want to use this plugin. Not only does it display the number of times a post has been tweeted (which is fantastic for showing off your readership!) but it allows people to Tweet about your blog post with just one click. This plugin is used by some of the largest news blogs in the world for a reason – it works!
“WordPress Online Automated Backup” – What do you do if your web hosting crashes? What if you lose all of your data? Don’t worry anymore, with WordPress Online Automated Backup. Simply install the plugin and create free account, and all of your WordPress data will be backed up automatically. If you lose your data, simply login to their website and restore it. Easy as pie!