My first “proper” blog was on Blogger. I say proper because I used to have a blog on something called Maxpages and it was a hot mess! When I started my blog, I signed up with Blogger because it was really easy to use. I didn’t have to know anything about coding and the little HTML that I knew I could put to use. WordPress seemed like something that techy people used. Setting up my Blogger blog took all of five minutes and I happily posted there as much or as little as I wanted.
I started meeting other social media people and they were all about WordPress. It was all about plug-ins and monetizing and how much more professional WordPress was. I secretly coveted the WordPress sites but fear kept me from switching. I had heard that the switch to WordPress was expensive and that it was harder to use than Blogger. I was afraid of the hosting fees and fearful that I would be throwing away money on a blog that was barely paying for itself.
I was happy on Blogger; I really was. Blogger was like an old friend. I had set up my site to look the way I wanted. I was able to look at the sites that I followed easily and it just was. Sure, I had to set up two blogs in order to keep some reviews separate from some of my other content and sure, there was that time Blogger went down for a few hours. For the most part, Blogger was a breeze. There were ways to finesse Blogger and make it look a bit more professional and it just worked.
Then, about a year or so ago, while on the Twitter, I saw a tweet from Houseful of Nicholes which started with something like “The Houseful Rewinds.” I so wanted that for my blog. I thought the idea of sharing old content was just great and contacted blog owner Natasha for information. When she told me that it was a plug-in for her WordPress blog, I hit Google to see if there was anything compatible for Blogger. Other than manually tweeting, I was out of luck. It was at this moment, I decided that I wanted, NEEDED, to switch to self hosted WordPress.
A friend helped me with the switch and I was off. After some hiccups and a bit of a learning curve, I LOVE being on WordPress and would recommend it to anyone who asks. I am sure there are people who are perfectly happy with Blogger (and that is cool) but WordPress has been great for making my blog go from blah to da bomb. When I made the switch, I asked a few friends who were already on WordPress for their advice about which plug-ins I should check out. These bloggers are successful at what they do and have been helpful to me when I have had questions about blogging.
1. Tweet Tweet!
I am cheating with this entry because I am housing two for the price of one.
I love Click To Tweet by Todaymade. This plug-in adds a click to tweet box to your WordPress posts, easily. It will shorten your post link, add the text you’d like and voila! A tweet inside of your post! Yes, I realize that you can also create any tweet that you want on Twitter but it’s really cool to have a tweet embedded on your site for a contest, self promo or because you want to share something that is really cool.
Joyce Brewer, who writes the blog Mommy Talk Show, hipped me to Evergreen Post Tweeter. This enables you to schedule and automatically tweet out links to old posts. This was the thing that made me want to jump ship to WordPress. Like Joyce, I love being able to get Twitter followers to check out old content without having to manually write a new tweet.
This plug-in has introduced my old posts to Twitter followers. I do not post everyday to my blog but I have old content set to be shared every four hours. When checking my stats (which I may or may not obsess over some days), I can tell that it was an old post which led a reader to my page.
2. SEO…The dreaded SEO, Search Engine Optimization.
I had no idea what in the world SEO was but knew that it was important. After trying to figure it out on my own using Blogger, I love SEO for WordPress. My friend, fellow blogger Janeane Davis, swears by SEO for WordPress by Yoast because it helps you become a better writer. It encourages you to put the keyword/phrase in your title, URL, early in the piece and throughout the post. Yoast has traffic lights to help guide your writing. If you get a green light vs red or yellow, you did the best you could with SEO. A green light means you have the keyword in your title, URL and throughout the post. It also has tabs to analyze different things like reading level, keyword density and even lets you pick a different description for Google+ and Facebook. I found Yoast too busy for me and like SEO for WordPress better. I can add keywords that I want people to use when they search for my blog, a description of my post and make an SEO title in addition to the quirky titles that I usually use when I write.
As an example, I recently published a post called Frog it or Finish it? which isn’t about amphibians but about completing unfinished crochet or knit projects. I can keep the fun title on my post but use a more practical title to help people searching for crochet or knitting.
Even though I am awful about responding to them, I love getting comments on my blog. I do not, however, love getting comments which invite me to peruse Louis Vuitton bags, sample herbal supplements or make certain bits of anatomy which I do not possess larger. This is where Askimet comes in. Akismet is like a spam catcher and it catches all of the spam that finds its way to my blog. Sometimes, it is a bit overzealous and catches a real comment but I would rather spend time a few minutes browsing my spam folder each week looking for real comments than I would spend time deleting EVERYTHING that the spammers leave for me.
I am also cheating with this entry and doing a twofer.
I love Google Analytics and the Official StatCounter Plugin. Both plug-ins add the tracking codes for Google Analytics and Stat Counter, respectively, to your blog. Tracking is important to see what your readers are checking out. I also like to see how I have grown from the time when my readers were just my mom and sister (who would read after being told) to people who really have made an effort to read what I write.
Confession…I am a lurker. I will read your posts for days but when it comes to comments, if I run into trouble trying to comment, I keep moving. The Facebook Comment plug-in allows people to comment using their Facebook sign in and adds the comments to your WordPress comment database.
My friend Val of The KaiCon Group, a Social Media Consulting Firm, shared a post of her favorite 15 FREE WordPress plugins. Some of my favorites made the list and some that I had never considered are shared.
By no means is this a comprehensive list and I may have missed one of your favorites. Please share your favorite plug-ins and let me know what I am missing.
Have fun with the plug-ins!