Today I’m talking about WordPress plugins for bloggers, but its relevant to all WordPress users. I’m going to tell you about the different features I look out for in a WordPress plugin before I install and activate it. Things like star rating, number of active users, and how there are sometimes exceptions to these rules too.
So let’s jump right in and get to the nitty gritty of WordPress plugins for bloggers, shall we?
What is a plugin?
It wasn’t until I was chatting to a client the other day that I was reminded that not everyone actually knows what a plugin is. They’re not available for WordPress.com users, so it’s not like all WordPress users know about them.
I like to think of them as little apps that a bit extra to your site.
A really common kind of plugin is one that adds social media sharing buttons to your blog posts and pages. These are those little buttons that when you click them, they share the page or post you’re on to social media.
But not all plugins do something that you can see. Security plugins work in the background helping to keep your site safe, backup plugins take copies of your site and store them somewhere safe.
There are WordPress plugins for anything and everything you could imagine, and then some.
You need to be picky with plugins
Just because there are plugins for everything, it doesn’t mean that you should have ALL the plugins installed.
You’ll find a list of essential ones here. These are my must have WordPress plugins for bloggers and include a security plugin, a backup plugin and more.
Not all wordpress plugins are created equal. Some plugins are really small and efficient and just get on with their job without a song and dance. There are other plugins that even though they sound like a good idea can take up a lot of space on your host or even slow your page speeds down.
I’d like to give you a checklist and say if a plugin does this, this and this then it’s a great plugin, knock yourself out. But it’s not that simple.
There are so many variables, it’s impossible to say on face value whether or not a plugin is a good one. Especially when some plugins play nicer together than others.
Potential indicators of a good plugin
When I’m looking for a plugin there are a few things that I look for, but they don’t guarantee that it’s a quality plugin if it has all these things.
Number of active downloads
Firstly I look at the number of active downloads. For me, this is a WordPress plugin’s version of social proof. The way I look at it, is if a plugin’s got 100,000+ active downloads it can’t be that bad.
But there are a few things that can effect this number. Things like the plugin being recommended by a Theme creator, or just that it’s developed by a company who have another amazing plugin and it’s piggy-backing off the quality of it’s sister.
Word of mouth
You just can’t beat a plugin recommended by a fellow blogger. They’ve been there in the trenches, when their site just won’t do the damn thing! They’ll have installed it for the same reasons you did, looking for the same result. If it worked for them then there’s a good chance it’ll work for you. Just beware the dreaded plugin conflict. They don’t all play nice.
Steer clear of any plugins that aren’t being updated regularly. If it’s been more than about 6 months since a plugin was updated, visit the website and make sure that it’s still being maintained. You don’t want to be using plugins that no-one’s looking after anymore, because they could be a security risk (more on this later)
Looking after your plugins
A dog is for life, not just for Christmas, and plugins are no different.
Keep your plugins up to date
It’s really important that you keep your plugins as up to date as possible. Plugin developers release updates for a a few different reasons two of them being security and performance.
Keeping your plugins up to date makes sure that you keep your site as secure as possible, and not vulnerable to hackers taking advantages of any known issues. Performance is also important so that your readers don’t get impatient waiting for slow pages to load.
Backup, backup, backup
A Blog Genie post isn’t complete without the usual warnings to back up. You’ll find one to run regular backups is one of my top recommended WordPress plugins for bloggers in this blog post. Remember to take a backup before you install and activate a new plugin or update an existing one.
Occasionally a dodgy plugin update might be released, or a new update might conflict with another plugin you have installed. So while the plugin developers straighten things out, you have a backup you can revert to in the meantime.
Remove unused plugins
You wouldn’t believe the number of times I log into a client’s site and find deactivated plugins just sat there. Occasionally it’s because they’re trying to isolate a problem plugin, but a lot of the time they can’t even remember why they deactivated them.
If you’re not using them, they’re taking up valuable space on your host, which could potentially be costing you money.
Are your plugins serving you?
Regular Blog Genie readers will know that I’m a stickler for making sure you’re using plugins that serve you. I have a particular dislike for social media plugins for lots of reasons, and not all tech related.
Let me begin by saying when I talk about social media plugins, I’m talking about the ones you put in your sidebar or your footer with months worth of feed on display. I don’t mean social media sharing buttons – they are essential to getting your content seen.
Social media feeds *shudders*
My biggest bugbear at the moment, when it comes to WordPress plugins for bloggers, are those ones that put Instagram feeds that fill the width of the screen. They’re almost always at the bottom of the homepage. And when I say bottom, I’m talking about literally being just above your footer. I mean yeah if you take great pride in your Instagram feed it might look nice, but how often do your readers actually scroll that far down?
And if they’re not scrolling that far down, what’s the point of it being there? All it’s doing is taking up precious page loading time. The same goes for Facebook and Twitter feeds. If people wanted to follow you on Facebook or Twitter, then they’d go find you on Facebook or Twitter directly, wouldn’t they?
By all means have links to your social profiles in a sidebar or footer somewhere, but I was listening to a podcast recently that made me think about social media icons.
A lot of us prioritise our social media links, so much so that we always have them displayed above the fold on our sites. But, after working so hard to get them to our sites in the first place, do we really want to be advertising links to other sites? Even if those links are to our profiles on other sites? It’s food for thought anyway.
Where was I? Oh yeah, making sure your plugins are serving you. Basically I recommend that you periodically audit your plugins to make sure that you’re getting as much as you can from them.
Luckily for you I’ve created this nice new shiny checklist for you to use when you’re auditing your own plugins. When you join my email list you’ll get this plugin checklist as a welcome gift.
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Can you afford to miss out on all this juicy goodness?
WordPress plugins for bloggers
Hopefully I’ve given you some food for thought, when it comes to WordPress plugins for bloggers, and some actionable steps to take away from this blog post. Here’s a quick recap:
Number of active downloads, word of mouth and how recently a plugin was last updated can be good indicators of whether or not a plugin is worth installing. However, they’re not the be all and end all when it comes to WordPress plugins. The only way you can really find out whether or not a plugin is worth it’s salt is by trying it.
Always take a backup before you install new plugins or update existing ones, and make sure that they’re kept up to date to keep your site safe and efficient.
I recommend that you periodically do an audit of your plugins to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want and need from them.
So there you have it, that’s all you need to know when it comes to WordPress plugins for bloggers.