Today we’re looking at some of the best WordPress plugins to help you get subscribers, encourage engagement and keep your site loading fast.
We explained last week how to set up a blog on WordPress in under ten minutes. We’ve also talked about the few things you need to prepare in advance. It helps if you’re ready to hit the ground running with a new WordPress blog (or any blog).
Today we’re looking at five of the best WordPress plugins to get installed on that new blog. Remember to install one plugin at a time and check it hasn’t interfered with any of your blog’s other functions. Then move onto the next. Do the same when you update them, just in case there’s a glitch with the new version. These plugins are well-tested and reliable, so you’re unlikely to run into any issues, but it’s best to play it safe.
The Akismet plugin is a huge time-saver. It will filter out the spam comments left by bots on your WordPress blog. Without it you’ll be overwhelmed by spam comments and quickly lose the will to moderate. It’s not perfect. You’ll still get spammy comments, because some spammers are human and know how to get round Akismet, but it will really help.
SumoMe has both a free and paid version and, as with any ‘freemium’ plugin, there are a lot more features with the paid one. The free one is sufficient for a brand new blog, and you can always upgrade to the premium (paid) version later if you need it. As far as freebies go, I’d say this is one of the best WordPress plugins for a new blog, and the paid versions offer pretty good value too.
Even the free version of SumoMe includes a whole suite of web traffic tools. They’ll help with everything from social media marketing to list building. It’s great for letting you encourage subscribers by adding a few features to your site. You can use anything from a discreet bar at the top of your site, to a small pop-up in the corner of your home page, to a full-page ‘Welcome Mat’ to ask people to sign up to your newsletter. You may notice a few SumoMe features on this site.
You can also do simple but uber-useful things like adding those little floating social media share buttons alongside every blog post, as well as adding share buttons to your images.
While I can’t guarantee this will get you a lot of social media shares, I can speak from experience and simply say I am MUCH more likely to share a post with those buttons. It just makes sharing something of value a no-brainer. I’m also more likely to share to more sites if the site icon is right there to remind me. So I’ll share something to StumbleUpon or Reddit, rather than just my staple favorites, Twitter and Pinterest.
Search Engine Optimization is complicated and ever-changing (though this book provides a good overview, if you want to dig into it). Yoast SEO is the best WordPress plugin I’ve found to optimize your site. Once you install it, it will show up below every post while you’re composing it in your dashboard.
Simply put in a keyword or phrase for each post, and it will alert you to any SEO problems and how to fix them. So it will tell you, for example, if you’ve forgotten to use your keyword in your url, meta description, image name or first paragraph, and will also work out your keyword density.
If this doesn’t mean too much to you, don’t worry. Yoast SEO simply gives you green, amber or red dots to let you know how well you’re doing with each element. Then it suggests how to improve anything without a green dot. It’s kinda satisfying when your dots all go green and the plugin tells you your post has a good SEO rating, especially if you’re SEO stupid and wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong. SEO is complicated and there’s (a lot) more to it than this, but using the Yoast SEO plugin is a great start. Combine it with creating useful content that people read, react to, and share, and your SEO ranking will slowly improve.
This is one of the best WordPress plugins you’ll ever use, that appears to make no difference to your blog whatsoever. It’s a simple little plugin that doesn’t change the look of your blog, but works away behind the scenes. It can help save you time and increase load speed.
IMSanity resizes any oversized images that you try to put on your blog. I wish I’d had it from the beginning because my site refused to accept certain images that were oversized and I had to resize them individually and re-upload them (time suck!) It also resizes images that your uploader would accept but that are still too big.
Having correctly sized images is important because readers LOVE relevant images and you should have at least one in every post, but too many oversized images will affect your blog’s load time. And there is nothing like a blog that’s taking it’s own sweet time to load for encouraging those would-be visitors to hit the back button.
Believe it or not, if your blog loads slowly enough that it causes a high bounce rate (that’s people hitting the back button) it will also affect your SEO over time, so it’s worth installing a plugin that increases load speed.
I have a love/hate relationship with comments, to be honest. Many people will tell you comments are vitally important as a sign of engagement, but I get way too many comments that are spammy (or just not contributing much to the conversation) often with links to low-quality sites (even after Akismet has weeded the bots out).
When I work with content creation clients, I sometimes advise them to turn comments off completely. And while I still publish, and reply to, meaningful comments here at The Savvy Solopreneur, I’d rather my readers committed to an ongoing, two-way connection with me by signing up to my email list or following me on social media. That way we can really get to know each other.
Nevertheless, genuine comments from other bloggers trying to forge a connection (as opposed to people who want to drop a link to a sales page) should be encouraged. That’s where CommentLuv comes in. It encourages other genuine bloggers to comment (and comment regularly) by highlighting their most recent post on their own blog. CommentLuv is one of the best WordPress plugins to install if you’re looking to increase engagement and start conversations with other bloggers.
So now you have five of the best WordPress plugins installed, and they didn’t cost you a dime (unless you decided to go with a premium version). How are things going with your new WordPress blog? You did get it up and running, right? If not you may want to do so in the next ten minutes by following these simple steps.