Welcome to my new “How To Blog” series! In this series, I’ll try to put my knowledge to good use and shed some light on the basic of blogging. You will learn how to set up a self-hosted blog, what are the must-have plugins, how to attract readers, how to monetize your blog etc. I’ll publish a new “How To Blog” post every Saturday.
One of the reason I fell in love with WordPress was because of the thousands of plugins available to help me enhance my blog, customize it, tweak it or do basically anything I wanted.
For those who use other blogging platform… don’t click away! Some of these plugins were adpated for Blogger etc. And anyway, maybe it will decide you to switch to WordPress! (just teasing you…)
So, what’s a plugin?
A Plugin is a group of php functions that can extend the functionality present in WordPress. These functions may all be defined in one php file, or maybe spread among more than one file. (source: WordPress Codex)
Installing a plugin is very easy. You have two ways of doing that:
- Manually: download the plugin from its location (usually from the page of the plugin creator or from a plugin library). Save it on your desktop. It will very often be zipped, so you need to unzip it, still on your desktop. Then, you will need to use FTP to upload to the “wp-content/plugins” directory on your webserver. The plugin will then appears on your “plugins” list in the WordPress admin interface. Now, you need to activate it: click on “enable” and… voilà!
- With Oneclick: Oneclick is a plugin and a Firefox extension that allows you to install plugins with just… yeah, one click. Note that you must first install the plugin via regular FTP. Once this is down, you just need to “right click” on the download link of the plugin you want and about two seconds later, you will be redirect on the “plugins” page of your WordPress admin where, magic, the plugin will be listed. This is extremely cool!
Don’t forget that sometimes, plugins authors put their plugin files in different folders. For example, if you download the “mycoolplugin” and unzip it, you will see a file named “mycoolplugin”. But the actual plugin files could be in a subfile named “mycoolpluginactualphpfiles”. If you don’t see the plugin even though you followed all the uploading steps, double check that.
In my first few months as a WordPress user, I was a victim of the well-known “download’em all” syndrom — that’s how you end of with 50 plugins, half of them being broken or not in use. Took me a while to downsize my impressive plugin list and keep all the best, but I think I got it now. Here are my all-time favorite:
Akismet: this plugin is bundled with WordPress by default. It’s a powerful automatic spam killer, and it’s one of the best.
All In One SEO Pack: this plugin saved my life. As some of you know, I’m pretty SEO challenged and can’t be bothered to tweak my blog for it. This plugin does the job for me: pretty permalinks, keywords, description for search engines… SEO for dummies like me!
Commentluv: this plugin is a great way to say thanks to your reader, and if you have ever commented on my blog, you have most likely seen it in action. Commentluv check the feed of the comment author and scrape the last post they wrote and displays it under their comment. Smart, eh?
Counterize: this plugin is for the stats addicts… and aren’t we all! I tested a lot of stats plugins before I settled for that one and I found it very accurate and easy to read.
Extended Live Archives: archives are a very important aspect of a blog. When new readers visit, they like to check old posts as well and we have to make their life easy. I hate archives by months or by year because readers don’t really know where to start — I like when archives show at least old posts’ titles. ELA saved my life: it shows archives by date, by category and also displays the posts’ title. You can see it in action on this blog: archives.
FlickrRSS: who doesn’t have pictures to show? FlickrRSS displays your pictures way in a nice stylish way… and you can customize the CSS. You can see the plugin in action on this blog, check out the sidebar bottom.
Fluency Admin: for those who switched to WordPress 2.5 but aren’t big fan of the new admin interface, Fluency Admin is your solution. This is the most practical and stylish admin I have seen in a while… Because it’s very new, there are still a few bugs (mostly some unsupported widgets like Simple Tag) but there’s a work around.
Leprakhauns Word Count: a simple plugin that adds a word count to your “write post” page. It works without reloading the page.
Maintenance Mode: this plugin adds a splash page to your blog that lets visitors know your blog is down for maintenance. Meanwhile, as an admin, you have full access and can play with your blog CSS and php.
One Click: the famous plugin I was mentioning earlier… to try it is to adopt it. Who likes to FTP files anyway??
Popularity Contest: this plugin will help determinate which ones of your posts are the most popular (using permalinks view, number of comments, numbers of ping backs etc.). You can keep the data for yourself or display it. The “most wanted” section you see in my sidebar is made with this plugin.
Similar Posts: this plugin will display a list of posts related or similar to the current post. You can parameter the plugin. I use this one on my blog, see it in action below each post!
Wassup: another one for stats addict… Wassup display all kind of visitor stats (real time) in a dedicated page in the admin interface. Very interesting!
Database Backup: you know it, always back up your blog regularly… this plugin does a great job of backing up your data and you can even schedule regular back-ups.
So, where to find other great plugins like these ones? The official WordPress Plugins Directory is a good start. I also like the WordPress Plugin Database. Look also for list of “must have” plugins in your favorite blogs (like mine!). So far, one of the most exhaustive I found was at Mashable, who teaches you to be a WordPress God with this amazing list of 300+ Tools For Running WordPress. I must admit I haven’t tested them all… And finally, don’t forget to be curious about the blogs you read regularly: which kind of plugins do they have? How do they display…? What’s the cool… I see here? Don’t hesitate to contact the blog administrator who will usually be happy to tell you how he/ she did it!
See you next week for part III of the How To Blog series!