I’ve been using WordPress for about 15 years. Don’t ask what kinds of blogs I was creating 15 years ago, before the dawn of social media, but I was on the internet. I hope I never find them and WordPress has made them disappear off the face of this planet. In that time I’ve learned a lot about WordPress. It’s my favorite blogging platform because of the incredible flexibility I have to customize it and even make my job of blogging easier.
Today I thought I’d share a few of my favorite WordPress tools that help me blog! Before we dive in, I do want to explain how WordPress works. I recommend using WordPress by purchasing a domain and hosting from somewhere like GoDaddy (this is called the “self-hosted” version of WordPress). Then you can install WordPress for free onto your new website right through GoDaddy. It’s very easy. WordPress is the software that creates the site. On top of WordPress, you can install Themes. Themes can change how the interface of WordPress works on your backend and customizes the website, so it’s different (and better) than the default version. Then we have things like “Child Themes” which are typically more design specific. You install these on top of your Theme and voila you have a unique design for your website visitors to see. I wanted just to explain how these levels of customization work together to form a website. The last thing I wanted to mention before we talk about my favorites is plugins. Plugins are apps for WordPress. Just like apps for your phone customize your user experience, plugins can help your website do all kinds of extra special things. Many plugins are free, so they’re essential and excellent to making a unique site experience.
That said, plugins, like WordPress itself, your themes and child themes all may need to be regularly updated. When you log into your WordPress, you’ll see a little circle at the top of your Dashboard with a number in it; this tells you how many updates you need to install. Tons of people ignore this. Don’t! Don’t overlook the tiny number circle! Always keep your website stuff updated as often as possible. Updates are how you minimize security and hacking risks.
Now that you understand how WordPress works I can introduce you to a few of my favorite things! Disclaimer: A couple of the links below are affiliate links, which send me a kickback if you decide to sign up through my link. If you appreciate something, you learned here I always appreciate the little kickback.
1. MailPoet: This is a WordPress plugin. It has a free and paid version. If you want to start getting subscribers, but don’t want to pay for one of those big fancy newsletter services like Mailchimp or Convertkit, use MailPoet. You can build newsletters right inside WordPress, and drag and drop your blog posts into share weekly with subscribers who may have missed your latest info. It stores all your subcribers right inside WordPress. If you ever decide you need something more robust, it’s easy to export your list and add them to a new place!
2. WP Forms: This WordPress plugin helps you add custom forms to your website. Add a contact form inside a blog post, or a contact form on a page to create your custom contact page. Add a survey or application. Add whatever form you need. WP Forms has both a paid and free option. So far, I’ve never needed to use the paid one yet, and it’s what I use for my contact form over at Photography Awesomesauce.
3. Convertkit: After using MailPoet for years, I upgraded to a paid email marketing service, Mailchimp. Mailchimp was always glitchy and not the most user-friendly when creating complex integrations. Sometimes my emails would never send, at times they would. Often they would end up in spam folders, even though a subscriber had confirmed their subscription. I made the executive decision to switch to Convertkit this year and, wow, what a difference. It’s incredibly easy to set up, import in subscribers from other places, and get started. It’s the most simple workflow ever, and it can still do all the complex integrations and things I need. The caveat is the price. It’s more expensive than Mailchimp, but it’s cheaper than other options. I love it, though. It was created specifically with bloggers in mind and works perfectly for everything I need. I’m also in love with being able to create a free download as an incentive to get people to subscribe. Or I can create things like a free 7-day online class that runs on its own the moment people sign up. You can do stuff like this on Mailchimp and other platforms, but they are nowhere near as effortless and easy to set up. Convertkit also has a plugin for WordPress to help you integrate it with your blog.
4. WP About Author: This plugin is free and excellent! If you have a blog where you have frequent guest contributors or a team of writers, this one adds a bio at the bottom of each of their posts where you can learn more about the writer. It can also link to the author’s social media.
5. WP Maintenance Mode: Another free plugin! This one helps put up an “under maintenance” sign on your website if you’re working on something behind the scenes. Unlike other maintenance mode options that built into various themes, this one allows you to do things like adding a countdown to when the website maintenance will finish. You can also add images, links and more to help continue driving traffic through your business while your site is offline.
6. Mashshare: Ever seen those hideous buttons on everyone’s blog that track how many times an article has been shared or make it convenient for you to share on social media? Yeah, that’s called Mashshare. The look isn’t my favorite, but from a blogger standpoint, it’s an incredibly useful way to encourage your readers to share content and bring in new traffic. They have free options, super cheap ones and expensive ones depending on what you need. I have used the free one for a pretty long time. Jetpack (another WordPress tool) has an option to add social media sharing buttons as well. They’re better looking, but a lot harder for readers to notice, so they don’t get clicked on quite as often in my personal experience.
7. Yoast SEO: Here’s a basic SEO plugin. SEO is search engine optimization. It means setting up your blog posts, so they’re easily found online in Google searches. SEO work is hard when you’re doing it yourself. If you wanted to pay for other options you can, but Yoast is a great place to start for those of you who need a free SEO tool. This plugin adds a small box with tools to the back end of your blog posts, where you’re typing in and creating the post. It allows you to check what your SEO is doing and create some custom settings to ensure your stuff will get out there. If you want to know more about SEO, check out my friend Fuse’s online SEO classes to help with your SEO everywhere, even Pinterest. She’s a whiz at helping creatives learn to take care of their SEO on their own when it’s expensive to hire a service to do it for you.
8. Grammarly: This is possibly the best blogging tool ever. It’s not WordPress specific. It’s an app you can download to your computer with apps for your internet browsers as well. It’s the best grammar and spelling checker I’ve ever used. I even bought the paid version because my blog posts are pretty terrible straight out of the box. Grammarly saves my life and makes things I write semi-tolerable. When you install the browser extensions it automatically checks all your grammar for you anywhere you type online.
9. Coschedule: This is not just a WordPress plugin, but an entire set of tools to help you schedule social media blasts for each blog post you write. You can use it to schedule social media on its own as well including Instagram and Pinterest. They even have a queue system where you can just let Coschedule queue up and release social media updates or re-share older blog posts to help make each blog post evergreen content that continually drives traffic back to your website.
10. Click to Tweet: This is an excellent little blogging tool if you have followers on Twitter who love what you’ve got to say. You can take a quote from your blog post, enlarge it and make it easy for people just to click and tweet, sharing your blog post and business in the process. It’s also free!
11. Login Security: This is the name of a free plugin. This particular little plugin helps you track hacking and login attempts on your website. When you look at it in WordPress, you’ll see lists of login attempts that were hopefully unsuccessful, and you can block IP addresses from there. Since WordPress is very open software it often lends itself to hacks easily and tools like this can make successful hacks nonexistant!
12. VaultPress: This tool/plugin is by the creators of the Jetpack tool. Jetpack belongs to WordPress, so basically that’s why I love VaultPress. You could say WordPress makes it. It’s a solution for backing up and protecting your block from hacker attempts. I use the paid option, and it’s awesome. So far I’ve never needed to back up my blog from it, but I’m guessing that’s because of the awesome people behind it keeping my website safe and secure. I pay about $10 a month.
13. Jetpack: Okay the Jetpack tool. It’s a set of tools you can install on WordPress, although I think these days it gets included automatically. It has a whole bunch of excellent tools in it, both free and paid that can help you customize your reader experience and make blogging easier for you.
14. 301 Redirects: I’m sure you’ve deleted blog posts before, or website pages. Then people stumble across them and find an error because that information is no longer there. This awesome free plugin can help you redirect any links that no longer exist on your WordPress to new places. Fewer errors are best.
15. WooCommerce: If you’re going to sell anything on your blog, including digital downloads, this is an awesome e-commerce solution. Although there are tons of options, it’s an easy one to work and set up. I find it also integrates with a variety of products as well.
16. WordPress Database Backup: his plugin helps keep your blog backed up for free. It’s pretty simple but useful!
Okay now that I’ve given you a bunch of tools you are probably wondering how even to set them up? Not everyone is a WordPress wiz. The best way to install plugins is by heading to your WordPress’ plugin section when you log in and then searching for new ones and typing in these titles. The other option is to go to the links above, download the plugin and then upload it yourself. Either option works, do whatever is easiest!
Have fun customizing your blog with a few of these tools! I have a class called “Legal Business Crap You Should Probably Know But are Too Afraid to Deal With” releasing soon. It’s currently in pre-enrollment if you’d like to grab it early before the video content is released January 27th. If you want to find out more about how to automate your business, and even your WordPress blog check out “How to Automate Your Business so you can Drink More Wine and Watch More Netflix.”
I’m inviting all of you to come join me at the Revive Summit to come learn for free online! I’ll be speaking along with a ton of knowledgeable and talented creatives to help you revive your businesses for the coming year!
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