Many ecommerce merchants publish blogs to connect with their audiences and enhance their search engine optimization efforts. WordPress is a robust blogging platform. Part of its appeal is the thousands of plugins that enhance its functionality. Here are ten popular plugins that I consider especially helpful.
One of the important reasons to publish a blog is to help with search engine optimization. All-In-One SEO Pack is a WordPress plugin that helps with SEO.
The plugin gives bloggers the ability to include the following metatags at the site level, as well as per post or per page: title, description and keyword. The plugin supports the use of Google Analytics, as well.
Comment Spam Management
Comment spam is a headache for most bloggers. Akismet, a plugin developed by Automattic, the company started by WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, blocks comment spam. It also blocks trackback spam, which are automatically-inserted links to other websites.
In the event a spam comment does happen to sneak past Akismet’s filters, simply mark it as “spam” on the moderation screen and the plugin will learn from its mistake.
An API key is required to install Akismet, at Akismet.com.
WordPress has a useful comment component, which is fine if the blogger wishes to keep the conversation about a particular post retained with the blog itself. These days, however, comments to blog posts are just as likely to appear on Twitter, Facebook or other social networks. Therefore, it is important to capture the breadth of the conversation regardless of where it takes place. Here are three comment systems that fulfill that purpose.
- Disqus. This plugin tracks not only comments submitted to the blog itself, but from Twitter, Facebook and others. It also sends an email notification to the blogger that a comment has been submitted and allows a response from the email itself. Disqus also integrates with YouTube and Flickr — photos and videos can be attached within the comments. Bloggers can link Disqus to their Twitter and Facebook accounts so that, when a post is published, those networks can be updated with the information.
- IntenseDebate. Created by Automattic, the same company that developed Akismet, IntenseDebate integrates fully with WordPress. It facilitates comment threading, reply-by-email, comment voting and interfaces with Twitter and FriendFeed. Bloggers can respond to and moderate comments via email.
- Facebook Comments. There are a number of Facebook comment plugins available. But the one I prefer is from a site called Pleer and its developer, Alex Moss. This plugin allows for automatic insertion of the comments box to blog posts or, if desired, manual insertion to any post or page. The plugin also stores relevant moderation settings to make comment management easier.
Statistics and Analytics
JetPack is a WordPress plugin that provides statistics tracking including unique visits, page views, referring sites, keyword searches and other options.
JetPack offers more features than just statistics. For example, users can subscribe to the blog and receive notifications of post updates via email, and share content via Twitter and Facebook. Also, JetPack supports a shortened URL function to make sharing of links easier on Twitter.
Social Network Sharing
It is common to include social sharing options on blog posts. Many plugins facilitate that function. Here are three I recommend.
- Twitter Tools. This plugin integrates WordPress and with the blogger’s Twitter account.
- Facebook Like. There are many Facebook Like button plugins. My favorite comes from a developer who calls himself “Ahmed the Geek.” Unlike other Like button plugins, this one does not require the use of XFBML — Facebook’s markup language — which makes the installation process easier.
- Google+. This plugin facilitates Google+ integration with a WordPress blog. It also integrates with Google Pages so content can be automatically posted there, and vice-versa. Other features include the ability to choose the size and position of the +1 button and track +1’s with Google Analytics.
‘Contact Us’ Forms
Of all the contact form plugins available for WordPress, the one I prefer is called ContactMe. The following screenshot is an example of the form used on my website. It offers many customization options, including social sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and the ability to add address information and a link to Google maps.
The form requires that the user have a ContactMe account. There is a free version, but I recommend upgrading to one of the premium versions to take advantage of additional features — such multiple contact forms, auto-responders and text message alerts — when a form is completed. Monthly costs run $3.95 for the Forms Plus version to $7.42 for Biz Pro. The latter is better for small businesses.
Testing the most useful WordPress plugins can be time consuming and confusing. This list should provide merchants with an essential set. WordPress.org contains an extensive plugin directory.