I’ve always been very conservative with my use of plugins on The Spring for fear of cluttering the design and slowing loading times… But recently I’ve discovered a few new tools that have improved how the blog looks and functions. It’s amazing how just a few small tweaks can help increase traffic and no matter how cool we are about it, there’s no denying how satisfying it is to watch your blog stat’s climbing. The success of my own tango with these plugins got me wondering if you’re using them too? And what other plugins do you rely on to make blogging simpler for you and reading more user friendly for your audience?
Planning posts is so much easier now that this calendar lives in my WordPress Dashboard sidebar. I really don’t know what I did without it. It’s the perfect chart for keeping ideas for content and posts-in-progress organised. I’ve noticed that it’s really important to stick to an editorial schedule so readers know when they can expect new content and aren’t disappointed (to see when your readers are logging on, check analytics for spikes in blog traffic throughout the day – my readers seem to love 7:30-9am). What I love about the calendar is that I’m never left wondering if I have something to post about tomorrow, or next week, because possible posts are all laid right out. That means less days when nothing’s waiting in the pipeline so I don’t bother to post at all.
Pros: Keeps drafts organised at every stage of the drafting process; helps me stick to an editorial schedule; posts can be moved around the calendar with a simple drag and click if I change my mind about what I want to blog about that day.
Review of the nrelate Related Content Plugin
If you’ve ever noticed those thumbnails that appear below a blog post with the words “You Might Like…” or something similar… Well, those little links are the product of plugins like nRelate. They’ve become very popular recently – ubiquitous even on the blogs I read regularly- and for good reason. The plugin’s purpose is to tempt readers into your back catalogue so they spend more time and rack up more pageviews on your blog. In fact the nRelate website claims that their plugin increases pageviews by 5-12%.
There are two nRelate options to choose from: Related Content and Popular Posts. In my opinion Related Content is the better choice because it serves up a bigger mix of past posts. (When I tried out the Popular Content version the same 5 -10 posts were featured every time.)
Pros: Attractive style options; simple instillation; doesn’t slow down loading time; increases page views.
Cons: I don’t know if it’s a con but it is worth noting that after the initial installation process it takes around two hours for the thumbnail links to appear on your blog. After that, style changes will register straight away, but if you’ve made changes to old posts and need to ‘re-index the website’ that takes ages too.
Review of the Worpress SEO by Yoast Plugin
When I first activated nRelate Popular Posts (before switching to Related Content) I did a SEO check on the posts it kept flagging and noticed they all had one thing in common – I’d inadvertently optimised them before knowing anything about what that actually meant. I heard a lot about SEO at Blogopolis 2012 and since then the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin has been the single most powerful tool in my blogging arsenal for purposely applying the lessons I learnt to each post I publish. There’s no doubt that optimised posts get more hits and I’ve seen my own stats rise in the past few weeks. I use SEO by Yoast in conjunction with the Google Keywords tool to (i) figure out what my keywords should be and (ii) make sure they’re featured optimally in posts.
Pros: We write to be read, and optimising each post means more readers are likely to find it; simple interface shows optimisation levels as red (bad) yellow (ok) and green (good); provides instructions on exactly what needs to be changed to fully optimise a post.
Cons: Posts take longer to write when considering SEO – creative titles are out the window, meta descriptions have to be crafted, and sometimes it takes a fair bit of editing to ensure that keyword density is neither too high nor too low.
Review of Really Simple Share
I think it’s super important to have at least facebook and twitter buttons attached to each blog post so readers can share what they like – it’s a feature I use a lot on other people’s blogs and I find it frustrating when the option isn’t there. I used to have different plugins running my twitter, facebook, and pinterest buttons at the end of each post, but now I just have Really Simple Share. It’s a plugin that allows you to choose the social media buttons you want, where you want them, and then lines them up all nice and neat.
Pros: All the social media icons you need, from one plugin, lined up in a perfect row.
Cons: I find it a bit annoying when blogs have every social media icon under the sun displayed at the end of each post. This plugin makes it very tempting to add too much visual clutter to your site.