A plugin is a tool that makes your blogging life easier. It helps to open up blogging to anyone because you don't need to know how to code.
Chances are if there is something you want your site to be able to do, someone has created a plugin that will provide you with that ability.
Think of a plugin as the decorating elements of a cake. The blog is the cake, it's got cake and some frosting. A plugin could be beads, fondant, candles, flavor infusions, etc.
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After nearly three years of running my other site on WordPress, I've been through a lot of plugins, these are the ones I've found to work best.
Blogging is hard work, and nothing is worse than working your butt off only to have no one ever find your content. These plugins will help make sure people can find your blog posts.
This plugin will help you make sure your posts are written well for search engine optimization. It increases your chance of your post showing up in search engine (think Google) results. It will also check the readablity of your post to ensure you're putting out good content.
Cost: Free (There is a paid version, but three years later I still use the free one)
I bet you were super nervous about publishing your first post. You probably worked really hard on it and made sure it was perfect.
The problem is, that it was your first post, and a lot of people visiting your blog now probably never saw the post. You can use this plugin to tweet out links to older posts so that everyone can see the entire awesomeness of your blog.
This plugin works to connect CoSchedule to your blog. It works when you are drafting the post, the plugin provides a CoSchedule widget. In this widget, you are able to schedule all the social media promotion of the post in a matter of minutes.
Cost: the plugin is Free, CoSchedule costs a minimum of $19 per month, but there are other more expensive plans too.
Want readers to share your posts for you? Then you need a way for them to do so easily. Social Warfare provides the links to tweet, pin, share on FB and any other social media site you want to include. The settings let you choose where your share buttons will be located, what they look like, and what images you want to be shared to what social media platforms.
SmarterQueue (social Media Scheduling) is a lower cost alternative to meet Edgar, SmarterQueue does pretty much the same thing but it costs about $20/mo for up to 4 social media accounts. They have a free 14 day trial but if you use my referral link you get a 30 day free trial.
Tailwind (Pinterest Scheduler) had been a game changer for me, I went from 10,000 impressions on Pinterest to over 100,000 impressions and have seen traffic to my site grow (by 40%) as well as email subscribers. The ease of use to schedule pins and track analytics has been awesome. Learn more about Tailwind.
Depositphotos (stock images): You are human, which means you do not have time to be taking pictures for everything you need a picture for on your blog. Enter DepositPhotos which I've found to have a fantastic variety for the very affordable price of $1 per image. Because I need stock photos, but I don't have a huge budget for them.
Pinterest Traffic Avalanche (course on growing Pinterst) When I bought Pinterest Traffic Avalanche, I'll admit I didn't have super high hopes, I'd bought a lot of Pinterest courses and strategies and ebooks in the past and while I'd learned a lot I hadn't actually seen a big increase in my traffic to my blog. In the month after taking this course traffic to my blog increased by over 40%. Which is why this is the only Pinterest course I'm recommending here. Though make no mistake, you do have to do the work. If you are willing to put in the time and do the work, this is a great course.
Spammers are real. Make sure they don't spoil your blog.
This plugin deals with your comments. When another blogger comments on a post, this allows them to have a link back to their most recent post. It's a nice way to say thank you for commenting.
While you want comments on your blog, you don't want to waste time filtering through spam comments. Akismet works to filter through and block spam. You'd be amazed at how much spam a blog can attract.
I use ConvertKit for my email marketing. Their plugin makes it easy to place forms on posts and pages on my site.
Cost: The plugin is Free. The cost of ConvertKit depends on your number of subscribers.
I love using Thrive Leads' Lead Groups to get people to opt into my list. Basically, it lets me create an forms to show throughout the content and then set rules on when they are displayed. For example, I can have one lead group display on any post categorized as "blogging". This makes sure I always have a way for a reader to opt in to my list.
Cost: $67/year (or it's included in the Thrive Themes Membership - $224/year), yes, I know it's a lot and honestly, if you can't afford it, it's not the end of the world, while you definitely need a service like Convertkit or Mailchimp, Thrive Leads is more a really nice to have. Personally, I can say I've seen my opt-ins more than double since I started using Thrive Leads so it's worth it to me.
While plugins can be great and make blogging life SOOOOO much easier. Too many plugins can also slow down your site, so make sure you are picky about which ones you use. If you ever have any questions about the plugins I use, feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment.
Related: My 5 Biggest Blogging Fails
Do you have WordPress plugins you love? Let me know in the comments!
Blogging tools i recommend
Bigscoots (hosting) is the hosting service I use. The customer service has been fantastic. When I moved my Squarespace site to wordpress, I had a lot of questions, they had the answers. When I screwed up a few things, they were able to help me fix them. They have been awesome to work with and I highly recommend using BigScoots for hosting your blog.
Hosting starts at just $3.55/month, which is excellent considering how amazing their customer service is.
Bluehost (hosting): When I started blogging, I hosted my blog on Bluehost as it seemed the most recommended hosting service. Bluehost worked just fine when I was starting out but I outgrew it. When I needed help I was able to get it, though it wasn't quite as personable as BigScoots, that being said Bluehost can be a great option to start.
Convertkit (Email marketing) I started with MailChimp, quickly left, went to Aweber, and finally settled on Convertkit. I love how easy it is to use. It makes confirming opt-ins and delivering content upgrades (like worksheets) a snap. I use the WordPress plugin and then just choose what form I want on each post and page.
One thing that makes Convertkit stand out from other email marketing services is that they don't count subscribers twice. Most other email marketing tools count subscribers on each form, so if a subscriber subscribed to more than one form, they are counted more than once. Since pricing is typically determined by the number of subscribers this could drive up your costs significantly.
Making Sense of Affiliate marketing (monetizing your blog): Michelle is an affiliate marketing maven. She regularly makes over $50k a month from affiliate marketing. I bought her course at the end of Nov. 2016 and mid-December 2016 while I'm still working to implement everything I've learned, I've already seen an increase in my affiliate marketing income. She really knows what she is talking about and the Facebook community that accompanies the course is a terrific resource. Learn more about Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
Elizabeth Stapleton is the founder and voice behind Less Debt More Wine and ElizabethStapleton.com. She is a Pinterest marketer, online entrepreneur, and recovering attorney whose writing has been featured on Entrepreneur.com, The Huffington Post, The Penny Hoarder, Budgets Are Sexy, Credit Sesame, and Magnify Money. Additionally, she has been quoted in articles on Business Insider, Student Loan Hero, and Nerd Wallet.