I want you to install just a few plugins at this stage to improve the functionality of your site. Later you can install more but never forget that for every extra plugin, your site will slow down just a little because each one needs to be uploaded every time a new page is opened. There will already be some installed here. Look at them carefully and see if you need them. If not, deactivate them and then delete them. Always do the two stages because deactivated but not deleted plugins can be a security risk.
The 5 plugins I suggest you install from the start of your blog
- Akismet – this stops the large majority of SPAM comments which otherwise would drive you crazy. Type that in the search plugins box and a selection of plugins will appear. The first one will be what you want. Click Install and then when it has done that, click activate. It will ask you for an Akismet key and give you a link to get one. Click on it. It gives you the option of paying something for it as a non-commercial site and it is right that you do pay the developer something because you can’t live without this plugin. But that’s up to you. Anyway, you get the key, which is a long set of numbers. Copy it and paste it into the field that you saw before clicking on the link. Then you are done and protected
2. WordPress SEO by Yoast – install and activate it. An SEO plugin is essential to help get the search engines to see your blog. Once it is installed, click on SEO in the left-hand menu and you will see lots of fields to be configured. Don’t freak out. Here is a link to an article by the developer, Yoast, in which he explains exactly how to configure it. https://yoast.com/articles/wordpress-seo/. Once it is configured, it is all set up to be used. Then you will see data to fill in when you do a new post down below the post area. This must be filled in carefully with every post you do from now on. Make sure you are getting important keywords in there which people might use to do a Google search on. More information on this in another post.
3. Jetpack by wordpress.com – install and activate. A message will now come up asking you to connect to WordPress.com to fully activate it. Do this. You need to fill in your WordPress.com login information, not that of wordpress.org. If you think you don’t have an account with them, make one just for this. Once you have connected Jetpack to WordPress.com, go to Jetpack in the menu near the top, click on Jetpack. This will show you all the features that are available. I would deactivate all but the absolutely necessary ones. To do that, click on “Learn More” for each function and then you can deactivate that feature.
– WordPress.com stats and you can find these under Jetpack/Site Stats in the menu. Just remember these are page views not unique visitors or even visitors.
– Sharing. Click on the configure button and scroll down a bit and drag the social media icons down into the area below if you want them activated to show below your posts so people can share your posts. Below you can choose how you want the icon to look and where you want them. Always choose in Open links in – New window.
– Vaultpress, which will back up your blog.
– Contact Form, for when you create your Contact Me page.
– Extra sidebar widgets – this will add a few more options to your Appearance/widgets area.
– Enhanced Distribution which helps with sharing your posts to search engines.
– JSON API which allows applications to access your posts through the cloud.
When you are more familiar with the workings of your blog and know better what you might like, then come back here and see if there is anything else you want that you haven’t found elsewhere. Some of this doubles up with other plugin uses though.
4. Related Posts Thumbnails. This will show thumbnails of other similar posts underneath your posts. This is important because it encourages visitors to stay on your site and have a look around.
Once you have installed it and activated it:
- Click on Settings in the menu on the left and you will find Related Posts Thumbs in the dropdown menu.
- Click on it and you will find some settings for the plugin.
- You can make your own decisions here but I tick the 1st, 4th(1st box), 5th and 6th boxes.
- Where it says Include only posts after, you can put a date to make sure only your newer posts show up. This can be useful if you are an established blogger but won’t matter for you right now. But remember it is there for later.
- In the next field, choose whether to have 3 or 4 posts showing depending on what fits on one line under your posts. You won’t know this yet until you have a few posts up. At the moment you have nothing to show in the thumbnails.
- Leave the next field as is.
- Choose Post thumbnails in the next field and thumbnail in the next one.
- The next one is a good idea to tick just in case you forget to set up a featured image (more on that in a later post).
- Leave the rest if you are unsure of what it all means. It will be fine.
5. W3 Total Cache. A caching plugin is really important for keeping your site clean and fast. But do check first that your host doesn’t have one in place. This plugin does need some knowledge to configure it. When you first activate it, disable the Minify function because sometimes it conflicts with a theme. To find the settings for this plugin, click on Performance in the menu and there are several different areas to configure.
Top image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net