This post is written by Miss Elle of Broke and Beautiful
Oh, the wide world of open-source software…
It's brought pleasure and pain to the lives of aspiring bloggers everywhere. The leader of the pack for bloggers-going-pro? WordPress, that magical publishing platform that allows full customization as well as a squeaky clean user interface that so many of us hold dear to our hearts.
WordPress understands our needs for a categorized dashboard, a clean color palette, and WYSIWYG, well, everything. As we are fashion bloggers, I'm pleased to note that WordPress also understands our need for unique style and a tailored fit, which is precisely why plugins are a fashion blogger's best friend.
But which to choose? The WordPress Plugin Archive boasts over 4,000 plugins from users who know the software from the inside out. Well, take it from a girl whose plugin addiction runs rampant – I've already done the trial-and-error for you.
There are four major categories of plugins that I deem absolutely necessary: Monetization and Traffic Building, Readability, Relationships, and Back End. Regardless of how long your blog has or hasn't been around – you need these.
Traffic Building & Monetization
You don't really have much of a blog if people aren't visiting it. In a similar vein, you'll likely never “go pro” without monetization… So this category is fairly important.
This little gem of a plugin is not only has easiest installation process I've ever seen, but the work it does is invaluable. After installation and activation, the plugin pulls three related posts from your archive and displays them at the bottom of each post, complete with a thumbnail image from each related post. The setup takes 30 seconds, and the results are top notch.
Displays a button that allows readers to share your post via social network, email, instant message, or text message.
Allows you to build and display a calendar of upcoming sales, shopping events, etc. via sidebar widget, or its own page. Giving readers a credible, one-look summary of all the sample sales will keep them coming back. (Plus, the link out of the calendar could easily be your referring URL, earning you a few bucks of spending cash!)
A simple plugin that places an ad (of your choice) between your content and the comments on a single post page. The in-dash user interface allows you to skip the code-skimming to replace or change the ad.
If you're a regular user of affiliate programs, this plugin will definitely ease your mind. Along with integration of Commision Junction's database, this plugin allows you to mask those crazy affiliate URLs by using your own URL to redirect the reader.
Even if you have the best content out there, your message won't come across if your readability is off. These plugins not only keep things on the aesthetically pleasing side, but also offer major functionality. You can only improve your blog by installing them.
Fashion bloggers love a hi-res image. Prevent your layout from getting screwed up by oversized photos by setting a maximum image width.
One of the greatest things about fashion is its international appeal and influence. This plugin allows readers from all over the world to translate your site via Google.
Ajax Edit Comments
This plugin gives your readers the ability to go back and edit their comments within a certain window of time after they've posted, you specify the amount. This eliminates the need for “correction comments” by your readers, as well as gives your commentators control.
Exclude Pages from Navigation
Well, this plugin is pretty self explanitory. If you've got pages that definitely belong on your site, but don't necessarily belong in the main navigation bar, this plugin provides a check box which, when unchecked, removes pages and child pages from the main navigation bar.
These plugins aren't pretty, and they don't smell nice, but the work that they do on the inner workings of your blog is priceless.
If you're like me, you have “columns” – or regular themes that you post on each week. This plugin allows you to store templates of these posts so you don't need to format an empty post with your headers/footers/whatever when its time for your regularly scheduled feature.
This plugin is especially good if you a) have your blog organized to the point where you only make x posts per day, or b) manage a multi-author blog. It allows you to see what days you have posts scheduled for from the edit post page. It's also available as a widget to show your readers when they should expect to see posts.
While it's (hopefully) not a plugin you'll use regularly, when it's time to redesign your ever-changing layout, activating this plugin will put a simple “Under Construction” notice on the front page of your site, making it unavailable to everyone except for logged-in administrators.
Is it super nerdy to have a favorite plugin? Well, regardless of the answer, this is mine. If you're constantly adding the same code for the same links in different posts, you know it can be pretty annoying/time consuming/frustrating. Shortcut Macros allows you to use “codes” that are linked to text/HTML (specified by you) to easily throw images, links, or text into your posts without having to enter the same 256 character HTML codes. For instance, “##ifb” could be a shortcut macro that, when inserted into a post as-is, would (when saved) populate the HTML code which would create this: Independent Fashion Bloggers.
Building relationships could, quite possibly, be the most important part of becoming a succesful blogger. Forming and maintaining communicative relationships with your readers builds trust, credibility, and offers a more enjoyable experience for your readers – these plugins make building relationships a cinch.
Brian's Threaded Comments
Brian and his threaded comments have really done a number for reader-blogger interaction. This plugin gives you the ability to respond to individual comments in a “nested” format.
WP Enhanced Form
Often times, when you invite readers to contact you, the site of an email address can ignite the laziness in some people – having to open up email programs, copy/click the link, format the email… When you just want to drop a note, it can seem a little time consuming to send an email. (Hey, I said for some people!) This plugin gives you a contact box that doesn't require anything but your reader's email address, their name, and their note.
Bloggers love to comment to other bloggers – this is a fact. Why not show them some “luv” by using this plugin, which lists their last post (via RSS) as a link directly below their comment?
This plugin sends off a customizable “Thanks for commenting!” email to each new reader who makes their first comment on your site. A great way to promote your RSS feed, an upcoming event, or a popular post.
I'm consistently baffled as to why WordPress doesn't include this feature in their builds. WP Polls gives you an extremely user-friendly, effective system of polling your readers. No registration is needed – just a click. It's particularly good for obtaining demographic information about your readers.
These plugins definitely get an A+ from me, but they're pretty standard fare, and only being included for any newbies who might be out there reading.
WordPress.com Stats – Gives you a full-featured view of how many people are reading your site. Includes referring site, out-click, search terms, and which posts were most viewed.
Akismet – An excellent spam filter for comments. (Included in your installation of WordPress.)
Exec-PHP – Nearly idential to a regular text widget, installing this plugin will allow you to execute PHP commands from your sidebar and posts.
Don't get me wrong, I'm well aware that “21 Essential Plugins” is a bit of a stretch for the common blogger; however, I guarantee that once they're all installed, configured and activated, you'll be shocked at how smoothly your blog runs, and how much time you save. If you're still uncomfortable with the idea of configuring 20+ plugins, I urge you to go through your blog, find out what you're missing from your perfection of a mental image, and return to this list to see if any of these plugins fit the bill. Don't be afraid to search for a specific plugin if you don't see one here, either. Some of the best plugins I've found have been discovered via my googling “WP plugin makes images all the same size and stuff”.
Do you have a favorite plugin that's not featured here? What is it and why do you love it?