I have been running this blog for over a year now and in that time I have gone through my fair share of WordPress plugins. Some work fantastically, performing exactly how you would expect them to and some of them just plain suck, giving you the dreaded WordPress white screen of death.
To save the you the trouble of figuring out which ones are worth installing, I have listed below some of the safest and most useful plugins that any travel blogger (or any WordPress blogger for that matter) should be using.
Akismet – Protects You From Spam Comments
The Akismet plugin is pretty much a given if you are using a WordPress blog. Once set up Akismet will run in the background catching and holding any spam comments that try to make their way onto your site. Since redesigning my site just a couple of weeks ago Akismet has already stopped 1,685 spam comments.
All in One SEO Pack – Improves Your Google Visibility
The All in One SEO Pack helps to improve your visibility in Google and other search engines by allowing you to decide how it appears in the SERPs (search engine result pages). The screenshot below is taken from my Top Travel Bloggers 2013 Carbon Footprint post. The All in One SEO pack gives you the option to rewrite the title of the post, the description and any keywords that when searched in Google would relate to your article.
Comment Luv – Get More Comments on Your Posts
Comment Luv helps you gain more comments on your posts by offering your readers the chance to provide a link back to their latest blog post when leaving you a comment. The image below shows a comment left on my site by the Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler and the Comment Luv link back to her latest blog post Niagara Falls Fireworks. Why not try it out for yourself, scroll to the bottom of this post, check the Comment Luv box and leave me a comment. I’ll reply, promise.
Facebook Page Promoter Lightbox – Gain More Facebook Likes
This plugin flashes up a Facebook Like Box to any new visitors to your site, giving them a friendly reminder to like your Facebook page (Hint, Like my page here). You can choose a delay so the box will pop up after they have spent a certain amount of time on the site, for example 30 seconds. You can also choose how often you would like the box to pop up, for example on every new page, once a day, once every two days etc.
Google XML Sitemaps – Makes it Easier For Google to Find You
In order to show up within the Google (and other search engine) SERPs, your site and all of its pages and posts should be indexed. This plugin creates an easy to read (by the Google spider robot) sitemap ensuring that all of your content is indexed as soon as possible. It will also automatically notify the search engines that there is a new sitemap waited to be crawled, how awesome is that. You can see the sitemap created for this site below.
Q2W3 Fixed Widget – Creates a Fixed Scrolling Sidebar
It may not be the greatest named plugin but it sure is a useful one. You may have noticed by now that as you scroll down this post the final parts of my sidebar on the right begin to scroll with you, that’s the plugin working its magic. Go ahead and try it out. It’s useful as it ensures that no space is wasted on your site and also because just about any plugin should be compatible. So you could have your social media links, popular posts, sign up boxes or just about anything else within the readers view at all times.
ShareThis – Gain more Social Shares
There are a number of social sharing plugins available including the default WordPress ones, but the best one I have found to date is the ShareThis plugin. It has beautiful little share counters for all the major social networks and it also includes many more under the Share button. Try it out for yourself below. (If you would be so kind as to actually share this article that would be great)
⇦ Please Share!
TablePress – Produce Beautiful Easy to Sort Tables
TablePres is a handy little plugin that allows you to create easily sortable data tables. With a little CSS styling you can also give them a makeover to match any theme. Below is an example table I create just for this post.
WP Smush.it – Reduce the File Size of Images so They Load Faster
WP Smush.it is an amazing plugin. Whenever you upload a picture it is automatically smushed by the plugin, reducing its file size but keeping its quality. This keeps the size of the webpage small and allows it to load quicker. Making your readers and the search engines happier. Already uploaded hundreds of images, not a problem, the bulk Smush.it feature allows you to smush every picture already uploaded to your blog.
WP Super Cache – Makes your Website Load Faster
This plugin creates a cache of your website which it serves to the visitors. This means the whole site does not need to be loaded every time they visit it, only the portions that are new. This increases the load time of your site, again making your readers and the search engines happier.
Some Bonus Premium Plugins
Free plugins, such as the ones I have listed above can be great, but sometimes you want a more powerful plugin capable of performing more sophisticated tasks. This is where your going to have splash some cash on a premium plugin. Luckily the ones here are fantastic value for money.
Justified Image Grid ($25) – A Variety of Beautiful Image Galleries
Justified Image Grid brings you premium quality responsive wordpress galleries, with 20 different eye-catching presets to choose from or you can customise a new design yourself. As well as taking images from your wordpress uploads this smart plugin can also pull images directly from your Flickr, Facebook or Instagram accounts. Meaning you can be out and about take a picture with your phone, upload it directly to one of your social picture platforms and within seconds it will also appear in your gallery. You can view a demo of the plugin at work here.
Social Locker for WordPress ($21) – Lock Some of Your Content to Encourage Sharing
This plugin allows you to lock away either all or just parts of your content until the reader has shared it on one of his social media profiles. It’s great if you have some bonus content or a free e-book to promote as it offers the readers an incentive to click the share buttons. You can view a demo of the plugin here.
Interactive World Maps ($18) – Show Where You’ve Been or Where You’re Going
These easy to use interactive world maps make showing off where you’ve been or where you’re going simple. You can choose from a number of different options to match your needs such as the world, specific continents, or by country. You can customise the colour scheme to match your sites theme. You can view a demo of the maps in action here.
Thanks for reading. I would love to know what plugins you find useful in the comments below and also let me know if I missed out any that you think should be included in this list.