If you’re a writer / blogger, there are a few things you can do to optimize your experience. Firstly, you should buy your own domain name (that matches your branding) and use a self-hosted WordPress install.
You have your WordPress blog, you’re publishing every week, but it still seems vanilla and ho-hum. What can you do to take your blog to the next level?

Blogging. This is why websites exist, right? Well, not all websites exist for a blog, per se, but content is the key ingredient in any web property.

If you’re a writer / blogger, there are a few things you can do to optimize your experience. Firstly, you should buy your own domain name (that matches your branding) and use a self-hosted WordPress install.

You can choose to purchase a domain name and blog on WordPress.com, but you have less control. The main area you have less control on dot com versus dot org is the installation of plugins. Now, to be fair, WordPress.com has plenty of features every blogger needs; for the sake of this article, we’ll focus on WordPress (self-hosted) bloggers.

Of course you’re already using Yoast SEO. And if you’re not, why? Number 1, it’s free. So there is no reason not to use it. Secondly, it helps you format the meta description that shows in social media shares and Google search results (SERPs). Of course, it helps you self-evaluate your keyword focus and also has a great readability feature now.

Now that we’ve agreed Yoast SEO is a given, here are the five plugins I think every blogger should be using. I use all of these on my personal site.

  1. Mashshare
  2. ImageInject
  3. Revive Old Post
  4. Contextual Related Posts
  5. Postmatic

Mashshare

Like many plugins, this plugin has a both free and pro version. I like the bigger social buttons that are more obvious both on mobile and desktop. All I want as far as social sharing is Twitter and Facebook, but if you want other social sharing options, you can upgrade.

Mashshare has the option of placing the social sharing buttons either at the top of your blog post or bottom. There are also a few visual options for how the buttons look. Personally, I like them out of the box.

From their plugin page in the WordPress Repository:

“Other social buttons are often using external scripts which are increasing loading times. MashShare is using NO external script dependencies. All code is loaded directly from your website and MashShare ensures yours and your visitors privacy!“

ImageInject

Matt Cromwell told me about this plugin over an amazing burger at the Burger Lounge and my reaction was,

“Where has this been for my whole life?”

Seriously.

I wrote in detail about it here. This is the best plugin for quickly importing Creative Commons License Photos into your posts (even as a featured image) in seconds. It literally takes seconds.

From their plugin page in the WordPress Repository:

“Search among many thousands of free creative commons images for any keywords of your choice, then pick the best of them for the article you are working on and insert them into your post or set them as featured image! Best of all it is super fast: Injecting an image only takes 3 clicks in total!”

Revive Old Post

This plugin helps keep my evergreen content shared on my favorite social platform: Twitter. You can use it for other networks in the free version, but I find Twitter is the platform whose culture best supports both volume and repetition.

Of note is that the free version does not support custom post types.

You can set the interval of time between tweets, the minimum age before a post is revived, and you can also exclude categories and types. I’m using 30 days as my minimum age and 7.5 hours for the interval. This seems to be the sweet spot for me. As with everything, test it for yourself.

From their plugin page in the WordPress Repository:

“This plugin helps you to keeps your old posts alive by sharing them and driving more traffic to them from social networks. It also helps you to promote your content. You can set time and no of posts to share to drive more traffic.”

Contextual Related Posts

I found this plugin after reading this post by Jason Resnick called “How To Decrease Bounce Rate with the Recent Posts Widget.” He talks about another way to do it, but I’m happy with how Contextual Related Posts displays the suggestions on my site.

The key to making this work to your advantage is to use descriptive titles because unless you choose to also search content, this specific plugin works off of the title. Similar plugins display data based upon categories and/or tags. I like how this one works.

From their plugin page in the WordPress Repository:

“The list is based on the content of the title and/or content of the posts which makes them more relevant and more likely to be of interest to your readers. This allows you to retain visitors, reduce bounce rates and refresh old entries.
Although several similar plugins exist today, Contextual Related Posts is one of the most feature rich plugins with support for thumbnails, shortcodes, widgets, custom post types and CSS styles. The inbuilt cache ensures that you have related posts without excessive load on your server.”

Postmatic

Now, I pay for this one – $9. And you do need to use Epoch with it. They’ve since changed their pricing. You can see the differences between Postmatic Basic and Postmatic here.

I fell in love with this plugin for two reasons: ease of reply to comments and formatting of comments. I wish I could say that I get ten comments per blog but I don’t. Honestly, I don’t even write and publish as frequently as I should. That said, I still value my time.

Before Postmatic, I managed commenting on my blog through the WordPress app (which works with a Jetpack integration). I still have Jetpack installed as well as the WordPress app, by the way.

When you use Postmatic, the commenter can subscribe to your comment thread and to your blog. This almost eliminates the need for email marketing (like Constant Contact or MailChimp) because Postmatic sends out the email for you, formatted beautifully, when you click publish.

On this note, it’s worth keeping in mind that the Postmatic email does not support shortcodes or embedded media.

From their plugin page in the WordPress Repository:

“Your posts and comments delivered to their inbox.
Their comments delivered through a simple reply.
That’s how the conversation gets started. That’s how you increase engagement.
Postmatic can also deliver your WordPress posts to readers as a beautiful mobile-ready html email.
And they can comment just by hitting reply. No accounts. No forms.
No browsers. Easy.”

Bloggers: Unite!

What plugins can you not live without? Do tell in the comments. Let’s share our secrets.

Bridget is co-host of WPblab, co-organizer of Women Who WP Meetup, and Team Rep for the Marketing Team for WordPress.org.

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