As WordPress continues to dominate the blogging world, I thought it would be helpful to share with you my favorite WordPress plugins for content marketers – plugins that will extend the functionality of your website or blog and expand the reach of your online content.
I also hope this post opens dialogue regarding what plugins you are using to reach more eyeballs and bring more value to your audiences.
The one thing I love about WordPress is also the thing that can wreck a site. WordPress gives you the ability to add new widgets, features and functionality with ease, but you need to be careful not to clutter your site with things that are “nifty,” but not necessarily valuable. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
If you need a great case for simple sites, read Erin Kissane’s recent book, The Elements of Content Strategy. She talks a lot about the intersection of content, user experience, design and how to provide your visitors with a great content experience. With that caveat out of the way, let’s geek out!
Editorial Calendar – If you are blogging, the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin will allow you to add post ideas/drafts within a calendar interface so you can plan ahead and ward off writer’s block.
Content Scheduler – Content governance is being talked about a lot these days, and the Content Scheduler plugin is a nice little tool for facilitating this practice. When you write/edit a post or page, you can specify a date in the future when this content should be reviewed. Plugin settings let you determine what happens when the expiration date is reached.
VoicePress – VoicePress adds a little microphone icon to your post/page editing screen and allows you to verbally dictate your content. As I’ve mentioned on CMI before, I’m a fan of “talking it out.”
Search Engine Optimization –There are a host of SEO plugins that can ensure your content gets as much Google juice as possible. The most popular is the All In One SEO Pack.
XML Sitemap – This is a must for any website regardless of its purpose or platform. Google XML Sitemap automatically creates and updates an XML-based sitemap, which is a more efficient and the preferred way for search engines to index your website’s pages and blog content. And when you launch a new blog post, this plugin automatically pings Google to let them know that some new “spider food” awaits.
Webmaster Tools Verification – Getting your site “verified” through each search engine’s webmaster tools service is an often overlooked but important step when launching a new website. As a site owner, you should have a webmaster account setup in Google, Yahoo and Bing. With those accounts, you can now get your site “verified” in each search engine, which basically tells them that you’re a real person (not a robot) connected to a legitimate website (not a spam site). Sites that are verified rank better than non-verified sites. As you’re going through the verification process, one option is to add a meta tag within your site’s header code. The Webmaster Tools Verification plugin makes it easy to add these verification meta tags within your site’s header code.
Caching – Keeping my tech speak to a minimum, let me just say that you should have a caching plugin installed on your WordPress site to help your site load faster for visitors. W3 Total Cache is the most recommended plugin, and it is very easy to install and configure, regardless of your technical ability. Just sticking to the default settings should provide a noticeable speed increase, but tech folks will love the advanced options to tweak performance even more.
A/B Testing – Max A/B is a relatively new plugin that gives you the ability to create two versions of a page and easily facilitate a split test that will run for a specified time period. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t test enough, mostly because tests and testing platforms can be cumbersome to set up. I don’t have an excuse now.
Mobile Optimization – These days, you should be paying attention to how your website visitors are interacting with your site via mobile devices. If your mobile traffic is significant, you should have a mobile template or mobile CSS stylesheets in place. If that isn’t justified yet, the WPTouch plugin for WordPress is a nice option that helps you create a mobile theme for your website/blog in minutes.
Content Amplification Plugins
RSS Syndication – Your WordPress site already provides an RSS feed, but tracking and managing your RSS subscribers is not a native feature within WordPress. Google’s Feedburner is a great tool to handle all this and the FD Feedburner plugin is easy to configure and deploy. Grab your site’s RSS feed, burn it in Feedburner, copy/paste your new Feedburner feed URL into the plugin and Feedburner will start providing you with great stats on the fans that can’t get enough of your content.
Social Sharing – We all know how content can spread online, so providing a sharing mechanism is a must. There are several WordPress plugins for adding this functionality, including: SexyBookmarks, AddToAny, AddThis and ShareBar.
Podcast Syndication – If you or your clients are delving into podcasting, you’ll need to configure a podcast syndication plugin that helps convert your RSS feed into an iTunes-ready podcast feed. Podpress and Blubrry PowerPress are two well-supported plugin options that come equipped with full iTunes support and audio/video players that make it easy to embed your media files within your posts.
Most Popular Posts – Inevitably, some site visitors would rather just skip to the best stuff. Adding the WordPress.com Popular Posts plugin references your site stats and provides a list of your most popular posts in the sidebar widget.
Related Posts – I’ve always liked giving website visitors the ability to dig deeper into certain topics. When your blog content supports the various product/service pages within your website, the Yet Another Related Post Plugin will automatically display a few post headlines that relate to the current page topic. It’s up to you where you want the headlines to display (below your content, sidebar widget, etc.).
Contact Forms – Regardless of your website’s purpose, you need to provide a way for site visitors to contact you. Although you may prefer to be contacted via a phone call or email, realize that prospects may be doing online research at midnight in their underwear. If they find what they want on your site and want to initiate an inquiry, they need to have that ability at that moment. Using a plugin such as Contact Form 7 gives you the ability to easily create a contact form that will email you their contact details.
Email Subscription – If email is part of your marketing mix, you’re probably using a service like Constant Contact or Mailchimp. Most major email service providers now have plugins that allow you to add an email subscription form to your WordPress site.
Pretty Link – This plugin can be used in several ways, but from a conversion standpoint I like using Pretty Link to create simple, contextual URLs that can be used in email marketing, print media and traditional advertising situations. For example, a landing page is created for a tradeshow promotion. The WordPress URL might be quite long, but Pretty Link lets you create a short, “pretty” URL with the tradeshow name (yoursite.com/cmworld) to improve memorability, click-through rate and conversions.
Commenting Systems – A commenting function obviously comes standard with WordPress, but adding a plugin like Disqus makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across the web. You may also want to check out Facebook Comments for WordPress. Here’s a great article for more on that.
WP-Polls – Need to poll your visitors? WP-Polls makes it easy.
WP Survey and Quiz Tool – The more we know about the needs, wants and pain points of our customers, the better chance we have of creating valuable content. WP Survey allows you to create and publish a survey and put it virtually anywhere within a WordPress page or post.
Google Analytics – You obviously want to make sure your WordPress site is plugged into Google Analytics (or another analytics program) to monitor the effectiveness of your content. Google Analyticator is my preferred plugin as it’s easy to set up and provides a traffic graph from the last 30 days right on your dashboard.
Blog Stats – While Google Analytics will give you a robust set of stats, it’s nice to have a simple stats program you can dig into without leaving WordPress. Jetpack by WordPress.com offers a host of tools including a stats module that displays your daily page views, top posts, top pages and top keywords.
What other content-marketing-related plugins are you using?