Deciding which WordPress plugins to choose can be pretty daunting. There are thousands. Having launched and set up several self-hosted WordPress sites for myself and friends, I have discovered which plugins I always go back to and load up to my WordPress site from the very first day. Most of them are simple — one is a little tricky. But none of them are difficult or impossible. (If you can keep track of multiple plotlines for 100-plus pages, you can handle this!)
5 Plugins to Activate. Before you even write your first post!
The basic Akismet plugin is free and will filter out so much spam, you’d be crazy not to add this. If you used to have a WordPress.com account, you probably already activated an Akismet API code. You can use that old code, or you can activate a new one. The next plugin, Jetpack (below), will want the same Akismet code. So, at least go with the free version.
Jetpack by WordPress.com. This free plugin will add a bunch (not all) of the functionalities you enjoyed as a WordPress.com user. So, if you had and enjoyed your WordPress.com experience, but decided it was time to start self-hosting, this plugin adds similar functions that will make your transition to WordPress.org mostly seamless and also enjoyable. (You might also find this in a search as “Jetpack by Automattic”. They’re the same thing.) Once your Jetpack is installed, there are some great functionalities you can launch right away — and configuring is very easy through Jetpack! I usually activate the following:
- Access to all my WordPress sites through Jetpack.
- Site stats
- Enhanced Distribution
- Mobile Theme (Definitely add this if you’re using an older non-responsive theme, like Twenty Ten (you know who you are!!))
BackupBuddy by iThemes. This one I paid for, and it’s worth every penny. Here’s why: I admit it — I winced every time I found out there’s a new WordPress update, because the first thing WordPress warns before uploading any changes, is that you back up your site. Which I didn’t — until BackupBuddy– because doing so usually meant logging into my host and then having to consider all these other dire warnings about the best place to save my backup to. Decisions like that have a paralyzing effect on me, and makes me lame. Now, I can back up my WordPress blog with the click of a button straight from my Dashboard.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP. The main prerequisite for this plugin is a Google Analytics account, for which you can sign up by clicking on this link. What I like about this, is that it gives me a snapshot view of my analytics whenever I go into my WordPress dashboard, so I don’t have to make the extra trip to visit my Google Analytics account. Usually, when I launch a website, I ignore these stats for the first few months, because the stats are generally not very inspiring — but, if I see a spike — this plugin is more detailed in reporting who (what link) referred a user to my site. Also, when there’s some action, I will check it against my JetPack stats (which have a much more user-friendly appearance that relates directly to the posts you launched and the traffic it generated).
The WordPress Editorial Calendar. The marcoms in me just about freaked out (in a good way) when I finally discovered this tool. I loved being able to write several blog posts and program them into the future. (“Set it and forget it!”) But I always had to get a hold of a traditional calendar, to make sure that I wasn’t overlapping blog posts — setting two on the same day and skipping a week in the posting department. I have a sneaking suspicion that has happened in the past, and it will totally throw off my writing pattern.
Why does this matter to you as a writer, a blogger, and aspiring author?
At the moment that I typed “The End” into the last page of my work of fiction, a mild panic set in. Why? Because I knew that if I was going to be serious as an author, I’d also have to be serious about marketing my work — regardless of whether or not I would get signed on by an agent/publisher — because every author who wishes to sell and share her work also needs to have a platform on which to offer something of value (her knowledge, her words, her creations), generate followers, readers and just generally supportive people, who enjoy carrying on the conversation. (I have begun a monthly series of posts about desigining a marketing strategy as an aspiring author–that is, before you have any product on the shelves. Check out the first blog post in the series here.)
Whether you’re an author with books under her belt, or an aspiring author still working on your first novel or non-fiction work, it’s never too early to build an author platform. One of many ways to do that is by engaging with other authors, and other bloggers.
My Tactical Tuesday column is designed for authors and writers to implement easy, strategic marketing tactics to help them grow their author platform. If you’re an author and you have a question, a thought, or a suggestion, leave your comment below, or follow me on Twitter @cynthiatluna with the hashtag #TacticalTues! See you soon!