Marketing strategist, Lynn Serafinn, shares her top tips for making the technical side of blogging easier, faster and more accessible. Part 3 of a 5 part series.
Over the last two articles, I’ve shared many of my views on how blogging is integral to the new marketing paradigm – especially for independent business owners with minimal marketing budgets. But while your audience comes to your site to find great content, unless your blog is configured properly, they may read a little bit before going off to visit another site, OR they may click away before your pages download, OR they may never find your site in the first place because it doesn’t show up in searches.
Having the right plug-ins on your WordPress site can go a long way to ensuring that you avoid these pitfalls. What’s more, the right plug-ins can help make WordPress a highly personalised and dynamic experience, both for you, the blogger, and for your visitors.
In Part 1 of this 5-part series, I said that WordPress plug-ins could be broken into 5 basic categories:
- Optimisation – plug-ins that make it easier for Google and other search engines to recognise your site
- Security – plug-ins that keep you safe from spammers and hackers
- Operations – plug-ins that make back-office operations easier and more efficient
- Engagement – plug-ins that encourage your readers to keep reading and connect with you
- Expansion – plug-ins that encourage your readers to share and distribute your content; and plug-ins that automatically distribute your content
- Google XML Sitemap
- All in One SEO
- Keyword SEO links
- Growmap Anti Spambot
- Limit Login Attempts
- UpdraftPlus Backup/Restore
If you missed these articles, you can read them at:
- 22 Essential WordPress Plug-ins for Business Bloggers – Pt 1
- 4 Vital WordPress Plug-ins to Keep Your Blog Safe and Secure
Today, we take a look at 5 Operational plug-ins. These are the unsung heroes of plug-ins that help make our blogs more efficient. If you’re fairly new to blogging, you might not understand the importance of these plug-ins right now, but you’ll be thankful for them as you gain more experience.
*** WARNING: GEEK ALERT!!! ***
Please forgive me if some of this is VERY geeky. I’ve tried to explain it in layman’s terms as much as possible, because I know most of our readers are far more interested in the marketing potency of their blogs than in the technical back-office. However, I assure you that if you use these Operational plug-ins in your WordPress blog, you’ll find that all the fun, juicy ‘Engagement’ and ‘Expansion’ plug-ins we’ll cover in Parts 4 and 5 will work much better for you, resulting in more effective blog marketing overall.
As this is a continuation from the last article, the numbering continues from where we left off last time.
TOP BACK-OFFICE OPERATIONAL PLUG-INS FOR WORDPRESS
8. Page Links To
Plug-in URL: http://txfx.net/wordpress-plugins/page-links-to/
One issue many bloggers have is that they have another website at a different URL to their blog. Alternatively, they might have a special promotion going on at a different web address from their blog. This is where the ‘Page Links To’ plug-in comes in. It’s a very light-weight plug-in that allows you to link any page of your blog to another page anywhere on the Internet.
To do this, once the plug-in is installed and activated, just create a new page, give it a title and then scroll down to the bottom of the screen where you’ll see the option to link the page to an alternative URL. This URL could be anywhere, even another website.
Why would you want this? There are two applications I can think of. One is if you have a WordPress theme that does not allow you to customise its menus. In other words, the only menu items you can choose are pages from your own site. But what if you want to link out to another site you have, your YouTube channel or radio show? Or, what if you’re running a product launch and you want to link out to your launch page? That’s easy enough if your theme allows you to do this, but if it doesn’t, Page Links To is a way around this. Just make a blank page with the title you want to appear in your menu and link to the URL you wish to redirect it to.
The other application I can think of is when you’ve been promoting a temporary page for a particular purpose, and then you create a page elsewhere to replace it. For example, let’s say you have some information about your upcoming book on a page called ‘My Book’. You share this page all over your social networks. You link to it from many of your blog posts. But then, you get a really beautifully designed launch page that has an entirely different URL. You can’t exactly go back and change the links on all your blog posts. Nor can you delete all the shares you did on social media. Instead, you can just use Page Links To to redirect people to the new page
You might not use this one every day, but when you need it, you’ll be glad you have it.
9. Duplicate Post
Plug-in URL: http://lopo.it/duplicate-post-plugin/
If you’re like me, when you write a new blog post, there might be several things that you include in every post. Perhaps it’s your bio and headshot. Perhaps you always use specific categories to go to your RSS news feed. Or perhaps, as I am doing now, you’re writing a series of articles that use a lot of the same tags and keywords.
What ‘Duplicate Post’ allows you to do is make an exact copy of any post on your blog, so you don’t have to start 100% from scratch when you write your new post. It’s as simple as clicking ‘clone’ under the post you want to copy in your list of posts. Then, you’ll see the same post copied, but with the word ‘draft’ after it. This allows you to write your new post but retain the elements of the other post you wish to keep.
I use Duplicate Post EVERY time I write a new post, as it eliminates the need to copy and paste my bio and images that I like to put at the end of posts. It could also be useful when you’re making revisions to a pre-existing post and want to be able to look at them side-by-side. It’s a real time-saver and super simple to use.
10. W3 Total Cache
Plug-in URL: http://wordpress.org/plugins/w3-total-cache/
COST: Free and Pro version
Have you ever clicked on a link to a website and it took so long to load that you clicked away from it before you’d even read a single word? Well, if your site takes too long to load, many new visitors are also clicking away. Caching plug-ins can help make your blog load faster. I won’t bother explaining exactly HOW they do this (it’s more technical than either you or I probably need), but in simple terms, they do it by make a ‘static’ copy of the pages and other elements on your site so they don’t have to reload every time someone clicks a link.
There are several widely used caching plug-ins for WordPress. The one I use is W3 Total Cache (I use the free version). To be honest, most of the settings were WAY over my head when I first installed it, but I’m gradually coming to understand it. If you go to the plug-in URL above, you’ll see a great demo video of its effectiveness.
According to the guy in the demo video, anything under 10 seconds of loading time is respectable. However, he shows how W3 Total Cache helped him get his blogsite’s loading time down to less than 2 seconds. When I got my site set up properly with W3 Total Cache, my load time was equally impressive.
TOOLS: To get a ‘before and after’ of your site’s loading times, you can use these free tools:
- Pingdom: http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/
- Web Page Test: http://www.webpagetest.org
- iWebTools Speed Test: http://www.iwebtool.com/speed_test
Pingdom and Web Page Test give you useful analytics to help you improve speed.
Because these tools are testing from different locations, and traffic to your site varies depending upon the day of the week and time of day, you will see a significant difference from tool to tool, and even from minute to minute. For example, when I ran the test for the homepage of the 7 Graces site, the results I got were:
- 1.56 seconds at Pingdom (usually considered the most reliable)
- Just over 5 seconds at Web Page Test
- An astonishing 0.41 seconds at iWebTools Speed Test
Here’s a screenshot of Pingdom test results (I did this a couple of days AFTER I originally posted this article:
Because these stats can vary so much, it is useful to check your results on a regular basis using the same tool, so you can at least see if you are improving. What might also be useful is to compare your results to other sites you know and use. For example, here’s a screenshot of how the 7 Graces site (recently optimised and cached with W3 Total Cache) compares to my other site Spirit Authors (not cached or optimised) and to two sites I frequently visit (Mashable and Elephant Journal):
The important figure is the ‘Load Time’. You can see that, taking nearly 6 seconds to load, my Spirit Authors site is much slower than the 7 Graces site, which loaded (at least in this test) in less than half a second. The major significant difference between the two sites is the caching. Obviously I have some work to do on my other site!
I realise I should probably have placed W3 Total Cache amongst the Optimisation plug-ins, but either way, it’s definitely in your ‘must have’ list.
W3 Total Cache vs. Super Cache: A lot of WordPress users prefer to use Super Cache over W3 Total Cache, as it is less complex to understand and configure. While I agree with that, the most significant difference between the two plug-ins is the ability of W3 Total Cache to integrate with your designated CDN (content delivery network) if you have one. Having a CDN can help enable your site load times become even faster. The CDN system I’m currently using it in a combination of CloudFlare and MaxCDN on my sites. Without going off the topic to discuss those right now, you can have a look at them to get an idea of how they work and what they can do.
TIP: While caching is a big part of optimising your site’s speed, there are several other factors, such as using resized images (more on this in the next plug-in), having too many external inbound links (such as when you are using an image that is housed on another site), having too many java scripts, etc. To get into the finer details of your blog’s efficiency, along with suggestions for how to make it better, I recommend periodically analysing it with the free open-source browser extension from Yahoo called ‘YSlow’ at http://yslow.org. Even if you don’t understand the advice it gives you, your webmaster should be able to help.
11. WP Smush.it
Plug-in URL: http://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/
Remember when I said that using ‘resized images’ can slow down your website’s speed? I bet some of you scratched your heads and said ‘What does she mean by that?’ Well, let’s say you just got a gorgeous new headshot taken by a fantastic photographer, and you want to use it on your next blog post. You upload the file, but because it’s such a high-resolution it is REALLY big. You have to size it down so it doesn’t swallow up the page. This is easy to do in WordPress, and everything looks fine. You publish your post, and never think about it again.
The problem is, every time someone clicks on that post, their browser is accessing that really big file. They don’t SEE it of course, but their browser does. Let’s say you have a file in there that is 5mb in size, when it only needs to be about 100kb. That means the file is 50 times bigger than it needs to be.
Now imagine that your site is FULL of these resized images. How much extra time are they adding to your visitors ‘dead space’ as they wait, wait, wait for your pages to load? Do they love you enough to keep waiting?
The Smush.it plug-in lets you make compressed copies of all your resized images so your visitors’ browsers only access the smaller file, without altering the original. It’s also smart enough not to ‘re-smush’ images that have already been smushed.
These days, having a website that is compatible with mobile/smart phones is absolutely essential. There’s no worse experience for a mobile user than to land on a site and have to zoom in and constantly scroll back and forth just to be able to read the page. Web developers can often charge a small fortune to make your site mobile compatible. But if you have a WordPress blog, there are several free or inexpensive plug-ins that make your site completely mobile-compatible.
I’ve tried several mobile plug-ins and the one I decided to use on the 7 Graces site is WPtouch Pro. While the free version is perfectly acceptable for simple blogs, at $49 for a single license ($99 for up to 5 sites), I thought the customisable features of the Pro version made it a worthwhile business investment for this site.
If you have a smartphone, take a moment right now to have a look at the mobile version I set up for the 7 Graces site to see what you think. I’m using their ‘CMS theme’ and have an automated slider for featured content. I was also able to set the colour scheme, brand the side with my own banner, customise the menus, and other nice customisations.
NOTE: WPtouch doesn’t ‘like’ most caching plug-ins. There are some instructions you’ll need to follow if you have both installed on your site so they don’t conflict with one another. Be sure you read all the documentation carefully when you install the plug-in.
COMING UP NEXT TIME…
Next time, in Part 4, we finally take off the ‘geek hat’ and get to the fun stuff, when we explore my top 5 ‘Engagement’ plug-ins. Then, finally, in Part 5, we’ll round off this Essential WordPress Plug-in list with my top 5 ‘Expansion’ plug-ins, that help to expand your reach and influence.
Be sure to subscribe to this blog to make sure you receive the rest of the series, and all our 7 Grace articles to follow. We publish twice a week.
I know the plug-ins I shared today are more technical than many of the others we have looked at so far. But, as I said, these are the ‘unsung heroes’ of plug-ins. Simply put, they make your whole operation run more smoothly, so both you and your audience aren’t ‘wrestling’ with your website. The easier the experience of blogging is for you, the more you will blog. The easier it is for your reader, the more they will visit your blog.
And, of course, the more people who come to your blog to read your informational content, the more you are ‘getting the word out’ about your ethical business, your social message or value-adding products and services. The principle is simple: make your blog work better, and it will work better for you.
I hope you found this article to be useful, and that you will share it with your followers by using the sharing buttons on this page. As always, I welcome your comments and/or questions below. And if you’ve discovered a great WordPress plug-in I haven’t mentioned, please do share your own favourites below. I’m always looking to learn more, and I’m sure my readers are too.
AND…if you are an independent business owner and would like to discuss how you can expand your influence on the Web through blogging and ethical marketing , drop us a line via the contact form on this site, and we can set up a free initial consultation.
20th November 2013
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing.
Brit Writers Awards Finalist
eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media.
eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)