Building a Blog, Part V: WordPress Plugins

So your blog is up and running.  You’ve made a few posts, sent a link to your friends or customers, and made sure everything is spelled correctly.  Then you realize you have no idea if anybody is actually reading your posts, and the comments are filled with robot spam.  What now?

Time to add some plugins to your blog!  A plugin is a small program that adds functionality to WordPress.   As of this writing, WordPress ships with Askimet already installed; Askimet is spamcatching software to filter out robot posts from actual users.  Log into your administrative panel, click on plugins, then follow the directions to active Askimet.  Congratulations!  You’ve struck another blow in the ongoing fight against spammers!

But now you notice the Add New link, click it, and are overwhelmed by the variety of plugins available.  Which ones should you get first?  Let’s start with a few of the basics.  Remember: to use one of the plugins, you must first install and then activate it.

Google XML Sitemaps Remember when I pointed out how updating attracts search engines?  Google and other engines like to crawl frequently updated websites several times per day to keep their results as fresh as possible.  Not only does building a sitemap help the search engines to find all the content on your site, but the plugin will automatically notify Google that your website has been updated, encouraging them to crawl your site immediately.

StatPress keeps track of all kinds of handy statistics, presenting them both as numbers and as a colorful bar chart, so you can see how much traffic you’re getting.  If a promotion you’re running is working particularly well (or badly), this is a good way to find out.

Broken Link Checker What’s worse than clicking on a link and getting the dreaded 404 error?  This annoys your readers and makes you look unprofessional.  This handy plugin will keep an eye on all of the links on your site and let you know if any of them no longer work.

Are there other plugins you should have?  Absolutely!  In the future we’ll be talking specifically about plugins designed for SEO, which deserve a whole post of their own.  One thing to keep in mind when trying out new plugins is that they are not all compatible with each other; sometimes you can get odd errors as a result of interaction between two incompatible plugins.   If your site used to work right and now is behaving strangely, try deactivating plugins until the unwanted behavior goes away.

That’s all for this week; be sure to check back on Monday for more, and in the meantime, don’t forget to visit our main site!