Once you choose your theme and pick some essentials, it’s time to load your website with some plugins and software. Don’t overdo it, you don’t want it to look like a 2005 MySpace page. In fact, most of the essential plugins and basics work behind the scenes, offering extra features and capabilities to the webmaster, and making their site better for the user, without being too in-your-face.
Once your blog is launched, you’ll want to know how many hits you’re getting. The days of the colorful hit counter, which adorned so many Geocities pages, are thankfully behind us. You don’t need to show the world how many hits your website has had, and you don’t need to reduce each user to a single digit.
Google Analytics is used by most sites and is infinitely better than simple web counters. You can install this for free and it’s easy to setup. Just follow these instructions:
Signup for a new account, input your details and wait for your Tracking Code.
This code needs to be installed on your website. The simplest way to install this on WordPress is just to paste it into the code of the website. On the directory there will be a header.php file for your chosen theme. Look for this, open it and install the code between the body tags.
If this seems like a daunting process, you can also simply download the Insert Header and Footer Plugin and install the code here.
Google Analytics will keep track of every visitor. It will tell you how they got there (under the Acquisition tab); what they do when they’re on your website (under the Behavior tab); as well as their age and preferences (under Audience>>Demographics). It is essential for keeping track of your blog’s popularity, for determining where it’s heading and for keeping an eye on essential information such as your Bounce Rate (see CHAPTER 11: TROUBLESHOOTING to find out how you can reduce this) and your daily hit rate.
Google Analytics will keep track of every visitor
Google Webmaster Tools
This is a complete SEO package, and it’s one that you can also link to your Google Analytics account. You will need to prove ownership of your website before you can sign up, but if you already have an Google Analytics account, you don’t need to verify. Make sure you create an account for both the www.YourDomain.com and for YouDomain.com, and make sure you also create accounts for any other extensions you have.
You can ask Google to “Fetch” newly launched pages and posts through here, and if they are hyperlinked extensively (which they should be) then you can tell it to Fetch that page and every linked page. This is not essential, but it’s quick and easy and it may help you to iron out some issues. You can also use this software to uncover indexing errors and broken links, but that’s about where its benefits end.
In CHAPTER 11: TROUBLESHOOTING, we’ll also discuss Bing Webmaster Tools, but you don’t want to overdo things at this stage. In fact, it’s not even essential to download Google Webmaster Tools just yet, although it is something you will need in time, and the Bing version should also be considered at a later date.
A WordPress plugin is essentially an app for your website. Think of your WordPress page as an iPhone and the plugin section as the App Store. You can browse thousands of available extras, install them all in a matter of seconds and create a wealth of extra features, capabilities and more in the process.
The aforementioned “essentials” are not plugins (although you can use plugins to help with their setup). In fact, they are two of the only non-Wordpress extras that we recommend, because while there are more available, there is usually a plugin version that is better. What follows is a list of the best plugins. These have not been listed in any particular order, but take a look through, study the features and our recommendations and determine if one or more of these will be of use to you and your website.
Think of your WordPress page as an iPhone and the plugin section as the App Store.
WordPress SEO by Yoast: We have mentioned Yoast many times on this site, as it plays a big role in helping your blog or website to grow. This is as essential as Google Analytics, especially if you’re a little wet behind the ears when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation. You need to download this before you write your first articles.
Login Lockdown: This simple little plugin will help to stop hacks by limiting failed logins to just 3 attempts, after which they can’t login anymore. A lot of hacks are done by brute force, which essentially means that they try to log-in over and over again until they get the right password (often using a password list and an automated program). This program will stop those hack attempts from working and it will keep your site secure from everyone but the luckiest of hackers.
Ad Sanity: This is an adverts manager. It’s best to avoid flooding your site with affiliate links and ads to begin with, as this could have a negative effect on SEO. But once you are ranking and the visitors are flocking, then you can use a program like this to keep track.
WP Forms: It’s always better to use a contact form on your website than to simply list your email address. A contact form will let readers send you messages and comments without you exposing your email address to spammers. You can use this plugin to setup those forms, as well as other essential forms.
Backup Buddy: This can help you to backup all of your content in a few simple clicks. We have already discussed it, and if you have a lot of content and are worried about losing it all, it’s essential.
TablePress: If you plan on using tables on your site, whether as a simple way of displaying data or as a way of creating everything from sporting league tables to detailed product information, this is the plugin you need to do that.
WP Touch: This plugin will make your theme slightly more responsive, essentially enhancing your website and creating a better experience for your readers.