January 2009


Wordpress plugins for Business BlogsRecently, I’ve seen a spate of posts about WordPress plugins and focused on a variety of different areas, particularly after the release of WordPress 2.7. These plugins are important pieces of software which add specific functionality to the self hosted WordPress platform. They are also one of the key reasons that WordPress, for me, continues to offer greatest opportunities for bloggers and their businesses going forward.

Do these opportunities come from the fact that it’s good to have the latest flashy, whizzy things (technical term) on your blog? No, simply that if you have software which automatically promotes, distributes and encourages people to read your posts then, as a consequence, that allows you to settle down to the real key task of blogging – writing content that people want to read.

What makes a good Plugin?

I get asked quite frequently which are the best WordPress plugins to use and, for me, it’s a question that I find impossible to give a simple answer to. The trouble I have is that selecting the “best” WordPress plugins is not only totally subjective but is also approaching the issue from the wrong direction.

Plugins are designed to offer additional functionality to the blog. Rather than focusing on the plugins, I believe that it should be a case of looking at the business goals of the blog and then identifying which plugins best achieve and support these.

In addition, since my aim is to make sure that the companies I work which are as self sufficient as possible, so it’s good to ensure that the plugins are not only robust but also likely to be updated to ensure compatibility with future software releases. This saves having to potentially change the plugins should an upgrade to WordPress make them redundant.

Plugins offering general business functionality

Having said that, there are certain features that I feel are particularly useful for the majority of business blogs because of their generic value and utility, and so I have decided to focus in one those here. With that in mind, what I have done is outline the plugins that best support those features and which hopefully follow their development.

Are these the only ones I recommend? No, not at all. There are very many excellent plugins lovingly created and distributed by their developers which I use but are not mentioned here because I consider them specific to particular needs and purposes. However, these put down a good framework which will help support your content and your blogging:

1. Facilitating content sharing

  • WP-Email: gives you “email a friend” opportunities to include with your posts and hence a easy way for readers to share or recommend your content

  • Social bookmarking: There are a number of options covering the social bookmarking sites rom SEM Bookmark to Social Bookmarks. There is also a plugin available for the increasingly popular Share This service. Alternatively, there are plugins which focus in on one of the larger communities such as Digg and offer greater functionality dedicated to that platform

  • WP Print: don’t forget that many still share content in printed format (not to mention for our own consumption) and this helps ensure that the article is printed cleanly and in full

2. Search Engine optimisation

  • All in One SEO: gives the ability and flexibility to add a custom title tag and meta tags to each post or page. It also lets you set a better automated structure for these tags across the blog and exclude indexing on certain areas. Nice functionality – to help you with SEO, not optimise it for you! [See also Title Tag SEO]

  • Meta Robots: For full control, you might also like to include a Robot.txt function allowing page level control of what is indexed and not. Useful to control the flow of Page Rank value

  • Simple Tags: allows a great deal of control and automation of tags and their use – very useful in conjunction with the categories and posts.

3. Onsite Functions

  • Dagon Design Formmailer: it’s important to have a minimum of a contact page on your blog and this allows you to include a contact form too – highly flexible for other purposes, signups etc.

  • Related Posts: an important addition to help readers to navigate your blog and for you to introduce other relevant information you have written to them

  • Search Everything: while the standard search function focuses on the content of the posts, you’d now want to include tags and various other useful elements. This plugin allows you to achieve that.

  • Page Numbers: allowing your readers to quickly navigate around your blog helps their experience of it and allows them to browse your content as they wish. This allows them to delve more easily into your archives.

4. Back Office

  • Database Backup: backing up your database is a key element of your blog admin. With this plugin, you can do it automatically and there’s no need to even know what PHPMyAdmin stands for, let alone how to use it.

  • Google Analytics: this is about plugins so here is a good one to help include Google Analytics – however, you could also add the code to your footer. What is key for your blog is that you do track your visitors.

  • Akismet Spam Control: comment spam is an ineviatble result of a successful blog. CAPTCHA methods are good but my preferred version puts no onus on the commenters and that is Akismet as a Spam control method.

5. Comments

  • Subscribe to Comments: comments are the lifeblood of a blog based community. Being informed of new replies is important and this plugin does just that. It gets people returning to your blog too.

  • Get Related Comments: bit of a reward to those who have commented and also a way to encourage others to do so and to read your blog. Very versatile!

Are these the only plugins that I use on blogs? Absolutely not! On the contrary, there are a vast number of excellent ones which I use to achieve certain business requirements – the ones mentioned here are just those that I believe all business blogs can benefit from? I would love to hear which others you would include in yours!

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Business Blog DiaryDaniel was visibly excited – Monday was the day that he had pencilled in for the launch of a blog that he hoped would be the mainstay on his online presence, designed to help develop his business.

While Monday was the day when the wheels were starting to turn in earnest, it had been some 4 weeks since Daniel had first decided that his business really needed a blog. He’d been noticing a drop off in prospect calls over the previous weeks (perhaps a factor of the credit crunch and the current economic situation) and had begun to feel that he didn’t have as much contact with his customers as he would have liked.

What was certain was that he was determined that his would not be one of those businesses that didn’t make it through – that much he was very clear about.

He’d also noticed that blogs were cropping up in lots of different places. Sure he’d seen that the BBC and The Guardian had lots of blogs and he particularly liked reading the comments that other people left on the articles. “You get a sense of what people really think rather than relying one person’s opinion”, he had explained to friends. “It’s more like taking part in a conversation than listening to a speech.” And he preferred that.

More importantly, he had noticed a couple of his competitors had started blogs and were clearly getting attention because of them. One had even been featured in the main trade magazine which he had been trying to get a mention in! People were also leaving comments on them so clearly they were spending more time on his competitors’ sites than on his own.

It was this that had swung it for him. He was just as much of an expert as they were, perhaps more so, and yet they were getting all the attention. He needed to make sure that more came his way and so it had been key to find the best way to get that information out in front of his prospective companies. He’d also been reading that it was important for sites to be “sticky” and have ways to encourage people to spend more time on them and he’d been advised a little about optimising his website for Search Engines.

Lots to do, but a blog seemed to have a key role to play in all of these areas and Daniel was looking forward to see the results it could achieve for him and, more importantly, his business.

Next Instalment: Part 2 – the preparation

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