There are many thousands of WordPress plugins you can use for free, and there are also more you can buy for different purposes. According to WP Beginner, as of September 2012 there were more than 21,000 free plugins in the WordPress plugins repository! The question is; do you have to use all of them? You have probably seen a sidebar of a blog with a mile long list of awards and a multitude of links to other pages. Some people go as far as including hundreds of flashy widgets. If you are thinking of using several plugins, you should first learn why using too many of them will impact negatively on your readership.
They May Slow Down Your Website
This is, perhaps, the most annoying feature of using too many WordPress plugins. This slow down occurs because every plugin you use sends a server request when each of your readers loads the site. Imagine the effect of having fifty plugins when ten users are on your site. What about a hundred plugins with a thousand users? Do you really want your site to be that slow?
Some WordPress Plugins are not Secure
Just because a plugin works well does not mean that it is secure. Some plugins, especially the free ones, can be exploited by hackers who can then hack into your site. For example, users of some plugins such as WP Total Cache and WPTouch have been asked in the past to update their passwords after it was realized they were not secure. Since it is not always easy to know upfront which plugin is safe and which one is not, you will be doing a great deal of service to your site by installing only the minimum number necessary.
In today’s world, many people make use of WordPress for hosting a successful and useful site. However, depending on WordPress is just the beginning. You need to build a site that will actually work for readers or you will not keep those readers for very long. One of the mistakes that many people make is creating a site that has low or poor performance. This happens simply because they are making wrong choices when they build their site. Have you noticed that your own WordPress site seems to be slow to load, frustrating, and just plain hard to use? If so, then you need to go through a few steps to improve the performance of it.
Limit the Plugins
It may be your first reaction to choose a wide variety of plugins to a site simply because they can be useful, eye catching, and fun. However, as with anything else, too much of a good thing can be bad. When you use too many plugins, then you can actually slow your site down to the point that it can be slow loading and difficult to load. In order to improve the performance of your WordPress site, be sure that you are limiting your plugins on each of the pages. Some of the plugin options that can be major culprits in a slow site would include the following:
- Requiring HTML to resize images instead of resizing them by hand
Choose the Right Theme
One of the best ways to build a WordPress site that is high performing, fast loading, and easy to use is to choose from Premium WordPress templates that are designed to be streamlined. These themes are designed specifically for both performance and attractiveness of the site. Choose a theme that will help you limit the chances for performance busting features from the very beginning.
Google offers a content delivery network that can work with the JQuery library. This means that if users find your site through Google, their computer will most likely already have that JQuery information on their computer. This leads to a faster loading site. If you want your site to be high performance, then choose to use JQuery that comes from the Google content library.
WordPress is a very handy tool for website creation when you use it wisely. By taking the right steps and avoiding the right things, then you will be able to build a site that is higher in performance.
Thanks to the huge success of the iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, and other mobile devices, Apps have become all the rage. The problem for many webmasters and WordPress users is that most smaller WordPress websites/blogs can’t afford to have a custom app developed for their WordPress site.
Of course, thanks to beauty of the open source nature of WordPress, WordPress users have access to all sorts of great WordPress plugins. I recently found myself debating whether or not to develop an app for WordPress Hacks and decided that first I would look into what free WordPress plugins were available. My goal was simply to find one which would display a WordPress blog to mobile browsers in a mobile friendly format.
Based upon roughly 2 million downloads plus great reviews, far and away the best plugin I’ve found to accomplish this is one called WP Touch. For those that haven’t heard of WP Touch, this WordPress plugin automatically transforms your WordPress blog into an iPhone application-style theme, complete with ajax loading articles and effects, and will display this theme when your WordPress blog is viewed from an iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, Palm Pre, Samsung and BlackBerry Storm/Torch mobile device!
The admin panel allows you to customize many aspects of its appearance and deliver a fast, user-friendly and stylish version of your WordPress website to mobile visitors, all without modifying a single bit of code or making any changes to your standard WordPress theme. The mobile theme also includes the ability for visitors to switch between WP Touch view and your site’s regular theme if that is what they prefer.
If you are looking for a more feature-rich product, I discovered that users can also purchase a Pro version of WP Touch which includes a slew of new features like more style, color and branding customizations, themes, 10 languages, more advertising options, web-app mode, and even iPad support.
Ever notice how many features the standard installation of WordPress lacks? YouTube embedding, stats, and even a specialized Twitter widget? Well, if you have a self hosted blog at WordPress.com, these features are all given to you. In fact, many of these features are forced upon you by the sponsoring company, Automattic. Wanna learn how to get all of that “cloud-power” for your WordPress site?
If you are one of the people who would love to have these features at your disposal and already has a WordPress.com account, keep reading. Otherwise, you’re losing out on a great plugin for self-hosted WordPress sites!
Although I personally am not a major Twitter user, I do see the value in the service and have made several attempts to use it more often. For many others, it has become an addiction and possibly even a major time sink.
One trend we are starting to see more often lately is Twitter being integrated into WordPress blogs. In the past we’ve featured a couple methods to integrate Twitter into your blog such as How to Add a “Tweet This” Link To Your Blog and How to Display Most Recent Twitter Entry. Even more recently there have been some WordPress plugins released to further integrate Twitter into your WordPress blog:
- Tweetbacks – This recent plugin by our friend Joost De Valk displays any “tweets” about your blog post below that post in the same way trackbacks/pingbacks are often displayed on WordPress blogs. You can read more information about the plugin and how to install it here. A similar plugin called TweetSuite was released recently as well.
- Twitter Comments – Works similar to Gravatars, but displays the comment author’s Twitter avatar instead. If a Twitter avatar is not available, it will then attempt to locate a Gravatar to use instead.
Due to the popularity of WordPress, I would imagine this is only the tip of the iceberg and many more Twitter WordPress plugins will follow over the coming months/years. Out of curiosity, for those of you that are heavy Twitter users, what have you done to integrate Twitter into your WordPress blog?
Update: I just ran across this post over at Profit Blogger which shares more than 20 Twitter WordPress plugins that already exist.
Are you looking for another way to monetize your WordPress blog? Back in November 2008, I wrote about a new premium WordPress plugin called Auction Thumbs. After that post was published, there seemed to be a lot of interest in this type of product. This seems to be because people are quickly discovering they can make a lot of money online by doing nothing more than simply sending traffic over to eBay for relevant auctions! In this post I will be discussing a similar WordPress plugin which has actually been around for over two years now called PHP Bay Pro.
PHP Bay is an eBay affiliate script that comes in two forms. The first is a stand-alone API version which allows non-WordPress PHP based websites to quickly and easily add eBay keyword based content advertisements to their website. The second version is the one which will apply to our readers, and that is the easy to use PHP Bay WordPress plugin.
PHP Bay Pro lets you take advantage of the 80 million auctions on eBay by adding relevant auctions to your WordPress blog. When users click on the auctions, they are taken to that auction on eBay. Then once people buy ANY item on eBay, you earn a commission, even if it wasn’t what you referred them for. In fact, you get commission for any auctions won over the next 7 days by that person. If that wasn’t enough, if someone signs up for an eBay account within 7 days of clicking on your eBay auction link, you also get a very nice commission (can be as high as $40.00 I believe, but usually around $15.00 each).
Here is the feature list you get with PHP Bay:
- Earn revenue through the Ebay Partner Network or other popular programs like PepperJam, Mediaplex, TradeDoubler or Affilinet!
- Add keyword rich Ebay items to your php based web site that encourage impulsive buys!
- Easily Integrate into any New or Existing WordPress Blog!
- Thousands of free WordPress templates available across the web to create virtually any type of site!
- List auction items regionally from 17 different countries!
- List items by postal code (zip code) for localized results.
- List items from specific Ebay categories.
- Listings displayed in language and currency of selected country.
- Listings displayed in rows or specified number of columns for a Web 2.0 look and feel!
- Access to our active members only forum that offers a tremendous value in how to get more out of phpBay Pro, strategies, tips and tricks and much more!
- Use on as many sites as you own! phpBay Pro is not limited to one domain. It can be used on one, or hundreds of sites with one license!
- Comprehensive user manual with illustrations, in PDF format, for both the WordPress version and the API version, that will walk you through, step-by-step, to install and get working quickly with phpBay Pro!
- Upgrades are free for the life of the product! phpBay Pro is nearly two years old with three major upgrades made with suggestions from our user base!
If you are considering buying this WordPress plugin, make sure the topic your WordPress blog(s) covers will convert well on eBay. Product based websites which cover something that is often bought on eBay seems to convert the best (electronics, pictures, etc.). If your blog covers free products or some sort of service, chances are using a WordPress plugin like this won’t be worth your effort and will annoy your readers.
If you decide you’re interested in PHP Bay Pro, it looks like it is currently available for $79.00. I believe they used to have a free version as well, but I’ve not been able to track that down so they may have removed it since I bought my copy of this plugin last year.
It seems like every time WordPress gets close to a new release, I praise the WordPress team for integrating popular WordPress plugins into the WordPress software and I get several of the same responses…”If it already exists a WordPress plugin, why waste time installing it into the software?”
Unfortunately, just because a WordPress plugin exists, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t better off having it built into WordPress. Here are a few reasons:
- Security Vulnerabilities – Improperly coded WordPress plugins can cause security vulnerabilities. Now, this can obviously happen with the WordPress software, but it is more likely to be coded correctly or caught and fixed quickly when it is integrated into the WordPress software.
- Wasting Database Resources – Poorly coded WordPress plugins can waste a lot of database resources. Unneeded database queries can cause slow loading times, etc.
- Everyone Has Access – Although we all know about WordPress plugins, I’m sure there are a number of users who don’t understand what they are, how they work, how to install them, etc. Having it built into WordPress ensures that everyone has access to these features.
It is with this thought process that I always try to use as few WordPress plugins as possible on my websites, and I rejoice every time popular WordPress plugins are built directly into WordPress.
With WordPress 2.7 coming out soon, we’ll be getting a bunch of new plugins built into WordPress. What plugins would you like to see built into WordPress next? Keep in mind that the plugin would need to be something that would benefit most (if not all) WordPress users in order to be considered (not situational plugins).
The five I would like to see built into WordPress next:
- All-in-One SEO Pack (or at least some parts of it) – This is very basic stuff and everyone who uses WordPress would benefit.
- Google XML Sitemaps – This is one of the most popular WordPress plugins and for good reason. A sitemap.xml file should come standard with any blogging software.
- No Self Pings – Why does WordPress send pingbacks internally? I think this one would be easy to integrate and people would love it.
- Popularity Contest – We have recent posts, recent comments, etc. Who wouldn’t want this as an option on their WordPress theme?
- Database Manager – It would be nice if there was a way that you could easily backup and restore your database without the use of a WordPress plugin.
Share your five most wanted in the comments!
You’ve probably noticed that with our last redesign of this site, we switched from displaying the Feedburner widget to instead displaying our actual Feedburner feed count.
Back in May of 2008 I wrote about the FeedCount plugin, which is a WordPress plugin which allows you to easily display your WordPress feed count to your readers. Basically you just activate the feedcount option in your Feedburner feed and activate the Awareness API, then upload and activate the Feedcount WordPress plugin, and then enter your feed information into the dashboard option panel and you are done.
If you’d prefer to instead build the code directly into your WordPress theme, Joost De Valk of Yoast.com recently published a great post providing the code you need to show off your Feedburner count. The code is incredibly easy to integrate into your theme and also includes caching so you won’t overload the Feedburner API.
When Should You Display Your Feedburner Count?
This is a question that doesn’t really have a correct answer, but I’ve always found it interesting to hear others thoughts on this topic. I personally have always felt a good round number is 500 and I’ve had several people tell me that when they are considering subscribing to a feed, 500 is the number that they look for as a mark of a good blogger. 500+ subscribers generally shows that people like your content.
Do you look at a blog’s feed count before subscribing to a feed?
This will be my second post in as many weeks about related posts plugins, but after reviewing the related posts by category plugin last week, another plugin was brought to my attention.
This plugin is called the Yet Another Related Posts Plugin, but it is much more than that. I mentioned in my last post that my favorite related posts plugin has not been updated in several years and doesn’t contain features like adding related posts to your feed. YARRP separates itself from the rest with their advanced features, including:
- Improved algorithm for finding related posts that also takes into consideration categories and tags
- The ability to set a threshold on the relevancy of the posts that you want to show
- The ability to display the related posts in your RSS feed
- The automatic integration of the related links below your posts
As with any good plugin, you get a number of options which you can control from the WordPress dashboard:
I’m currently experimenting with this WordPress plugin on one of my low traffic sites and if I’m impressed, I will probably use this on all of my WordPress installations. Do any of you use this plugin? Are you pleased with it or do you prefer a classic like Related Entries?
Improving the navigation in your blog means visitors will find MORE of your content, and return MORE often. Even with the best content and lots of traffic – the most important thing is that people can QUICKLY find what they were looking for from the first moment they enter your blog!
I’m going to give you 10 different ways you can improve the navigation in your blog that anyone can (and should) implement for better usability when you have a WordPress powered blog. You will be surprised how much easier it will be to find content by using these techniques.
10 Steps to Improved WordPress Navigation
- Add Breadcrumbs: This is a very easy fix, and one I don’t see on many blogs. Breadcrumbs are the simple link trail on the top of a web page like this: “Home -> Page -> SubPage”. It’s easy to add breadcrumbs, just use a 2.6+ compatible plugin like “Breadcrumb NavXT.
- Get rid of Ugly Next and Previous Links: Every WordPress homepage, and any page that has lists of blog posts (search, archive), has simple “next” and “previous” links to navigate older posts. I have witnessed (countless times) visitors thinking that all the posts you had to offer were listed on the homepage and that was it (mainly people not familiar with WordPress). You should have a linked list of pages (like google) that says “this is page 1 of…” and links to “2, 3, 4, 5, etc”. It’s easy to fix this with plugins like WP-PageNavi or WP-Page Numbers.
- Bold Pagination on Single Pages: You can’t use the last trick on single pages, but every single (post) page has links at the bottom to view the next and previous page as well. I edit my “single.php” file to change that text to something like “Post before this one” and “Post after this one”, and align them left and right (bolded). You can style them any way you want – the point is to make them stand out. Visitors often come from SERP’s to a single post page, make it easy for them to view other ones as well.
- More Links and Excerpts: This is personal preference really, but I prefer to have post excerpts on pages instead of the entire post, because I feel it clutters up pages and makes everything run together (on most blogs). I like to encourage people to visit the single post page to read the entire thing. There are a couple ways to change a running post page (like search results, archives, index.php) to show excerpts. On your homepage, you can use the Homepage excerpts plugin to achieve this. On all other pages, just the “the loop” and change the_content to the_excerpt.
- Multi-Paged Navigation: If you ramble on like I do, some of your posts can be dreadfully long. Break them up into multi-pages posts using a plugin like Multi-Page Toolkit. It’s not only better usability, but it creates multiple post pages so you can get more indexed in the search engines.
- Related Posts: What better way to get people to stay on your blog than by recommending to them “related posts” that you’ve written?! All it takes is a plugin like Related Posts.
- Most Viewed Posts: Like an MVP of the game – you should be showing your visitors your most valuable content! Lester Chan has a great plugin called WP Post Views that has a sidebar widget than can display your most viewed posts! This is a great way to showcase your best posts and keep people on your blog.
- Most Popular Posts: Alex King has a plugin called Popularity Contest that displays how popular posts are.
- Category Images: Having your categories a post is assigned to listed and linked is a great way to get visitors to view everything else you have posted in that category, but sometimes (like “ad blindness) readers are blinded to post meta info. Solve that by assigning images to your categories, so that they stand out prominently! All you need is the Category Icons plugin.
- Sidebar Navigation: There are a bazillion options for pimping out your sidebar, and most bloggers seem to just list categories, archives, and a blogroll. Check out all of the WordPress Widgets available, the WordPress Codex page for “Customizing Your Sidebar”, the List Authors widget, and Parent Pages widget.
By following these 10 steps to better navigation, your visitors will STAY LONGER and READ MORE each and every time they visit your blog.