I started blogging back in July 2013 and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. To be perfectly honest, I’m still learning so much on the go. I’ve learned about some incredible platforms, resources, and plugins that I wish I knew from the get go. Only through experimentation and mistakes have I learned what I know up to now. I’ve wasted a lot of time by not having had these resources in place from the start. I’m nowhere close to being a blogging expert, but here are 10 things I wish I knew from the very start.
The plugins I am recommending below are for self hosted sites using WordPress.org. These plugins are all completely free. I’ve selected the plugins which I believe are the best based on my personal experience and which have the best ratings.
1. Self Hosting
I started off on WordPress.com because it was free in July 2013. I eventually switched to self hosting through Bluehost on January 2014. It was a bit of a pain in the ass migrating everything over from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. Yes, costs start at $3.95 a month to self host, but it is definitely worth the cost if you are serious about blogging because WordPress.org opens up an array of customization that is not available on WordPress.com. If I were to do it again, I would start straight with self hosting with Bluehost.
2. Google Analytics
I only implemented Google Analytics in January 2014 when I migrated to self hosting. I wish I had data back from when I started blogging in July 2013. God, I love data. I probably spend a little too much time
analyzing looking at my data, something you should try not to do too much when you first start out blogging (because it can be depressing). Some great Google Analytics plugins for WordPress.org are Google Analytics by Yoast and Google Analytics Dashboard for WP.
I didn’t know anything about SEO, even though I had heard about the term before. I didn’t think it would be too important if I produced great content. Wrong. It is important to do at least the bare minimum SEO and the plugin WordPress SEO by Yoast is an amazing tool for getting the basic SEO optimization done throughout your blog. I recommend doing this from the get go because I had to go back and do over a years worth of SEO optimization on old posts and, let me tell you, it was a pain in the ass.
4. Image Optimization
I had no idea images should be optimized throughout a blog. It never clicked in my head that if the file size for an image is too large, the load time for the reader will increase. Duh. If you don’t have your images optimized, go check out Google Pagespeed Insights to see how fast your site loads and what recommendations are made: one of the biggest culprits of slow site speed is non-optimized images.
Why is this important? First, because slow speed times annoy readers – I know it annoys me and you don’t want annoyed readers. Second, Google takes into consideration page speed in their rankings: they aren’t going to display you as highly/relevantly in search if you have a slow ass site.
I never realized caching would be so important to site speed. Long story short, your website will be much quicker if it is cached for returning readers. Install the plugin WP Super Cache for an easy all-in-one caching experience.
6. XML Sitemap
Related to SEO, Image Optimization, and Caching, Google XML Sitemaps will automatically produce a XML sitemap so that search engines can more easily index your site.
Manually entering affiliate links is a huge pain in the ass. Viglink automates the process by adding affiliate links into your site where it is most applicable – their algorithm searches for the best places to inject affiliate links. For this service, Viglink takes a small percentage of the revenue generated through the affiliate links on your website. It is really worthwhile if you don’t have an interest in manually entering and then manually making sure every affiliate link on your website is functioning properly. Viglink puts affiliate linking on cruise control and it is well worth it if you want to focus exclusively on content creation.
Want that cool little image right before your URL? It’s called a favicon and you can get it installed super easily with the All in One Favicon plugin. I wasted so much time trying to understand how to compress an image into a .ISO file before I stumbled onto this amazing plugin that solved my problem in a few seconds.
If you start building a mailing list, you should NOT use Feedburner. The interface is bloated, ugly, and non-intuitive. Rather, you should choose something like MailChimp or Aweber. I can only recommend MailChimp because I only have experience with them, and I have so far loved it. It is free to use their basic features and you only need to upgrade if you want extra features and your subscription list surpasses 2000 emails and/or 12,000 emails a month.
I still don’t completely understand the ins and outs of Pinterest, but I do know that it has a very large female community base and if your site is geared towards a large female readership, having easy buttons to pin images to Pinterest would be invaluable. This is where jQuery Pin It Button for Images comes in. This plugin automagically applies “Pin It” buttons to all your images for an easy way for your readers to Pin things to Pinterest. Go check out the picture at the beginning of this post. If you hover your mouse on the image, you’ll see a “Pin It” button automagically appear on the top left corner. Amazing!
I hope you guys found these resources helpful. I’m sure I haven’t even uncovered the surface of the amazing amount of plugins and other resources available for bloggers. This list of 10 should get most beginners started. Perhaps a couple were interesting and new resources some of the more experienced bloggers have yet to take for a test drive!
Oh, and if you want to reminisce about childhood with me, sing along:
Like what you’re reading? It’s time you join the legion of other Kapitalusts! No spam. No ham. No nonsense. Subscribe to receive every new post (and future exclusive offers) via email. It’s super easy to unsubscribe if it ain’t for you!