First, a cautionary tale about plugins.
I once switched to a new WordPress theme that I really liked, in part because on the articles page it showed little more than the headline from each blog post. For the reader, that serves up a list of articles from which to choose, without a lot of scrolling.
But the new theme required some work to get it to look cool. Each article requires a “featured image”, which is then put in that little box in front of the title of the article. I had to go back through all the articles and add featured images.
What I failed to realize was that I had a plugin that sends my articles to Twitter. If I save an article, out goes the tweet. The plug-in is apparently smart enough not to send a tweet every time I edit an article, but I guess enough time had passed so that it felt comfortable sending out a tweet each time I added a featured image.
People who follow @YourOwnLawFirm on Twitter were treated to a tweet for everyone of my articles. Sorry about that.
The moral of the story is that there are a lot of great plugins you can add to a WordPress blog, but watch for unintended consequences. In another instance, I found a plugin that checks your site for broken links, and sends you an email report. It’s a great idea because Google actually gives your site demerits if it finds broken links, and in any event you don’t want to send your readers to dead ends. However, I soon started ignoring the emails because the plugin was reporting dozens of links that were not broken. What I did not realize in that case was that the default setting for the plugin was to draw a line through every link it thought was broken. My blogs all ended up looking like marked up drafts.
1. WordPress SEO by Yoast
Contrary to what some will tell you, WordPress is not very good with SEO in its basic form. Indeed, the default permalink setting is epically stupid, assigning a number to your posts instead of incorporating the keyword rich article name.
To make certain you are maximizing the SEO, make sure to use WordPress SEO by Yoast (I’m going to just call it Yoast). Think of it as a nagging SEO expert. Up next to the “publish” button, this plug-in adds a colored dot. If the dot is grey or red, you need to work on your SEO. If the dot is green, then all systems are go and you are free to publish. The concept is simple. You tell Yoast what keyword or phrase you want to optimize. That first step alone is huge. It’s easy to write an article without giving any thought to the keywords. Once you set the keyword, Yoast then checks to make sure it is in the title, body of the article, heading, URL, and meta description. Each missing item is flagged with an annoying red X. I can’t bring myself to publish the article until all the red Xs are gone and the dot is green. So long as you don’t ignore it, Yoast will force you to SEO optimize your blog post.
2. Shareaholic (share buttons, analytics and related content)
Face it. Most of the time articles on legal websites won’t be share-worthy to the general public, but in the event someone is in the mood to pass along your article, don’t miss the opportunity. If you scroll to the bottom of this article, you’ll see the share buttons (and by all means feel free to share while you are there). I use the “sexy” setting that partially hides the buttons. You can pick the buttons you want displayed. You don’t have to go crazy listing every social site, because the final button pops up the complete list. Even if your share buttons are seldom used by visitors, having those buttons at the bottom of all of your articles gives YOU an easy way to share them to your social sites.
Perhaps even more important than the share buttons, though, are the related content links just below them. If a visitor to your site reads only the article they came to see and then leaves with no further interaction, that is called a “bounce”. You want to keep the bounce rate as low as possible. With content marketing, you want to get the potential clients to your site and keep them there. The longer they are there, the more information they absorb and the more they will view you as an authority. One way to keep them there is to offer up additional articles they might find interesting.
After you install Shareaholic and turn on the related articles feature, it crawls your site and indexes the other articles. This can take a couple of days, so don’t think it’s not working right after you install it.
3. Resize Images Before Upload
I’ve provided a video below by Daniel J. Lewis, a very knowledgeable author on the topics of podcasting and blogging. The remaining two plug-ins that I recommend are discussed in detail in his video, along with three others you will find useful.
As you will see, the Resize Images Before Upload plug-in eliminates a ton of work when dealing with images. I used to buy and download an image from ShutterStock or some other source, and then either resize it with a photo editing program or just upload the huge image into the post. Then I’d have to edit the image, save the post and see how it looked, go back and edit to make the image bigger or smaller, etc. Resize does all that work automatically. Watch the video to see how much time it will save you. But note that you must set the default image size in the plugin’s settings, otherwise some of the time-saving is lost.
4. Grab and Save
Having spent good money on an image, I want to re-purpose it as much as possible across my websites (yes, that is permitted under the license). I keep all my images in a dropbox so I can call them up and use them wherever I happen to be working, but often I will recall the site where I last used the image. Much faster than I could go to dropbox and upload the image to WordPress, I just right click on the image and save the URL, then I go to the article I am writing and use Grab and Save to insert it into the article.