Starting your WordPress Blog, Part 3: Configuring Plugins

Welcome to Step 3 of starting your WordPress blog from scratch, which is by far the longest step in this process, in which we will configure six powerful plugins for your new WordPress blog. If this post is where you’ve jumped in, you may find Step 1 and Step 2 helpful.

OK, from Step 2, you should now have six plugins installed. In the future, you’ll probably add more, but these will get you started. Here’s the list of plugins you should see now (not necessarily in this order):

  • Akismet
  • Yoast SEO
  • Google Analytics by Yoast
  • Click to Tweet
  • Revive Old Post

Now we’re going to configure the plugins to work perfectly for your sweet new blog. This step will jump around a little, because, now that you’ve activated each plugin, you’ll see that each plugin is accessed from a different place on the left navigation menu. It’d be nice if you could install and configure plugins from, you know, the plugin menu, but alas, I don’t make the software, I just use it.

This next step will probably take 20-30 minutes, depending on how comfortable you are, and how fast you go. Just take your time. The screens can be a little intimidating, but you cannot break anything, so just walk through these with me, and you’ll be fine.

  • Akismet – This plugin from Automattic, the makers of WordPress, keeps spam out of your comments completely. You’ll never get comment spam, or at least I never have. You have to do two things to install and configure Akismet:
    1. Get a free API key here: http://goo.gl/oGf8. You’ll need to connect your WordPress account to Akismet by logging in with WordPress. If you haven’t already created a WordPress account, now’s the time. When you create your WP account, it acts like you’re going to create a new website (like mysite.wordpress.com) but all you’re doing is creating an account. You’ll use it again later.
    2. Copy/paste the API key into the Akismet settings, as shown below.

akismet

  • JetPack (also from Automattic) Jetpack is WordPress’ way of giving you all the same functionality you’d have if you paid Automattic $30/month to host your blog or went with yourname.wordpress.com as your URL. So, Jetpack is not just one functionality, but a LOT of functionality. You will not need all of these functions right now. Later on, you may get real comfortable and want to try some other stuff, but the following functions within Jetpack will get you off to a good start. So, click on Jetpack in the top left of your navigation menu, and click on Settings. You’ll see a big long list of all the stuff Jetpack does. Enable the following functions one at a time.
    • The first big message you’ll see is to connect Jetpack to WordPress. If you skipped this step with Akismet, there’s no escaping it now. Go to wordpress.com and register for a simple account. They’re really good about not bothering you with emails. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I got an email from WordPress. Anyway, setup your WordPress account, and document your username and password.
    • Contact form – makes it ridiculously easy to insert a simple or complex contact form on any page or post without writing any code.
    • Enhanced distribution – Automattically (see what I did there?) informs search engines and other web services when you publish a new post.
    • Extra Sidebar widgets – Automattic makes a bunch of great, simple widgets that you may want to use. You’ll definitely use some of them, and you might use all of them.
    • Gravatar Hovercards – when someone comments on your blog posts, you’ll see who they are and it’ll look good.
    • Jetpack Comments – enables nicely formatted and highly functional commenting on your blog posts.
    • Likes – kinda like Facebook, you can see how many people “like” your posts, because not everyone wants to comment, but clicking “like” is harmless.
    • Publicize / Social sharing via Jetpack – powerful functionality that connects all your social networking accounts to your WordPress blog so when you publish a post, the post is automatically shared on your social networks.
    • Subscriptions – the very easiest way to create, grow, and own your blog email subscriber list. 
    • WP.me shortlinks – you can just share your posts with http://mydomain.com/category/nice-post-name/ but that’s kinda long. wp.me/nice-post is so much nicer.
  • Yoast SEO – you may have noticed when you installed this plugin that it has over a million active installs. It’s the best and easiest SEO plugin ever. We’ll show you exactly how to use this functionality in Step 5: writing your first blog post.
  • Google Analytics by Yoast – If there’s one plugin that the newbie blogger may not need, it’s this one. This plugin just makes it dirt simple to connect your blog to Google Analytics, which is the best free way to analyze all your blog traffic. You’ll need to sign up for a free Google Analytics account first, then connect by copying/pasting what Google calls your “UA number” into Google Analytics by Yoast. Why is this one kind of optional? WordPress provides a simple Stats functionality, both in your WordPress installation and on wordpress.com. Those will get you by for now, but once you have real traffic, you’re going to want more detailed information about that traffic.
  • Click to Tweet – this plugin offers a simple powerful sharing tool to enhance sharing of your content from within your content. When you are writing, you can set apart any quotation (under 140 characters, obviously) so that any reader can just click on that quotation, and it’ll automatically create a tweet from that reader and include a link to your post. Magic! Best of all, configuring Click to Tweet is truly the easiest thing you’ll ever do. See the image below. Really, that’s it.

clicktotweet

  • Revive Old Post – Once you publish a post and share it to social networks, it’s kinda gone. ROP is one simple way to keep all your posts (or a category of posts) from fading into obscurity by randomly sharing a post at a certain (configurable) interval. There are 3 screens to work through when configuring ROP. See below.

ROP1

The screen above is where you’ll add your social accounts to which ROP will share your old posts. The free version of ROP lets you add one Twitter and one Facebook account. You can see here that I’ve connected my Twitter account. Click on “Add Account” for the social networks you want to connect. You’ll get a simple popup that connects you to login to that account, and then brings you back here once the connection is established.

ROP3

The second screen, General Settings, is more complex, but straightforward. Choose the interval at which you want ROP to share a new post, in hours. My choice of “8” means ROP will tweet out another of my old posts every 8 hours. My posts need to be 3 days old for ROP to share them again, but not older than 365 days. You can share 3 or 4 or 10 posts every 8 hours if you want, but that can get a bit spammy. I choose to share 1 post every 8 hours, but I allow ROP to share an old post more than once. If you use Google Analytics, definitely check Campaign Tracking, so you’ll know when users click on a ROP shared post because it was shared, rather than finding one of your old posts naturally. Finally, you can choose to exclude any of your post categories or tags. In other words, you’re telling ROP “don’t revive these particular old posts.”

ROP2

Finally, the post format screen (above). The options here will determine exactly how your social posts will look. I recommend trying different combinations of these options, and then clicking on the blue button (shown in the image above) to see what that configuration looks like.

OK, so we’ve written a short novel with lots of pictures here. Sorry about that, but you only have to do this once (per site) so it’s OK, right? I hope these instructions made it really easy for you to configure all these plugins. Plugins are the power behind making WordPress really powerful and personalized, which is why we spent so much time here.

Ready for more configurating?!? Yay! Tomorrow’s post will walk you through configuring your WordPress settings. I promise it’s much shorter and easier. Really.

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