As a general rule of thumb, most errors you’ll encounter with your WordPress blog result from excessive or incompatible plugins. While many find the selection of essential plugins a conundrum, I believe in testing each plugin one-by-one with the latest WordPress version, so I can isolate the problem to determine the cause of the slow load times, call function errors, or PHP memory limit warnings. The most valuable tool I can tell you when it comes to plugins is that when possible, look for existing code that can accomplish the same result.
* AdSense Now – There are many ad insertion plugins for WordPress, but if your tech blog is using AdSense – this is the plugin I recommend. It allows you to insert your ad blocks aligned left, center, or middle in 3 sections of a post. It also gives you the option to suppress ads on pages, category pages, tag pages, archives, and more.
* Audio Player – Being able to insert mp3 clips or podcasts into your blog can be problematic. Audio Player is a plugin that makes this process simple – create a music folder on your site via FTP and then upload mp3 tracks to the directory. You can insert the built-in audio player into any of your posts or pages with a simple line of code – painless, simple, and easy.
* Facebook Share count – It’s no secret that social networking sites like Facebook are effective ways to create a fanbase, but being able to harness that power relies on an easy way to share your great content. Facebook Share count will make it easy for visitors to share your posts and monitor your content.
* Foliopress Descriptions – Once your tech blog has hundreds or even thousands of posts, you will need a way to mass edit your descriptions. While the importance of meta descriptions is debated, I still believe that a handwritten summary should be written for each post. Foliopress Descriptions supports post excerpt, These and All In One Seo meta description fields.
* Google XML Sitemaps – If you’ve read my previous post on how to get indexed by Google and Yahoo, you know that having a sitemap is essential. This plugin auto-generates your sitemap in a nice and neat XML file and lets search engines understand the content on your tech blog. After installing and activating the plugin, Google XML Sitemaps will take care of the rest.
* NextGEN Gallery – Managing your images and photo galleries can be a pain, but NextGen Gallery makes this simple. With features like auto-resizing, watermarks, thumbnail creation, and gallery effects – NextGEN Gallery is a must-have plugin.
* Star Rating for Reviews – When you run a tech blog, you will start receiving products for review sooner or later. Creating a solid review is as much about content as it is about presentation. Star Rating for Reviews allows you to create ratings for the products you review or rate different aspects of the product and averages the ratings to determine a final score. The possibilities are limitless with the plugin – a must-have for anyone looking to review tech.
* TweetMeme Retweet Button – If you look at the posts on TechBlogStartup, you’ll notice a yellow Retweet button aligned to the right. The power of Twitter is growing by the day, so making it easy for your reader to ReTweet great content can prove very valuable. If you’ve installed Google Analytics, as I explained in my previous post here, then you will be able to monitor just how many visitors enter your post through Twitter. If you are wondering why I haven’t included ShareThis, it’s because I manually insert the code instead of using a WordPress Plugin.
* WP Super Cache – If you’ve heard of Digg, then odds are you’ve heard of the Digg Effect where an article on a website becomes so popular so quickly that the flood of traffic to the website causes the server to crash. Since WordPress blogs are built on SQL Databases, they are highly susceptible to this condition, but installing WP Super Cache can almost eliminate this threat. The plugin builds a cache of your posts and creates a static HTML page so that the server load is reduced and your site can handle more visitors. If your tech blog is a brand spanking new, I would install the plugin but not activate it until I started to see spikes in traffic or one of my articles was picked up by a major tech blog like Engadget Gizmodo.
* All in One SEO – Search Engine Optimization is a key ingredient to driving organic traffic to your tech blog. Writing great content is key, but after you have created that content, you need to make sure that it targets keywords and includes basic optimization to ensure it is search engine friendly. All in One SEO does this job very well. If you are using the WordPress theme I use (Thesis), then you will not need this plugin, but for pretty much every other WordPress theme, I recommend installing it right away so that you can start writing your custom meta descriptions
All of the plugins I’ve mentioned above can be downloaded manually and then uploaded via FTP to your blog, or you can add them from within your WordPress Dashboard. Personally, I prefer the latter. If you wonder why certain plugins are not listed on my top 10 list – I don’t find them essential to a tech blog. You will notice that I do some things with TechBlogStartup that many people use Plugins or Widgets to do – e.g., the top 6 articles aligned horizontally at the top of the site, the Recent Posts section in the sidebar. For tech blogs that receive a large volume of traffic, limiting the plugins helps reduce the SQL memory load, and if you’ve ever had a website crash, you know just how important this is. Do you have some WordPress plugins on your tech blog that you think we should know about? Go ahead and drop your own list of links to the plugins in the comments section below so we can check them out.