Beyond Basic WordPress Plugins, Not the Usual Suspects, Part 1

By chuck

You’ve probably read a gazillion articles about the top WordPress plug-ins that your site needs, which mostly profile the same popular plug-ins. Akismet, All-in-One SEO, Contact Form 7, Jetpack, Yoast CEO, W3 Total Cache, Google XML Sitemaps, Google Analytics for WordPress are the ones you’ll see again and again. These are great plug-ins, but what about the best of the rest? What are some of the truly helpful free plug-ins that will take your website to the next level?

Today I’ll go over a few of the WordPress plug-ins I find helpful.

Adrotate Banner Manager

How do you run your own ad system for a high traffic news website or blog? What if you want to go beyond Google AdWords and run banner ads from paying advertisers? Do you want a system that is easy to configure, comes with useful premium upgrade options, and provides reliable metrics? Adrotate is the workhorse plug-in for your advertising needs.

It provides reliable metrics on ad impressions and click-throughs, without overtaxing your system. In my experience running a high traffic news websites, the metrics tracking didn’t affect performance of the website, especially the back-end database.

It allows you to set up access for advertisers to ad campaigns, run special versions of a campaign for mobile users, set start times and end times for campaigns, set where banners display in a story or before and after, widget options and much more.

Adrotate also has support for Google Adwords, which comes in handy when you are using multiple advertising ecosystems on your site.

BackUpWordPress

Backing up your computer and its content is one of those important tasks that millions of people put off doing every day. Then something happens with to your computer, the content, or the configuration. If you are a veteran web developer like me, you probably have a variety of methods to back-up the databases and files of your WordPress sites. Even if you are a developer, it helps to have multiple methods scheduled to back-up critical website files and content. If you aren’t a web developer and just run a website for your business, organization or blog, BackUpWordPress is an easy-to-configure plug-in that manages your back-up needs.

The plug-in allows you to create back-ups on demand or you can schedule back-ups. You can set up frequency, timing of the back-ups and how many back-ups to save on the hosting server. For small websites that aren’t changed often, I’ve set up back-ups to happen weekly and to trigger during off hours. BackUpWordPress saves a back-up on the server and also mails me a zip file of the backup.

Blog Designer

There are thousands of WordPress themes out there, both free and premium, that can make your website look like anything. These themes offer all kinds of customization of the look of your website, but they are mostly focused on your home page design and the look of posts and pages. WordPress became popular as a platform for blogging, but the blog design in many contemporary themes is an afterthought. You may find a theme that organizes your home page precisely how you want it and gives your website the look you want, but then you have a blog component and the theme just doesn’t give you the layout and look you want.

Blog Designer is a simple plug-in that enables several classic layouts for your blog index page (the list of post titles, images, summaries and links), which plays well with your site’s theme. We are currently using it for this blog’s listing of posts page.

Print, PDF & Email by PrintFriendly

One of the most common requests from readers of news sites and blogs is the ability to do something with an article. Most websites are focused on enabling social media sharing of articles, using plug-ins or theme features. What if your reader wants to print just the text of an article or blog post, minus the navigation, ads and other cruft? What if they want to email it to somebody? What if you want to enable a smart looking version of your content with branding via a PDF?

The Print, PDF & Email plug-in handles all of these tasks with ease. While some premium themes provide these functions, I had to spend quite a bit of time searching for plug-ins and code that enabled readers to print and email content.

Better Search Replace

Do you have a website with hundreds or thousands of posts and pages, which need some changes across the content? Perhaps you need to change a phrase, an official name, the name of a product or URL links to articles and websites? Updating URLs in stories is probably the most common housekeeping task you need to do with lots of content, as websites change their URLs, go offline, or merge with a new website. Is there an easy way to change content without having to search for and open every post/page on your website?

Better Search Replace is a free plug-in (with pro options available) that allows you to directly change content in a website’s database from the WordPress dashboard. You can select the table(s) in your database and search and replace for text strings, URLs, and HTML code. This is a very powerful tool that can easily mess up your website if you don’t get your search strings exactly right, so backing up your database before using it is imperative. It also allows you to do a “dry run” to see what kind of results you can expect before initiating changes.


Check back next week for part 2 of our free plug-in round-up and two weeks for a list of several awesome premium plug-ins.

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