Sometimes you just can’t see the wood for the trees…
Our recent removal from Google search has led me (slowly) to dissect the blog and try to refine the way information is stored, served and backed-up. Having adressed the page load speed, and increased the CSS compliance of the web page it was time to cull some of the slow loading and hefty plug-ins that, left unchecked, had grown to an unwieldy 68!
The plug-in review has been very helpful and has resulted in a further improvement in page load time and reduction in the plug-in load to 15. In response to recent tweets and emails I thought it might be useful to share some of my Top 9 favourite (retained) WP plugins.
Native WP comments system is inherently good. However, with this blog, most comments and discussion about blog posts occur on alternate social networking platforms such as twitter and facebook. As a result I went in search of ‘comment collating’ platforms which provided Open ID access to leave a comment which imported external conversations and trackbacks pertaining to the original post – bringing the conversation back into the blog.
Initially I used the Disqus platform but found that the trackbacks were lost, the page load time was greatly increased and it caused confusion with too many options. As a result I have moved to the Backtype plugin which I am finding quick and easy to use. It also allows threaded conversation and replies within the comment section.
2. Related posts
I currently switch between thumbnail display and text display related posts to try to determine the most effective approach to display related posts.
I really like the thumbnail images provided by LinkWithin. It is simple to install and creates fairly accurate links to pages within your blog/website.
- Thumbnails increase the number of times additional pages (related posts) that are reviewed.
- On this blog unique visitors are 3x more likely to review an additional page using LinkWithin rather than text-based related post links
- Looks pretty
- Limited editing options, poor control over number of thumbnails displayed and ability to exclude categories, posts or tags
An alternative is a text-based related posts plugin such as YARPP (Yet another related posts plugin). This plugin is undergoing further development to provide enhanced templates for the way related posts can be displayed and gives the user much more control on what to show, and how to show the related posts.
3. WP Database Backup
With the recent crash of the website and reset by the hosting server we lost a weeks worth of posts, drafts and uploaded media. Although most posts are written externally and transposed into the blog, many posts are a ‘flight of ideas’ and written directly into WP as posts. Therefore, to lose such whimsical musings was a real shame. I had a look at many of the back-up plugins and decided to go with WordPress Database Backup.
WordPress database backup creates backups of your core WordPress tables as well as other tables of your choice in the same database. I get an xml backup file sent to me daily.
4. Smart Phone Blog Display
The slow page load, and app heavy blog was becoming unwieldy on my iPhone. Thankfully I have changed to WPtouch – a fantastic app that does just about everything to help you create your own SmartPhone interface. Currently it supports android, aspen, blackberry9500, blackberry9530, cupcake, dream, incognito, iphone, ipod, opera mini, webmate and webos.
This app from BraveNewCode does it all! You can edit the way your site is presented, choose pages to be shown; add icons to the blog posts and pages; review comments…and the user can choose not to use the mobile version if they want.If you can’t find the right icon to describe your page, post or link – try using Flavor Studios Icon Generator
5. Create a table in WordPress
6. Embed a PPT or PDF Document
I use Google Doc Embedder to embed PDF files, PowerPoint presentations, and TIFF images using the Google Docs Viewer (no Flash or Adobe browser plug-ins required). Unlike Scribd, the files do not need to be uploaded to any service first – including Google Documents – but can exist anywhere accessible on your site or the internet.
We embedded some unwieldy tables for the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health here on Life in the Fast Lane
7. Create Show/Hide text for WordPress
I battled long and hard to try to find something simple to use…and then stumbled across this simple and effective Expanding Text Plugin for WordPress from Dagon Design.
8. Be kind to your audience and the environment
Providing a print friendly page which can convert blog posts into pdf, strip images and provide a shortened pure text version of your blog page. This can be done with a bookmarklet form PrintFriendly.com or by posting a WP plugin print friendly button at the end of each blog post – clean crisp and eco-friendly
9. Keep the bots coming
- Update web crawlers and bots with a regularly updated sitemap. I use Google (XML) Sitemaps Generator for WordPress. This plugin generates a XML-Sitemap compliant sitemap of your WordPress blog. This format is supported by Ask.com, Google, YAHOO and MSN Search and it works well to send an auto-generated sitemap to these engines
- Find and repair all the broken links, and re-directing links with Broken Link Checker for WordPress
- I use the Google Analyticator tracking support for the blog. Google Analyticator comes with an easily customizable widget that displays information gathered by Google Analytics using the Google Analytics API. It supports all of the tracking mechanisms that Google Analytics supports such as external link tracking, download tracking, tracking without counting administrative users, and any other advanced tracking the user wishes to add.
- SEO Friendly Images WordPress optimization plugin automatically updates all images with proper ALT and TITLE attributes. If your images do not have ALT and TITLE already set, SEO Friendly Images will add them according the options you set.