Ways to enhance your WordPress blog

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WordPress has, for many, become the platform of choice for powering business websites, both general content-managed and blog websites alike. Let us not forget the platform’s roots, which lie in the realm of personal blogging and “what I did on my weekend”-style blog posts, shared with friends and bloggers the world over. WordPress, when used to its fullest as a blogging platform, has an immense amount of functionality built in to truly enhance and ease the blogging experience.

There are, of course, a few extras that can be added to enhance your blog and really make it work for you, setting your blog apart from the rest. Here are a few plugins and ideas which can enhance the blogging experience, not just for you but for your users as well.

  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has become somewhat of an unexplained art form in this day and age. Most people have a basic idea of what it entails, while unfortunately not knowing all the intricacies involved in getting it to really work for them.

    One thing users can do is code-based optimisation. This being getting the code of their website to a point where it is as easy as possible for search engines to understand it. But what if you can’t do that either? Enter the SEO plugins.

    WordPress has a slew of popular SEO plugins that offer various different optimisation options for your content. Word of warning: choose only one. Having five SEO plugins won’t optimise your website any better. Just choose one that you feel works best for you. Popular options include All-in-One SEO Pack, WordPress SEO by Yoast and Platinum SEO Pack. If you’re using a theme that’s built on a framework, first check if it has it’s own SEO features (WooThemes’ WooFramework, Hybrid and Genesis do, for example).

  • Preventing Comment Spam
  • We all despise comment spam. This I can be sure of. There’s nothing worse in blogging than receiving a bunch of spam comments while trying to engage with meaningful commenters on your blog posts.

    My solution is two-fold: Akismet and Cookies for Comments. Install and activate both of these plugins and you should be good to go for preventing the majority of comment spam on your blog.

  • Enhancing commenting
  • If you find your comments sections tend to get large and very active, you my want to enhance this somewhat. Check out the IntenseDebate commenting system (also by Automattic, like WordPress and Akismet) and see if it works for you. Similar to the popular Disqus comment system, IntenseDebate provides a more integrated solution to truly enhancing commenting on your blog.

  • Sharing your Content
  • We see these all the time on blogs these days… “sharing is sexy” and “commenting rules”. I’m not really a huge fan of these things. If you’re working with a theme framework, check if it has built in sharing options (WooFramework has sharing short codes, for example) and use those. If not, Google for tutorials on how to add the specific buttons you’re looking for, or find a plugin to do it. Those sharing bars, to me, feel like noise and I don’t end up wanting to sift through it all to share the content.

    Another idea, to share content yourself, is to use the Twitter Tools plugin by Alex King. This can be set to tweet whenever you post and, with a bit of savvy smarts, can be set to send your update to Facebook at the same time. It’s such a smart world we live in, today, isn’t it?

  • Blogging from your mobile device
  • With the increase in the usage and availability of smart phones today, as well as the tablet boom that is currently taking place, why not blog from your mobile device as well? Automattic have released a mobile WordPress application for iOS, BlackBerry and Android, among other popular mobile device manufacturers. This application has recently undergone some major updates and is a good option for easy mobile blogging.

    If you’re more interested in sharing small snippets of content (photos, short quotes, etc), tumblogging-style, you can install the WooTumblog plugin by WooThemes (or use a WooTumblog-supported theme) and blog via the Express.app iPhone application which synchronises with the WooTumblog functionality. This is great for sharing content on the go from your iPhone.

  • General Enhancements
  • Ultimately, your blog is about you. While I’ve recommended above not to install too many plugins, there are some plugins that provide nice enhancements to any blog.

  • Jetpack
  • Fresh off the shelves, Jetpack by Automattic brings several features from WordPress.com to WordPress.org blogs. These features include wp.me shortlinks, a Twitter feed and the popular WP.com Stats module. Give it a go and test out the various featured (WordPress.com account required).

  • wp-Typography
  • This is a plugin I particularly enjoy, due to my affinity for neat typography. wp-Typography attempts to prevent widows and gutters, while also correcting typographic errors (for example, replacing minus symbols with true hyphens and correcting quotation marks).

With the wealth of WordPress plugins freely available today, it can be difficult to choose the right one and to not overload your blog and decrease it’s loading time (the more plugins you activate, the longer your blog will take to load). The plugins and apps mentioned above should provide a good start for enhancing your blog and get you blogging more often. After all, we all know that if something is made extremely easy, we’ll be more likely to do it more often.

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