Blogging for Expats: Choose Your Plugins Wisely

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One way to support your expat, overseas lifestyle is by creating a blog-based business. This is the 6th installment in the series of Blogging for Expats tuturials.

In our last installment we talked about themes for your blog. Today we’ll continue with our WordPress / home construction analogy.

If WordPress is the foundation and framing, and the theme is your exterior elevation and materials, then plugins are installed inside to make the home more usable.

A plugin is a small bit of code that lets you perform a specific task on your blog. According to WordPress, “Plugins can extend WordPress to do almost anything you can imagine.”

As of this writing, there are 14,515 plugins available on the WordPress.org site, and many more available through private developers.

Want some examples? First, make sure you’re on the Future Expats homepage.

  • Look to the right on this screen. See the area that says “Connect with Future Expat” with a row of little icons underneath? That’s done with a plugin called Social Profiles Widget.
  • Now look up. See the big graphic image above the articles? Notice that it rotates among several different images, with a little excerpt of the relevant article below it. That’s a plugin called Dynamic Content Gallery.
  • Scroll down to the bottom of this article. See the little grey and green icon that says “X tweets / retweet”? That’s a plugin called TweetMeme

At the moment, I’m running 17 different plugins on this site. Some of them work behind the scenes to provide additional security against hackers, or to compile information about the site’s performance and traffic.

Recommended Plugins

The only place you should get plugins is from WordPress itself. Plugins are rated from one to five stars, so check the star rating and comments on any plugin you’re considering.

Security

The first group of plugins you should install are all security related. After all, you wouldn’t move any furniture into your new home without having a lock on the front door, and maybe a security system installed, right?

Akismet

The Akismet plugin comes bundled with WordPress. It helps prevent comment spam. There are lots of trolls out there in the interwebs who try to use blog comments to get backlinks to their spammy websites, or even to spread malicious bugs. Akismet is your first (but not your only) line of defense.

Secure WordPress

This plugin works behind the scenes to keep the bad guys from seeing some of the information that helps them exploit your site. It gives you lots of choices and options, and is easy to use.

Functionality

Fast Secure Contact Form

This plugin gives you a simple, customizable form your site visitors can use to send you an email. It includes anti-spam features. It’s the form you fill in here if you want to send an email to Future Expats.

SI Captcha Anti Spam

If you’re commenting here, you’ll encounter the SI Captcha Anti Spam plugin. It checks to make sure there’s a real human being and not a computer making comments on the blog. Although it’s not totally necessary (in fact, I resisted adding it for a long time), it will cut down the number of spam comments your blog receives.

Database Manager

When you installed WordPress, you also created a database. To maintain your blog properly, you’ll have to back up that database from time to time. A good plugin to help automate that task and help with other database-related issues is the WP-DB Manager.

Google Analytics for WordPress

Google is the biggest search engine, so you’ll want to pay attention to what they tell you about your site traffic. To do that, you’ll go to Google and set up Analytics, and this plugin will help set up the information on your blog so Google can track it.

These are the basic plugins that any blog should use. There are lots more available — over 14,000 more. In our next installment, I’ll talk some more about plugins you can use to help pretty up your blog and spread the word through social media.

This is the 6th installment in the Blogging for Expats series. Click the links below to review the first five:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

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