7 Ultra Useful WordPress Plugins

WordPress, one of the most popular content management systems now powers over 16.6% of all websites. The great thing about WordPress sites is the community support that it gets, which means WordPress developers are busily created useful plug-ins that help with SEO, social media, editorial, site speed, and more.

There was until recently a useful list of seven helpful plug-ins at evergreensearch.com, compiled by Eric Siu which we have found could significantly enhance your site. They’re simple to install and will have effects that scale across your site. Keep in mind that not every plug-in will be a fit – mix and match and see what works for you.

  1. Scribe SEO – this plugin will help you do keyword research, grade your post in terms of overall SEO, and also help you find external or internal links. In short, it’s like having an SEO assistant in WordPress. If you have multiple editors writing for you, Scribe SEO is a must.
  2. Facebook for WordPress – enable your posts and pages to include Like, Send, Subscribe, Social Publisher, Recommendation Bar, and Comments capabilities. This plugin also includes Facebook Insights in your backend. In a nutshell, this plugin connects your site to Facebook.
  3. Tynt – if you are worried about scrapers or people that manually cut and paste your content without giving you credit, you can use Tynt to automatically create a link back to your site when people scrape your content. By doing this, you’re adding a wall of defense from scrapers and gain some SEO value by acquiring more links. Tynt states that you can expect to get up to 40% traffic from these added links. If you’re a big news site, you can expect to see 8,000 to 10,000 more links per week. Not bad for a plugin, right?
  4. WordPress SEO – this is the best SEO plugin out there for WordPress. Control indexation, breadcrumbs, RSS feeds, sitemaps, authorship, titles, and more. A must have.
  5. Social Sharing Toolkit – if you want to add social media buttons before and after your posts, this is the plugin to do so. You have the option of displaying various social network buttons such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and more. The added benefit is the ultra clean look and feel of the buttons.
  6. WP Touch – with mobile usage slated to overtake desktops by 2015, it’s no secret that you need to have a mobile site. This plugin will create a simple mobile version of your site.
  7. Zemanta – this plugin allows you to add relevant links and images around the web to your blog posts. It’ll also help you tag your posts and give you more additional research points. In short, this plugin can help drive more traffic to your site.

Update: eMarketer’s estimates US Time Spent on Mobile to Overtake Desktop by 2014

How to Use the WordPress Media Manager Gallery

As of December 2012 and the release of WordPress Version 3.5, the new Media Manager has changed the way photo galleries are created. If you are new to WordPress, or have been using one of the photo gallery plugins and themes, then this post might help you use the built-in WordPress Media Manager to display photographs on your site.

Place your cursor at the point on your post or page where you want the photo galley to appear, and follow the following easy steps:

  1. Click on the Add Media button on the left, just above the Editor quick menu bar.
  2. Click on Create Gallery
  3. Click on the image you want to add
  4. Under Attachment Details fill in the following fields:
    • Title
    • Caption
    • Alt Text
    • Description
  5. Add as many photos from your media library into the gallery as required, repeating 3 and 4 above for each
  6. Click on Create a new gallery
  7. At the Edit Gallery screen drag the images into the required order.
  8. Under Gallery Settings Select the number of columns of thumbnails to display
  9. Click on Insert Gallery to finish.

You can then preview or publish your gallery of photographs in the usual way. If you decide that you need to add more photographs to the gallery, or change the order the pictures display, follow the following steps:

  1. Edit the post containing the gallery.
  2. Click on Visual editor tab, if not already selected.
  3. Click on the gallery you want to edit
  4. Click on the top left icon in the gallery (a camera picture)
  5. To add new images click on Add to Galley and proceed as before.
  6. Reorder or make any other required changes then click on Update Gallery.

That is it! All you need to do to use the new Media Manager to display photographs on your WordPress site.

For more information about using the built-in WordPress Media Manager, including a video of inserting a gallery then click here to visit How to Insert a WordPress Photo Gallery into Your Blog

Top 10 WordPress Plugins

When we get asked “What are the Top 10 WordPress Plugins?”, it is sometimes a challenge to limit the list because there are so many out there. The ones which we are currently finding the most useful are (in alphabetical order):

  1. Breadcrumb NavXT
  2. Broken Link Checker
  3. CMS Tree Page View
  4. Contact Form 7
  5. Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin
  6. Types – Complete Solution for Custom Fields and Types
  7. Viper’s Video Quicktags
  8. WordPress Database Backup
  9. WP-PageNavi
  10. WP-Table Reloaded

The details of our Top 10 WordPress Plugins are listed below, together with links to further information. Each is given a TechCo Rating, which is an indication of the level of use which we would expect to see.

TechCo Rating:

  • Basic – Every site must have a plugin like this.
  • Intermediate – Most sites should use this plugin
  • Advanced – Plugin could provide functionality to make the site special.
  • Admin – Plugin provides administrators with tools not seen by the public.

Breadcrumb NavXT
TechCo Rating: Intermediate
Breadcrumb trails are a good supplementary navigation system that aid in site usability, and can provide SEO benefits. This plugin adds a breadcrumb navigation showing the visitor’s path to their current location. These represent the page hierarchy leading to the current page.

For details on how to use Breadcrumb NavXT plugin visit Breadcrumb NavXT.

Broken Link Checker
TechCo Rating: Admin
This useful WordPress plugin checks your blog for broken links and missing images and notifies you on the Admin dashboard if any are found.

Among other things it will detect missing images and files, and links to deleted YouTube videos. New and modified entries are checked immediately, while the plugin periodically checks links in posts, pages, comments, custom fields and the blogroll. If any problems are found you get a notification on the Dashboard.

You can run a full site scan from scratch by Settings, Link Checker, Advanced and then click on Recheck All Pages. You might get a surprise if you add this plugin to a mature WordPress site!

For more information on the Broken Link Checker plugin visit the Broken Link Checker site.

CMS Tree Page View
TechCo Rating: Admin
This plugin is for admin use only, and adds a CMS-like tree view of all pages on the site. You can use the tree view to edit, view, add and search pages, while drag and drop allows you to rearrange page order.

To find out more about CMS Tree Page View visit the CMS Tree Page View site.

Contact Form 7
TechCo Rating: Intermediate
Not just another contact form plugin, Contact Form 7 is simple and flexible. It allows you to flexibly design the form and mail, and allows you to manage multiple contact forms. In addition, it supports many features including AJAX submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering and file uploading.

To find out more about Contact Form 7 visit the Contact Form 7 site.

Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin
TechCo Rating: Advanced
This plugin can be useful for managing permalinks without losing existing SEO to the page, or for sites converted to WordPress. It allows you to redirect Pages, Posts or Custom Post Types to another location quickly, for internal or external URLs.

The options available are extensive, so for more information on how to use the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin visit the Quick Page Post Redirect plugin site.

Types – Complete Solution for Custom Fields and Types
TechCo Rating: Advanced
This is a useful plugin if you need to create custom fields, custom post types, or a custom taxonomy to your website through the WordPress admin screen instead of adding PHP code to your theme. For PHP developers, Types provides a comprehensive PHP API and documentation.

To find out more about the Types plugin, check out the Types User Guide

Viper’s Video Quicktags
TechCo Rating: Intermediate
Easily embed videos from various video websites such as YouTube, DailyMotion, and Vimeo into your posts. Since version 2.9, WordPress has featured native easy embeds. However this plugin offers more customization than the default options. It will work alongside the easy embed code, and you can opt to use either embed method.

For more information about Viper’s Video Quicktags, visit the Viper’s Video Quicktags site

WP DB Backup – WordPress Database Backup
TechCo Rating: Basic
Everyone should have a regular backup of their WordPress database, and this plugin provides on-demand and scheduled backups. To configure your backup go to Tools, Backup, and backup your WordPress database.
To install this plugin search for “WP DB Backup” Keyword on the Install Plugins page.

To find out more about WP DB Backup

TechCo Rating: Advanced
This is a handy plugin if you want to replace the old Older posts and Newer posts links with some more advanced paging navigation.

This plugin provides the wp_pagenavi() template tag which generates fancy pagination links. See the installation instructions for using it in your theme.

To ind out more about WP-PageNavi, visit WP-PageNavi site

WP-Table Reloaded
TechCo Rating: Intermediate
This plugin allows you to create and easily manage tables in the admin-area of WordPress. However it has been superseded by the TablePress plugin, which at time of writing stands at 0.9-RC

You can still download WP-Table Reloaded, but if you are starting a new project, we recommend waiting for the full release of TablePress.

For more information on the table plugin see TablePress replaces WP-Table Reloaded from the plugin author.

Well, that is our current stab at the Top 10 WordPress Plugins. This list may change in a few months as trends and available plugins, so is not fixed in stone. In future we will offer deeper insight into some of these plugins a give examples of how they can be used.

Featured Blog Making Movies by Giacomo Sardelli

This months featured WordPress Blog is Making Movies, the blog of Giacomo Sardelli, the person behind the viral video Further Up Yonder, which has been on local and global news. For those who have not yet seen the video, it explores the idea of different nations and cultures all living together on the International Space Station (ISS), exploring the edge of our world.

Making Movies uses the Twenty Eleven Child theme, a child theme based on the 2011 theme for WordPress, and caters for both English and Italian readers so may not be to everyone’s taste both style wise and for content. However, it does show the incredible versatility of WordPress.

Among the plugins in use are Jetpack, SEO Facebook Comments and Twenty Eleven Theme Extensions. You can find out more about the details via the following links:

This site is well worth a visit if you are interested in movie making or editing and the viral video is a must see, as it is a classic stop frame compilation using images from the Science and Analysis Laboratory from NASA. We recommend a visit to Making Movies, so follow the link below and watch the video, then check out Giacomo Sardelli’s blog.

Update Atahualpa WordPress Theme

Expert WordPress users and regular readers of this blog will know that we recommend updating to the latest WordPress version regularly, to ensure that the any known security vulnerabilities are patched. Many people also take that opportunity to upgrade their favorite plugins and theme to ensure continued compatibility.

But what if you are using a highly configurable theme like Atahualpa? How do upgrade and yet keep all your custom settings, header images and favicon after the upgrade. The good news is that most of the theme settings for Atahualpa are stored in the database so that an upgrade will not lose that customization.

So how do you update the Atahualpa WordPress Theme when the time comes?

Before you update WordPress, your plugins or theme, backup your database, wp-content folder and wp-config.php files to make sure you can reverse out of the change in the event that there is a problem.

If you have used custom header images or made any changes to the page code in the Atahualpa theme, or set a shortcut icon, Web site icon, URL icon, or bookmark icon (favicon) than you will need to use the manual method to update the theme. If you are using the theme with default header images etc. or have a quick way to restore them after an upgrade, then you can use the WordPress update facility. However, the way we recommend is to Upgrade the theme manually, as follows:

  1. Backup your database.
  2. Backup the wp-content folder, which contains your themes, favicon and header images.
  3. Download the latest version of the theme to your computer.
  4. Unzip the file and copy in your custom images and delete the ones supplied.
  5. Check for any Atahualpa theme patches and apply them.
  6. Update any code changes you made in the previous version (experts only!)
  7. Add any custom templates you use to the new theme folder.
  8. Upload the theme folder to the ‘wp-content/themes’ themes folder on your host.
  9. Activate the the new theme via WordPress Dashboard, and test.

The new theme should now display correctly. But if you have a problem you can revert to the earlier version using Dashboard again. Common causes of problems are as follows:

  • Code customization which has not been correctly installed or has a negative impact in the new theme. Solution recheck the code is complete and in the correct location and retest.
  • Images using the full path name not displaying. Solution – Verify URL Names in WordPress options, or avoid using where possible.
  • WordPress menus not displaying. Solution – reselect the menus in Dashboard, Appearances, Menu.

So now we know how to update the Atahualpa WordPress Theme, which should make the task easier the next time!

Other Resources

Have You Updated WordPress?

Unbelievable as it may seem, there are plenty of WordPress users who do not upgrade their installations to the latest version when they are released. This post should encourage every WordPress site administrator to Update WordPress as soon as possible.

There may be a number of reasons why you might want to upgrade WordPress, including:

  • A security fix has been released
  • Some useful new functionality has become available
  • You have seen a message at the top of your Dashboard telling you that a new release is available

The latest version of WordPress (3.4.1 at time of writing) comes with an impressive array of improvements including embedded Tweets, custom header from Media Library, and performance boosts under the hood, and of course all the latest security patches to ensure that your Blog is as secure as it can be.

Twitter Embeds
This is a great new feature which allows you to share Tweets with style. You can now embed individual tweets in posts, so that you can make a feature of a reference to another author or micro-blogger, or just highlight one of your own. Great for your personal marketing!

It includes action links that allow readers to reply to, retweet, and favorite the tweet, all without leaving your site. To use the feature, all you have to do is paste a tweet URL on its own line. When you save the post, it will look something like this:

This works with URLs from some other sites, too. For more, see the Codex article on Embeds.

Choose from Media Library
This useful feature of Custom Headers allows you to choose header images from your media library to customize your theme, rather than having to upload the same custom header image every time you check out a new theme.

Live Theme Previews
It is now possible to try out new themes and update the header and background before the theme is activated. This removes the panic to update those details as soon as you activate a new theme. Please note that this feature is only available for installed themes.

You can also use the live preview mode to customize your current theme by using the Customize link on the Themes screen.

Flexible Header Image Sizes
If your theme supports the feature, you can now decide for yourself how tall or wide your custom header image should be. From now on, themes will provide a recommended image size for custom headers rather than a fixed requirement.

Please note that not all current themes will support this feature, so contact your theme designer and ask them for the latest version of your theme.

Performance Boosts
Among the Performance Boosts available in the latest release of WordPress are the following:

  • Faster WP_Query – Post queries have been optimized to improve performance, especially for sites with large databases.
  • Faster Translations – The number of strings loaded in the WordPress front end has been greatly reduced, resulting in faster front page load times for localized installations. Also provides better support for East Asian languages, right-to-left languages, theme translations, and more.
  • Themes API – Key procedures in WordPress (WP_Theme, wp_get_themes(), wp_get_theme()) are faster, uses less memory, and makes use of persistent caching.

For more information about WordPress see WordPress Codex – Updating WordPress

Featured Blog Raspberry Pi

Our featured WordPress blog this month is the site of Raspberry Pi, the official home of for the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

This site is attracting interesting because it provides news and information about the amazing, innovative, low-cost Raspberry Pi mini PC, which is claimed to sell for $25, which at UK prices is £31.86 inc VAT and shipping.

For those of you who have not heard about this wonder of modern electronics, the Raspberry Pi is a fully programmable ARM computer which is claimed to run almost any Linux distribution. It makes use of an on board GPU which is capable of high definition video playback, fast 3D processing capabilities and outputs to an HDMI or RCA video port. For a device the size of a credit card that is truly amazing!

Anyway, back to the Featured Blog, Raspberry Pi. This site uses the standard Twenty Eleven theme which comes installed with WordPress. Among the plugins, installed are Search by Google, which adds a Google search form widget, which replaces the WordPress default search. There is also WP Comment Master which is an alternative solution to display long lists of comments.

OK, to be strictly accurate this site is more interesting for being the home site for the amazing Raspberry Pi, and the opportunity to bring Linux to the masses, than for WordPress. Anyway visit the site and make up your own mind. Meanwhile we are waiting for delivery of our first Raspberry Pi!


Max Rebo Band Website Live

The featured Blog this week is Max Rebo Band Website, which is a WordPress site using the default Twenty Eleven 1.2 theme. Kudos to Rich Pegler, the band’s drummer and webmaster, who has set this great site up from scratch. This just shows you the flexibility of WordPress out of the box, and the Max Rebo Website is a good place to see what is possible.

Max Rebo are a great four piece band, based in the area around Bristol and Weston-super-Mare, who are described as the best covers band this side of the galaxy. You may have guessed from the band name, and other Star Wars references that there is a theme to the website. May the Force be with you; this is the band you are looking for! Along with the usual band Biog, Events Discussion Board and Shop, there is a Media section where you can hear and download some of the original tracks penned by Max Rebo, as well as some of their great covers.

Once you have visited the site, you may be wondering how Rich has managed to achieve all the features, just using standard WordPress plugins. Along with Mingle Forum, ShareThis, Status Press Widget, Widget Twitter VJCK, WPaudio and WP Photo Album Plus the site uses:

  • Events Manager, which is an Event registration and booking management plugin for WordPress. Allows recurring events and shows locations, with links to google maps.
  • Flash MP3 Player JW2.3, a user friendly MP3 Player widget which you can add to your sidebar. You edit the playlist through the intuitive options page.
  • GRAND Flash Album Gallery provides a comprehensive interface for managing photos and images through a set of admin pages,
    with a very professional feel.

A great band from the southwest, with an interesting WordPress implementation. Click here to visit the Max Rebo Band Website

Block Spam from WordPress Contact Page

Have you been having trouble with Spam from your Contact Page on your WordPress blog? This is a quick way to Block Spam from a WordPress Contact Page.

Every good website has a Contact page to ensure that users can get questions answers, and customers can engage before buying goods and services. The trouble is that every bad robot spider trawling the web knows that too, and targets input forms and contact pages. Pretty soon after putting your Contact Page live you can expect to start receiving emails about Viagra, poorly crafted meaningless comments containing back links, or just random strings of characters. While the delete key handles these things quickly and efficiently, the net effect is to dilute our energy which should be directed a answering the real questions from our customers. What we need is a better solution.

What Stops The Bots?
To stop the spiders from even posting the contact form we need to install a WordPress CAPTCHA plugin. A CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) is a challenge-response test used to ensure that the response is not generated by a computer or Bot. It can be as simple as identifying if a picture of an animal is a cat or a dog, which is easy for a human, but a challenge for a Bot. The most common forms use distorted images of letters and numbers, which the human eye can easily distinguish due to pattern matching capabilities within our brains. Go humans!

How To Block Spam from a WordPress Contact Page
If you are using the Contact Form 7 plugin, there is a Really Simple CAPTCHA plugin which integrates right in to the Contact Form 7. While not strongly secure, it will at least stop the script kiddies and bots having an open door. To install it carry out the following steps:

  • In the Plugins section of the Dashboard, click on Add New
  • Search for plugins by keyword Term Really Simple CAPTCHA
  • Next to Really Simple CAPTCHA, click on Install Now

What Else Can Block Spam
If the Really Simple CAPTCHA plugin does not meet the requirements, there are a number of other measures we can use to block Spam from WordPress contact pages, including:

  • Secure CAPTCHA, which uses hard to break and easy to read secure CAPTCHA images from SecureCAPTCHA.net.
  • Contact Form by ContactMe.com, which is a fully customizable contact form which automatically adds your contacts to a free online contacts database.
  • Fast Secure Contact Form which supports sending mail to multiple departments, and redirects to any URL after the message is sent.

Hopefully using one of these methods we can see the back of spam contacts from the contacts page, and get back to the business of responding to or customers and genuine visitors.

Finally, some useful Resources to help block Spam from a WordPress Contact Page

Using Meta Tags For Search Engine Optimization

One of the most common spam contacts we see in the inbox these days are dubious offers to get our various websites and blogs to number one on Google for our chosen keywords. It sounds like that would be something that might be worth paying money for, so why do the SEO offers leave us cold?

What is Search Engine Optimization?
As most web users will already know, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in Internet search engines so that it appears higher in the search results. So surely an offer to promote your website or blog and optimize it so that it appears top in a Google search must be worth investing in? Well actually No! At least not from the spammers anyway.

Instead, let us look at a couple of often under used features of HTML, Meta Tags, which you can use to help the search spiders index your blog correctly, and optimize your site for your chosen keywords, without resorting to dodgy underhanded tactics or wasting money and time on get rich quick schemes promoted by spam email.

Using Meta Tags For Search Engine Optimization
If you are using your website or blog as a business vehicle then there are probably some key words which you hope that people will enter into the search engines when looking for your product or service. Similarly, when people find your site on Google, then make sure that the description of the site that appears is exactly what you want people to see.

Include Meta Tags
Include meta tags for the name of your site and a description of the page as part of the page code. If you are not editing the site code yourself, tell your web developer to include Meta Tag Description and Keywords on at least the homepage. Alternatively, if you are using a WordPress theme like Atahualpa, you can enter the Homepage Meta Description, and Homepage Meta Keywords in the Configure SEO in the Atahualpa Theme Options under Appearance.

Meta Tag Description
Including a description for your site provides some control over the way it appears in the Google search results. This should be 1 to 3 sentences, with about 20-30 words in total. For example, to ensure that Google list the keywords we are looking to link to this blog we have the following Meta Tag Description which appears in the page head, but is not displayed to the users:

content="TechCoSupport help Small and Medium Businesses (SME) grow through Web Marketing, Social Networking, SEO and AdWords Management in Bristol, UK "

The Google bots scan this when they index the site, and this results in the following entry in the Google search listing:
TechCoSupport Web Marketing image

This is the description that we want people to see when they look at our site in the listings, and it means that people who want to find out about Web Marketing, Social Networking, SEO and AdWords Management in Bristol can find us!

Meta Tag Keywords
Keyword optimization is simple to achieve, but can lead to improvements in your site ranking, particularly if you are writing about the keyword on your page. Including Keywords meta tags in you page gives the search bots a heads up in linking the page content to things that people are likely to search for. This should 10 to 30 words or phrases, separated by comma, and should relate to the content of your web page.

Say you are are looking for people to find your site when they enter the keyword Web Marketing. The search spiders should find Web Marketing in the invisible meta tags which show up in the page code, in your page content and possibly in the site URL too. This consistency and congruency between the Keywords Meta Tag and content is good for you page ranking.

However, be careful not to to just include keywords for the sake of having them, as they should relate to the page headings and description, and title. Avoid using tricks just intended to improve search engine rankings, as the techies behind search engines are on to all the tricks. A useful heuristic is to ask yourself if you are adding the tweak to benefit your users, or to fool the search spiders? The answer should always be that it makes it better for readers of your blog.

So to sum up Using Meta Tags For Search Engine Optimization:

  • Make sure you or your developer includes Meta Tags for both the site Description and Keywords in the Homepage at least.
  • Homepage Meta Description Limit to no more than 3 sentences, about 20 to 30 words total.
  • Homepage Meta Keywords Type 10 to 30 words or phrases, separated by comma.

To find out more on this subject from a reliable source, and so give you the confidence to delete the spam emails without another thought, click here to see Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines

Finally, here is a challenge to the spammers’ business model; if you are so good at SEO and Keyword Optimization, why do you need to resort to spam to attract new customers? If you really could do the job claimed, you would be beating off potential customers with a stick!