Since its start in 2003, WordPress has forever changed the blogging ecosystem by making blogs cheaper and easier than ever to set-up. Beautiful sites can be created in minutes, and content can be created anywhere from a variety of devices. While the basic WordPress functionality includes essential tools like the page editor and a drag-and-drop menu system, its true power is derived from the simplicity with which one can quickly make drastic changes to an otherwise simple template. For a blogger to survive in today’s ultra-competitive blogging world, one has to stay on the cutting edge with some of WordPress’ most powerful plugins. This article will explain what plugins a blogger just can’t live without.

1. Akismet

Just like anything in life, some people will take advantage of a situation if adequate safeguards aren’t in place. In the blogging world, spammers can quickly overwhelm your blog with nonsensical comments and links that will make maintaining your blog a nightmare. Thankfully, Akismet was created to effectively solve this problem. Using its database of comments and links from around the web, Akismet works like a spam filter to catch suspicious comments before being released on your website.

WordPress comes bundled with Akismet, but it can be easily overlooked. On the Akismet dashboard, you can view historical trends in comment spam on your website, and view a variety of other data. It even shows you an itemized breakdown for each type of spam, such as the number of spam messages, missed spam messages, and false positives (comments flagged as spam that aren’t actually spam). Using this data, you can configure your Akismet settings to reduce both the time you spend moderating comments and the volume of legitimate comments getting canned.

2. NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster

Tired of having to manually post each of your blog entries on every social media network? Bloggers have struggled with this chore for years, having to manually login to each social media account and tediously create each listing by hand. This can take hours. With the Social Networks plugin, you can automatically announce new blog posts to all of your favorite social media channels with a touch of a button. Not only will this make it easier to spread the word, but it will also allow you to cast a wider net, utilizing more social media channels due to the increased simplicity. In all, 26 social media channels are included with everything from Facebook and Twitter to obscure networks like Plurk and vKontakte.

With a rich array of settings, links and post styling can be customized for each individual channel. You can set custom URL parameters and even include images for sites like Facebook, Google+, and others to make your efforts stand out. Social Networks can automatically “spin” each message, using synonyms and alternative sentence structures to reduce message redundancy across all of your social media channels. For sites like Twitter where link shorteners such as bit.ly and goo.gl are commonplace, links can be automatically generated and posted using these services.

3. Slideshow Gallery

One of WordPress’ weaknesses has always been its poor selection of slideshow plugins that look good and are easy to set-up. Released in 2013, Slideshow Gallery is a light plugin that makes it easy to incorporate a sleek slider into your WordPress blog. Unlike other sliders, it works on all browsers and won’t crash after a few slides.

Using Slideshow Gallery is as simple as uploading a few images to your WordPress gallery, going to the page you want to insert a slider into, and hitting the “New Slider” button. Then you just check the images you want to insert and it’s all done. You can even set advanced settings on the fly, or integrate it into a static page using a widget.

4. Disqus

Recognizable by most web users, Disqus is quickly becoming one of the most important WordPress plugins. Used by media powerhouses like Bloomberg News and TechCrunch, Disqus makes comment posting more interactive for users and easier to moderate for admins. Requiring just an email and username to post, Disqus can improve user engagement by making it easier to participate in discussions on your website. It also formats the comments in an intuitive way that encourages intelligent discussion without descending to social chatter.

Best of all, there are significant advantages to using Disqus as a website admin. Much like Askimet, Disqus takes care of filtering spam for you, and flags suspicious comments. In addition to this, it also allows you, as a moderator, to flag problematic or incendiary users for manual review before allowing their comments to be posted on your website. You can even permanently ban users from participating in discussions. With its rich features, Disqus is quickly becoming not only commonplace but even expected by site visitors that participate in discussions.

5. WordPress SEO by Yoast

Last, but certainly not least on our list is the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, a company that specializes specifically in WordPress Search Engine Optimization (SEO) solutions. As an expert in the field, the company created a feature-rich plugin that covers most aspects of on-page SEO. From meta and anchor tags, to XML sitemaps and .htaccess files, Yoast seems to do it all. Most importantly for bloggers, its RSS optimization feature automatically adds a time-stamped link to your new article on your RSS feed. This helps tell search engines who the originator of the content was, and thus mitigates the damaging effects of stolen content.

Yoast’s plugin also works to help cut down on the time it takes to ensure each article is optimized for search engines. Instead of first waiting for Google to index your pages and then trying to control the damage, the Yoast SEO plugin gives you a preview of how the page will look on the search engine results pages. You can then edit the title and meta description tags until they look exactly how you want them to. Once done, you can then create an optimized XML sitemap that is automatically sent to major search engines like Google and Bing. While there are many plugins that attempt to help with search engine optimization, none of them make it as straightforward and easy as the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.

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