I’ve covered the subject of WordPress before on this blog. In a post about how to integrate Google Analytics, I made the case that you should use WordPress instead of static site generators or any other means of providing content. When you have a commercial mission for your blog, WordPress is the most expedient option.
I don’t say this because I have any great love for WordPress. In fact, as a programmer by trade, it sometimes drives me to distraction. But even as it does that, it provides me with some invaluable turnkey capabilities. And it does this via its expansive plugin ecosystem.
I’d like to talk about that very plugin ecosystem today. If you’re going to build a tech site with an eye to commercial interests, and if you’re going to use WordPress to do it, you should be judicious about the plugins that you use. Too few, and you fail to take advantage of the CMS and you might as well use an SSG. Too many, and you’ll swamp your site with performance issues.
So let’s look at how to get it just right. Here are the best WordPress plugins for tech blogs.
1. Google Analytics
Hit Subscribe is a marketing company driven by software developers, catering to software development companies that market to software developers. So you can bet that we care about data.
If you’re starting a blog, you should also care about data. How many people have visited your site in the last week? And is that an improvement from the week before? What pages are people visiting? And where are they coming from?
The Monster Insights Google Analytics plugin will answer these questions for you, and plenty more besides. There’s a saying in the world of consulting: you can’t improve what you don’t measure. Start measuring your blog’s traffic so that you can improve it.
2. Crayon Syntax Highlighter
Next up, allow me to regain a bit of my techie cred. So far, I’ve tried to convince you to use a CMS instead of a static site generator. And then I tried to get you to worry about your page views.
But what about the nuts and bolts? What about showing people code?
If you’re going to run any kind of decent tech blog, you’re going to be showing people code samples. Preferably lots of code samples. So you’re going to want to find a plugin that handles this elegantly for you. (WordPress doesn’t, out of the box.)
Enter Crayon Syntax Highlighter. I’m an extreme polyglot programmer, and since starting this agency, I’ve been reviewing code in even more languages. I’ve yet to find one that Crayon couldn’t handle, and elegantly at that.
If you use GitHub gists, you’ll find that they throttle you. If you try to use WordPress out of the box, you won’t like the results. Use Crayon, and call it a day.
Next up, let’s switch gears a little. Let’s talk performance.
That’s where the content delivery network (CDN) comes in. CDNs cache your content at tactical locations around the globe, drastically reducing the round trip time for your content to arrive in your readers’ browsers. And not only does this make for a better experience but it also makes for better SEO scores. Your site will do better in search.
Cloudflare in particular is a turnkey solution. Just install the plugin, and it will walk you through the rest.
4. Post Snippets
Any software developer has probably heard of the evils of duplication. When writing code, you never want to copy and paste, duplicate knowledge, and create maintenance headaches.
Well, it turns out that the same logic applies to writing blog posts. As you build your blog, you might find that you want the same bit of text in many places. Maybe it’s a call to action at the end of each post. Or perhaps it’s a bit of text introducing each post in a series. Whatever the case may be, you’ll probably find that, at some point, you need to duplicate text across posts.
Don’t do it with copy and paste. You wouldn’t do that in your code, so don’t do it in your blog posts. Instead, use the post snippets plugin. That way, if you ever need to change the text in question, you can do it just once, rather than hunting it down in dozens or hundreds of posts.
5. W3 Total Cache
Here’s another performance-oriented plugin. But whereas Cloudflare worked by serving as a global cache for your content, this one works in a manner more localized to your server itself.
It’s called W3 Total Cache, and it compliments Cloudflare and other CDNs. It optimizes your site’s performance at a very granular level, and very thoroughly at that. You can trust it with concerns like minification, media management, localized caching, and plenty more.
W3 Total Cache is like having an expert go through your site, optimizing its performance for SEO, user experience, and client-side load times. It has tons of options and configurable settings, but it’s also really easy to install and use.
6. Popular Posts (Widget)
The next plugin that I’ll suggest is actually what’s known as a widget. And this particular widget, WordPress Popular Posts, offers a ready-made solution to track your most popular posts and display them for users to see. Here’s what it looks like on DaedTech, one of my other sites.
This might not seem especially important, but it really does matter to your site’s SEO and bounce rate. You always want to give your readers more content, should they want it. And there’s no better way to offer them additional content than by showing them what other, similar readers consider to be the most interesting posts on your site.
This plugin handles everything for you. It tracks popularity and displays the results for you, making it easy, but also allowing a lot of configuration options.
Last but not least, let’s talk SEO once again. Except this time, let’s talk about it specifically, and in great detail.
If you’re looking to leverage your blog for anything related to content marketing, SEO should matter to you. And unlike years gone by, SEO is no longer a sleazy game that hucksters play, stuffing useless pages with keywords to trick you into visiting. These days, SEO means, yes, optimizing for a keyword, but it means doing so by writing a post that people want to read and solving problems that readers have. In 2018, you’ll do the best with SEO by writing content that people actually value.
And Yoast helps you do that. It provides all sorts of metrics related to both keyword optimization and post readability. It gamifies your post composition to ensure that you’re keeping up with modern SEO best practices.
And that gamification proves crucial since it lowers the barriers to entry. You don’t need to know anything about SEO. Just install the plugin, and it gives you live feedback in the form of a stop light (green, yellow, red) to let you know how you’re doing. You’ll learn as you go.
That’s Enough—Go Give These a Try
I’m going to stop there. It’s not that I couldn’t list more awesome or interesting plugins. But install too many WordPress plugins, and you’ll reap diminishing or even negative returns.
Each WordPress plugin does useful things for you. But each one also carries both a maintenance and an integration cost. If you install too many, they start causing problems and degrading your site’s performance.
So start with these. I use these with each site that I create and/or operate. They do a lot of good, and they work well together. Once you’re establishing and reaping the benefits, then look at potentially integrating more of them and branching out.
Or don’t. You can always experiment, but these will definitely give you a huge leg up as you build your tech-oriented blog.