How I Blog — The 21 WordPress Plugins That Keep Me Sane

180 Comments


So, you want a high-traffic blog… (Photo: Bill Gracey)

The following post can be considered Part II in a series on how I blog. Part I, which covers mostly everything not below, is titled “How to Build a High-Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself.

Beginning at the Beginning

My very first blog post of all time was December 31, 2006 (scroll down here). One comment! Ah, success…


Who the hell designed that atrocity? Oh, it was me…

For many months, I “blogged” by imitation, putting out a lot of boring stuff. I felt, and still feel, that this imitate-before-you-create phase was critical to finding my own voice. But, as one then DoubleClick manager put it to me over wine, after reviewing my posts:

“A mediocre blog is more of a liability than no blog at all.”

Taking this to heart, I upgraded, both in terms of design and writing. I started publishing more original long-form content and organizing around a few central themes. I invested $1,500 and launched the blog you now see. Well, it was close…

The very first post was March 7, 2007. It scored six comments (a 500% increase!)… and I was ecstatic.

This work was done in preparation for April 27, 2007, the launch date for The 4-Hour Workweek. I viewed the blog primarily as a marketing tool. This changed when lightning struck with “How to Lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days… Without Doing Any Exercise.

This post, my tenth out of nearly 400, remains my most popular post of all-time: 5,000+ comments and counting!

Since then, I’ve used this blog for social causes, as a confessional during hard times, as a diary, and for learning from people around the world. It’s now the heartbeat for everything that I do.

Here are some stats as of this writing:

385 posts
62 drafts
72,897 comments
Total spam deleted 1,170,822

These days, this odd blog often gets more than 1,000,000 unique visitors per month. It’s hard to believe.

How Do I Manage Things?

This blog is run by me and one assistant based in Canada. I don’t have an editorial calendar, nor a set frequency of posting. I have a few criteria for posts, and I try and write only when I can satisfy them. If that’s once every 3-4 weeks, so be it. If the spirit moves me three times in one week, that’s fine, too.

How I manage the tech, the trolls, the spam, etc. is perhaps best reflected in my tools.

This blog is run on open-source WordPress, hosted on a dedicated server at MediaTemple, and I use a collection of free plug-ins to keep me maximally productive in minimal time.

Below is the shortlist that keeps me sane.

Akismet
Used by millions, Akismet is quite possibly the best way in the world to protect your blog from comment and trackback spam. It keeps your site protected from spam even while you sleep.

All in One SEO Pack
Out-of-the-box SEO for your WordPress blog. WordPress is excellent for Google juice to start with, and this makes it even better.

Audio player
Audio Player is a highly configurable but simple mp3 player for all your audio needs. You can customise the player’s color scheme to match your blog theme, have it automatically show track information from the encoded ID3 tags and more.

Comment Probation AKA “Tim’s Probation”
This is my first plug-in! Well, kind of. While we drank vodka at the Word Championships of BBQ in Memphis, Matt Mullenweg and his team helped create this plug-in on the spot (Thanks Nacin, Otto, and Scott!). It solves an important problem for many bloggers. In WordPress comment moderation settings, you can typically choose between a) let everything through with no moderation (bad idea), allow comments to appear automatically for commenters who have previously approved comments, or moderate every single comment (hugely time-consuming). So what do you do if you get a smart but kinda snarky comment, one that makes you wonder if this guy is going to be a pain in the ass? If you approve him, he’ll have free reign to go nuts in your comments. If you have 20 comments a day, perhaps you can watch it all, but not at 100 or 1,000 comments a day. This plugin solves the issue: it allows you to put a comment author “on probation,” approving one comment, but not automatically approving future comments. Sweet!

Feedburner Feed Replacement
Forwards all feed traffic to Feedburner while letting through some important User-Agents.

flickrRSS
Allows you to integrate the photos from a Flickr RSS feed into your site.

Full Text Feed
Prevents WordPress 2.1+ from adding a more link to your website’s feed.

Jetpack by WordPress.com
Bring the power of the WordPress.com cloud to your self-hosted WordPress. Jetpack enables you to connect your blog to a WordPress.com account to use the powerful features normally only available to WordPress.com users.

Limit Login Attempts
Limit rate of login attempts, including by way of cookies, for each IP. I view this as a must-have, as people try to brute-force WP passwords all the time.

Mindvalley Comments Moderator
How do you let someone moderate comments for you without giving them the ability to change posts or accidentally cause other trouble? Use this plug-in, that’s how. It creates a custom role that enables only Comment Moderation actions and pages.

Page Links To
Allows you to point WordPress pages or posts to a URL of your choosing. Good for setting up navigational links to non-WP sections of your site or to off-site resources. Since my content is scattered all over the place, this is very helpful.

Post-Plugin Library
Does nothing by itself but supplies common code for the Similar Posts, Recent Posts, Random Posts, and Recent Comments plugins. Make sure you have the latest version of this plugin.

Similar Posts
Displays a highly configurable list of related posts. Similarity can be based on any combination of word usage in the content, title, or tags. Don’t be disturbed if it takes a few moments to complete the installation — the plugin is indexing your posts. Instructions and help online. Requires the latest version of the Post-Plugin Library to be installed.

Subscribe To Comments
Allows readers to receive notifications of new comments that are posted to an entry. Based on version 1 from Scriptygoddess.

Twitter Tools
A complete integration between your WordPress blog and Twitter. Bring your tweets into your blog and pass your blog posts to Twitter. Show your tweets in your sidebar, and post tweets from your WordPress admin.

VaultPress
Protect your content, themes, plugins, and settings with real-time backup and automated security scanning from VaultPress. Activate, enter your registration key, and never worry again. (Note: I pay for this one.)

WordPress Database Backup
On-demand backup of your WordPress database.

WP-Footnotes
Generate footnotes for posts.

WP Hide Post
Enables a user to control the visibility of items on the blog by making posts and pages selectively hidden in different views throughout the blog, such as on the front page, category pages, search results, etc… The hidden item remains otherwise accessible directly using permalinks, and also visible to search engines as part of the sitemap (at least). This plugin enables new SEO possibilities for authors since it enables them to create new posts and pages without being forced to display them on their front and in feeds.

WP Super Cache
Very fast caching plugin for WordPress. This is the only thing that could save the blog from crashing when I hit the front pages of Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.

And… that’s it!

What are your favorite must-have plug-ins? Also, did you like this post? Would you like to hear more about how I blog, or anything related to writing?

Thanks for letting me know in the comments.

###

Odds and Ends:

Here’s an update from my birthday challenge, which started one week ago, sent from Kushal, the CEO of Vittana.org:

Hi Tim,

Just thought you might enjoy a first-week update:

* You and the extended 4-hour family have raised over $81,000 in the first week! (This includes your match + $10,000 to kick things off.)
* 4-hour family from 23+ different countries including faraway places like Germany, Israel & Kenya have joined your Give-Back Birthday.
* On average, 100 people join your Give-Back Birthday every day. That’s one person every 3.6 minutes. More than 700 people have participated already.
* In total, you and the extended 4-hour family have already changed the lives of 152 Vittana youth studying 47 different livelihoods, everything from nurses to teachers to mechanics.
* The country your fans care most about? Bolivia is now #1, coming out of nowhere, with 38 helped youth. Paraguay and Philippines are close behind with 35 and 32 helped youth each.
* Your total impact already? More than $12 million in new lifetime income to fight youth poverty!

Want to know how your team has already made $12 million in “total impact”? Total Impact = the estimate of new lifetime income generated by your Vittana Loan.

Say, for example, you helped 25-year-old Ana Lizbeth increase her income from $5 to $9 a day by funding half of her loan. In that case, half of her $58,400 of additional lifetime income would get credited to your Total Impact score.

Why $58,400? She’ll earn $4 more per day, which works out to $1,460 more per year or $58,400 more in her working life.

How do we know it’s accurate? Our local partner gets current income, estimates 3-year earning power and we do annual follow-ups to make sure it’s tracking according to the original estimate.

Thank your readers, Tim — for EVERYTHING they do in this world! :)

To raise the full $100,000, we need to rally about 300 more people to join in the next 72 hours. I think we can do it, but it’d be a shame to fall short. Please keep it up!

Kushal

Could you be one of those 300 people?

Please visit this page (it needs to hit $60,000 for me to match to $100,000, as I already put in $10,000). Even $1 can make a huge difference. If the spirit moves you, here you go.

Thanks!

Posted on: July 26, 2012.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

180 comments on “How I Blog — The 21 WordPress Plugins That Keep Me Sane

  1. Been waiting for this one for a long time. Nicely done.

    Gravity Forms is unreal for creating simple forms as well pretty complex tests and such with logic built in. Used it to create the Should I Quit Test and it worked like a charm.

    Thanks Tim!

    Like

    • Also one of my favourites!!

      I’m actually not sure how I would live without this plugin – for anyone writing ahead of time, Editorial Calendar is absolutely necessary.

      I just wish I could also ‘schedule’ my Mailchimp campaigns on the same calendar!!

      Like

  2. Wow, Tim. Can’t believe the timing you shared about your very first blogging site. Btw, I emailed Amy re: whether you’ll be interested in hearing about a suggestion for your site, despite of you being on tight deadlines for the book. Is the best thing to do being to send the suggestions with screenshots and reasoning?

    Like

  3. Thanks for sharing this Tim. Great post. I’m surprised you don’t use DiggDigg for social media links. Although, it seems to have a conflict with WP Super Cache and other cache plug-ins. At least on my end.

    Like

  4. Hey Tim,

    It’s always awesome to get a behind-the-scenes look at what simplifies your life. This is highly relevant to me so I’m taking notes and making an action plan for tomorrow to implement some of the stuff here.

    Thanks for the great WordPress resource man!

    Like

  5. Hi Tim,

    Nice collection of plugins – a little more than the obvious essential ones but not over the top.

    A quick note… if you use the ‘Contact Form 7′ plugin, it has occasionally been noted to conflict with WP Super Cache. I’ve experienced this personally. Just something to be aware of.

    A couple you missed if I can so humbly point them out:

    Tiny MCE Advanced
    Sociable
    ShareThis
    Geopress by the WP Coach (installs a configurable KML file – essential for local SEO).
    Google XML Sitemaps

    Thanks Tim!

    MJ

    Like

  6. Akismet absolutely saved my life when I first started out. I’ve seen the Popularity Contest being used a lot and I love the concept plus from a user stand point it makes it so easy to learn about a new blog fast. Thanks so much for the useful tips Tim. The hits keep coming!

    Like

    • I agree, but instead of WP Touch I might would prefer to go with a responsive theme that adjusts layout depending on screen type desktop, tablet, phone. There are not as many responsive theme choices, but most of the ones I have worked with are pretty nicely done.

      Like

  7. Great list Tim,

    However I would suggest moving from All In One to Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin and form Super Cache to W3 Total Cache. They are more advanced than the ones you are using.

    Cheers,

    Matt

    Like

  8. Tim,

    Thanks for sharing your original design. While definitely cringe-worthy, it does show how far you’ve come. I’ve been a reader of yours since the 1st edition of 4HWW and have always loved your blog design. Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing!

    Brad

    Like

  9. In addition to WP Super Cache try cloudflare.com. They provide free CDN services which significantly speed up and reduce your server’s load; plus code optimization (makes it smaller & faster), DDOS protection, downtime protection (caching), and anycast hosted dns.

    Also, your favorite Linux/FreeBSD + nginx webserver + PHP-FPM make a fantastic setup for both low and high traffic WordPress sites.

    Side note: I engineer this kind of stuff and I’m not affiliated with anyone mentioned.

    Like

  10. Wow Tim, thanks for the Comment Probation plugin, I have been using WP for years and didn’t realize – if you approve a comment, that account now has free reign to comment unmoderated? Sounds like a design flaw in WP, but this plugin will go on every site I own asap. Thanks mate! (PS Can I interview you for my new Copywriting Secrets Book?)

    Like

  11. Hi Tim,
    All of these are great plugins! I love wordpress, it is such a great cms. One neat plugin I use on a couple of my blogs is called Sharebar it adds a little floating share bar to the side of pages and posts for easy social sharing. You can then add whatever social network share buttons you want to the bar. Its really great for encouraging social sharing.

    Personally I would love to read more about your blogging/ writing habits. I know you have some information out there but specifically how do you come up with content ideas and your research methods.

    Thanks for another great read.

    Like