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

178 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.

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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)

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

  1. Hi Tim,
    I´ve got a question re; blogging. Take for example the article you did on “7 reason to eat more saturated fat” where you credited Michael Eades and Mary Eades and used part of their book in your article. Is it sufficient for you in order not to breech copyright, to say “as written by Dr Eades” or do you need specific permission to quote other people´s work from them?
    Another example … If I wrote an article about mini-retirements and to back up my thoughts I said something like…
    “As Tim Ferris wrote in his book, The Four hour work-week”, the best way to achieve mini retirement is etc etc etc.
    Am I going to get sued for copyright?

    Hope this question is relevant enough to this particular post,

    Thanks in advance,

    Ian C.

    Like

  2. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the great plug in tips. Very useful indeed, as is the rest of the blog.

    I read “4HWW” and it changed the way i work, I read “4HB” and it changed the way I ate and now I’m really looking forward to the next book, as I can’t cook to save my life.

    In ten years’ time, who knows, my bookshelf may also be lined with equally enlightening volumes such as “The 4-Hour Sex God” or “The 4-Hour Environmentalist” or even “The 4-Hour Total and Utter Genius at Everything.” Gosh, I hope so. :-)

    Cheers,

    Jerome

    Like

  3. Yes, Im creepin’ on Tim, but your old blog actually has great info too… And a little insight into the “old Tim Ferriss”. Didn’t know you were/are a minister? Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  4. Hello Tim and friends (assistants) –

    Forgive me in advance if I’m duplicating efforts (cardinal sin of NR, I know) but you should know that one of the many websites out there is not only hanging on to your coattails but their website is, visually, eerily similar to yours…like, I’m-surprised-it’s-not-illegal-simillar. Just FYI – thanks for the books! 4HWW hasn’t changed my life yet but I’m hoping it will!

    http://www.4hourtemplate.com/blog/timothy-ferriss-at-it-again-automated-muse-creation-2-0/

    Like

    • So this solves the mystery of how the new blogs of 2 top online marketers/speakers that I follow, look totally identical to Tim Ferris blog! I don’t know if normal readers notice, but it was so obvious to me its funny!

      On the other hand, this theme could have saved me the investment I am making now in designer and programmer to make a custom theme and would probably bring as good results as the custom made one if they copied all your features.

      Tim, what is your take on all these Tim Ferris copy blogs that have showed up online recently? Would you follow this strategy for saving time/money if you were starting a new blog and you were not Tim Ferriss?

      Like

  5. Can anyone speak to the design aspect of blogging. How do you get it to look and feel good? Are there any simple solutions as in working with fonts or other tools? Does it require hiring a designer or the banner and some key focal points? Any recommendations?
    Mahalo,
    Roxann

    Like

  6. Hey Tim and everyone here who uses WordPress,

    After 1,500 non-stop bot hack attempts this July (on my very low traffic site), I no longer recommend relying on the Limit Login Attempts (LLA). Although the plugin is designed to stop brute force attacks, its effectiveness has been usurped (because of it’s reliance on client-side cookies). Brute force bots can now cut right through the plugin’s restrictions like a hot knife through butter — even worse, LLA no longer records the detoured attempts by most bots. Visit support in the WordPress codex for your reference.

    Instead, do this… install WP-Activity to log EVERY failed- and legitimate- login attempt by date – you’ll be surprised what you weren’t logging before. Then install Login Security Solution (as a replacement to LLA) to stop brute force attacks. This LLA replacement has a forced “Change Your Password” feature emailed to the admin and an auto-logout after a set threshold is passed.

    And everyone,STOP USING ‘ADMIN’ as a user. I do website consulting in Silicon Valley and it’s crazy how many webmasters still use that ID here.

    — Pete.
    Willow Glen, San Jose, CA

    Like

  7. Hi Tim,

    I’ve been reading your blog for three years now and I have to say WOW, you’re doing great job. I really like your writing, keep up the good work!

    About the plugins, these are some I really like and using for long time:
    1) Ozh’ Admin Drop Down Menu – I really like the design and the way admin page changes, gives you flexibility.

    2) SyntaxHighlighter Evolved – really useful, especially if you’re running technical blog, I’m using this one to highlight linux command and SQL queries.

    3) BackWPup – backups your WP database into the “cloud”, I’m using dropbox for this purpose. Keeping backups for one week and sync daily with my computer.

    4) Few plugins for stats in order of importance – Official StatCounter Plugin, WassUp Real Time Analytics, WP SlimStat

    Regards,
    Sve

    btw. Back then I followed your talk “How to Build a High-Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself.” to setup my blog, thanks!

    Like

  8. Tim,

    Thanks so much for sharing your original design. I wish I’d taken a screen shot of my original, and the three attempts thereafter. I would have won some ugly blog contest for sure.

    I finally got smart and hired someone to chose a premium theme, layout and design. I should get to add my new logo tomorrow. So stoked.

    Thanks for all the plugin tips.

    Like

  9. Hi Tim! a pretty cool post, I gonna try a couple of these plug-ins to see how it works ;)

    By the way! what a nice stuff that about Vittana and that thei are helping young ppl in Paraguay, realy didn’t know anything bout that before, very cool

    Greets from Paraguay

    Like

  10. 1. About the Comment System Tool.

    I see that Tim is sticking with the “in the box” WordPress’ commenting tool. As I’m about to start my own blog, I would like to know if you guys see a advantage to stick with WP ? I feel I should go with livefyre (over disqus). Maybe it’s better to own my comment rights if I stick with WP.

    At the same time, I read that a lot of happy users won’t go back after using a dedicated comment system as livefyre and disqus.

    I can understand that it would be a pain for Tim (as he started with WP) but I’m sure other blogger could give me their experience with or without WP comment system.

    2. To Tim

    First timer here. I bought the book 3 years ago and the updated version of it after. I can’t tell how much you and your work inspired me. I actually created my muse after 2-3 years thinking about it.

    I just want to tell you “Thank you Tim” for the book (and the Occam’s protocol in 4HB), the few keynotes you did and this blog. I wish I will shake your hands one day to let you know how I mean it. Thanks again.

    Pascal, Montréal, @icipascal

    Like

  11. Jetpack? Really? It doesn’t really do anything for a .org account, anyway. (The provided description sort of hints that you don’t really know what it does.) Most of the desirable features on the .com version aren’t available… yet.

    Like

  12. Mate, fantastic post. There were about 3 of them I can’t believe i was not using before, great time savers that I never knew I needed till i added them. Awesome!

    Like

  13. Thanks for sharing Tim! I also had an atrocity for a website/blog (but I’m learning) but made some changes. The statement about having a “mediocre blog being a liability rather than having no blog at all” really struck a chord with me and made me realize I’ve got to stop “winging it” and commit to posting well-crafted content. Again, thanks!

    Like

    • Because disqus/facebook comments essentially OWN your comments. Also for larger blogs like this one he would have to have a Pay per comment agreement with disqus, which if you host your own you don’t have to pay that at all.
      Facebook isn’t that nice because then if anyone wants to comment, that person would HAVE to have a fb account to comment and remove anonymity a little.

      Like

  14. I don’t really understand what JetPack does for me. Can you elaborate on what “powerful features normally only available to WordPress.com users” you use?

    Thanks!

    Like

  15. Hi Tim, thanks for the list! I have to second what others have said about Yoast SEO. It’s an awesome and powerful plugin. Free too.

    For your Most Popular section in the sidebar – is that a plugin or is it code? How could I get that?

    Like

  16. How do you define which plugin to use to achieve this or that goal? Say, we have 100+ SEO plugins with very similar functionality – what to use?

    Like

  17. Hey, thanks for the insight. This is my first time here so I guess I am on probation…. Seriously though I have blogged for about a year and have not seen some of those plugins. They sound great. Cheers jj

    Like

  18. Hi Tim, this is an awesome post elaborating on the various plugins that will keep not only you, but your blog sane :) One that you haven’t mentioned, I absolute feel is essential is a Mobile Plugin. Ok, some blogs may be pre-configured, but for those that aren’t should instal such a plugin. I use WP Mobile Detector which detects a mobile device and serves a mobile version of the blog. It keeps me sane as I know readers who are on the move a lot, like myself, will be able to read posts at ease.

    Great post mate!

    Like

  19. hi tim. i enjoyed reading your article. now i know what plug in to use for the wordpress blog. i am also aiming to reach 1,000,000 unique visitors a month :) thank u for the tips

    Like

  20. Thanks for all the info on the plugins. I just recently built my site and need to add a blog to help generate traffic that will become members. I’m no pro so all the incite helps. Thanks! !

    Like

  21. I used wordpress for a long time and use a number of plug-ins that are on your list of the best. But now change my system and use Joomla. It also has fantastic plug-ins. Some who are not have used, but I’ll try to do it. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  22. Thank you for sharing, I have also a list of good plugins to share also:

    MP Share Center
    Affiliate link cloaking
    Blog Protector
    Wordpress Video Plugin
    ZK Advanced Feature Post
    Quick Page/Post Redirect

    Like

    • There are many different plugins available to do the same tasks. It just a matter of blogger’s requirements, choice and comfort. One plugin which is very good and useful for one blogger may not be a good option for other blogger. Anyway, it’s a great list of plugins in the article. I didn’t like the all but I will try out some of them.

      Like

  23. Awesome list, definitely going to add some of these to my blog!

    Question though: What do you do for those callout boxes on the top of your posts that have the estimated reading time or other info in them?

    Like

  24. Great article! I a WordPress website builder I am always on the look out for quality plugins. I will definitely be trying that Limit Login as I recently survived a brute force attack.

    Thanks

    Like