January 24, 2014

The Tangents blog has seen numerous iterations over the past 10 years that I’ve maintained it. Originally it was PlanetNeil, which was based on an HTML template. Right now, my website consists of various WordPress installations, spread over two domain names. It’s huge! And it is a massive under-taking to maintain and constantly improve it. For the past few years, my web techie guy, has been Griffin Stewart who has been invaluable in working with me on improving and expanding this site. Learn more about Griffin at the end of this post here.

I specifically mentioned that this website is based on the WordPress platform. It is a powerful platform, and one which is easy to use, yet endlessly adaptable. I would strongly recommend to anyone to use WordPress if they are looking to improve their website. There are also numerous WordPress plug-ins that make life easier for anyone who maintains a website …

 

5 Free WordPress Plugins to help maintain your blog

a guest post by Griffin Stewart

Thanks to Neil for inviting me to guest post.  I have enjoyed working with Neil since 2011 to help design, update, organize, consolidate, and tweak his various sites and I hope that you, his readers, have enjoyed and liked the front-end changes and back-end improvements we have implemented in that time.

Today I would like to share with you some helpful and free plugins that you can use to help you maintain, clean up, and customize your WordPress website or blog.

Broken Link Checker

Broken Link Checker is one of my favorite plugins and one that I install at the outset of any of my new WordPress installs.  With the web evolving ever quicker, sites that were up just a while ago are no longer around, and that article you wrote back then that had a link to that site, company or resource may be long since broken.

When potential customers find your site from a google search and then try and click on a link you have recommended, only to find the site it links to does not exist, that makes you look like you are behind the times and possibly out of the loop.  This may not be anywhere near what is actually true about you, but that is the feeling that potential customers may have and they will probably move on.  A much better scenario is for them to stumble on an article you wrote a few years ago and have since updated and find the sites and resources you mention to still be up-to date and useful.  This makes you look on top of your game and relevant.  Another, and probably more pressing issue with broken links is that if you have to many of them, it can hurt your SEO.

The Broken Link Checker plugin automatically searches through all your links and then notifies you of any broken links.

Broken_Link_Checker_Plugin_Notification

Once notified, you can choose to edit the link, unlink it in the post, mark it as not broken or delete it.  All of these options are done from within the backend Broken Link Checker interface and  do not require you to go to the post or page unless you want to for more context.  This makes it very quick and easy for you to find, update, fix or delete hundreds of broken links rather quickly and keeps your website and blog feeling up to date and relevant as well as SEO friendly.

Broken_Link_Checker_Admin_Menu

 

Redirection

As your blog gets older and as you learn more about SEO, client searches, and your business in general, you may from time to time want to change a URL on your site.  For example, maybe when you started blogging, you set your links up to use a structure like:

Old URL http://myamazingwebsite .com/2001/01/29/my_first_awesome_post

And now you would like to change it to not have the date, so something like:

New URL http://myamazingwebsite .com/my_first_awesome_post

This can easily be done in Setting Permalinks area of the WordPress backend.  The problem with a Permalink change like this is that once you change it, anytime someone visits your site through an old link that directs to the old URL, they will be met with a 404 error, meaning the page will not be there and they will hit a dead end on your site.

This is where the Redirection plugin comes in. It will allow you to automatically forward the old link to the new one.  For single forwards it is very easy to do it manually on a case-by-case basis, but for a Permalink or global redirect like in the example above, you need some special code.

For the Source URL field, you would put in:

/([0-9]{4})/([0-9]{2})/([0-9]{2})/(.*)$

Leave the Match settings on URL Only and Action on Redirects to URL, but be sure to check the box next to Regular expression.

Next, for the Target URL put in:

http://myamazingwebsite.com/$4

Make sure to replace http://myamazingwebsite.com with the URL for your site.  Click the Add Redirection button and you’re done.  Now any incoming links that had the date structure in your URL will now automatically forward to the new URL without the date in it!

Redirection_Permalink_Global_redirect

 

Add Post Footer

Neil came to me a little while ago and wanted to see if there would be an easy way to add some information about his books to the bottom of every post.  While this is easy to do via PHP, Neil wanted to be able to change the text, images and content on his own, without needing to learn code or ask me to do it so he could easily tweak it to his liking as needed. I searched around for a bit and was able to find the Add Post Footer plugin.

Now, why would you find this plugin helpful?  Well if you don’t already know, here are some things you can use if for:

  • Newsletter sign up
  • Affiliate Ad
  • About You blurb
  • Next Steps blurb
  • Contact blurb
  • Workshops/Products you offer

Imagine editing some code in one area of your site and being able to change, add or rearange what your readers will see at the end of every post!  That is what this plugin allows you to do easily and quickly.

 

ET Shortcodes

Have you ever wanted to add a nice looking button, an image slider, pricing table, or something else to a post but don’t want to spend the time to learn the coding and design to do it?  If so, this plugin is for you!  One feature we have used a lot on Neil’s site so far is the ability to put page elements like text, images or even video in a responsive two, three or four column layout.  Responsive means that the layout changes to adapt to screen size so that the text is readable for desktop, tablet and mobile users.  Check out the image below.  Can you see the changes that are taking place on each device in the text?

responsive-device-layout_web_design_1000px

Another cool shortcode you can use is the pricing table shortcode.  Here is an example from Neil’s site with a little customization done.

maternity_pricing_shortcode_ex

the code for the above pricing table would look something like this:

Neil_van _neikerk_pricing_table_code

As you can see, all you need to do is put in the text you want and the shortcodes in the [ brackets ] make everything look nice and pretty and take care of all the code.  To see more shortcode examples, check out this page.  This is the only plugin listed that costs money, but for $89/year you can get this plugin with more than 19 different and highly customizable short code options as well as 85+ Premium WordPress themes and 1 year of unlimited Technical Support.

 

WP-PageNavi

For years Neil had been using the standard post navigation that came with his theme and I still use the it on my site.  There is nothing wrong with that and for some, it is fine.  That being said, on our latest update to Tangents, I found this plugin to make navigation easier and also to help show that Neil’s site has been around for a while and will be around for years to come.  You are welcome to use this plugin anytime you want, but I would highly recommend it for sites with 10 or more pages of posts.  What WP-PageNavi does is allows your website visitors to see a visual layout of the page they are on, the total number of pages there are on the blog, and gives them the ability to skip ahead or back with some flexibility easily.

This one is a little hard to explain, so hopefully this picture will help.

Neilvn_Page_navi_footer_Example_2

Neilvn_Page_navi_footer_Example

As you can see, this gives a much better feel for the size of your blog than just a standard previous and next button at the bottom.  Users can easily see that Tangents, at the time of this screen shot had 83 pages of posts!  These have been customized a little bit to match the look and feel of Tangents, but the plugin looks almost identical with no modification at all.

Thanks for your time and I hope these have been helpful.  I’ll now turn it back over to Neil so he explain one of his favorite plugins and why it is good for SEO.

 

Follow My Links

WordPress has a default where it adds a nofollow instruction to everyone posting a link in the comments. That is so that Comments aren’t abused for spam links, or for SEO craziness.  But with this plug-in, I can exempt myself, and my own links have the nofollow instruction removed.

 


Griffin Stewart - The Traveling Designer

Griffin specializes in Web Design, Graphic Design and Custom eBook Templates. He is the co-founder of Photography eBook Reviews and the web manager for Trey Ratciff’s eBook publishing site, flatbooks.com. Early in 2014 he cofounded and launched an awesome photography bundle though his joint business 5 Day Deal and raised over $45,000 for charity with the help of amazing photographers and enthusiast from around the world.  Griffin enjoys travel, photography and nature. He works with clients from all over the world and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife, Valerie. They have visited 50+ countries together.


 

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{ 7 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Theresa January 24, 2014 at 11:56 am

Oh my goodness! Talk about perfect timing!
Thanks for this… to both of you. I haven’t explored using my wordpress blog or the tools nearly enough, and frankly wouldn’t have quite understood what to do with some of these tools. Your explanation(s) are really helpful!

Regards,

T~

Reply

2 Griffin Stewart January 24, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Thanks Theresa. Glad the explanations and recommendations are helpful.

Reply

3 Scott Wyden Kivowitz January 24, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Great article, Griffin. However, I have to strongly disagree with Broken Link Checker. It causes havoc on servers. Especially shared hosts that can’t handle that much stress. Checking for broken links is much better not as a plugin but a 3rd party app or service.

Reply

4 Scott Wyden Kivowitz January 24, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Instead of using the Broken Link Checker plugin i’d recommend Mac users try Integrity and Windows users try Xenu Link Sleuth. Using a 3rd party application puts a lot less strain on your web server.

Reply

5 Griffin Stewart January 24, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Thanks so much Scott. Excellent point about the server load. I have used it on shared hosting with no issues, but that was on small sites with very few links. We did see some initial issues with it on Tangents and that makes sense about avoiding unnecessary load on the server when an external app can do it. Thanks for the recommendations.

Reply

6 Jon Lloyd January 28, 2014 at 12:32 am

Excellent Post. I already use WordPress and I love it’s simplicity, especially after using Joomla for a couple of years. I have always liked Neil’s page layout and the updates you guys have made over the past year or so.

The actual Theme Template has a huge impact on how these things look too and settling on the right one to build upon with plugins like these is a huge hurdle. I am due to go through my site and make some wholesale changes – particularly as I am about to shoot my first wedding in May this year…

Thanks again.

Reply

7 Bob Fisher January 30, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Good article. I hadn’t been to Neil’s site in a while. The post footer plugin looks good. And the idea of checking for broken links, by whatever method, is a good one.

Reply

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