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The Top WordPress Plugins You Need for Your Authority Blog

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This post is part of a series called Build a Profitable Authority Blog.
How to Set Up Your Authority Blog With the WordPress Canvas Theme
Build an Authority Blog That Will Engage With Your Target Audience

In the last post we got your blog setup with a unique-looking design courtesy of the Canvas theme framework. But aesthetics are just one piece of the puzzle -- in reality, any successful blog needs to function well in order to succeed.

Although WordPress has great functionality out the box, its true power lies in its extensibility, which is exactly what we're going to cover today. I'm going to take you through the top WordPress plugins you can use to elevate your authority site to another level. We're going to cover everything from backups, to security, to search engine optimization, to post promotion and more.

This step-by-step guide will show you how to install and setup each of the WordPress plugins I consider to be must-haves for authority site owners. Enjoy!


How to Install Plugins in WordPress

If you've never used WordPress to install plugins before, don't worry -- it's an extremely simple process. We'll use the first plugin in our list -- Akismet -- as an example. Once you've gone through the steps we'll then move straight onto the plugins.

Step 1

Navigate to Plugins > Add New from your WordPress sidebar then enter the name of your chosen plugin to the search box and hit Search Plugins.

Step 2

Click the Install Now link under the relevant plugin in the search results. If you entered the exact name of the plugin it should be at the top of the list.

Step 3

On the resultant screen click on Activate Plugin. Congratulations -- you have just installed your first WordPress plugin!

Now you know how to install plugins, let's move onto the meat of this tutorial and explore the top plugins that you should install on your authority blog now!


Comment Spam Protection: Akismet

One of the best things about blogging is comments. It enables you to interact with your audience and gives your readers an opportunity to contribute to your blog. I thoroughly recommend that you make the best use of them.

Unfortunately, comment spam is a real problem for all bloggers. You can expect to receive spammy comments within weeks or even days of launching your blog, so you need a plugin that can detect the spam and separate them from genuine comments. That's where Akismet comes in.

Step 1

Once you have installed Akismet you will be presented with a message incorporating an Activate your Akismet account button. Click that button, then click Get an Akismet API Key on the resultant screen.

Step 2

On the next screen you will need to sign up for a WordPress.com account. Please note that this is separate to your WordPress.org account and is necessary for you to use Akismet. Enter your details and click on Sign up.

Step 3

On the next screen you need to enter your URL followed by a plan. The cost of these plans varies from $0 to $120 depending upon the nature of your blog, and the amount you choose essentially relies upon the trust system.

Step 4

Enter your payment details (if appropriate) on the next screen and you will be presented with a confirmation screen containing an Akismet API key. Copy the API key, then click on the link to Go to the Akismet page on your WordPress dashboard. On the resultant screen, click on I already have a key, paste your key into the text field and hit Save Changes.

Congratulations! Your comments are now protected from spam with Akismet -- the best software in the business.


WordPress Security

WordPress is a highly secure core platform out of box. In fact, its weakest link is you -- the end-user. Fortunately, if you are prepared to take reasonable measures to protect your site, you are unlikely to experience any security-related issues.

This is the dark horse in the group because I am not actually going to suggest a plugin for WordPress security. Although there are plenty of offerings out there, in reality you can achieve a suitably high level of security just by following these two simple steps:

Step 1

Given that you will be installing a number of plugins on your site, it is vitally important that you keep them up to date. Not only can an out of date plugin suffer from issues in terms of functionality, it can also present a security risk. The same goes for themes and the WordPress core itself -- everything must be regularly updated. Fortunately, doing so is easy.

Navigate to Dashboard > Updates from your WordPress sidebar. On the resultant screen you will be presented with an overview of all of the outstanding updates available for the WordPress core plus your installed plugins and themes.

If the WordPress core is in need of an update select the Update option. Repeat that step for any out of date plugins and themes. That's it!

Step 2

Beyond keeping everything on your site up to date, the next most important thing you can do is create a unique password for administrator access to your WordPress website. Any password with recognisable words or predictable combinations of letters and numbers (e.g. "abc123") presents an opportunity for "brute force" bots to gain entry to your site. If you create a unique password, the chances of your site being hacked are massively reduced.

Create a unique password using the LastPass Password Generator tool. I recommend that you set the options as follows:

Once the settings are as above, click Generate and copy the resultant password. Then navigate to Users > Your Profile from your WordPress sidebar and enter the password twice into the relevant fields.

Hit Update Profile at the bottom of the screen and you're set! Don't forget to make a note of that password in a very safe place -- I recommend LastPass (a free service).


Backups: VaultPress

Your site is now likely to be more secure than the vast majority of others. However, the worse can still happen, which is why you need a solid contingency plan. That contingency plan comes in the form of VaultPress -- the premiere backup service for WordPress.

VaultPress is the single premium-only plugin that I will be recommending in this tutorial for one simple reason: You must not compromise when it comes to backups. As far as I am concerned, $5 per month (the cheapest VaultPress plan) is a more than reasonable price to pay for peace of mind.

Step 1

Browse the VaultPress Plans and Pricing page and select your desired plan. When you're just getting started the $5 plan will be sufficient, although you may want to consider upgrading as your blog grows.

On the next screen you will be prompted to sign up via WordPress.com. You should have already signed up to WordPress.com when installing Akismet, in which case you should click on I already have a WordPress.com account!

Enter your login details on the resultant screen and click on Authorize when prompted.

Step 2

Enter your payment details on the next screen and click Confirm. You will then be prompted to set up SSH or FTP access in order to enable one-click restore.

I highly recommend that you take a moment to set this up -- contact your hosting provider if you are unsure of the details you need to provide.

Step 3

On the next screen you will be prompted to install the VaultPress plugin. Fortunately you know exactly how to do that -- just follow the instructions at the top of this post!

Once you have installed the plugin, navigate to VaultPress from your WordPress sidebar, enter the registration key supplied to you by VaultPress into the box and click on Register.

That's it! VaultPress will now begin to backup all your data. Even if your site is hacked or compromised in any way, you have the peace of mind knowing that all of your data is backed up securely and can be restored almost instantly.


Search Engine Optimization: WordPress SEO by Yoast

Getting noticed by search engines such as Google is something you are going to want to do as an authority blogger. Over time you will find that search engine referrals account for a huge proportion of the traffic to your site, and the better optimized your site is for search engines, the more referrals you will attract.

As far as I am concerned, WordPress SEO by Yoast is a peerless plugin. Although there are alternatives out there, it is the daddy. However, its enormous feature set can be somewhat overwhelming for new bloggers, which is why I am going to focus only on what I consider to be the most important elements of the plugin here.

Step 1

Once you have installed the plugin, navigate to SEO > Titles & Metas from your WordPress sidebar.

Under the General tab, check the "Noindex subpages of archives" box. Under the Taxonomies tab, check the noindex, follow box under the Tags section. Finally, if you are going to be running your site as a sole author, check Disable the author archives under the Author Archives section displayed under the Other tab.

By checking these boxes you will be telling search engines not to "index" certain pages on your site. This will help to avoid duplicate content issues which in turn can benefit your rankings.

Step 2

Navigate to SEO > Social from your WordPress sidebar.

Click on the Google+ tab. Select the WordPress user that should be defined as the author of your blog's homepage (that's you!).

If you have a Google+ page for your business, enter the URL in the Google Publisher Page box. If you do not then navigate to Users > Your Profile and enter your personal Google+ profile URL in the Google+ field in the Contact Info section.

If you do not have a Google+ account yet I highly recommend that you get one. To read more about why you should and how to set up Google+ authorship for your WordPress blog, click here.

Step 3

Navigate to SEO > XML Sitemaps from your WordPress sidebar.

The XML sitemap functionality should already be up and running. All you need to do on this screen is check the Tags box under Exclude taxonomies. In the same way that you selected noindex, follow for tags above, selecting this option notifies the search engines that you do not intend for them to index post tags on your site.


Social Sharing: Digg Digg

Along with search engine traffic, social media websites are likely to make up the majority of your referral traffic. For example, visits from the likes of Facebook and Twitter made up nearly 40% of referral traffic to my blog last month. If you want a successful blog, you should focus a considerable proportion of your marketing efforts in social media.

We have a whole post dedicated to social media marketing later in the series, but for the time being I want to show you how to boost shares of your blog posts with the Digg Digg plugin.

Step 1

Once you have installed the plugin, navigate to Digg Digg > Global Config from your WordPress sidebar, enter your Twitter handle within the Official Twitter configuration box and click Save changes. This will ensure that when people share your content, they link back to your account so that you know about it.

Step 2

Navigate to Digg Digg > Floating Display from your WordPress sidebar and select the following options within the Button Selection box (check both the Enabled and Lazy Loading boxes for each options):

  • Twitter
  • Facebook Like (IFrame)
  • Google +1

I recommend that you only choose these three social networks for two reasons:

  1. They account for the huge majority of all active social network users
  2. An abundance of choice can lead to indecision

That's it! The Digg Digg social media sharing bar will now display on every post on your site, just like it does on my blog:


Related Posts: Related Posts by Zemanta

When you're just getting started up with your authority blog, you'll want to take advantage of every possible opportunity to generate traffic. Using a social media sharing plugin such as Digg Digg is one method, as is using Related Posts by Zemanta.

This plugin uses an algorithm to generate related posts at the bottom of each of your posts -- both from your own site and from others. Of course, the system works both ways -- you'll receive traffic from other sites in the Zemanta network. It is a truly passive method of generating additional traffic to your site.

Step 1

Once you have installed the plugin, click on the giant Connect button that appears on your WordPress dashboard. Enter your email address and a password on the resultant screen, then click on Submit.

Step 2

You'll now be set up with a Zemanta account. Navigate to Zemanta from your WordPress sidebar. Here you can access analytics relating to your related posts:

As well as various customization options:

Related posts will be displayed immediately, but from this screen you customize them as you see fit. There is no right or wrong way to display your related posts -- it's largely down to personal preference. I recommend that you take a look at the default layout first and decide whether or not you'd like to fiddle around with it. Here's an example of a related posts layout from one of my sites:


What Next?

The above plugins are the crème de la crème, but in reality I am only scratching the surface of what is available. If you are keen to extend the functionality and feature set of your website even further, I recommend these plugins:

There are countless more quality plugins available, but I think that'll keep you busy for now!

In the next post I am going to reveal the techniques and strategies I use to boost engagement on my site. Engagement is absolutely key to running a successful authority blog, so you will not want to miss it.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to fire away via the comments section below!

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