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Welcome to the third installment of my Wonderful WordPress Wednesday series!

Over the last two weeks we looked at simple steps you could take to improve the efficiency of your WordPress blog. This week we’re going to back up a little bit and look at how to set up a blog, or, more specifically, the very first plugins you should install on your WordPress blog. Yes, even before your very first post. With all of the great “Top 10 plugins for {whatever}” posts I’ve read, the one I really needed was never found. So, I’ve now written that post for the benefit of all the new bloggers out there. More experienced bloggers are welcome to follow along, of course, and if you think I’ve made a bad choice, or left something out, please comment to let me (and the other readers) know!

Exec-PHP

What it does- Exec-PHP is short for “execute PHP code” and the plugin executes code in your posts, pages and text widgets.

Why Install Before Blogging- Exec-PHP should, without a doubt, be the very first plugin you install and activate. While it is an “activate and forget” plugin, it’s absolutely essential to so many things a WordPress blogger does that it really should be part of the WordPress core. Even if you don’t know the first thing about PHP this plugin will still regularly aid you in your blogging journey. Aside from that, many, many plugins require that Exec-PHP be installed on the blog. In fact, so many require it, that it has become simply assumed that you’ll already have it installed and few mention the requirement, leading to no end of heaaches for the uninitiated. Save yourself stress – install and activate Exec-PHP before doing anything else on your new WordPress blog.

Google XML Sitemaps

What it does- An XML sitemap is like the directory at a large shopping mall. It includes the link to every page on your site (both posts and pages) with special meta data about each page in order to help webcrawlers (like GoogleBot) more easily track down all the bits and pieces of your blog. XML is the standard for sitemaps and is used by Ask.com, Google, MSN Search, and YAHOO!

With this plugin you don’t need to ever worry about your sitemap. Not only does it create one for you automatically, but it constantly updates it (and notifies Google!) with every change you make to any page.

Why Install Before Blogging- I assume that if you’re publishing a blog you want “the public” (aka complete strangers) to find and read it. In this day and age that means being indexed by Google. By installing this plugin before writing even your first post you ensure that Google will be with you every step of the way, reporting it to any websurfer interested in your topic(s).

All In One SEO Pack

What it does- The All In One SEO Pack WordPress Plugin does exactly what its name implies. This one plugin will automatically improve the search engine optimization of your WordPress blog. Specifically, here’s the highlights-

  • Automatically optimizes your titles for search engines
  • Generates META tags automatically
  • – Avoids the typical duplicate content found on WordPress blogs
  • For WordPress 2.3 you don’t even have to look at the options, it works out-of-the-box. Just install.
  • You can override any title and set any META description and any META keywords you want.

Best of all, this is all 100% customizable for those who have an understanding of SEO techniques.

Why Install Before Blogging- It’s never too early to start worrying about search engine optimization. With the All In One SEO Pack you can just install it, activate it, and ignore it while still receiving maximum SEO benefits while you concentrate on the quality content that will keep readers coming back. The last plugin I recommended will make sure Google (and other search engines) knows about your website. This one will make sure you show up near the top of relevant searches.

I’ve been running my primary blog for about three years now and only started worrying about SEO in the last few months. When I went to research and test how effective my current SEO tactics have been I found they were considered near perfect by most online tools! At first I credited this directly to the WordPress platform itself, but after checking a few of my other blogs one was ranked down around 70% instead of the 95%-98% of the majority. While investigating what was different about that site I realized that I had never activated this plugin. After doing so that site as well jumped into the 90th percentile!

WP-PostViews

What it does- WP-PostViews tracks the number of times each post or page on your blog is viewed. This information is stored in your WordPress databse so can be easily accessed and posted just about anywhere on your blog.

Why Install Before Blogging- You may or may not be interested in sharing a list of your 10 (or 23 or 147) most popular posts on you rblog right now. Especially as you have zero posts at the moment. However, once your first post goes public views will start coming in. And if you wait to install (or activate) this plugin you’ll never have accurate data again. Install and activate it now, then the data will be ready for you whenever you’re interested.

CommentLuv

What it does- CommentLuv is designed to encourage fellow bloggers to comment on your blog by rewarding them with a link back to their latest post. It accomplishes this by accessing their blog’s RSS feed.

Why Install Before Blogging- Much like WP-PostViews, this plugin is unable to “go back in time” and add the links after the fact. Since it gathers the data as the comment is posted there is no way to append the commentor’s latest blog post to a comment that has been left in the past. Additionally, there is a growing CommentLuv community of bloggers that you will be plugged into as soon as you start your blog should you enable this plugin before writing your first post.

There you have it. Five more things to do before you even write your first post. Obviously, after installing the WordPress software you’ll be anxious to get those first few posts out the door, but taking the time to add these five plugins will get you started ion the right foot. All together it shouldn’t take you more than a half hour to install and activate these plugins, and down the line you’ll surely consider it time well spent.

That’s it for this third installment of the Wonderful WordPress Wednesday series. Next week I’ll have some more great tips for using WordPress to achieve all of your hopes and dreams!

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  17 Responses to “Starting A Blog? Install These 5 WordPress Plugins First!”

  1. […] presents Starting A Blog? Install These 5 WordPress Plugins First! posted at Philaahzophy, saying, I’ve seen plenty of “best plugins” articles, but […]

  2. Thanks for your submission to the eighteenth edition of the Blog Carnival: Blogging. Your post has been accepted and its live: http://thatsblog.com/?p=122

    -ThatsBlog.com

    ThatsBlogs last blog post..Blog Carnival: Blogging: Eighteenth Edition

  3. Starting A Blog? Install These 5 WordPress Plugins First! | Philaahzophy…

    I’ve seen a lot of “top plugins” posts, but never one that dealt with the plug-ins you need BEFORE writing your first post. Adding these five RIGHT NOW will certainly save you time and aggravation later….

  4. Starting A Blog? Install These 5 WordPress Plugins First!…

    I’ve seen a lot of posts about the Top 5 Plugins to do X, but had never seen which plugins were absolute must-haves before even writing your first post. So I wrote one myself 😉 Install these plug-ins before writing even your first blog post and you…

  5. Requiring Exec-PHP is a huge mistake so I stopped reading this article from there. Everything can be done via templates and plugins. You should never need to run php code from within a post, having to do this means you don’t understand WordPress and need to spend some time looking at it’s php not injecting security holes and caching headaches into your posts.

  6. Welcome, Bryon!

    I wish you had kept reading past the recommendation for Exec-PHP and into the reasoning behind including it on the list as I’d like to hear your option. I can’t count the number of plugins I’ve installed on and removed from various blogs only to later discover that the reason they weren’t working was lack of Exec-PHP.

    Personally, I never enter PHP directly into my posts, but I DO use several plugins that do so. Since I’m not a PHP expert using plugins is a great answer to taking the time to learn a whole programming language.

    So, what would you suggest for those of us who need plugin functionality?

  7. I think exec-php is really useful, not everything needs to be done via a plugin or the core code. some posts require an included file or the ability to put a plugin call just for one post.

    I made a flickr plugin that inserts the latest picture for a given search term, execphp lets me only put that on posts I choose and exactly where I want it.

    I use wordpress as a cms mostly for clients sites and being able to run custom php within particular pages is very useful!

    I use all the other plugins you mentioned too, I love them!

    Andy Baileys last blog post..Just a lick of paint… oh and WordPress MU?

  8. @Andy Bailey: I don’t know enough about the inner workings of WordPress or Exec-PHP to really judge its quality, but I know that many useful plugins require it. My only concern about it (and the main reason it’s on this list) is that many plugin writers seem to require it without informing the end-user that it’s a requirement.

  9. I haven’t come across a plugin that required it (except the ones I made since installing it!) it does make life easier though!

    Andy Baileys last blog post..Beating the beta out

  10. […] presents Starting A Blog? Install These 5 WordPress Plugins First! posted at Philaahzophy, saying, “Installing these five plugins NOW will save you plenty of […]

  11. I prefer AWP and the use of AJAX over inserting php issues into individual posts. And then you can always look at using some DHTML as a side note.

    You might want to look at http://mkw-ind.com for a (what I think) is a rather slick implementation of AJAX and WP.

    Like Aahz, I think WordPress Rocks! and you need sites like this to keep you abreast of what is happening in the WP realm! There are literally hundreds of new plugins being released daily so if you don’t subscribe to WP’s RSS feed, you will never be able to keep up!

  12. @MKWeb: Welcome to Philaahzophy!

    I haven’t had much luck with AJAX yet, but it does seem to be the future of web development, so I’m slowly creeping into that area. What’s “AWP”?

  13. Hi Aahz!

    Great advice, thanks. I’m totally sold on CommentLuv too.

    It’s hard to get any picture of plugins in the mass because there are so many, so it’s really good to read reasoned recommendations.

    Rhyss last blog post..Hosting from Hell –

  14. @Rhys: Well, I’ll be posting “Wonderful WordPress Wednesday” every week at 12:01am PST and each installment will typically feature a plugin or two that I find useful, so please swing by each Wednesday to chek ’em out.

  15. This is the best observation i have ever seen for this subject

  16. […] Over the last two weeks we looked at simple steps you could take to improve the efficiency ofhttp://www.philaahzophy.com/2008/09/03/top-five-wordpress-plugins-to-install-before-you-start-bloggi…Meta Tag Optimization Services – NetraMind.comMeta Tag optimization services provide techniques for […]

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  18. These are some great tips, namely the one about the All In One SEO Pack WordPress Plugin, which I’m anxious to apply to my own WordPress blog. Thanks for posting this.

  19. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  20. Many thanks for the excellent list with plugins, i have some favourites to, including the all known “All IN SEO “and also the easy privacy policy and also SEO friendly images (got some good results with it)and lastly pretty links (great for cloacking) affiliate links…

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