But sometimes the sheer volume of plugins – almost 20,000 at time of writing – creates more hassle than it saves.
You should also be aware that adding lots of plugins can ultimately slow down your site’s load time.
So it pays to choose wisely.
Therefore, here are 15 WordPress plugins to (almost) instantly improve your travel blog:
#1. After the Deadline
Need another set of eyes before you hit “Publish”? Look no further than After the Deadline, a highly intelligent editor which automatically checks style, grammar and spelling.
But how intelligent is it? Very.
For example, most spell checkers (including Word) fail to consider context. So “I pass the butter too you” appears correct to them… even though a third grader could see it should be “I pass the butter to you.” After the Deadline picks this up.
It also checks for passive voice, a vile form of writing. For example:
- Passive voice: “The ball was thrown by me.”
- Active voice: “I threw the ball.”
Active sounds better, right? It says the same thing in less words. That’s good.
Here’s what After the Deadline looks like:
#2. Photo Dropper
There are tons of high quality Flickr plugins available, but Photo Dropper wins for its ease of use. It automatically searches Flickr’s Creative Commons photos and lets you insert the image – along with accreditation – with a click of a button. Words cannot describe how much this saves.
You can search for Flickr images directly from WordPress:
Then select what size you want. You can see under each image there are three sizes (Small, Medium, Large).
Here’s what the image looks like:
You can see accreditation under the photo.
(NOTE: If you run a commercial blog, be sure to check “Show only photos that can be used commercially” in the Photo Dropper options.)
One caveat to consider is that Photo Dropper will load the image from Flickr… which puts you at the mercy of their servers. In other words, if Flickr has a slow day, you have a slow day.
The next plugin can help.
#3. Grab and Save
Adding images to WordPress is a pain. You’ve got to download an image, then upload it to your Media Library and then insert it into your post.
Fortunately, Grab and Save eliminates the first two steps. You simply enter the URL of the image (e.g. www.anothercooltravelsite.com/penguins.jpg) and Grab and Save automatically saves it to your Media Gallery. This is a HUGE timesaver for locally hosted images.
When you use the image, link to the original website in the “Link URL” field.
This way they get credit for the image!
Locally hosted images are usually big files. Really big. Bigger than they should be.
Therefore, to speed up load time you need to…
- strip meta data from JPEGs
- optimize JPEG compression
- convert certain GIFs to indexed PNGs
- strip the un-used colours from indexed images
Do you have any idea how to do this? Me neither.
Fortunately, the WP Smush.it plugin does this for you automatically. Seriously. Every picture is automatically optimized or- if you want to optimize existing images – you can click the “Smush.it now!” link in your Media Library.
(NOTE: Smush.It is currently out of date. Hopefully they’ll update shortly. Cheers to Alexandra for pointing this out).
#5. Geo Mashup
Dude, you run a travel site, right? Why not put customized maps on each page?
With Geo Mashup, you can easily put customized maps (using Google Maps) into each post. You don’t even need the address: just type in the name of a city (or state, region, etc.) and it pins the location on a Google map.
Here’s a modified version of Geo Mashup:
Users can click and drag the map to further explore the region.
#6. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP)
YARPP automatically serves up links to related posts. It’s surprisingly accurate – you can adjust it to show posts by title, body text, tags, categories and much, much more.
And with testimonials from both Matt Cutts (head of Webspam, Google) and Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress) you know it’s good.
#7. W3 Total Cache
WordPress is notoriously slow out of the box. W3 Total Cache promises 10x improvement in your site’s performance when W3 is fully installed. It’s a bit heavy for first-time users (read this W3 tutorial from wpbeginner… it helps a lot) but certainly worth the effort.
This plugin was developed by Frederick Townes, CTO of Mashable. It’s also used by Smashing Magazine and Mashable. You should use it too.
#8. WordPress SEO by Joost de Valk
If you know next-to-nothing about SEO, Yoast’s Wordress SEO Plugin will do wonders for your site. And if you know quite a bit, it’s even more valuable. You can create breadcrumbs, create and submit XML sitemaps and resolve canonical issues with the click of a button (if you don’t know what these mean, don’t worry… just follow the plugin’s advice and you’ll be fine).
It also analyzes your on-page SEO. For example, if you’re writing a post about what to do in Medellin, Colombia, the plugin scans your content and makes suggestions for SEO (e.g. add the phrase “Medellin, Colombia in the title, meta description and header tags).
It even previews how your post will appear in Google’s search results
#9. Fast Secure Contact Form
The name says it all. Fast Secure Contact Form lets you set up contact forms to prevent spam and receive comments via email.
You can customize the forms and connect them to autoresponders like Aweber.
Here’s what it looks like:
I’m not really a fan of CAPTCHA (it hurts usability IMO), but it does block spammers.
#10. WP Touch
A recent Google study on the travel industry revealed more and more travelers are searching sites from their mobile phones. WP Touch helps you create a mobile friendly site in seconds.
Here’s a screenshot:
This is what your homepage would look like on a mobile phone. Go here to see a full listing of screenshots, including individual pages, comments and log in pages.
Sociable makes it easy to add social media icons to your site in whatever order you wish. It covers all major social icons (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) and its simple drag and drop interface gets you up and running in minutes.
Here’s what the interface looks like:
And here’s how it looks on your site:
You can also see a working example at the bottom of this page. Don’t forget to share 😉
It’s a brutal fact: most readers don’t leave comments. But with CommentLuv you provide an excellent incentive: it automagically adds a link to your commenter’s most recent post.
How’s that for an incentive?
An admittedly unsexy plugin, WP-DBManager is like the employee who comes in every day to do the dirty work. It automatically backs up your database at predetermined intervals (e.g. once a day) which – when something invariably goes wrong – can really save your ass.
It’s the most popular WordPress plugin for a reason: it works. Akismet blocks spam comments on your blog and makes life easier for everyone. There’s really no reason not to use this one.
I paid $700 for this advice, so listen up.
But that’s not all.
Since Google has lots of servers around the world, those servers are probably closer to your user than your server. Which makes your site faster for them.
Plus, if your reader has recently visited another site using Google’s libraries, they already have “cached” versions of your files. In English, this means they don’t have to load those files again, thereby making your site even faster.
These 15 plugins will save you time, increase usability and ultimately generate more traffic, comments and links.
So if you’ve enjoyed this post, don’t forget to share it by clicking the buttons below.
Also, which plugins do you use, and why? Leave a detailed comment below!