As a blogger, you know you can't afford to do everything all by yourself. It would take months or years to learn the practical and mental skills to develop scripts for every function you want your website to have. I know that because, even though I started learning how to code almost at the same time as I started blogging, my blogging skills have evolved much faster than my coding skills. Yes, today I can create my own WordPress themes, code snippets built around the WordPress Codex and I can program small PHP scripts, but I'm still far from having the skills to build a whole framework. That means you have to focus your energies on what you can do now, and how you can leverage your current skills to respond to your current blogging needs, that are:
- Increasing popularity (social shares and backlinks)
- Increasing opt-ins to your newsletter or mailing list
- Boosting conversions
In this post, I review 11 plugins I use or have used for my blogs or my clients' blogs that I know can effectively help you do all the three above – without having to learn a line of code.
1. Notification Bar (NB)
[icon link] https://wordpress.org/plugins/notification-bar/ I discovered this notification bar when I realized I didn't want to use an external bar like HelloBar on all blogs. I tried many from the WordPress repository, some were good and nice-looking, but NB revealed itself to be my favorite. Here's why:
- It doesn't break your theme
- It doesn't impact UX negatively
- It's easy to configure
- You can change the color palette
- Users can hide and unhide the bar with a single click
A bar that does its job without interrupting the user or causing website issues will increase opt-ins and users will not choose to ignore it completely. Also, it offers your visitors an immediate signal that there's something important you are offering them, much more than your content, and that stays there at the top (or bottom) when they want to check it out after consuming your content – what Neil Patel calls a “nudge” (a gentle one) in his post The Power of The Nudge: How to Convert Visitors Into Customers. The Kingged.com IM community also uses NB (the PRO version).
How To Use It
Just install the plugin from the WordPress repository and search for Notification Bar in your Dashboard's left sidebar, under Settings. Click it and edit your bar text and how it displays on your blog. The image above shows how NB looks on my blog Berters.net: I chose a bottom position for this blog because covering part of the header would have damaged UX for how this blog is designed. In the screenshot above, I attached to the main image so you have an overview of the settings.
NB doesn't come with tracking, so you have to use a workaround like the ConverThis plugin (see #5 in this post), or you can create a conversion goal for a specific URL within Google Analytics.
Mini-Guide: How To Setup a Conversion Goal With Google Analytics
Sign into Google Analytics and click on your Admin tab. Under the View section, click on Goals -> Add New Goal and follow the setup wizard, which gives you 2 options:
- Choose a pre-configured template (Make a payment, Create an account, Contact us, etc.)
- Create a Custom template
Or you might create a Smart Goal. In Google's words, “[Smart Goals] measure the most engaged visits to your website and automatically turn those visits into Goals. Then use those Goals to improve your AdWords bidding.” Proceed to Step 2 (Goal Description) and follow the instructions. For example, if you chose the pre-configured Contact Us template, it will ask you to give your goal a name and to select the type of goal (destination, duration, pages/screens per session and event). Step 3 is Goal Details. In the example I mentioned, that will be the Contact Us page URL. GA also gives you the option to add a monetary value to this goal and (optional) a funnel destination. You can then verify your goal and save it. ConversionXXL has a great guide on how to setup conversion goals with GA. You can read it here. Also, read Google Support's page for goal creation.
2. GC Message Box by GetConversion
[icon link] http://getconversion.com/products/gc-message-box/ When I decided I needed to add a CTA at the end of my blog posts, I knew I could just design a banner and link it to my offer, or use the PHP script I wrote for that specific purpose, but… what if there was a WordPress plugin that automatically inserted a CTA banner at the end of each post? That's how I found GC Message Box by GetConversion. You can combine it with conversion goals in Google Analytics or the ConverThis plugin (see #5 in this post) to track clicks and conversions. Overall, GC Message Box makes it easy to have a sitewide CTA that all your visitors can see regardless of what post they landed on.
How To Use It
After installing the plugin from the WordPress repository, go to Plugins -> GC Message Box and configure the settings (mainly General Settings, Compose Message and Style Settings). Pay attention to the Filters section, because this is where you will choose how to display your CTA box. I recommend you don't use animation (even though the plugin allows you to add some effects) because they can distract and annoy the reader.
This plugin used to have a nice feature that allowed you to link it to a set of analytics at MY.GetConversion.net to track your clicks and conversions at no extra cost. From my research, it sounds like it worked until 2013 and then it stopped for some reason (possibly undiscovered bugs). The option is still there but their analytics is not tracking clicks (I ran a few tests) so, unless you wanted to run a test yourself, I recommend to not use this feature and rely on Google Analytics or other analytics software with a working conversion goal tracking function.
3. Revive Old Post
[icon link] http://themeisle.com/plugins/tweet-old-post-lite/ This plugin automates your social promotion efforts and it removes the difficulty of promoting older posts from your marketing plan. The day I started using it, I stopped worrying about how and when to reshare my old posts and I just let the plugin do it for me. Revive Old Post works with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Tumblr.
How To Use It
After installation, go to Revive Old Post -> Revive Old Post in your Dashboard sidebar and add your social network profiles under the Accounts tab. Then open the General Settings tab and set the automated share interval, the age of posts eligible for sharing, how many posts you want to share at a time, categories to exclude and other settings. The last part of the configuration is under the Post Format tab, where you'll decide how your social post will look like. Then, hit the Save button and “Start Sharing”.
The first time I used Revive Old Post I made the mistake to set shares to daily. That setting is a good idea for blogs with 31+ blog posts in the archives, but it's dangerous if you, like me, run young or less frequently updated blogs with 20 posts or less. Your followers will see the same posts coming up over and over again and that is a big turnoff that might annoy them to the extent they will unfollow you. You don't want that, so be careful when you configure the plugin to do the work for you. If you have less than 31 posts in your archives (that's about 1 post a day in a regular month), it's better to share only one post every three days or once a week.
[icon link] https://sumome.com When I first decided to give SumoMe a try on my new character blogs, it was after reading Brian Dean of Backlinko's story of how and why this plugin made a difference for him (and $82k+ per year). Very inspiring! As soon as I installed it, it was pretty easy and intuitive to configure. This is really an all-in-one kind of plugin with many marketing functions, from analytics to list building and social sharing.
How To Use It
Install SumoMe from the WordPress repository, activate the plugin and then go back to your blog Dashboard. You will see a little blue square icon (with a white crown inside) floating to the right side of your screen. Click it and create a SumoMe account, then come back to your Dashboard and follow the instructions by the “Sensei” (the SumoMe wizard). The configuration process is simple and intuitive, no headaches. Just follow the on-screen instructions.
SumoMe notifies you of new subscribers and it made it very easy for me to keep track of analytics and overall user activity from within my WordPress installation. Most of the functions are free to use so there is really no need to fear when it comes to this plugin. Of all the features, however, I recommend thinking twice before you activate Welcome Mat, because unless you have a really awesome offer for your visitors that you want them to see before your content, a full-screen CTA will only annoy them. Remember that users come to your blog for information first, and they will only consider your offers after you've answered their questions.
5. ConverThis Premium
[icon link] http://www.converthis.com I already mentioned this plugin twice in this post, as an alternative to setting up conversion goals in Google Analytics. ConverThis allows you to setup, track and analyze your conversion campaigns without leaving the WordPress platform. The analytics are pretty accurate, so you can efficiently measure performance.
How To Use It
Download the plugin from the ConverThis website, upload and install, then create a new conversion goal by clicking on Campaigns -> New Campaign on the left sidebar in your WP Dashboard. The screenshots above show you how to configure a campaign (it's easy to setup). You can add up to 6 pages or posts per campaign that direct to the same goal page. In the example above, I have one post linking to my goal page (a freebie), and the plugin tracked 4 unique clicks to that page.
This is a comprehensive plugin as it gives you all the tracking and analysis tools you need for your campaign. Under the graphs on the right side of your goal page, you will also find a button to export all your campaign data as a CSV file. To be honest, I've been finding this plugin a lot easier to use and manage than Google Analytics, but it would still be a good idea to also setup a conversion goal in GA and then compare results.
6. Email Subscribers
[icon link] https://wordpress.org/plugins/email-subscribers/ When you're starting out and you don't want a fancy ESP for your list, PHP-based Email Subscribers is a handy list management plugin to have installed. You can collect emails and send campaigns. Having a newsletter or a mailing list is the most important asset for any successful blog. Your list will always convert better than any random visitor stumbling upon your page, because it's made of the people who know your value and care about what you have to say.
How To Use It
Install the plugin from the repository and configure the Settings (see screenshot above). This is where you will setup all your automated subscriber messages, so make good use of your copywriting skills to make these emails effective. You may also want to read Peep Laja's 14 steps to building signup forms that work at ConversionXXL.
This plugin includes it all. Only downside: if your host blocks IPs or email addresses, some of your subscribers will be cut out and they might not come back. Get in touch with your host to learn about their politics for email lists before you decide to self-host your own.
7. Popup Surveys & Polls (MARE.io)
[icon link] https://wordpress.org/plugins/popup-surveys/ MARE.io is a plugin that generates popup surveys and polls on your website. You can see how it looks from the image above. Popup polls and surveys make it easy to get feedback from visitors, and it gives them something even if they're visiting for just a handful of minutes. When users have a chance to speak their minds and get involved with your website, they're more likely to come back to visit, signup and grow into fans or customers.
How To Use It
Install the plugin and click MARE.io Surveys on the left sidebar in your WP Dashboard. It will ask you to register an account on MARE.io and setup your survey there. You will go through a setup wizard that guides you step by step to create your first survey and then you can create unlimited polls or surveys for free. You create new surveys directly on the MARE.io website.
MARE.io also gives you a way to make money from surveys ($0.05+ per answer), but I recommend you develop good blog traffic and get many responses on your own surveys before you try this option. The MARE.io staff will have your blog run through a test phase (unpaid) that might last up to 3 weeks to study your demographics before they assign paid surveys for you.
8. Inline Related Posts
[icon link] https://intellywp.com/intelly-related-posts/ Your readers will look for related posts in your archives, so why not help them and make the process easier for them? Inline Related Posts is a plugin that allows you to insert “Read This” boxes within your posts, in-context, so that readers can open them in a new tab as they go through the post they're reading and quickly move to them when they're done reading. How To Use It Install the plugin and then go to Settings -> Inline Related Posts to configure it. As you can see from the screenshots above, you can customize your inline box style and get a preview for it, even though the final style will also pick up from your regular CSS. Considerations Inline Related Posts works very well in its free version, but the availability of themes is limited to two. If that is a problem, it's possible to upgrade for $27 (one site) and get other features as well, like unlimited in-post boxes and featured images.
9. Viral Social Media Buttons by Upshare
[icon link] https://wordpress.org/plugins/viral-social-media-buttons-by-up/ These neat floating buttons come with their conversion optimization tools, because the plugin is web based and it connects to Upshare.co to give you a number of conversion tools for free:
- Floating Share – the vertical scrolling buttons on the left side of your content (plugin default)
- In Content Share – horizontal buttons on the top and/or bottom of your post
- Floating Follow – floating buttons appearing at the top or bottom of your page
Upshare also offers an additional service for free users to help boost conversions – Sharing Rewards: This is a great feature to implement if you offer content upgrades or you are trying to promote a free downloadable product. The dashboard for Viral Social Media Buttons also tells you how optimized your blog is for viral growth based on the features you are using — for my BizCharacterBlogging.com, for example, Upshare gives 33%.
How To Use It
Install the plugin from the WordPress repo and follow the on-screen steps to setup your account at Upshare and get the code to insert in your WordPress theme. You can activate as many features as you like from the Upshare dashboard.
Some helpful functions are available for Pro users only, like In Content Share buttons and other mobile features, so it is a good idea to consider an upgrade if mobile optimization is vital to your blog and you can afford $12/month after the free trial.
10. Social Analytics
[icon link] https://www.powerwp.com/wpsocialstats/ Social Analytics counts your shares per-post on all major social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Pinterest) and the total number of shares across all platforms. Total Shares gives you a picture of which posts are faring better and where, also telling you about your readers' preferences among the content you offer.
How To Use It
Simply upload or install from the WordPress repository and update your social stats. You can update manually or automatically, but it's better to do it manually the first time to speed up the process. Social Analytics will always update your stats every 24 hours, but if for some reason it doesn't in over a week, update manually.
The screenshot above shows a column of N/A under Twitter, even though Twitter is the platform where posts from the example blog get the most shares. The reason lies in a change Twitter announced in 2015 that they would be discontinuing API support for the Tweet count feature. This might change in the future, but at the moment there is no way to count Twitter shares from the official API, so take the Total Shares from Social Analytics with a grain of salt. As an alternative way to track Twitter share counts, however, you can use NewShareCounts and add your per-post counts to the total number displayed by Social Analytics.
11. WP Pixabay Search And Insert
[icon link] https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-pixabay-search-and-insert/ This plugin makes it very quick and easy to search and insert public domain (CC0) photos from Pixabay into your post. It saves you precious time (and money) that you can spend marketing your post. Images in your post attract visitors and make it easy and appealing for your readers to share it on social media – and yes, a social post with images also helps your fans improve their social channel attractiveness, so it's win-win!
How To Use It
Search for the plugin in the WordPress repository and install it. Go to Pixabay on the left sidebar of your Dashboard and follow the instructions to configure the plugin. As you can see from the screenshot above, the plugin will guide you through all the steps, but you can also read Pixabay's guide on their blog for more information and screenshots.
WP Pixabay gives you a quick option to insert quality pictures in your post, but these pictures come ‘as is' – the plugin doesn't come with an editor like Canva that allows you to add text and other elements to the images. This might sometimes be a downside if you are looking for shares on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram and in all those instances where your image has to carry marketing value and not only attraction power. In this case, downloading images directly from Pixabay and running them through your image editor is a better idea. What plugins have helped you increase shares and conversions for your blog? Let us know on the WHSR social channels!