Editor’s note: This post was written by Karol K. (@carlosinho) , a blogger and writer for hire. His work has been published all over the web, on sites like NewInternetOrder.com, Lifehack.org, Quick Sprout, ProBlogger, Six Revisions, Web Design Ledger, and others.
Here’s a quiz question for you. When building a blog, what additional “things” do you need to have in order to make the venture successful?
An email newsletter?
How about a contact form plugin?
And let’s not forget about a search engine optimized theme, right?
Yes, those are all correct, and they will all come handy at some point during your blogging journey.
But at the same time, they are just the tip of the iceberg and lots more stuff is sitting below the surface (both from a management, as well as money making perspective).
Here are 5 things your blog needs that you may not have thought of.
1. Image optimizer plugin
Images are among the core types of content that almost all blogs use on a regular basis. Of course, there are some sites out there that are primarily text only (like Zen Habits), but those are very rare. For the majority of us, making a blog look professional without the use of any images is very very difficult.
However, images, as great as they are, consume quite a lot of bandwidth – your server’s ability to deliver a website to your visitors. What this means in plain English is that the more images you use, the more it will cost you to run the site in the long run (and especially if your blog becomes popular).
Now, in order to still be able to use images, and to minimize the costs at the same time, what you can and should do is get yourself an image optimization plugin. Luckily, the best one out there is free. It’s called WP Smush.it.
It’s a complete hands-off solution. After downloading and activating it, it will work quietly in the background, processing every image you upload through the Media Manager and making it smaller in disk space (with no loss of visual quality).
2. Security plugin
WordPress – which is most likely the platform you’re using to run your site – is just a piece of software underneath. And like any other piece of software, it’s vulnerable to hacker attacks, viruses, and other threats of the 21st century.
Although the platform is very well built in itself, you can still improve the default level of security by installing some quality plugins. Actually, you only need one.
Wordfence Security has been downloaded over 2 million times and the average rating is 4.9/5. This means that whoever gets it, loves it. And not without a reason. Wordfence performs a range of tweaks and lets you patch many holes that could become a possible breach point otherwise.
Let me emphasize that having a secure site should be of your highest interest. I’m sure you don’t want to wake up one day to find out that you’ve been erased from Google because of some malware on your site (it does happen). This plugin will save you from such a thing.
3. “Hire Me” page
Everybody has an “About” page on their blog. It’s probably the most obvious page you can have (and it’s one you absolutely should have, by the way). But “Hire Me” pages are much less popular.
It’s probably because bloggers who are just starting out generally don’t think that their blog can turn into a career anytime soon. And even if they do, the idea of earning passive income seems much more attractive than going after clients and offering services directly.
In reality, however, a good “Hire Me” page can become a true life-changer. Even if your blog is relatively new, some people who see it can still be interested in working with you directly. By having a “Hire Me” page, you’re letting them know that you’re open for opportunities.
Creating this page is easy too. It’s basically just a standard WordPress page, only with specific information on it. Namely, you should try providing the following:
- What type of service you can offer (freelance blogging and writing is often a good starting point, as well as blog management).
- Why anyone would want to work with you (your strong points and what makes you different).
- What the benefits you can offer are.
(Later on, when negotiating with a client, it’s a good idea to learn some tricks of the trade, so to speak. Securing a valuable gig isn’t always as straightforward as it seems. For instance, if freelance blogging/writing is what you’re after, feel free to check out these resources.)
4. Link cloaking
The term “link cloaking” refers to putting a sort of invisibility cloak, if you will, on the URLs that you’re linking out to from you site. For example, what Bitly gives you apart from URL shortening is basically link cloaking.
Now, why would you want to use such a thing? You ask.
As a site owner, you should do whatever you can to get as much data as possible about your visitors behaviors, especially when it comes to clicking various links that are important to you.
This is where a plugin called Pretty Link Lite comes into play. Here’s what it gives you:
- You can redirect both internal and external links and make them prettier during the process. For example, a link like someothersite.com/index.php?someparam=value&other=12 can be turned into a simple yoursite.com/checkthisproduct.
- You get info on how many people clicked your links, when, and from where did the clicks happen. Very useful for tracking.
- You can manage your links from one accessible place.
About that last thing. Imagine that you’re linking to your newsletter signup page from 20 different posts (a fairly possible scenario). Then, some strange thing happens and you’re forced to change the signup URL. In a normal situation, you’d have to go to each of these posts individually and adjust the links by hand. With Pretty Link, you can do this in bulk by changing just the destination URL on the plugin’s settings page.
Creating visually attractive content has always been a challenge for all bloggers, even the experienced ones. The biggest problem with this is that not everyone is code-savvy and knows their way around HTML or Photoshop.
One plugin that makes this content game a lot easier is Shortcodes Ultimate. It offers more than 30 amazing shortcodes that let you create elements such as: custom designed headings, tables, pullquotes, lightboxes, dropcaps, highlights, columns, image carousels, and many more.
The best part is that all of it can be done with ease, not only through the shortcodes, but also through an accessible graphical interface.
Please be honest with me here. How many of the things described above you’ve already integrated into your blog?
Also, one other thing, what else do you have on your blog that could be considered unusual? Feel free to share in the comments.