5 handy WordPress plugins for your blog

Every WordPress website owner occasionally stumbles upon a problem that could probably be fixed in a heartbeat with a handy WordPress plugin. That’s what makes WordPress great, right? I recall a friend of mine asking about the possibility of an answering machine on his website. There’s a plugin for that. Need to add testimonials in an orderly way? There’s a plugin for that as well.

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Plugins range from large, like our Yoast SEO plugin (which every website needs) to really small, with almost Hello Dolly-like impact. No matter what the size, plugins can come in really handy, especially when you’re not a developer or you lack the capacity. In this post, I’ll go over a number of plugins that really saved my day in the past!

Auto Post Thumb Pro

Especially webmasters that have had their sites for ages will recognize this issue: a lot of themes you can find in the WordPress theme repo just look a lot better with a post thumbnail, but not all of your posts have that thumbnail. It doesn’t matter if your theme allows for a list of recent posts or if it includes excerpts on your archive pages, chances are that they will include post thumbnails. That just looks so nice, right?

The legacy of your old posts without a thumbnail makes that the alignment of a collection of posts (f.i. in a widget) looks off. It looks messy. In comes Auto Post Thumb Pro. When I wanted to repost Instagram images on a website, this plugin made sure there was a thumbnail for every post. And (re)generated thumbnails for every older post. After installing this plugin, I can use any theme I wanted to use that displayed these thumbnails on (almost) every page.

By the way, if you are looking for a new theme for your blog, I can recommend Anders Noren’s themes. I’ve used a few and really like the clean designs and easy-to-use setup.

Easy Custom Auto Excerpt

Insert More tag | Handy WordPress plugins

One of the things we come across in our SEO consultancy is duplicate content caused by displaying entire posts on taxonomy pages (like category pages). WordPress has plenty of ways to display excerpts instead of full posts. Usually, one of the requirements is using a <!-- more --> tag in your posts. Include that tag by clicking the icon in the image, located at the styling options on the Edit pages in WordPress. If you feel that that’s too much of a hassle, the Easy Custom Auto Excerpt plugin will help you out. It’s one of those plugins that you install, configure and forget about, simply because it works.

The Easy Custom Auto Excerpt plugin allows you to automate that more tag by, for instance, adding it after a number of characters or after the first (or first two) paragraphs. It allows you to do some basic tweaking of how that excerpt looks like (alignment of the thumbnail for instance). In the premium version, you can also fine tune the Read more button – a feature that convinced me to purchase a license – and disable excerpts for certain post types (like posts that just contain an awesome photo). Of course, this depends on the type of blog/site that you have. Go see for yourself how this handy WordPress plugin can help you out.

Responsive Lightbox

What to say about this handy WordPress plugin? If you’re a bit like me, you installed, removed and re-installed your share of lightbox plugins. The horror! They either don’t work out of the box, add fancy stuff to that pop-up or simply ignore your galleries. And how about those previous/next buttons that are too small to click. Not to start about how crappy things look on a mobile device, right?

Responsive Lightbox | Handy WordPress plugin

I found Responsive Lightbox to be a nice solution. If you are sick and tired of your current lightbox plugin, install this plugin and see for yourself.

Simple Custom CSS

Sometimes you want to do just a little design tweak and not worry about it being overwritten the next time you update your theme. You have two options:

  • Create a child theme, which might be a bit of a hassle for that tiny little tweak, or
  • simply add some lines of CSS code via this little plugin: Simple Custom CSS.

It does just that. I really like it. There are more handy WordPress plugins that do this, but I found this one to be both the less bloated (I just want to add CSS, not learn CSS) and the one that works without the constant need to add !important to my declarations.

Yoast Comment Hacks

Last but not least, I’d like to add this little gem Joost developed: Yoast Comment Hacks. If you have a WordPress blog and receive a lot of comments, use this plugin to add some smart extras to your comment maintenance toolkit. Among others, it allows you to thank first-time commenters by redirecting them to a thank you page. It also allows you to set a minimum comment length, for instance. Go check for yourself how this little handy WordPress plugin can make maintaining your comments just a bit easier!

I’d love to hear about your favorite handy WordPress plugins in the comments!

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18 Responses to 5 handy WordPress plugins for your blog

  1. film izle
    film izle  • 3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing. Perfect

  2. martin crombie
    martin crombie  • 3 years ago

    Hi Michael,
    I only went through my *bad junk* comments recently and had over 2,000 comments in the bin which I think Askimet had put in there. I had some keywords to make sure it automatically added them in the bin on certain words

  3. Ninja Team
    Ninja Team  • 3 years ago

    Yoast Comment Hack sounds nice!

  4. Virtual Office Jakarta
    Virtual Office Jakarta  • 3 years ago

    Like Yoast Comment Hacks. Thank you for share, really a nice article.

  5. Rahul kuntala
    Rahul kuntala  • 3 years ago

    I didn’t know about yoast comment hacks plugin. Good to know that there is a plugin that maintains comments section. Thank you for awesome info. Keep sharing

  6. findyouridealcleaner
    findyouridealcleaner  • 3 years ago

    Thanks for the Simple Custom CSS tip as I’m not advanced enough to operate a child theme, I have tried! Favourite (free) plugins are Yoast SEO (of course) & Wordfence which do a lot for free and & also the Custom Sidebars plugin which is SO easy to use.

  7. TopAdNetworks
    TopAdNetworks  • 3 years ago

    Hi Michel, Nice post.
    I need your help. I am facing some issues with indexing of my site. In Google webmaster, robots.txt fetch is showing a yellow sign instead of green dot. I have researched on this and created a new robot.txt through yoast SEO plugin. Still there is a yellow sign in front of robots.txt fetch. Please check whether I have created robots.txt correctly. Robot.txt address: http://topadnetworks.com/robots.txt
    How can I solve this issue. Please help!!!

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Hi. Why would you disallow so much in there? I see Disallow: /wp-content/plugins/ and Disallow: /wp-content/themes/ and I can imagine that you don’t want all these files excluded. Have you read this article on robots.txt? Please do.. I’d strip your robots.txt to the bare minimum.

  8. Will A
    Will A  • 3 years ago

    Really great stuff!
    Right now just using the premium link..as soon as I understand that better I will try some of these that you mentioned.
    Great work!

  9. Adeel Sami
    Adeel Sami  • 3 years ago

    Hello, Michiel!

    Interesting ones!

    Especially the Yoast Comment Hacks one. :)

    I am gonna check it for sure to see what it brings for me.

    Thanks for the list!

    ~ Adeel

    • Michiel Heijmans

      No problem!

  10. Anh Tran
    Anh Tran  • 3 years ago

    If you are using WP 4.7, you can use the Additional CSS instead of the Simple Custom CSS plugin.

    • Michiel Heijmans

      In most cases. I found that for some sites, the Additional CSS tab is blank. Besides that, I feel more comfortable not using the preview in the Customizer, but the actual (staging) site to preview any CSS changes I make. I certainly prefer Simple CSS above the Additional CSS feature. For now.

  11. silva
    silva  • 3 years ago

    Use and recommend, thanks for sharing, great article

  12. Derek
    Derek  • 3 years ago

    I am certainly going to try the Yoast comment hacks plugin. Sounds pretty good and well I am testing the plugin with this comment.

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Nice. How’s that for hands-on advice :)

  13. Ed Swarez
    Ed Swarez  • 3 years ago

    Great recommendations! Thank you.

    Personally I couldn’t do without WP-Rocket. I appreciate the subject of caching plugins may be a contentious one but after having tried just about every single version, both paid and free, this one is by far the best all round plugin I’ve used and the one that gives me the most pleasure to see working.

    Fast, easy, incredible support and it just plain works and does it in a language I understand.

    I am not an affiliate, just a very satisfied customer who likes the speed benefits of this excellent plugin – something that’s essential for an image intensive site like mine.

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Totally agree, and am using WP Rocket on a lot of sites. I will be updating a post on top WordPress plugins soon that will include the plugin. But in this list of neat, handy plugins, adding WP Rocket would surpass the purpose of this post. But thanks for the addition!