I’m convinced that WordPress is the most powerful and easily implemented website platform for musicians. Most of my social networking efforts are aimed at directing traffic to my band site, which serves as my base of operations. Countless free plugins allow me to add new features and customize to my heart’s content.
I recently overhauled both of my WordPress sites (colortheory.com and passivepromotion.com are functionally identical), exploring all the popular plugins from each category. Despite my best efforts to keep things lean and mean, I ended up installing 23. All are free, as is WordPress. The only thing I’ve paid for is the Thesis theme, which handles the look and feel of the site, search engine optimization, and other behind-the-scenes details I don’t care to figure out on my own.
I don’t have time to babysit my sites every day, so I’m always on the lookout for new ways to “set it and forget it.” Here are my seven best WordPress plugins for passive promotion:
Ever read an article, made a quick comment, and never visited the site again? Thank Me Later automatically sends out an email to anyone who leaves a comment on your site, after a pre-defined amount of time. I use it to suggest subscription options, remind the commenter to check back for replies, and invite him or her to connect with me personally.
In my opinion, only two share options matter anymore: Facebook and Twitter. Both offer official buttons, and I suggest using them rather than third party alternatives, because they are both recognizable and trustworthy. It’s possible to insert the proper code directly into your site’s theme, but Digg Digg takes all of two minutes to set up and offers a high degree of customization.
This one is almost too good to be true. Install it and poof! Your site has a mobile theme. It automatically kicks in when someone accesses the site from their iPhone, iPod touch, Android, Opera Mini, Palm Pre, Samsung Touch or BlackBerry Storm/Torch. Definitely a must have!
The comment system built into WordPress does the job, but Disqus (and its chief competitor, IntenseDebate) steps it up a notch. It offers threaded comments and replies, subscribe and RSS options, reply by email, built-in spam protection, and some fancy widgets. More importantly, it connects you to the same large discussion community that you see on big name sites like Mashable.
This plugin showcases the most popular posts on your site in the sidebar, based on criteria you select. So far it’s done a good job of featuring my best content. Still, I wonder if it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy machine, making the posts it highlights even more popular than they deserve.
If WPP doesn’t do the trick, here’s a second method to get visitors to click through to another post. YARPP automatically compiles a list of related posts, and appends it to the end of the article. You can restrict results by category or tag, and select how much weight to give the post title versus body. I’ve read that it can slow sites down, but a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache more than makes up for it.
Losing visitors from a mistyped URL is a thing of the past with Smart 404. It searches for a matching page and redirects to it automatically. If it doesn’t find a match, it can display a list of suggestions on your 404 page.
For completeness’ sake, here are the rest of the plugins I use:
Align RSS Images
Broken Link Checker
Contact Form 7
FD Feedburner Plugin
Google XML Sitemaps
No Self Pings
Ozh’ Admin Drop Down Menu
W3 Total Cache
Did I miss any of your favorites? Let me know in the comments!