Wordpress plugins can be an integral part of your travel blog … if you use the WordPress platform obviously.  Allowing you to add certain functionality and/or features that are not available on the standard WordPress download alone, plugins can help take your blog to the next level.  So back by popular demand (one person asked) and following on from the ‘success’ of my Top 5 WordPress plugins for a travel blog 2012 post, here are my recommendations for 2013.

Just remember that whilst plugins are fun and allow you to do all sorts with your blog, they do take up space and as such can add to the amount of time that your blog takes to load, and load time is all a part of Googles master plan to rank your site and determine how well it performs.  So whilst I like the below plugins, before YOU install them, ask yourself if you really need them.  Is their functionality worth the hit in load time?  I will readily admit that some of my 2012 recommendations are no longer used on my blog, whilst they did pretty things, pretty didn’t add enough value to warrant me taking a hit on load time.   Just something to think about.

Right here are my 5 for 2013 …

1.  Tweetily

Whilst I’m not overly keen on automated twitter accounts, I have always wondered if I am missing out on potential engagement and site hits because of the hours of the day I am ‘limited’ to tweeting.  I mean I have to sleep some time right, and I cant manually tweet whilst I’m asleep.  So my account lies dormant roughly between the hours of 1am – 7am GMT each day.  That’s a lot hours per week that I am not promoting my blog, and at a time when a huge potential audience (peeps from the US and Canada) are awake.  On the flip side, the hours I am usually tweeting, those peeps in the US and Canada are asleep.  Its not ideal if I am looking to grow my audience amongst people that are across the pond.

The idea with Tweetily is that it will auto publish tweets relating to your blog posts for you.  You can set how many tweets, at what frequency and you can even identify blog posts that you do not want to be included.

I’d like it if the plugin could allow you set the hours within which it would publish your tweets i.e publish 2 tweets every 4 hours between 1am and 8am BMT, but for now I just set it to publish every 6 hours and hope it doesn’t annoy people too much.  Either way its a good time saver and allows me to reach a wider audience whilst also allowing me a bit of extra time to work on other aspects of my blog.

http://wordpress.org/plugins/tweetily-tweet-wordpress-posts-automatically/

Tweetily plugin 1

Tweetily plugin 2

2.  Wysija (2015 – Now updated to Mailpoet)

A newsletter, finally I have got around to making one (ish).  OK so its still in its infancy, but its a start.  Wysija is a oober cool plugin I recently found that lets you set up and automate your own wee newsletter for free.  Yep, its costs nothing.  Whilst a lot of blogger peeps choose to invest in a spot of Mailchimp or any other email marketing service (they are good services to be fair), my newsletter has been going out free of charge.  Its basic, it just includes a few social media buttons, a few lines of custom text and a summary of the posts I have published over the last week.  I will in time add extras such as time specific messages and question for readers, but all in good time.  There are different themes and designs you can choose from and customise.  The layout is also customisable as is the colour scheme.  Once your design is fnished you can also play with the frequency at which your newsletter is sent out and how it addresses your subscribers.

Now a newsletter isn’t much good unless readers are able to sign up for it.  Luckily Wysija has this covered too and adds a new widget to your site.  Look over there on the right at the very top of my sidebar, you see it?  First name, email, subscribe.  Simple but effective … and if you want to (*ahem DO IT!) go ahead and subscribe that be most awesome and I would love you forever.

Stats wise Wysija offers a few, nowhere nears as comprehensive as some email marketing services, but enough to get by on for the average blogger.  Whilst I’ve had a few subscribers are few look spammy to me so its no surprise that my first newsletter didn’t exactly have the best opening rate, it bombed in truth.  Ah well, it can only get better.

The free version is limited to 2000 subscribers, to go above 2000 you will need to purchase the premium version.

http://www.wysija.com/

https://www.mailpoet.com/ 

Wysija plugin 2

Wysija2

3.  MapPress Easy Google Maps

I like maps, I think they’re a key ingredient that a lot of people overlook when blogging about specific towns/cities/countries/regions.  Written directions and descriptions of an area are all well and good, but being able to translate them into a work model is much easier with an map of the area in question in front of you.

Easy to set up, you simply plug in (no pun intended) the name of the town/area you wish to include a map of and the plugin will show you a preview before providing you the code to add to your blog post.  You need to add the code in the HTML version of your post but it really isn’t difficult.

http://wordpress.org/plugins/mappress-google-maps-for-wordpress/

Map press plugin 2

Map Press plugin

4.  WP-DBManager

Ever seen this an panicked?

error establishing a database connection

Yep, it sends a shiver down my spine too, in fact I had it just last week (May 24th 2013).  It could just be that your server is down and will come back on line in a couple of hours … but what if its a bigger issue?  What if by some cruel twist of fate your database has been corrupted or gone rogue?  What if everything you’ve been working on over the past 10, 15 months has up and vanished never to be seen again? Nightmare!

Well, fear not for this life saver of a plugin can be set up to email you a copy of your database (including posts and photos) once every day/week/month.  The choice is yours as the set up can be customised to suit your needs.  Personally I get a copy send to my Hotmail each week where I save them just encase the worst ever happens.  Its always good to have a back up.

http://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-dbmanager/

WP DBManager plugin 1

WP DBManager plugin 2

5.  WP-Optimize

I love WordPress, but I don’t trust it.  Too many times I have gone to click publish, save to draft or add media after hours of work and it has bombed out on me saving nothing.  I therefore save a lot now, and I mean a LOT!  The thing is, saving drafts creates what WordPress calls ‘post revisions’, and each revision uses up space within your database.

Say you write a post that is 1MB in size, but along the way have saved that post 7 times.  On your database will be the 7 variations of your post each at anything up to 1MB in size.  You might have potentially used up 7MB of your database in writing just one post.

That’s unlikely because a 1MB post would be massive and no one would ever bother to ready the entirety of it, but hopefully you understand the point of the example.  Anyway back to post revisions – once your post is actually live and being visited by readers on your site, the revisions aren’t really needed unless you wish to revert back to a previous revision for some reason.  Your call, but its probably unlikely that you would, so why not delete the revisions and free up some space on your database?  The WP-Optimize plugin allows you to do just that along with a few other little optimizations.

Every now and then it doesn’t hurt to give you database a little spruce and keep its size manageable.  Remember its space is not unlimited!

http://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-optimize/

Wp Optimize plugin

*BONUS*

6.  UK Cookie Consent

A bonus because this number 6 might not apply to everyone but probably will do to some.

Here in the UK we need to let any site visitors know that our site is using cookies.  This is an EU law, any site needs the users permission in their use of cookies.  You’ve most likely seen pop ups regarding cookies or been asked for your permission for a site to use them.  Most people would just click OK and ‘I agree’ , I’ve done it and I imagine you probably have too.  What did you agree to though?  Here’s a smidge of background en case you didn’t know.

What are cookies?  

In their simplest form, a cookie is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user’s web browser while a user is browsing a website.  It can help save info and /or settings for a users ongoing visits to that same website.

Does your site use them?

If you are on WordPress, yes your site uses them.

When a visitor comments on your blog cookies will be stored on their computer.  Its a convenience thing, the cookies allow said visitor to comment again on your site at a later date without having to enter their name, email etc all over again.  Ultimately they make a visitors experience a better one in my opinion, but not everyone agrees and hence the need for you to now ask for visitor permission to use cookies.

So whats this plugin?

Clean and simple, the plugin creates a little drop down on the landing page each time a new visitor accesses you website asking the visitor if they are OK with your blog using cookies.  They can reply either ‘no problem’ or ask for more info.  That’s it really.  You’ve covered everything that the law has asked of you.

Colour of the drop down and the wording are all can all be customised, but I actually quite like the wording ‘no problem’. Its nice an casual as it should be.  Cookies for a simple WordPress travel blog shouldn’t be a big deal.

http://wordpress.org/plugins/uk-cookie-consent/

Uk cookie consent plugin

Uk cookie consent plugin 2

There you go, that’s what plugins I’m using in 2013.  Any you think I should be using in addition?  Recommendations always welcome.