495 – Your Website Engineer Plugins in 2020
Is there a plugin for that?
With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.
For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.
Notice Block is a plugin that allows you to create a block on your site for a notice to your site visitors.
Your Website Engineer Plugins in 2020
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Full TranscriptBusiness Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.
On today’s episode, we are going to talk about the plugins that I’m using in 2020 on YourWebsiteEngineer.com right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast episode No. 495. Hello and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler and I’m excited to be here with you this week because we are gonna be talking about WordPress and talking through some of those plugins that I’m using on my website, and you know, plugins change throughout the years and goes in and out. You know, sometimes, you switch to different plugins and what not, and so, I just wanted to highlight the list that I wanted to share with you today.
I have some announcements that I want to start with. Then, a plugin, of course, and then, we’ll get to that list. Now, first thing that I want to share is WordPress 5.5 Release Candidate has been released. This was just yesterday, as July 28, and basically, the release candidate means that the version is ready for release, but with lots of people still testing it, there’s possible things that have been missed. August 11, which is about two weeks away, is the set deadline or the set date to push out this new version. We’re still looking for – by we, I mean the WordPress core team, is still looking for folks to test, and so, you can use the WordPress Beta Tester plugin and you can choose the Bleeding Edge Nightly option, or you can download the Release Candidate option, and then, just install right away.
The big thing that’s coming in WordPress 5.5, and I talked about this a few weeks ago, is the ability to upload plugins for a new feature release. This is going to be huge and I’m so excited about this feature. We’ll talk about it more in a couple weeks when WordPress 5.5 releases, but if you want to get a head start and do some testing and check some things out, don’t do it on a live site, of course, but spend a little bit of time updating your site and putting it onto a staging server, and then, do some testing there to make sure that all of your plugins, and your themes, and what not work properly. All right, let’s go ahead and look at some of the news items this week, so that’s the first thing. The second thing is there was an article on WP Tavern talking about is are plugin authors to blame for the poor admin notice experience.
I’ve talked about this before. It kind of is one of those pain points in my side when it comes to WordPress and what not, but it’s basically that all of those admin bars that come across when you install plugins, or you install a new theme, and it’s like setup this, and do this, or you’re ready to configure a – or your SSL certificate, add a new product, setup the storefront themes, do this, do this, do this. It’s just an article over there just kind of talking about the need for a better system and just trying to figure out the best way to do that. It’s interesting that the – Matt has a couple posts on there, as well, just to talk about some of the ideas and his ideas behind it, and so, that is the first article that I wanted to share with you. That’s over on WP Tavern. There’s a link in the show notes for episode No. 495, and then, the other thing was all about word camps. Word camps will stick to online meet-ups for the remainder of the year.
There will be no in-person events through the remainder of 2020, and then, they’ll reevaluate the schedule and see what happens in 2021. It’s pretty much like 2020 just doesn’t exist. You don’t go anywhere and we’re just gonna try to make it through, make it to 2021, and then, see if we can do live, in-person events again. That is what I wanted to share there. Then, the plugin that I want to share this week is one called Notice Block and it is by WP Developer, and it is a notice plugin that you can highlight your news, announcements, and grab the attention of your audience. This isn’t a dashboard thing, but this is something that it’s a block inside the block editor, so you can create a notice within the block editor and use – and to improve that user engagement and that user experience.
You can customize the content, the colors, to make it the way you need. It’s a super lightweight plugin. They’ve got dedicated supports and they have some of the other plugins, the essential add-ons for Elementor is a plugin that they’ve got 700,000 happy users, and so, they’re continuing to reach out and create more plugins for the WordPress space. That’s Notice Block by WP Developer. You can search for Notice Block in the WordPress repository, or as always, you can find the link in the show notes for episode No. 495. All right, today, let’s go ahead and talk about the plugins that I’m running on YourWebsiteEngineer.com. We haven’t looked at this in a couple years, and so, I thought this would be a good time to take a look at that.
I’ve got – let’s see, I’ve got 17 plugins that I’ve got up and running on my WordPress site, plus, a couple must-dos ones, and I’ll talk about those in a second. I’ve got the Akismet plugin, so it’s used by millions of folks to help protect your blog from spam. Your site is fully configurable. It’s protected, even while you sleep. That’s kind of the tagline for a Akismet and I use this because – I guess I should step back a second, and I have a Jetpack premium account, or a pro account; one of those high-level plans. We get it as part of being at Automatic, and so, I’ll talk about that in a second when we get to Jetpack, but the Akismet part is built into Jetpack. It’s just its own separate plugin.
The next one on my list is called As Heard On and this one is made by Yours Truly. It is a plugin that I created many, many moons ago. I haven’t updated or really done a whole lot with recently, but it allows you to display your artwork of podcasts that you’ve been a guest on, and I use this on the homepage of YourWebsiteEngineer.com. You can go and you can – you, basically, load up how many you need, and you know, I might have 30 plugins – or podcasts that I’ve been on in the recent past, and then, I can say I want to display six of them in certain locations. It’s got a widget included, and our short code, and all of that good stuff, and so, that’s the plugin that I’ve created. I do, probably, need to spend a little bit of time updating it, making it better, and it’s just a good way to kind of cross-promote yourself. You could use it as a testimonial type thing. You could use it almost, also, as like a I’ve been a featured speaker at. You could use it in that way, but it’s specifically made for podcasting guests.
The next one on my list, No. 3, is Broken Link Checker, and this checks your blog for broken links, missing images, etcetera, and it notices – you get a notification on your dashboard. I try to check this once a month or so and it’s a hard one to find because the Broken Link’s link is under the tool section, so if you go into your WordPress dashboard, tools, and then, Broken Links, and then, the Broken Links is a menu item there, and then, it has the number of broken links. I see that I’ve got eight broken links right now, and so, that’s something that I need to address. I normally get emails about them, too, but it’s not an urgent, urgent thing in my mind, and so, I get to it. I batch it. You know every couple weeks or so I go in and try to resolve and fix all of the ones that are there.
The next one on my list is called Convert Kit and this is the one that integrates Convert Kit Forms on your site, so I have a couple different places where email opt-ins and all of those go to Convert Kit. That is all setup there and that’s the Convert Kit plugin. Then, I use iThemes Security and this is one that takes the guess work out of security. It has 30 different ways to lock down your WordPress site. I used to use the iThemes Security Pro. I don’t pay for it anymore. I just use the free version that’s on the WordPress repository and I go through some of the settings and make sure that I’m doing the best that I can to keep my website tough to hack into and get into, so that’s iThemes Security.
Again, all of these will be in the show notes for episode No. 495, so you can get to them quickly, and easily, and you don’t have to be taking notes here as I say them. The next one on my list is Jetpack. Like I said, this is one that I pay for a premium account for, or I don’t pay for a premium account. I get one through work, and this, basically, is my backup solution. It does a real-time backup, and so, like every day, it does a snapshot backup of any time something is changed on my website. Today, when I post a podcast episode, like that looks like a change on my website, so then, I get an incremental backup, and then, I can use Jetpack to move a site from one place to another. Jetpack has got a lot of really cool features with the [inaudible] [00:07:33] migration and stuff that’s built in, so I use that one. I used to use Backup Buddy and there’s a few other ones out there, but I use Jetpack because it is something that I like to dog food the products from Automatic, try them out, and see how well they work and use, and then, I can provide feedback to the developers to get things fixed.
Of course, who doesn’t like free plugins on a podcasting site where I don’t make a lot of money, so that is the Jetpack plugin. The next one on my list is Ninja Forms. I used to be a Gravity Forms user for years and years and years, but then, as I turned more hobby with my websites, then, I wanted to go with a free option. I always like trying the free options, too, to see if they’re just as good as the paid ones. They’re not, in this case, but Ninja Forms – or Gravity Forms, you pay for the premium and you get all of the extensions. With Ninja Forms, you pay – you get the version free, but then, if you need add-ons, then, you can pay for individual add-ons. I don’t need any of the add-ons for YourWebsiteEngineer.com. It’s just a simple site and I use it for the contact form, and so, I don’t really need to pay anything for it. I use the free version of Ninja Forms, and like I said, it’s just for the contact form and there might be one or two other forms. Sometimes they do surveys and stuff and I use Ninja Forms for that, but for the most part, I can get by with exactly what the free version offers.
Next up on my list is the Opt-In Monster API. This is just a plugin that connects WordPress to Opt-In Monster and Opt-In Monster is the service to, obviously, opt-in people to your email newsletter list, and so, I use Opt-In Monster and we’re going to be talking about that in a couple weeks. I’m gonna do a review on some things that have changed in the last year or so within Opt-In Monster, why I’m still using Opt-In Monster for all of my lead capture, but it’s a great plugin. This is just a simple plugin and it allows you to use short codes and what not throughout your site to bring those forms and get those forms on your site.
Next one on my list is Pretty Links. Pretty Links, I like for the fact that you can say like, “Oh, go to YourWebsiteEngineer.com/hover,” and that’s my affiliate link for Hover, and you can create affiliate links for all kinds of things. The only catch with Pretty Links is that it is a kind of a – how do I want to say it? It is a database intensive plugin. It takes up a lot of space sometimes because it logs everything. It logs all of your links, and so, I can see that I have 58 different links within Pretty Links, and then, it also tracks clicks, and so, if you’ve got a lot of clicks, all of those are recorded in the database. I have, let’s see, 1,300. It’s displaying one of ten, so 1,300 different line items in this table, and like it just – the reports, the tools, there’s a lot there, and every once a while, I just go in and delete it all. I mean it’s useful to see like how many people are clicking on certain links, but it’s also not really that interesting to see where they’re coming from. You know like, oh, they clicked on this link from so-and-so, or you know I can see that my Convert Kit link, which is YourWebsiteEngineer.com, is Convert Kit, that I’ve had 1,400 people click on that link to take them to that site.
That’s helpful, but there’s – that means there’s 1,400 line items inside of my database, and so, it’s not – that’s the only reason that I don’t like that plugin is it just keeps a record of all of those things because it needs to be able to report all of that information. That is the Pretty Links plugin. The next one is probably one that you’ve not heard of. This one is one that I found a long time ago, but it is called the – it’s got the best name, too. It is Q2 W3 Fixed Widget. I don’t know who came up with the name or what the naming convention came from, but it is a plugin that allows you to have something called a sticky widget and it’ll stay visible on the screen, and so, I use that on my podcasting page for the opt-in. You know click on this banner to get my eBook or whatever. That one, you know as you scroll, you see it, and then, as you keep scrolling, it gets stuck at the top of the page and it stays at the top of the page. It’s a – I don’t know. I like it. I like the way that it works and it is the funniest named plugin, but it works really well.
Next on my list is the Smart Podcast Player. This one is the one by Pat Flynn. I believe it’s got a different name now. It looks like I’m a couple versions behind. I always like to test this one real thoroughly because there’s so many people that come to the site and they want to listen to the podcast directly on the site versus you know downloading it and listening to it on a mobile device or what not, so it’s called the Smart Podcast Player. I think it’s been renamed to like Fuse Box or something like that, but it’s just a personal one that I like. I ended up getting in when Pat Flynn was doing his launch. This was probably eight years ago when he was doing that, seven, eight years ago, and I ended up getting the launch price at like $49.00 for life, and so, I like that one. It works well and I think that it matches the color scheme and what not on my website, so I continue to use that one.
I use the Sumo Me plugin, or I have the Sumo Me plugin activated. There’s a lot of settings that I haven’t used and a lot of things that I need to customize, but that’s one that I keep it on and I keep it there, so I remember like, oh hey. Sometime, you’ve got to dedicate some time to setup Sumo Me. It’s a lot of free tools to automate your site growth from Sumo.com, and so, I haven’t done much with it, but it is a plugin I’d like to invest a little bit more time into, to get it setup and working. A couple more here on my list. One is Atwigit and this is a simple widget that shows you your most recent tweets. It’s fully customizable with HTML and you can customize it. I use that for the footer and that’s where my recent tweets come from, which I don’t tweet a whole lot anymore, but that’s where – that’s what that plugin does.
My favorite plugin of all time is WP Migrate DV Pro. You can export. You can push. You can pull. You can migrate your WordPress databases wherever you need them, so if you’ve got a local site and you want to pull in a copy of your live site into your local site, you click a couple buttons and it automatically slurps in your content, all of your data, and if you’re ready to export it, you can pull it or you can push it from other places. You can push it from your local site onto your live site. It’s super, super handy and really, really cool. Definitely worth – I think it’s $100.00 per year for the license that I have, but that’s the, really, only one that I pay for that’s on my list here and it is definitely worth it. It saves you so much time. WP SEO is on my list and that is an SEO plugin that stays out of your way. It’s a very simple plugin. I like that one much better than the [inaudible] [00:13:28] plugin. It’s just because it’s more simple. It doesn’t get updated every single week and that’s one I think that you have to download from Get Hub. I don’t think it’s on the WordPress repository, but I know that a lot of the VIP, WordPress VIP clients and what not, use it because it’s a simple plugin.
That is that plugin, and then, the last one that’s on my list here is a custom one that I made. It is the YourWebsiteEngineer Podcast Feed and it is just – it’s exactly that. I made a custom feed for my podcasts, and then, I put it in a plugin. I put it in there, so I can turn it on and turn it off if necessary. It’s been running for a couple years now just perfectly fine, so I should probably move it to the must-use folder, and what the must-use folder is, if you’ve never heard of this, is it’s an area inside of the plugins area and you can see in there, if you have any in there, and it is the must-use plugin or must-use folder. Folder first needs to be created, and then, once it’s created, you can drop some plugins in there, and then, they will never be able to be turned off from the dashboard. They have to be deleted in order for things to – you know in order for them to be removed or whatever. What happens there is I’ve got a couple there. I’ve got one that’s called the Admin Post Notification or Admin Post Navigation and that allows you to go from post to post, like inside the WordPress dashboard.
If I was on episode No. 493, I can go previous or forward, so if I wanted to go to 494 or 492, I can do that right from the dashboard instead of going back to my podcast tab, click on add new – or all, and then, find the episode that I need. I can just toggle back and forth there. That one’s super, super handy if – and that’s one you can find, actually, in the WordPress repository, the Admin Post Navigation, but I just kind of rewrote it a little bit and dropped it into the must-use folder just so I don’t have to see it in my plugin list. Then, I’ve got a couple custom ones I did, a custom post type. That’s where all my custom post types code is. I’ve got Dustin’s Custom Login, which allows me to display the YourWebsiteEngineer logo on the login page.
Then, I’ve got one for short codes, so all the short codes that I’ve built across the site, those all go into a must-use plugin. Then, there is one called the Admin Color Scheme, YourWebsiteEngineer admin color scheme that I use, just to create some custom colors on the backend for local sites and for live sites. Those are my list of plugins in 2020. Hope that maybe you learned something about one of them, or maybe you found one that you could use on your site. I do recommend, if you’re interested in paying for any, the WP Migrate DV Pro is the absolute best. I have an affiliate link at YourWebsiteEngineer.com/migrate and if you’re interested in checking that out, I do get a small commission on that. All right, we’re going to wrap up this week’s episode.
I would like to do a callout to see if anyone’s interested in asking questions. If you have something that you’re interested in, head on over to YourWebsiteEngineer.com. Go to the contact form page, or email me, Dustin@yourwebsiteengineer.com. What would you like to learn about WordPress? What can I continue to teach you? And that’s what I want to talk – you know I just – I would love more ideas. That’s one of the hard things about doing a show for almost 500 episodes. It’s like sometimes you just run out of ideas, so if you’ve got a topic in mind, let me know and I will address that in an upcoming episode, and then, I’m thinking about – I don’t know. I’ve been following some folks on Patreon and wondering if there’s anything that you’d like to see behind the scenes, like what could I do that’s behind the scenes as part of a small Patreon community. I’d love to have a small community there that would be interested in learning something specific or you know seeing the behind the scenes, or see how I have my computer setup, or my short codes, or [inaudible] [00:16:50] workflows, or you know any of those type of things that aren’t quite WordPress, but I’d love to kind of show those to you.
I’ve been doing some webinars at Automatic for some – for work and they’ve just been really fun to create videos again. I want to get more into that, especially, as now, it’s getting close to school time. I’m gonna have some quiet time in the house. I’m gonna have about four hours, three days a week, when there’s no kids in the house, so I won’t have to worry about recording around them, so that’s what I wanted to share with you this week. Take care and we’ll talk again soon. Bye-bye.