In the past few months I’ve really ramped up using WordPress plugins, and they do some amazing things. All but two are free.
AddToAny is the widget at the end of each post which lets you share it on dozens of sites. I use it myself to to post to Twitter, Facebook, and Stumbleupon.
After the Deadline. Spell and grammar checker. Highly useful.
Akismet. Kills spam comments. Essential.
All in One SEO. Definitely improves visibility on search engines and does so completely ethically.
Backup Buddy. Backs up the database or the entire site and FTPs it to the Amazon S3 cloud. Fully automated. $45 and totally worth it.
FD Feedburner plugin. Takes all possible version of your main RSS and redirects them to Feedburner. This way someone subscribing to the RSS feed always gets Feedburner.
Pubsubhubbub. Instantly sends new posts to a cloud hub where they get picked up fast. With this, new posts on Polizeros literally appear in my Google Reader RSS feed 5 seconds later.
W3 Total Cache. The best cache around. 8 pages of configuration items (!) Be ready to spend some time learning it. Hint: If you are on a shared server, do not use database or object caching. It dramatically cut the load time here.
WordPress.com Stats. A great way to track how many people are on the site. Appears in the Dashboard.
WPTouch Pro. Displays the site in a mobile format for iPhone / iPad / Android / Blackberry. If using W3 Total Cache, you must allow and disallow various user agents in order for WPTouch Pro to work right. Both plugins explain what to do. $25 and also worth it.
Polizeros is now running W3 Total Cache. You may notice the site is loading faster. (There were a few hiccups earlier in the day while installing it but those have been resolved.)
Caching software makes copies of frequently used pages, like the Home Page, then serves them up to those browsing the site. So, rather than WordPress having to load the php page, pull data from the database, then render the page, it simply uses the cached copy. This greatly cuts down on server usage and load, especially when you have hundreds of simultaneous users.
I switched caching software at the recommendation of Laughing Squid, our hosting company. Polizeros was bumping up against a compute cycles limit, which is the amount of processor time being used. They analyzed the site and said W3 is more powerful than the cache I was using and should help.
They may have a funny name, but Laughing Squid is the best host I’ve used. They host everything in the Rackspace Cloud. I can’t remember having downtime, and their tech support is superb. After some weird glitches trying to install W3 – which turned out to be a PHP memory limit issue – I emailed them and they did it for me.
Even better, if Polizeros does exceed the limits for the account, they simply upgrade the site in $4 a month increments so everything keeps going rather than blocking the site as some hosts do. That’s a big advantage of cloud computing. It scales as needed. Rackspace doesn’t do hosting for small sites per se, so that’s why I use Laughing Squid.
Big thanks to Jamie Holly at Intoxination for advice and help. If you ever get a 500 Server Error on your site or blog, check your .htaccess file, because that’s probably where the problem is. And make sure all remnants of the old cache are gone before installing the new one, otherwise a festive and alarming set of error messages may ensue.