Five WordPress Plugins To Help Big Dog Blogs Bark Louder
 In Big Dog Series

Mitch Canter is the real deal, a Big Dog if there ever was one. He is going to give us a big dish of “how to” because we Big Dogs must know how to get ourselves out there and WordPress is our muse.

Bark Louder: 5 Awesome WordPress Plugins You Should Be Using

by Mitch Canter

If I were a real dog, my dogtag would have a WordPress logo on it. True Story.

After seeing some of the other Big Dogs that Judi had lined up for you (and the lineup was absolutely fantastic, by the way), I realized that on a scale of “writer” to “coder” that I am one of those strange people that falls on both ends.  My name is Mitch Canter, and I’m a WordPress designer / developer from honky-tonkin’ Nashville, TN.  I spend my days writing code, pushing pixels, and getting the luxury of working in WordPress pretty much every hour of the day.  I also technical edited fellow “Big Dog” Lisa Sabin Wilson’s WordPress Web Design for Dummies, and am finishing technical edits for WordPress for Dummies, 4th Ed. Aside from working with my own consultancy clients (via studionashvegas), I also work at the enterprise level at Bridgestone of Americas as a contracted consultant.  Needless to say, I stay busy!

That said, I’m one of those guys whose job it is to know the latest and greatest WordPress plugins are, and I constantly scour the official plugin database to make sure that I know what the next big thing is.  So, I wanted to share my top five WordPress plugins – a few of them that are on the obscure side.  Think of them as plugins you never knew you needed, but once you add them in you won’t be able to live without.  Shall we?

By the way, if you’re not a user of WordPress, stop reading, email me at, and let me convince you to switch; you won’t be disappointed 🙂

5. W3 Total Cache

I like to start with the nuts and bolts kind of stuff.  I’m a tinkerer; it’s what I do.  If the whole idea of technical terms and jargon makes your head spin, don’t fret.  Basically, when you visit a WordPress site, it has to access a few different elements to display everything to you: a few database hits to pull your content and image source links, the actual images themselves, and any other data that’s been coded onto the template.  Needless to say there could be hundreds of outgoing calls depending on your server and theme setup.  W3 Total Cache takes all of those database calls and makes one page out of them; this cuts down the number of calls, and makes your page load faster.  There are also many other things it does (hooking into a Content Delivery Network, minifying JavasScript) but for the sake of the non-technical out there we’ll just leave it at “it makes your website noticeably faster without a lot of setup”.

4. Digg Digg

If you’ve ever been to Mashable and saw their nice little social bookmarks floating down the screen next to your content, chances are you’ve wondered how you could bring that same functionality into your own site.  Digg Digg does it for you.  It gives you the choice to insert boxes from any number of social networking sites (Twitter and Facebook are my go-to’s, but there may be others you like) and either floats them next to the content or drops them into the content itself (either above, below, or manually wherever you put it).  It’s a great way to invite your readers to share your content with their networks, and when it scrolls it follows them down the page.

3. WPTouch

Mobile is the new web.  It’s true, and if you’re not embracing it, you’re going to get left behind.  WPTouch formats your site in such a way that today’s modern smartphone can see it in a style that works best for it.  Plus, there’s a myriad of options on what content to display, icons to use, and any other number of items.  It’s one of the very few “activate it and leave it” plugins out there, and it really makes a difference if people are consuming your content on the go.

2. WYSIWYG Widgets

Now for the fun, not-so-well-known plugins.  This fantastic plugin does what every blogger dreams of: adding WYSIWYG functionality to your sidebar.  Simply download and activate this plugin, drag it into your sidebar, and click on the text box.  You’re presented with an editor that’s nearly exactly like the post or page editor.  You can add colors, text, images, video, or audio, or whatever else you can think of.  Once you’re done, it automatically generates the HTML it needs to display correctly.  Prior to this, the only way to control what your sidebar content contained was to do it in the post editor beforehand and then paste the HTML in; not anymore.

1. Livefyre Comments

I had the privilage of meeting the company behind Livefyre in New York at BlogWorldExpo, and within 10 minutes of them demoing the product, I switched my commenting system away from Disqus.  Why? Because it works well.  Livefyre takes over the output of your traditional WordPress comments, and adds in real-time updates and social integration.  As you are on the screen watching a post, comments will fly in from the web and the feed will update on the fly.  You can have conversations with commenters as they are on the site, and have an ongoing discussion.  You can also type the @ symbol to bring up a list of your Facebook and Twitter friends (if you’ve added those accounts in) and Livefyre will automatically reference their profiles (and you can send messages to them to bring them into the discussion).  All of this happens only on the visual layer; your real comments aren’t touched and you don’t have to learn another administration panel to moderate comments.

Being a Big Dog is knowing what tools to use to make yourself succeed.  This is but a mere taste of the goodness that can be found in the WordPress database.  My hope is that you take the plugins you’ve found and make your blogs stand out from the crowds.  I’ve tried to cover everything from commenting to widgets and speed to sharing.  Take what you’ve learned, apply it to your own blogs, and watch them rise above the pack.

So what’s going on with your blog? Have questions or comments? Bring em!

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Showing 10 comments
  • Callahan McDonough

    hey Mitch, thanks, for the info. I can tell it will be helpful down the road . Judi, New Tricks, has just finished a new website for me , figure its like new learners permit, & just getting familiar with the dashboard on etc.
    Will save these tips and try them out in the next couple months.
    My recent post A delighted client with her new custom wedding floorcloth

  • Diana Simon

    At Judi's urging, I've bought WordPress for Dummies. Have gone straight to chapter 3 for self-hosting.
    Thanks for the plugin tips. I'll get those incorporated. Here we go…

    • studionashvegas

      The new version will be out soon… once I finish editing it and get it back to Lisa, that is 🙂

  • @SandiAmorim

    Great info! Wondering if you rate WordPress Mobile Pack as well as WPTouch and why?

  • judi knight

    Diana, Congrats! You are off the porch and running. If you get stuck ask. And I also want to tell you and the other Big Dogs to be that you can get your photo to show up on your comments by getting a Gravatar ( globally recognized avatar) Here is the link to the post on adding your photo to Gravatar. Take a few minutes and get it up there so we can see you!!!

  • rodonic

    Great plugins Judi, I hadn't seen WYSIWYG Widgets before. Looks really helpful.

  • @LYNewman

    Thanks for the info Mitch! Always love to hear about plugins other big dogs use and recommend 🙂

  • isvariyoga

    I love this series. I am not a big dog just a very small puppy but I love it nonetheless. I am on vacation and reading every one of them. I use to imagine my life taking summers off and writing in Nantucket or Marthas Vinyard. Now it is blogging and commenting on a MAC. Not as romantic as I would have imagined but much more connected. Thanks everyone. Thanks Judi.
    My recent post Yoga Therapy Is for Everyone

  • Henry Cooper Sr

    Thanks Mitch for sharing this priceless info to all of us, you just don't realize how much this community appreciates you and the other Big Dogs for giving "value" in every post, "free". In the brick &mortar world, everything's a charge even information, so I know how valuable it is to be involved with such a unique group of people that are connected together in this community, and thanks to Judi Knight for the spirit and passion she has for everyone involved.
    My recent post Hello world!

  • Sean Paul

    So good to see out anyone with some original ideas on this subject. really thank you for beginning this up. this web site is something that’s needed on the web, someone with a little originality. useful job for bringing one thing new to the web.
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