A company blog is a great way for brands to interact with customers and set themselves apart from competitors. It acts as a platform in which you can promote your product or service, share additional insight into its background, educate customers about updates and new features, and introduce other members of your team.

However, the idea of managing a blog can be daunting. WordPress plugins have made it easier for newcomers and blogging veterans to manage their blogs. A plugin is a small application, an extra, that adds specific functionality to your blog to make it easier to manage. A great real life example is a car: it comes with standard features, but you can choose to add power windows or a sunroof.

For those of you thinking about using WordPress, or even if you already have a blog hosted on WordPress, this article will highlight some of the most helpful plugins for those maintaining a company blog.

Under the Hood

1. Akismet: Spam control is important to a blog’s health. If your articles are collecting spam comments, not only can it be frustrating for your moderator or community manager, but it can also make the blog appear unmanaged to a reader. Akismet checks your comments automatically to see if they look like spam. The plugin includes a comment status history so you can easily see which comments were caught and which were spammed or “unspammed” by a moderator.

2. Google Analytics for WordPress: Google Analytics provides valuable data about traffic to your website and blog. Knowing how an individual found your blog and whether he or she visited your product page afterward can help to determine the effectiveness of your content. Google Analytics for WordPress offers easy installation through the Google Analytics API – meaning you can begin tracking your website stats in just a few clicks.

3. W3 Total Cache: Speed is an important factor for any website. If your blog is slow to load, chances are you’ll lose the interest of your visitors, resulting in fewer page views. W3 Total Cache improves your site’s performance by reducing page load time and increasing web server performance.

4. WordPress Mobile Pack: Whether killing time in line or relaxing on the couch, many people browse the web from their iPhone or Android phones, which is why it’s important to have a website or blog that translates well on a mobile device. WordPress Mobile Pack helps “mobilize” your WordPress site by giving users the option to view in desktop or mobile presentation. The plugin will automatically rescale images, truncate articles, and remove non-supported media depending on the device on which it’s being viewed.

5. WordPress SEO: Undoubtedly search engine optimization (SEO) – the process of configuring online content to increase its chances of appearing near the top of search engine results – plays an important role in your content strategy. WordPress SEO encourages you to choose a focus keyword and then makes sure that you use that keyword in your title, URL, content, and meta description. The snippet preview gives you an example of what your article will look like in search results.

Post-Production Polishes

6. After the Deadline: Using the power of artificial intelligence, After the Deadline automatically checks the spelling, style, and grammar in your articles and pages. You can apply specific grammar and style rules, such as double negatives, phrases to avoid, and so on. This is especially handy to have if your teammates are submitting content or if an editorial review process hasn’t been set in place.

7. Broken Link Checker: Typos happen. Sometimes typos can appear in the middle of a URL, rendering it useless. Whether you’re linking to a previous article, your product, or a source, a broken link looks unprofessional. Broken Link Checker monitors links in your articles, pages, and comments, and will notify you through your Dashboard or email if it detects a broken link. Conveniently you can edit broken links directly from the plugin’s page instead of manually editing each article.

Socializing and Sharing

8. Google+ Plugin: Google’s +1 button makes it easy for you to share content with your Circles on Google+. The company has made it very easy to add the Google +1 button to your company blog, but if you’re not ready to add code to your site, the Google+ plugin makes it even easier to integrate your Google+ Profile or Page with WordPress. After you copy and paste the number sequence from your Google+ URL, just choose the size and placement of the button and you’re ready to start sharing.

9. Livefyre: Livefyre is a real-time commenting system that you can see in action here on Sprout Insights. Once installed, it will replace WordPress’ standard commenting system and offer social login features, links to readers’ latest blog articles, and member profiles that encourage interaction.

10. Sharedaddy: Sharedaddy not only makes it easier for you to share your content with your community, but it also simplifies sharing between your readers and their networks. Through this plugin you can share your articles through Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, email, and so on. Additionally, some services have options to display smart buttons, which will update the number of times the article has been shared.

These are just a few of the many plugins available to WordPress users. Take some time to explore the plugin directory, but be sure to research its compatibility with the current version of WordPress — incompatibility can lead to errors that might affect your content. Backup your blog regularly so you don’t lose anything and ask a member of your IT team to keep an eye on any updates or new installations.

Do you use any WordPress “must have” plugins not on this list? Let us know your favorite WordPress plugins by leaving a comment below.

[Image credit: Jacob Bøtter, Katherine Tompkins, bark, Coletivo Mambembe]