Content Formatting Plugins That Will Surprise & Delight You
Continuing on with my content obsession I thought sharing a list of the plugins I use for formatting my content would be ideal. Ideal in that I hope you’ll add some of your favorites to this post too (just leave a comment and feel free to link back to whatever plugins or tools you use, free or premium).
Also, just as an FYI: the plugins I’m mentioning are the plugins I use for my standard posts. I’ll add some extras or plugins I use for other things at the end.
Maybe I should start with my process for formatting my content, then get into what I use and how I use it? (as I’m writing this I’m thinking this is going to be a really long post! Challenge aceepted!).
Creating the Post
I always start with the headline. I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping an Evernote with post ideas so when the come to me I can jot them down. I have a handful of resources I use for post ideas, but mainly it’s just what I come across during my day-to-day perusing and reading on the web. I also take questions and comments I get and use those for blog posts as well (I know, kind of obvious). What I’ve started doing more of (and you’ll see much more of this in 2016) are the personal posts. I don’t mean “Dear Diary” or anything… simply sharing personal stories as they relate to my business. Some might be success stories, others are struggles. Either way, it creates a connection with my audience and makes me relatable. I’ve talked with a lot of people who don’t feel quite comfortable doing this… yet. I always recommend slowly stepping into this. As you start sharing little bits & pieces of yourself you’ll find that the sky doesn’t fall in on you and the majority of people are going to be kind and appreciative. As for the trolls? Yea, you may get some of those too. Simply hit the ‘delete’ button. Remember… it’s YOUR site.
Back to creating the post.
I don’t use any type of writing tool (distraction free writing). I’ve tried it a few times and what works best for me is writing directly in the WordPress editor because I format as I write (not all of it mind you, but it helps me to see it take shape as I’m writing). As the thoughts hit the screen I know what I want to emphasize and what my intention is (since I have zero control over how people interpret what I write). Somewhere along the way I started creating these little ‘side notes’ in parentheses. Kind of like I’m commentating on my own content? No idea where that came from, and for what it’s worth, I sort of speak the same way too (listen to the podcast and you’ll see what I mean).[clickToTweet tweet=”Writing in my own voice has been one of the most LIBERATING things that I’ve done.” quote=”Writing in my own voice has been one of the most LIBERATING things that I’ve done.” theme=”style6″]
I don’t worry too much about grammar, although I really don’t want to come across like a complete numpty, so I do edit for typos (and have my project mgr. read over stuff and she has free reign to edit what needs editing) and complete sentences. But that’s about it.
Because I’ve become obsessed with content it can easily take me a few hours to create a post. OR… it can take a whopping 30 minutes. Obviously shorter posts don’t take as long as the wordier posts, but sometimes I can get a little sidetracked with images or the visual side of things, so you never know. The more personal posts tend to take a little longer because I want to make sure the thoughts are more cohesive when I write them than they are in my head (#justsayin).
Once I start writing and have gotten a little deeper into the post (think over 300- 400 words), I start previewing the post. So as I’m creating this post (up until the point you’re reading right now), the only formatting I’ve done is turning the ‘Creating the Post’ into an H2 tag and bolding the ‘Back to creating the post’ sentence. After previewing it (mind you I don’t have the post image in yet… which I normally do first but knew that would be a total distraction and wanted to get the post written) I’ve decided I want another heading tag and I can add in a tweet box. View the post before these two changes on the left and then the post after on the right (I cropped the bottom section of both images off so not all the text is on there the picture was too long).
See the difference?
It’s kind of hard to believe that something as simple as adding a little color, tweet box and changing a font size can make such a difference, but they can.
The image above of the few changes I’ve made is pretty much the process I use while I’m writing. Writing my post in the WordPress Editor makes it much easier for me to ‘see’ the flow of the content. My suggestion to you is to find what flow works best for YOU. We all have different styles and I con’t believe there is ever a one-size-fits-all with creativity. I think there are tips and methods we can each use and implement, then tweak so they work for us.
My Evernote Notebook
I’ve got a notebook in Evernote for my content strategy for this site. It’s still coming together, but it has been a huge help in keeping me on track and heading in the right direction. As I find what’s working (and what’s not), I think I’ll start with a few post templates that will make it easier when I go to create my posts. As an example, I’ve recently started doing “My Top 5 Picks” where I share a small round-up of plugins, web apps, posts, people, tools, etc. Whatever I find that I think might be of value to my audience. I haven’t quite settled on a standard format for this post but since it’s going to be weekly I will definitely stick with a consistent structure for this post (as I’m writing this I’m already thinking in my head about a new layout. That’s the beauty of just ‘doing it’. Even if you’re not sure where exactly what you want to do the clarity will show up as you take action).
Let’s get onto the content formatting plugins.
These aren’t listed in any particular order (simply to keep it easier for my brain) The screenshots also show you the dashboard or settings of the plugin, not the ‘front end’, since you can view most of that in this post.
1) Easy Social Share Buttons for WordPress
This is simply my social sharing plugin of choice. I’ve recently changed the style of the buttons since changing the theme on my site. I haven’t decided if I like it or want to keep them in the same position (I have them at the top of the post) or move them to the left of the post, which is what I’m leaning towards doing. They’ve recently updated the plugin and have a ton of updates, new features and add-ons. I just updated the plugin today so I haven’t had a chance to dig too deep into the options, but I’ll keep you posted.
This is a premium plugin on Code Canyon.
Get Easy Social Share Buttons here
2) Shortcodes Ultimate
I’ve written about this plugin before (which I LOVE and use on all my sites as well as all my client sites) but I have to include it because it’s kind of a ‘staple’ when I create content. It’s rare that I don’t use it in a post. The Shortcodes Ultimate gives you TONS of great options for adding different elements to your posts. Take a look at the image below to see what I mean:
This is a free plugin in the WordPress plugin repository.
Get Shortcodes Ultimate here
3) Genesis Simple Sidebars
You need to be using the Genesis Framework to use this plugin (might seem obvious but I don’t want to assume anything). This allows you to create custom sidebars that you can use on a per page or per post basis. I use this on my individual podcast posts so that the sidebar is directly related to my podcast (subscribe in iTunes, Stitcher and reviews in sidebar). If you’re creating a lot of content around a specific topic, say WordPress plugins, you could create a sidebar that had links to favorite posts and plugins that only appear on plugin posts (I’m totally going to do that on my site. Duh, right?). Same thing with videos. Create a video sidebar that has a few videos, links to other videos and an opt-in for people who are interested in video tutorials (this seems so obvious as I’m writing this, but I haven’t done it site-wide yet!.Kind of another DUH! moment… but something I’ll be changing very soon!).
This is a free plugin in the WordPress plugin repository.
Get Genesis Simple Sidebars Here
4) Starbox Author Box
The Starbox Author Box is probably most ideal for blogs with multiple authors (or guest bloggers, which I intend to have in 2016), but this is the little box that shows up at the end of the post and has my author information. From a non-metric perspective this gives the reader another opportunity to connect with the author, find out more about then and click through to additional content (if you use that particular author box). It’s a great looking plugin (the free version is great right out of the box). You can upgrade to the premium version for additional features (it’s definitely worth it!).
The Startbox Author Box has both a free and premium version
Get the StartBox Author Box (free) here
5) Thrive Leads
This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to some of you, but I’m getting pretty close to getting rid of all other lead generation plugins / third party tools because Thrive Leads (and the Thrive Content Builder) just keep getting better and better. I won’t beat a dead horse in this short snippet about how important it is to capture leads (name and email addresses) of your visitors. If you’re not doing this yet you need to be. Make it a priority! O.K., back to Thrive Leads.
With Thrive Leads you can create custom opt-ins that add value to your reader based on the content they’re reading. As an example, if you click the teal box below you can download this entire post (links and all) as a PDF for easy reference. I created the optin with Thrive Leads and the box is just an image (a feature I’m hoping they’ll add). The beauty of this is you begin (or continue) segmenting your list based on specific content! You can then provide exactly what your audience wants based on what they subscribed to. Thrive Leads also does sidebar opt-ins, post-footer opt-ins, sliders, header bars, etc. (I really need to do an updated post with videos on the plugin). The more I use it the more I WANT to use it.
This a premium plugin from Thrive Themes.
Get Thrive Leads Here
6) TinyMCE Advanced
This is one of my go-to, standby plugins that I install on EVERY site (mine and clients). The TinyMCE Advanced plugin adds additional features to your WordPress editor. I only add a few features, but they’re hugely helpful. The few elements that I add are the Font Sizes, Font Family, justify text and underline. I know you have to be careful with underlining because most often people will assume it’s a link, but I use it underline sparingly.
What I use most is the font sizes. Sometimes when I’m writing I want to include a heading tag but don’t want it to be as large as the default in my theme. What you can do is create the heading tag, then go back and adjust the font size so it’s not so big. This way you get the SEO benefit of the heading tag but it looks the way you want (kinda ninja, huh?).
TinyMCE is a free plugin in the WordPress plugin repository.
Get TinyMCE Advanced here.
7) Tweet Dis
I don’t know why it took me so long to use a tweet specific plugin, but when I finally did I went with TweetDis. TweetDis has two options for adding tweetable content into your posts. You can highlight text and have it be tweetable when someone clicks it or you can create a tweet box, which is what I’ve done in this post above (where I wrote that “writing in my own voice has been one of the most liberating things that I’ve done”). You can customize the style of the tweet box (the plugin comes with 11 different styles and you can preview them all in the settings of the plugin).
TweetDis is a premium plugin
Get TweetDis Here
These aren’t necessarily plugins I use all the time for formatting my posts, but they’re content formatting plugins and thought they might be helpful or of use to you.
Beaver Builder: Awesome visual builder for creating amazing pages in WordPress. I’ve written a post about Beaver Builder here and had created my previous homepage with Beaver Builder.
This is a premium plugin and you can check out Beaver Builder here.
CoSchedule: I’ve got a post I’m working on (about CoSchedule) because although I’ve had it for a long time didn’t really get how valuable this plugin is until I decided to create a new content strategy. This plugin is AMAZING! And editorial calendar and social sharing plugin in one. CoSchedule is a premium plugin (super affordable) and you can check it out here (they also create amazing content on their blog, so be sure to subscribe for valuable content).
WP Emoji One: I adore emoji’s… my favorites are the new GIF’s that are built into skype (I friggin LOVE those! I could have an entire conversation sending skype gifs), but the WP Emoji One plugin allows you to add a flat style emoji to your posts. Simple pleasures, what can I say! WP Emoji One is a free plugin in the WordPress plugin repository, check it out here.
Thrive Content Builder: I fell in love with this the second I saw it (literally). The Thrive Content Builder is a front-end visual page builder that comes with amazing page templates for marketing (landing pages, squeeze pages, sales pages, webinar pages.. you name it, they’ve got it). Not only do their pages look amazing, but they’re constantly adding new features, improving the plugin AND are focused on conversions. They also produce amazingly valuable content on their blog. Thrive Content Builder is a premium plugin and you can check it out here.[divider top=”no”][/divider]
And there you have it.
If there’s a type of plugin I’m missing or you have a favorite, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below.