3 Jetpack plugin uses for beginner bloggers

3 Jetpack plugin uses for beginner bloggers

WordPress.com offer lots of lovely goodies that you will find are missing on a WordPress.org blog.

This is particularly important if you have been used to all the facilities a WordPress.com blog provides. It can be very disappointing for a beginner blogger to find that most of the lovely things you could do previously are not available in your new WordPress.org blog.

So I am introducing you to the Jetpack plugin for WordPress.org, which will give you back most of what you have been used to.

Now there will be some blogging experts who will tell you not to use the Jetpack, because they claim it can slow down your blog and other such excuses. But I’m ignoring all these sceptics and will show you how some of Jetpack’s features can be very useful to a beginner blogger.

First of all, what is Jetpack?

JetPack by WordPress.com

This is a free plugin for WordPress.org blogs that offers a lot of features, such as statistics, security system, gallery functions, a simple subscription service, additional adaptable widgets, contact forms, related posts, sharing tools, and many more if you buy the paid-for versions.

If you have a WordPress.com blog (one you didn’t have to pay anything for), Jetpack is automatically installed and instantly available for use.

Jetpack is either loved or loathed by WordPress users. Those that love it revel in its practical simplicity, whereas those that have an adverse reaction either probably haven’t explored it fully, or find it conflicts with other plugins (in other words, gives them a bad day).

In this post I want to introduce three Jetpack features I think are suitable for beginner bloggers, and I have presented them on both versions of WordPress to show you the bigger picture.

1. A simple Subscription service

This is principally a widget on the sidebar that allows your readers to subscribe to your blog to receive a notification via email whenever you’ve published a post. This means they don’t have to regularly visit your blog to see if you’ve published anything recently, your blog actually tells them instead.

On the WordPress.com blog, this feature presents itself as a ‘Follow Blog’ widget:

Follow blog widget

Which, when selected, opens so it can be edited to suit your needs:

Opened subscription widget

And the finished version looks like this in your sidebar:

Simple subscription facility

It takes the email address you used to set up your blog and, as it says, notifies your subscribers whenever you publish a new post. Please note this is not a method of subscribing your followers to a newsletter list.

WordPress.com looks after your subscribers’ details and you can ask the WordPress Happiness Engineers to transfer your followers over to your new WordPress.org blog when you decide to move on.

Now using the Jetpack plugin for WordPress.org, the system looks slightly different but the function is the same.

You can activate the Subscriptions feature (this makes the background blue) within the plugin’s settings:

Subscription settings

And clicking on ‘Configure’ will take you to another Settings page:

Subscription Settings underneath comment box

And if you tick the boxes (as above), this shows up as subscription opt-ins underneath the comments box:

Showing subscription options underneath comment box

But if you want to have a subscription form in your sidebar, this is now called ‘Blog Subscriptions (Jetpack)’ in your widgets:

Blog subscription widget

And it is slightly different when it opens after selection:

Edit blog subscription widget

And, depending upon the theme you are using, it will look like this in your sidebar:

Blog Subscription widget in situ

This is a very simple way of gaining blog subscribers via WordPress for your blog. It doesn’t require creating any fiddly RSS feed URLs and such like, and provides an easy-to-use widget for your sidebar.

2. A simple Contact Form

It’s a good idea to have a contact form on your ‘Contact Me’ page (if you have one, which I thoroughly recommend). This means you don’t have to show your email address, which can be abused by spammers. If your readers want to communicate with you, they will happily fill in a contact form, and it makes your blog look more professional as well.

In WordPress.com, there is a slight problem. If you are using what I call the ‘modern’ version of WordPress, you will not be able to see how to create a contact form. The relevant buttons are not visible above the editing icons in the new post and page edit pages:

No contact form buttons available

Which I think is extremely poor of WordPress.

So – the answer is to go to what I call the ‘original old’ version of WordPress.com. These is accessible via the WP Admin link in the sidebars:

New sidebar link to WP Admin    Alternative sidebar link to WP Admin

This will take you to the version that is the same as WordPress.org (a more complete left sidebar). Now everything you need will become visible!

Open up a new post (or page) edit page, and you’ll see an obvious button above the editing icons:

Contact form button location

Which when you click on it brings this up:

contact form builder

This can produce a large amount of possibilities to create a form in a very simple way. I wrote a post about how to create a contact form which will explain everything and much more.

This is what the finished simple version will look like:

simple contact form example

Now using the Jetpack plugin in WordPress.org, make sure you’ve activated the contact form feature in the Jetpack settings:

Activate Contact Form in Jetpack settings

Which will place the contact form button in a similar place in the new post/page edit page:

WPorg location of contact form button

And the process is exactly the same as WordPress.com, and how the resulting form looks depends upon your theme:

Simple contact form

I know there are plenty of other plugins that can give you a contact form, but I have found them much more confusing and difficult to cope with than the one supplied by Jetpack. If you are a beginner blogger, you need to have a system that is easy and practical to use, without any unnecessary complications.

3. A simple Sharing facility

Every blogger wants their readers to help publicise their posts for them. And one way to do this is via the social sharing buttons found at the bottom of posts. These allow your posts to be shared elsewhere, which will increase the amount of exposure for your posts.

In WordPress.com there are two ways of finding the sharing button facilities, depending upon whether you are using the ‘modern’ or ‘original old’ version of WordPress.com.

Whenever you log into your blog, you are more likely to be using the ‘modern’ version. Look for ‘Configure’ in the left sidebar to find the ‘Sharing’ tab:

Sharing on modern sidebar

And then on the next page you need to click on the ‘Sharing Buttons’ tab at the top (this is not immediately obvious what you have to do!):

Select Sharing Buttons at the top

This will bring up the Sharing Buttons settings:

Modern sharing buttons feature

I don’t like using the ‘modern’ version. The clicking action to activate which button you want is confusing and not immediately obvious when you’ve been successful in selecting your chosen button. I find it is not intuitive at all.

However, the ‘original old’ version is the same as WordPress.org, so to go there, click on the WP Admin links (as I have shown you earlier in this post) and look for ‘Sharing’ in the left sidebar:

Where sharing is found

This provides the ‘Sharing Buttons’ feature that allows you to drag and drop which sharing buttons you want to use, which is much easier than the clicking action in the ‘modern’ version.

Sharing buttons feature

The result is these buttons which will appear underneath your posts to encourage your readers to share what you’ve written on social media:

Sharing Buttons result in WPcom

To use the Jetpack plugin in WordPress.org, you need to make sure the Sharing facility is activated in the Jetpack settings:

Activating Sharing feature

And clicking on the ‘Configure’ link takes you directly to the settings area to drag and drop which buttons you’d like to use (similar to the ‘original old’ style of WordPress):

Drag and drop Sharing Buttons facility

As you can see, the similarities are most gratifying.

Now there are lots of other plugins that will provide you with sharing buttons, and in a variety of shapes and styles, but if you are a beginner blogger who wants an easier life, the Jetpack plugin provides a nice simple version of this feature that is recognisable by your readers.

Want more tips and tricks to make your blogging life easier?

This is what I specialise in: making life easier for beginner bloggers. Over the past decade of using WordPress, I have explored and tested many features and facilities to see what they do and how they can improve your blogging experience.

And if you have any burning questions you’d like to ask me, then make contact – I would love to help you! You could email me via my own contact form, or even ask to speak to me via Skype if you prefer to communicate face to face.

All you need to do is to click on the button below:

Click here if you want some helpful answers!

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Alice Elliott writes the award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog for beginner and post-beginner bloggers to “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. She provides simple, easy to understand, highly visual courses and tutorials using ordinary, everyday words. Visit her new Beginner Bloggers blog to find her latest learning resources.

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