WordPress Plugins A to Z Podcast and Transcript for See complete show notes for Episode #319 here.
It’s Episode 319 and we’ve got plugins for Database Backups, MultiSite Themes, Podcasting, Amazon Affiliates, Gamification and a great new native countdown timer. It’s all coming up on WordPress Plugins A-Z!
John: First up this week here, the plugin that I just briefly touched on that was all about the latest training video, it’s a plugin that I covered way, way, way back in 2011. It’s the PowerPress Podcasting Plugin by Blubrry and it is the plugin we use on our website for managing the podcast. I covered it back in Episode 53 in December 2011 and originally I gave the plugin a rating of 4 Dragons. Well, over the years this plugin has changed a lot in the past six years since the first time I showcased it. Now, a lot of times I thought to come back and re-review it and I tried to deal with their updates. A lot of times I just would touch on them and I wouldn’t fully implement them on our site because I always had something else on my plate to do it.
Well, while I was doing the training video, I updated it for our site and tweaked the settings in it. The plugin has made a lot of advances in its settings. It’s improved to allow settings now to your podcast that will allow you to set up individual images per podcast episode. It will allow you to create new titles over the base titles that are in the post itself. It allows you to now submit to Google Play for showcasing along with an easy way to get it submitted to the iTunes Store. It also has SEO settings in it now to help improve the SEO settings. It even will insert C-data information in there to your podcast. There’s a lot that this plugin does now and it’s very thorough, very stable. It comes with some really great built-in players, so you don’t have to hunt down players.
And if you’re one that opts to use Blubrry services to host your podcast episodes, you can use their player and they have a really fantastic player which unfortunately I can’t use because I don’t use them for hosting my podcast. But their service is relatively affordable for those that want to use it. It’s like $15 a month. Anyway, a great plugin, it really had some great improvements over the years. Go check out the training video. I walk through how to set this plugin up, how to configure it, and tweak it all. So anyway, check out PowerPress Podcasting Plugin by Blubrry and it has been raised to a 5-Dragon rating.
Marcus: Yeah, this one definitely gets a 5 from me as well.
Marcus: I have been podcasting since the tail end of 2004 – that makes it almost 13 years.
Marcus: And when I started, you actually had to hand in code your RSS and XML feeds.
John: I just missed that window.
Marcus: And then somebody – a pretty prominent person – told me, “Hey, there’s this thing called WordPress that can do all the RSS feeds for you automatically, and that’s what brought me to WordPress, absolutely. Hands-down, I was coding my site in something called Net Objects Fusion at the time, which still has some advantages over WordPress but definitely not enough for me to stick with it. So I am a huge believer in Blubrry and Todd Cochrane, who’s the CEO over there. They’re great – I don’t subscribe to the service myself, but in terms of this particular plugin, it’s the only one I would ever use or recommend for podcasts.
Marcus: All right, so let’s go to my first plugin of the day. It’s called GamiPress. It’s one of the easiest ways to use gamification on your WordPress website in just a few minutes. It allows you to award your users with digital rewards for interacting on your site, easily define the achievements, organizational requirements, and choose from a range of options to determine whether each task or requirement has been successfully activated. So that would be things like reading a particular article would give you X amount of points. Filling out a contact form would get you a certain amount of points. Leaving a comment gets you a certain amount of points.
And with all of those, then you actually unlock something or it could be just something as simple as a participation badge to actually real prize or things like that or reviewing products – any of those particular things. It’s a really great system, it has a lot of cool plugins and add-ons that go along with it that interact with things like Contact Form 7, GravityForms, Ninja Forms, and the like. A really cool plugin, nice base, something for you to check out. It’s called GamiPress and I rated it a perfect 5 out of 5.
John: That looks like a very nice plugin for implementation to us, maybe encourage people to do some stuff on our website.
Marcus: Yes, absolutely. I am privy to the internal website of one of the largest telecommunications companies in the United States just because of the work that I do with them. They have this exact same thing within their internal sort of intranet site and it actually monitors all of the training videos that you watch. It monitors all of the different tasks that you do and gets you kind of a running score and it resets every month, which is pretty wild too, because then you’ve got to go back into it again. So gamification is a great way to encourage a lot of participation on your website and I recommend you check it out.
John: Nice. I will definitely be looking at that later this week when I’m working on our stuff. All right, next up here I have a plugin that came out of necessity and this last week I had the necessity to retrieve a website from a host of ill repute for a client. It seemed their hosting provider would not give them C-panel access, which was generally making their life difficult for the things they needed to accomplish on their growing website. The one fortunate thing that we had was we had FTP access to their site. And with the FTP access and the fact that I have a script that allows me to upload via FTP and then to insert an administrative contact into any WordPress website if I’ve got FTP access, this allowed us to gain access to the website.
It allowed us to gain access into it to go in there and start pulling down all of their files, getting a hold of their files. Our big problem was getting the database. They had a fairly extensive database and in particular, a database with lots and lots of tables in it. This presents a problem especially on this particular hosting provider they were on where they had a server that had limited resources. So trying to grab their entire database at one time with a database backup plugin, it kept choking on it.
What I needed to do was find a database backup plugin that allowed me to pull out table by table or groups of tables at a time so I could limit the amount of resources on the server. Well, this plugin here is called WP Database Backup fit that bill perfectly for me in that it allows you to go in there and limit which data tables you’re going to yank in your backup. This allowed me to go through in the tables that have way too many records to exclude those and allow me to pull out the tables in chunks, and then pull out one table that had too many records all by itself.
This allowed me to pull the database out in pieces and then to piece it back together, add a quality host (JohnOverall.com hosting, by the way), and get it up and running again. It was a lot of work but well worth the effort and this plugin performed beautifully for doing that job. Now, the plugin offers more than that. It allows you to upload the backups to multiple destinations, you can put it to Amazon S3, Dropbox, email, FTP. If you’re going to use it as a backup system, it allows you to schedule the backups to do the backups on it. It does a system check to tell you how good the systems on it is and a bit more. All in all, a fantastic plugin. It performed perfectly, did what I needed, and will do more in the future for me. So go check it out: WP Database Backup Plugin. I gave it a 5-Dragon rating.
Marcus: Yeah, that’s very important. Very important.
John: Your hosting provider, one of the most important choices you’ll make with your website.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. Okay, I am a big fan of countdown timers. They prompt a specific call to action and a deadline and create kind of a sense of urgency. One of the problems though is that countdown timers are often third-party things and you don’t necessarily get the advantage of using your own site when doing these things and you’re running external scripts and all of that. This is different. It’s called WP Deadlines and it displays a customizable countdown timer to your WooCommerce page and site as well. It has a site-wide FlyOut banner, countdown timers, and all of that for email, so you can actually use this in your email as well with a kind of embed code.
You don’t have to use any extra plugins for countdown timers or SAS services or anything like that. Everything is combined in this and it’s totally free and open source. So what this does is it allows you to run this countdown timer natively within your own site and save everybody the hassle of throwing it into spam and all the rest of all that stuff. A very good plugin – I’m just testing it out now on an actual live site that’s really, really working out well for me. I’ve just started using it actually last night and thought I would throw it in here for reviews. It’s called WP Deadlines, a great countdown timer, and I rated it actually a 4 out of 5.
John: Very nice! I like those. I have often been pulled into things when they throw a countdown timer at me if I’m hemming and hawing about whether I should get something.
Marcus: Right, and that could include things like special discounts, okay?
John: Well —
Marcus: If you want to do it for one day, then you have a special discount that has a countdown timer.
Marcus: A lot of different things.
John: Yeah, because usually a product or a plugin or a service or something, I look at it and go, “I can use it but hey, it’s discounted and they’re gonna kill it. Will they actually?” So make sure you use it legitimately, folks. If you’re going to offer a discount, make sure you kill that discount when you say you’re going to, instead of I see companies that say, “Discounts…limited!”
John: And then two weeks later, the same discount, same limited timeframe. It’s like, “Okay, guys.”
Marcus: Yeah, exactly.
John: So really, I can just buy it anytime at the discount. No, make it legit. But yeah, I have been pulled in because of those, so they actually help encourage you to do that, so check ‘em out.
John: All right, final one I’ve got here today is called Amazon Auto Links and this one here, it seems I am going to be making another foray down the world of the affiliate links again for a client who wants to set up some Amazon linking systems in there. This is a plugin I started checking out to look at to make the setting up of the Amazon links on your website an automatic process versus having to manually do it. This look like a plugin that’s going to fit the bill quite nicely. I’m just now digging down into it to see what it does.
But one of the nice things it does, it’s pretty straightforward. It sets up its connection using the Amazon product API key. You can choose from 12 server locations from across the globe depending on where you’re at, including Canada, France, and the UK (which is really nice for my client who is Canadian). You can go in and whitelist products and blacklist items. It also has a product cache so that it’ll cache the stuff on your website up to you determine the number of days it keeps the cache live, so it helps improve the speed and performance of your site, instead of always having to wait for Amazon to load.
It uses your affiliate linking information for Amazon, so it automatically puts your affiliate link into all of the ads it produces for your site and it can be inserted into the site using shortcodes or widgets into your site, so it’s relatively straightforward. More and more will come out of it as I start to use it but at the moment, it’s looking like it’s going to be a good 4-Dragon rating plugin, so check it out: Amazon Auto Links.
Marcus: Yes. Amazon is actually very important within your site. I actually wrote a blog post on my site and I referenced a book like a year ago.
Marcus: And for some reason, I ranked pretty high on that term for that book.
Marcus: And I made already I think this year, just based on one little blog post, about $150 in commissions on that, and just kind of did it secondhand. I really didn’t intend on making any money with it but I thought, “You know what? I better put an Amazon link into it since I’m referencing it anyway,” and I was surprised.
Marcus: So give that plugin a shot and, you know, it’ll help you with Amazon links as well.
All right, let’s wrap it up here, John. I’ve got a lazy plugin.
John: Oh, sweet! We haven’t had one of those in a long time.
Marcus: Yep, and it’s actually a lazy plugin that has to do with WP Multisite, or WPMU, whichever one you want to call it. One of the things that I hate the most as a super-admin with this thing is it still locks me out of editing and administering different sites as I’m navigating through the different networks. I wanted to just use a theme and use the theme on four or five different sites so that I could kind of build them sequentially, and every time you do it, you’ve got to go back into the other site and you’ve got to network admin navigate it, and you’ve got to do all this other stuff.
So this is called WPMU Allow All Themes and you activate this plugin and it eliminates the need completely for any network activate when it comes to themes. It’s a real good timesaver. To me, this should be a toggle in Multisite, but it’s not. I don’t know why.
Marcus: So check it out for yourself. If you use Multisite, it’s few and far between these days of people that are actually using Multisite, but that’s okay. I do – I love it and this is a great, lazy plugin, rated a perfect 5 out of 5.
John: Yes, that is a nice plugin. I will have to add that to my Multisite that I still currently run —
John: — because I do have that problem. It’s like I load a theme and I’m like, “Oh, crap. I’ve got to go load here, change, activate this…”
John: Yeah – Multisite is a great tool and it’s also a challenging tool at the same time. It does have its issues but I think I’ve solved the issues that were plaguing our site, so —
Marcus: Oh, really?
John: — our site might stay Multisite after all.
John: I found a plugin that was conflicting, so —
Marcus: What was that?
Marcus: What plugin?
John: It was conflicting with the theme we’re using.
John: So it’s the plugin that uses the – it’s the dashboard from WPMU —
John: — their dashboard plugin was conflicting with the theme, so I turned it off and all the problems went away. I was like, okay. So contact them, eventually they’ll update their plugin, because they can be a little slow at updating the plugin when it’s a not a priority problem.
John: But they usually do get around to it. So anyway, a great plugin, yeah. I like that idea.
All right, that wraps us up for this week. I covered up PowerPress Podcasting Plugin, which I gave a 5 to; the WP Database Backup, which I gave a 5 to; can the Amazon Auto Links, which I gave a 4 to.
Marcus: And I reviewed GamiPress, which gets a 5 out of 5; WP Deadlines, the countdown timer, gets a 4 out of 5; and we just talked about WPMU Allow All Themes, which gets a perfect 5 out of 5.