WordPress Automation: How To Automate Your Blog Today
Running a blog is time-consuming, and writing for it is just half of the job. You also need to maintain the software on your server to ensure it’s secure and speedy. For WordPress users, this adds myriad jobs to the to-do list, but neglecting maintenance can leave a hosting account open to attack.
With that in mind, here are 35 plugins that will help you run a WordPress blog on auto-pilot.
Before You Begin
Running WordPress on auto-pilot can be risky. Plugins will be making changes to your code and your database without your knowledge. It only takes one bad setting to corrupt a database, or one failed update to disable your site. As such, you must have a backup plan in place before you begin.
Many hosting providers offer backups for their customers, and these will be advertised as part of the hosting package. But check that your plan includes backups that you can access. Sometimes, you can’t actually use the backups that hosts take; they are only used in case there is a problem with the host’s own servers.
Even if you’re absolutely sure that your host provides good quality, user-accessible backups, it is a good idea to set up something yourself. For one thing, it may take more time than you’d like to get your host to restore your files.
Regardless, you should create a backup and save it somewhere safe before you begin automating WordPress. You can find instructions for backing up your site on the WordPress website.
Automating WordPress Posts
Blogging every day is a great way to build traffic, and get your site ranking in Google. But writing a good post can take hours. Some take several days. When time is short, it’s natural to try to take short cuts and automate the creation of content. But getting a plugin to automatically create your content isn’t a good idea.
However, there are techniques and plugins that you can use to take the strain off the writing process, and streamline content creation.
- WPeMatico: autoblogging plugins take content from an RSS feed and publish it on your blog. This isn’t a technique that should be used for the majority of websites, but there are limited situations where a plugin like WPeMatico can be useful. For example, you could use the RSS feed from one site to duplicate posts on another, assuming you have canonical links in place. This could help you to build a collaborative or community blog from several sub-sites.
- WP RSS Aggregator: aggregator plugins create a blog by importing content from a combination of different sources, effectively pulling in guest posts from contributing sites. This is similar to autoblogging. WP RSS Aggregator lets you tweak posting times on a per-feed basis. It’s similar to WPeMatico, but doesn’t have marketing or campaign features.
- Bulk Images to Posts: if you want to create posts about photos you’ve taken, or portfolio pieces you’ve created, Bulk Images to Posts is ideal. Select the images you want to upload, set the tags, post types, and categories, then upload. The plugin will create a new post for every image, and you can then go in and edit each one to add the rest of your content. This makes it easy to automatically create blogs from photo albums, stock photos, or infographics.
- Auto Post Scheduler: scheduling content is a great way to keep your blog updating automatically. You can write posts ahead of time, and then have them go live at pre-defined times. But if you’ve got a lot of content to post, scheduling everything can become tiresome and complicated. This plugin takes care of it for you. Once you have posts in draft, it’ll set them to publish randomly. It can also republish old posts at random, if you want to recycle old content. There’s one downside: it only works if you have visitors regularly loading pages on your site, since it needs to run WP-Cron to work.
- Automatic Post Date Filler: if you schedule a lot of posts, keeping track of future post dates can be confusing. This plugin automatically calculates a post date, based on the posts you’ve already got in the queue.
- Automatic Post Tagger: adding tags to a post can be tedious. Many of us simply forget to do it. If you blog frequently, tagging can take a lot of time. Automatic Post Tagger can do all of the heavy lifting for you: just specify your keywords and let it go to work.
- Automatic Alternative Text: this plugin automatically fills in alt text for your images. It uses Microsoft’s Cognitive Services Computer Vision API to automatically scan the picture and make a guess as to the best alt text. For this to work, the plugin needs to be enabled when you upload the image. It can’t apply alt text retrospectively to images in the Media Library.
- Automatic NBSP: a useful little plugin that inserts non-breaking spaces in your content, using phrases you define. Use it to keep names, titles and other related words on the same line for improved readability.
- Automatically Paginate Posts: breaking up posts into pages can be a pain. This plugin looks for a shortcode in your content where you want the page to split, creates new pages for each section, and automatically creates page numbers for the sections.
- Magic Post Thumbnail: automatically creates a featured image for your post by scanning safe sources. It’s handy if you often forget to add a featured image, or you don’t have the time to find and upload the images manually. Precise licensing information is unclear, but the developer says it scans Google Images, Pixabay, and Flickr.
- WP Pipes: this automation plugin handles many of the tasks above in one plugin, so it gets around the risk that some plugins may eventually conflict with each other. WP Pipes is based on the concept behind Yahoo! Pipes, an automation tool that allowed anyone to combine different social feeds and accounts, and it does a pretty good job of automating some of the tasks involved in writing content. WP Pipes handles automatic imports, autoblogging, social posting, podcast feeds, sitemap creation, and bbPress integration.
Automating WordPress Backups
Backups work best if they are automated, so you don’t need to log in and manually create the backup yourself. You have the choice of backing up to the same server that your site is on, or backing up to another server or cloud provider. Backing up to another server or provider is the safest bet, because you’re protected if your entire server goes down. But it may mean you have to pay storage fees for your backup files.
- Updraft Plus: backs up both WordPress files and its database. Notably, it can back up each on a different schedule. The free version supports backup to various flavors of Amazon S3, plus Dropbox, Rackspace Cloud, Google Drive or Cloud Storage, DreamHost DreamObjects, and OpenStack (Swift). The plugin can also backup to email, and via FTP.
- WP Database Backup: this plugin only backs up your database, and not your files, but it supports FTP, email, Dropbox, and Google Drive. If you’re short on storage space, that’s better than nothing.
Automating WordPress Social Media Sharing
When it comes to auto-posting blogs on social media pages, WordPress users are spoiled for choice. The makers of WordPress have created their own plugin — Jetpack — which can handle many social channels for you. If you need a broader selection of social media options, you won’t be disappointed.
- Jetpack: this plugin makes social sharing easy, thanks to its Publicize module. Just hook up your social accounts, and send posts automatically to authorized channels when they’re published. You can even set it up to recognize a tag, and only auto-post the content that has that tag. Jetpack has a lot of other useful features; you’ll need a WordPress.com username and password to use them.
- Social Networks Auto Poster: this plugin offers a choice of 22 different social networks, so you can spread your content even wider.
- WP to Buffer: hooks into your Buffer account, allowing you to queue content that’s posted. This allows you to post articles whenever you like, while still utilizing your Buffer schedule for maximum exposure.
Automating WordPress Comment Management
If you have comments turned on for posts or pages, you probably receive a mixture of legitimate feedback and spam. Without the right plugins, the area “below the line” can be a magnet for nuisance posts and abuse. But if you neglect your comments section, you may eventually find that your blog is disavowed for publishing spam links, and this can eventually hurt your ranking. Managing comments can be a pain, but there are some easy ways to curb spam and make the process faster.
- Akismet: this plugin should be installed on every blog that invites comments. It filters out known spammers and bad IPs, helping to stem the flow of unhelpful or damaging feedback.
- WordPress ReCaptcha Integration: adding a reCaptcha field to your comments form is a very effective way of screening out automated spam messages. This reCaptcha plugin offers a simple point-and-click system, or a traditional code entry field. It works with signup, login, and comment forms, as well as bbPress, BuddyPress, AwesomeSupport, WooCommerce, and Ninja Forms.
- Auto Approve Comments: allows you to whitelist certain commenters to be sure that their comments always get published. This plugin works even if you have manual comment approval turned on in your Settings area.
- Automatic Comment Scheduler: with this plugin, your WordPress blog can also automatically approve comments at random times. Since you can’t moderate comments before they’re published, this plugin must be used alongside a reliable comment spam filter plugin (like Akismet).
Automating WordPress Database Management
If you don’t know what you’re doing, messing with the WordPress database isn’t recommended. But there are times when a clean-up is required to keep your site running smoothly. As you add and remove plugins or content, your WordPress database becomes bloated, and much of this data can be removed to optimize the performance of your site. Remember to have that backup plugin set up before you install any of these database automation helpers.
- WP Optimize: this is a clean-up tool for your WordPress database. It can remove post revisions, trashed comments and content, and optimize your database without the need to use phpMyAdmin. There’s also a feature to schedule the clean-up tasks you’ve chosen, for complete automation. You can also opt to retain the data for a number of weeks before it’s cleaned.
- Better Delete Revision: each time you edit a post or page, WordPress saves a revision, so you can revert to an older version if you make a mistake. Over time, you might end up with thousands of revisions cluttering up your database. It’s risky to try to clean out revisions manually, so the Better Delete Revision plugin handles it all for you.
- Automatic Domain Changer: automatically updates the name of your domain in WordPress. This is handy if you’ve moved to a new host, and removes the need to mess around with the code, or accidentally lock yourself out of your dashboard.
Automating WordPress Code Updates
Since version 3.7, WordPress has had its own automatic update script built in to the core. It will automatically apply major releases. If you also want to install minor versions, you can tweak settings with plugins.
- Easy Updates Manager: this plugin builds on the core functionality in WordPress, adding automatic updates for themes and plugins (all, or a selection). You can also opt to install minor releases and development updates, as well as updates on translation files. Crucially, it also allows you to disable all automatic updates, and disable the notification emails that WordPress usually sends when it updates itself.
- Automatic Plugin Updates: a simple way to keep your plugins updated. You can disable updates for individual plugins, and receive email notifications when plugins are updated.
- Automatic Copyright Year: a simple but helpful plugin that keeps the year in your footer copyright statement updated automatically.
- Updater: updates plugins, themes, and the core code in WordPress. Has both manual and auto mode.
Automating WordPress Content Management
Keeping old content fresh can be difficult as you build up posts on your blog. Here are some plugins to help you identify errors or broken links.
- Broken Link Checker: dead links make your blog appear to be out of date, and can frustrate users who are looking for information. WordPress can automate the link checking process for you. It notifies you via the admin screen or email if dead links are found on your site. You can also opt to display broken links using a different CSS class automatically, so there’s a visual clue that they may not work. This buys you some time to manually review and change the broken links.
- Broken Link Checker For Youtube: same as the above, but specifically for video-heavy sites, and aims to prevent site owners from serving up videos that no longer work.
- Validated: partially automates the process of checking for errors in your code. You can validate content from within the WordPress dashboard, saving you visiting another site and manually pasting the URL. It doesn’t automatically fix your code, but it will highlight problems for you to fix.
- Debug: automatically display debug information inside WordPress with this plugin.
- Simple Auto Linker: scans your list of pre-defined keywords and links, and then automatically replaces those keywords with the linked versions, wherever they appear. This is a handy way to retrospectively add affiliate links to content, or improve internal linking within older posts.
- WP Realtime Sitemap: generates a site map that you can place within a page, and automatically updates it when new content is added to the site. Note: this plugin doesn’t create an XML site map.
Automating WordPress Security
Malware infection can come from all kinds of places, from a hacked plugin to a brute force attack on your WordPress login page. Removing malware is not a task for the faint-hearted; just finding the source of the infection can be problematic.
- GotMLS: automatically scans for malware on your website, and it also automatically patches files in WordPress that can be vulnerable to attack. If suspicious code is found, GotMTLS can clean affected files automatically.
- Wordfence: live traffic and hack reports, automatic threat detection, and a firewall that updates its security rules on the fly. This plugin also adds two-factor authentication, and scans for the Heartbleed vulnerability.
Automating WordPress can eliminate a great many of the tiresome admin tasks that come with running a blog. The only thing you can’t reliably automate is the creation of good quality content. For that, you’ll need human assistance. But automating other tasks can give you more time to do that.