6 Reasons You Should Install
the Jetpack Plugin for WordPress Today

Pamela Wilson posted a must-read article over at Copyblogger.com yesterday titled 12 Must-Do Tasks for the New WordPress Site Owner.

Wilson provided exactly what her headline promised.

I could probably expand each of her 12 must-do tasks into their own posts — and perhaps over time I will — but there was one in particular that jumped out at me.

I was intrigued by Wilson’s #7, “Supercharge your site with one single plugin.” She is referring to the official WordPress Jetpack plugin.

You know our thoughts about plugins here at Synthesis: less is often more, and it’s important to know when to use and not use a plugin.

So I initially read Wilson’s endorsement of JetPack with skepticism. Is it really worth installing? Is it really the “Mother of All Plugins” and a worthwhile “Swiss Army Knife” as Wilson describes it?

Upon further review, I’ve decided that yes, it is. And it plays very nicely with the Synthesis stack.

In this post, I’ll run down the features of Jetpack and provide a few tips and tricks to help you get the most out of it.

1. Easy to Install, Setup, and Learn

We all use WordPress for different reasons. I use it because I love to write. So I like to minimize the time in between writing posts when I have to manage back-end aspects of my blogs.

Jetpack could not be easier to install and set up, considering how many different benefits it provides.

To install it, just go to Plugins –> Add New and then type “jetpack” into the search box. It’ll be the first result. Hit “Install Now” and you’re ready to go (unless you need to create a WordPress.com account, which is necessary so you can link it with your blog and Jetpack).

Once you’ve got the plugin activated, it will create its own dashboard nav bar menu section right at the top. Click into it and you’ll be taken to a page that looks like this:

jetpack-plugin-wordpress

This page lays out each of the Jetpack functions in easy-to-navigate widget style.

Frankly, I was a bit worried that it would take a while to dig into Jetpack and learn about each of its functions. But with this overview page, you can easily click the “Learn More” links and do just that.

The info is even provided in pop-under expansions, so you don’t have to open new tabs or leave the page. Simple and convenient!

2. Site Stats a Plus for Multi-Author Blogs

One issue I’ve had with Midwest Sports Fans — which has 15-20 active authors at any given time — is providing quick access to pageview stats to writers, as well as stats that are accurate.

I used to use WordPress.com stats on MSF and many other blogs, but it stopped working at one point. After fiddling with it unsuccessfully, I gave up and moved in other directions. Ultimately, I never did find another solution that was as simple as I wanted.

With Jetpack, I had Site Stats back doing its thing quickly and easily.

The main overview page for Site Stats provides a wealth of information at a glance. I just installed Jetpack on another of my sites a few minutes before starting this post, and it’s already generating useful data:

In addition, with the Jetpack Post Statistics Link companion plugin installed, you get link next to each post in the dashboard that sends you to the stats for that individual post.

This is going to be greatly appreciated by all of the writers for MSF, many of whom had trouble navigating Google Analytics easily to figure out the stats for their articles. Now it will all be there at the click of a button without having to leave the dashboard.

3. Comments and Subscriptions Made Easy

WordPress users often find themselves needing plugins to enhance comments and make it easy for people to subscribe to posts or the entire blog. Jetpack takes care of it all.

By enabling the JetPack commenting and subscription features, commenters to your site end up seeing this:

Previously, this would have taken 2-3 plugins minimum to achieve. Jetpack does it all in one.

Even better, Jetpack makes configuring these options easy. You have to go to a couple different dashboard pages to do so, but hitting the “Configure” button on the main Jetpack page takes you right there.

4. Sharing Made Simple

Setting up social sharing buttons on a WordPress site isn’t always the easiest thing to do. It requires either a plugin, hard-coding them in yourself, or a theme that does it for you.

Jetpack allows you to incorporate social sharing buttons about as easily as any plugin or theme I’ve seen. You just drag and drop from a list of the most relevant social sites out there:

You can see a preview, and other options for customization are provided. You can use the Facebook Share button rather than the Like button, for example, or you can have the social site’s name spelled out next to the icon if you want.

5. Spelling and Grammar Help!

This is a huge benefit, and it isn’t one I expected to encounter.

Powered by After the Deadline, the Jetpack plugin gives your WordPress install the power to help you avoid embarrassing grammar and spelling mistakes.

Once you’ve written a post, just hit this button to get a full review of your post:

And you can toggle on or off all of these different options for what the spell/grammar check system will focus on:

That’s a pretty robust feature, and everyone can use an extra layer of proofreading support before hitting Publish.

6. Shortcode Convenience

In last week’s post on built-in WordPress options that everyone needs to know and use, I incorrectly stated that YouTube shortcodes could be used to alter the width, height, and other features of embedded YouTube videos.

As the great Otto pointed out, while a pasted YouTube link auto-embedding works on self-hosted blogs, the shortcodes only work on WordPress.com blogs.

Unless the self-hosted blogs have Jetpack power …

Jetpack brings the shortcode convenience of WordPress.com blogs to self-hosted blogs. Look at all of the different sites and services for which there is shortcode support:

That screenshot is taken from the Jetpack page, and the links take you to pages at WordPress.com that show you the different shortcode options for each service.

Many people are not terribly comfortable in the HTML editor. Shortcodes allow even these folks to embed and customize the look and feel of external media.

Add the Power of Jetpack to Your WordPress Blog

There are many other features in addition to the six above that I enjoy.

Support for WP.me shortlinks is nice; the “Beautiful Math” feature is great for blogs that need to neatly display numbers and functions; and the ease with which a contact form can be set up and installed is quite useful.

What makes Jetpack such a powerful and essential plugin is that there are multiple features that every WordPress user can take advantage of. Think about how many plugins or file customizations it would take to perform all of the functions of Jetpack.

Since plugin discretion and never editing the WordPress core are virtues we espouse around here, recommending the Jetpack by WordPress.com plugin for your self-hosted blog is a no brainer.

You should also consider Mark Jaquith’s Jetpack companion plugin called Manual Control for Jetpack (search for it from your plugins dashboard). This will ensure that new Jetpack features are not automatically enabled.

Comments

  1. Just a point of clarification. The generic [embed] shortcode works with any self hosted WP install and will let you control the height/width of videos from the supported oEmbed services. I use it to specify specific height/width in the Genesis Media Project plugin with just a URL.
    http://codex.wordpress.org/Embeds

    The shortcodes seen in the screen shot are not available.

  2. I had always ignored Jetpack until today. I must say, I automatically put it in the “Hello Dolly” category. How foolish of me. Nice write up!

    • Jerod Morris :

      Thanks for the comment Sean. Frankly, I hadn’t given it much thought either, and I am always skeptical of plugins. But once I got in there and starting fiddling, I found plenty of benefits with what appears to be minimal security concerns.

  3. Jerod, thanks for highlighting the Jetpack plugin again, and for the thorough review.

    I’m looking at Sean’s comment and laughing because I categorize plugins, too. One thing I like about the Jetpack plugin is that it’s made by WordPress, so I feel like:

    1. I can trust it, and I know it will be compatible with my site
    2. It’s not going away any time soon

    I put all the Genesis plugins in the same category, by the way. If you’re running the Genesis Framework, you can feel secure about using those plugins as needed to securely add functionality to your WordPress site.

    • Jerod Morris :

      I agree! Being able to trust a plugin is so important. It is easy to be lulled into false senses of security, especially with plugins in the WP repository. But it’s vital to make sure the plugin has been used widely (to help eliminate bugs) and is still actively being maintained. Plugins from big boys like WP and Genesis are about as safe as they come.

  4. Jackpack is one of the best wordpress plugins. I used it mainly for seo purpose.

  5. One of the best feature I like is the wordpress stat ;) And to be honest it is the only one I like.

  6. Hi Jerod,

    Thanks for the write up. You made it so much easier for me to try Jetpack or not.

    One question though. JP requires a WP.com account. I really don’t see why I would use any of the modules/features in WP.com. After all, the key one would be Site Stats and we can access that in the Dash.

    Are there any privacy issues that we should be aware of? I guess this is one way in that WordPress does not have access to our self-hosted site?

    Would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks in advance!

    Best,
    Janus

    • Jerod Morris :

      Janus, yes, certain parts of JetPack – site stats specifically – does require a WordPress.com account, but I see no issue with it. I don’t use anything at WP.com, I just have the account so the site stats works. And I have had problems with the individual plugin working correctly on various sites, but within JetPack the Site Stats seems to function just fine.

  7. One issue I’ve had with JP is that I have no control over what the auto emails look like when someone signs up to get posts to their email. My experience is that all those email updates look like alike – from one blog to the next.

    So, is it better to use an RSS feed through mailchimp or feedburner or something like that to get people to subscribe via email?

    • Good point. Yes, I’d recommend a separate service for this. I used FeedBurner for a long time, and still do on some of my other sites, but the Copyblogger folks use AWeber, and I’ve been very happy with it, as it’s what we use for the Synthesis blog.

  8. Thanks Jerod. I’ll play around with this on a lower profile site.

    Thanks again for the insights.

    J

  9. Thanks for highlighting the benefits of jetpack plugin. I was a bit sceptical. I will give it a try.

  10. can anyone tell me that how I will move my share buttons on top for every post? Generally there all are in under post….plz help needed!

    • Great question. It does not appear that there is a way to do this via the standard JetPack options. They simply add the share buttons to the bottom of the post. You may need to use a different plugin or do some custom coding to get the share buttons at the top.

  11. Thanks for the review Jerod
    I’ve been thinking of adding the Jetpack plugin for a few of its features but was wondering if it was bloated with code – obviously you don’t think it is so that’s good.

    It also has a carousel feature, which I’m interested in using and I think that Pinterest has now been added to its social sharing buttons..

    May give it a run out this weekend on a local install.

    • Since it’s all from the WordPress folks, it really isn’t bloated. Considering the myriad functions it provides, it’s a rather efficient plugin overall.

  12. There’s a major fault with the “subscriptions” feature. It sends a full post via email with no way to send only an excerpt. You can not import subscribers. Very lacking and not usable on a pro site, in my opinion.

  13. At this moment I’m trying to find out more why to use JetPack … or not to….
    Aside from this blog with a couple of positive notes I stumbled upon a less positive blog with good arguments to improve Jetpack. Worth reading -> “Dear Jetpack: I really want to love you, but you make it so hard” by Brian Krogsgard JULY 15, 2012
    http://krogsgard.com/2012/jetpack/

  14. it’s an excellent plugin but the share button plugin has a mayor problem. The share buttons are at the bottom of the post and I want them to be at the top of the post or on the left hand side of the post

    • I will agree with this! Was actually fiddling with another site yesterday and found this to be a bit of a frustration.

  15. Every time I signed in I saw the suggestion regarding Jetpack, but ignored it until I did it today. It’s got some great features. Thank you.

  16. Thanks for the post Jerod! I’m just beginning in blogging and am completely new to WordPress. Bluehost my hosting company have installled Jetpack by default as part of my WordPress installation. Having read your post I’m going to give it a try. I’m initially sceptical of things that come packaged for you… like bloadware on mobile phones. I didn’t notice this plugin is from WordPress though, so that was good to learn. I stumbled across your post when I was looking into whether to use facebook comments as opposed to the native WP comments. I really like the option to use fb, twitter or wp comments. By the way, this is my first ever comment on a blog, using my newly created twitter account for the first time :-) I’m having lots of firsts for me in the ‘blogosphere’ over the past few days. Never used that word before for example :-)

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