Automattic’s Jetpack plugin has been around for a long time and grows with every new version. But why would anyone install such a massive plugin when there are smaller alternatives? This article looks at six reasons why Jetpack is still the go-to choice for the majority of WordPress-based sites.
Jetpack for WordPress is a collection of plugins written by Automattic, the people who created WordPress.com. It is designed to make all the functionality of hosted sites at WordPress.com available to self-hosted WordPress sites. Given the size of Jetpack, many site owners are reluctant to install it. Here are six important reasons why you should install Jetpack on your self-hosted WordPress site today.
1. Easy to install, set up and learn
Jetpack installation is just the same as any plugin: go to the ‘Plugins’ option in your admin Dashboard, select the ‘Add new’ option and search for ‘Jetpack’. The plugin you want should appear at the top of the search results. Click “Install now” and activate the plugin when it’s installed.
The one oddity of Jetpack is that you need an account on WordPress.com to use the features. You don’t have to start a WordPress-hosted blog or buy anything from them, but you do have to register. Once you’ve installed and activated Jetpack, you will be prompted to connect your self-hosted blog to your WordPress.com account.
Jetpack’s menu appears on the standard WordPress admin Dashboard, near the top. Clicking it shows a list of all the modules included in the plugin, each with options to activate, configure, and deactivate. Clicking the “Alphabetical” option to show all the modules, then a module name, will pop open a window to show more information, so that you can make sensible choices about what your site needs.
This is one of the reasons Jetpack is so easy to use: Everything is laid out in a very clear, easy-to-understand format. You can set up exactly the services you want, and leave out the ones in which you’re not interested.
2. Detailed site stats
WordPress site owners can always use Google Analytics to get their traffic stats, but Jetpack offers a slightly different data set. Instead of a lot of complicated, technical demographic information, Jetpack’s stats are focused on visitors and page views. This gives you an overview of where people arrive from, what they look at, and what they click on your site. The admin Dashboard shows a lot of information, but you can get more in-depth information by clicking through to the WordPress.com site and viewing your stats there.
The biggest advantage of Jetpack stats, though, is for multisite owners. WordPress multisite allows you to run as many individual blogs as you wish, with one centralized “Super Admin” Dashboard. By running Jetpack on all the sites in your multisite setup, you can get a top-down view of traffic to the entire site network, with individual stats available for each sub-site’s administrator. Setting that up on Google Analytics is possible, but will take a lot of time, energy and knowledge, especially if you want to share the information with each site’s owner.
If you’re really obsessive about (or proud of) your stats, there’s also a plugin that adds a column to your admin posts and pages lists, with a link to the stats for each individual item. It’s called Jetpack Post Statistics Link. This information lets you drill down on the popularity of every item on your site.
3. Comments and subscriptions made easy
Over the years, many different comment and subscription plugins have been written for WordPress: Disqus, Commentluv, Subscribe2 and others spring to mind. However, Jetpack includes a cover-all option as part of the standard installation. It doesn’t do everything out of the box, but it does do all the important stuff.
Jetpack’s comments hide your comment form (email, name, etc.) until your visitors click the comment box, at which point the form appears, ready for use. It also creates threaded comments, whereby replies are indented and kept in order, underneath the original comment. This is a great help on very busy sites, where straightforward commenting can get very confusing: a visitor replies, but no one is sure to which comment they are referring! With Jetpack’s threaded comments, that doesn’t happen.
Subscriptions are also handled very smoothly in Jetpack: When users comments, the comment form allows them to subscribe to notifications for follow up comments or for new blog posts. There’s also a simple widget to drop into your sidebar and a shortcode to include the sign-up form on a page or post. Interested visitors simply fill in their email address, click the button, and bingo! They’re subscribed. Your connection to WordPress.com ensures that they receive a notification email whenever you post new content on your site.
Note that finding your subscriber list can be a bit of a challenge: The Automattic team messed up on that one! To see your subscriber list, go to the main Jetpack Statistics page; in the bottom left, there is a “Subscriptions” widget, which lists your blog and comment followers. Click the “Blog” link to see your subscribers’ details.
4. Jetpack Sharing
It is an absolute necessity for modern blogs to include share buttons. With Google giving increasing importance to social signals for search ranking, and a constantly-growing audience on the social media sites, it would be silly not to give your visitors a one-click sharing option!
Once again, Jetpack has this built in. Just switch on the sharing options, set up your sharing choices in the “Sharing” menu (under “Settings” in the admin Dashboard) and you’re ready to roll. Jetpack doesn’t offer as many options as some dedicated sharing plugins (such as AddThis), but it covers the main players very well.
While you’re on the Sharing Settings page, you will notice that Jetpack also includes a “Publicize” module. This allows you to connect to your own social media accounts, and automatically post an update every time you create new content on your site. One less round of updates to do!
Publicize isn’t always easy to set up, especially with some of the clunkier social media sites, so you might need a bit of technical knowledge or expert help to get it running with them all. However, the time (or money) investment is well worth it, as once it’s done, it’ll work for ever!
5. Spelling and grammar help
In addition to all the technical and administrative help that Jetpack offers its users, it also caters to writers. The “After the Deadline” proofreading service checks your content for spelling and grammatical errors. It’s only an artificial intelligence, so it’s not absolutely foolproof, but it will catch a lot of the silly mistakes, typos, and common errors made by many writers.
To make the best use of this feature, you must select what you want the proofreading tool to check. You can do this in your profile settings – as can every individual writer, if you’re running a multi-author blog!
6. Shortcode convenience
For more advanced users, Jetpack offers a feature that isn’t absolutely necessary, but is really useful. Shortcodes are an integral part of WordPress, which the system itself uses to perform certain functions, such as adding a caption to a picture.
Jetpack extends the shortcode functionality to include “embeds”. In other words, it gives blog authors a way to connect to external resources very simply. Instead of having to wrestle with HTML code in your posts to include things like YouTube and Vimeo videos, Google Maps, Polldaddy user polls, Scribd ebooks, and Flickr pictures, you can just use a shortcode embed. Jetpack does the rest.
On top of specific external services, Jetpack’s shortcode embeds include the Jetpack subscription form, built-in slideshows, a basic audio player, videos from VideoPress, and even an archived posts index.
With so much on offer, Jetpack is the ideal plugin for virtually any self-hosted WordPress site. While some of the options may not suit more advanced users, or site owners who want a specific solution to a particular need, it’s a great plugin collection for general blog use. And it’s free!