Some people love it, some hate it, and some seem to be totally baffled by it. I thought this would be an excellent time to explain its features and why I think you will find it extremely useful.
What is the Jetpack plugin?
First of all, Jetpack is not so much a plugin as it is a whole box full of tools, widgets, and services. Previously these were only available for users of WordPress.com. With Jetpack, Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, has packaged all favorite features into one place to make them available for the self-hosted WordPress websites.
Currently, the Jetpack stack includes more than 30 powerful features. They cover topics from site customization, content tools, and user engagement, to site performance and security.
Because Jetpack allows you to hook up your self-hosted WordPress site to WordPress.com’s infrastructure, you will need to create an account with WordPress’ commercial version in order to run it. But don’t worry, it’s quick and easy to do and free of charge.
How to install Jetpack on your WordPress website
Though it comes with a whole host of features, Jetpack’s installation is no different from that of any other plugin. The only extra work you need to do is the aforementioned setup of a WordPress.com account to connect Jetpack to its service.
1. Install Jetpack from the WordPress directory
The easiest way to install Jetpack is from within WordPress itself. Log into your site and go to Plugins → Add new. Search for ‘Jetpack’ if it doesn’t already show up on the front page. You can then install the latest version of the plugin by clicking ‘Install Now.’
Alternatively, you can also download Jetpack from the WordPress plugin directory and install it manually. To do so, click the download link on the plugin page download it to your computer. Unpack the archive and upload the plugin’s folder to wp-content/plugins on your server via FTP. Then log into your site, go to the Plugins menu and there click ‘Activate’ right under the plugin name. All done.
2. Set up a (free) WordPress.com account
You can go to this link for the signup. To set up your own account, you will only need an email address, a username, and a password. Fill in the necessary information and submit. You will receive an email from WordPress.com to confirm your account. Follow the link to finish the setup.
3. Connect Jetpack to WordPress.com
Once you have activated Jetpack, you will see a big green bar on the top of every screen inside your WordPress dashboard with a prompt to link your new plugin to WordPress.com. If you click on the link within the banner, it will take you right to the page where you can do so. Input your newly set up credentials and click on ‘Authorize.’
How to activate modules within Jetpack
To activate and deactivate the Jetpack’s features, go to Jetpack → Settings. Here you can see a list of all available modules and their status. On the right, you can order the list in several ways, by active or inactive modules, alphabetically, by newest, by popularity, and by topic.
In order to activate any of them, simply hover over the module in question and an ‘Activate’ link will appear. Click it and your new feature is ready to use. Hovering over a module which is already active will show a link for its configuration.
Beware of the bloat!
With more than 30 features and services to choose from, it is easy to go a bit overboard with Jetpack. Unfortunately, the plugin doesn’t help with that either as it will activate a whole number of modules by default. When I installed the latest version of Jetpack for the sake of this article, I found 20 of its modules already running when I first entered the settings page.
Therefore when you install the plugin, disabling everything you are not going to use should be the first thing you should do. Fortunately, this has gotten much easier over time and doesn’t require several clicks per feature as it used to. The new interface even lets you deactivate in bulk. For good reason.
Jetpack: 8 highlights from the feature list
Which modules should you keep running? That’s a fair question. With so many features, widgets, and services to choose from, it can be difficult to determine what is worth it and what is not. To help you decide, I will first give you a list of the highlights from the Jetpack app stack before moving on to the full list of available features.
Photon is a free CDN (content delivery network) plugin. It allows you to use WordPress.com’s infrastructure to load images appearing on your website (currently only for posts, pages and featured images) from an external source. As a consequence there are less bandwidth demands placed on your server, your website loads faster, which in turn is good news for readers and SEO.
Photon is one of the favorite modules of Jetpack and for good reason. It’s free, it’s fast, and because it’s part of the WordPress.com infrastructure, it is highly reliable. All you need to do is turn it on and it will automatically load all of your images into the system.
2. WordPress.com stats
Let’s face it, everyone with a website loves looking at their stats. Seeing the numbers for page views and visitors climb can be quite a thrill (or frustration). It’s probably safe to say that there are people out there who check their website statistics more often than their email.
However, there’s no need to log into Google Analytics for that. With Jetpack, your WordPress website will have its own stats right there on the dashboard, complete with:
- Number of visitors on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis
- All time views of your content
- Top-performing posts and pages
- Main referrers and search engine terms
- Most-clicked links from your website
In addition to that there are also enhanced stats available on WordPress.com.
Granted, the level of information is by far not as sophisticated as Google’s analytics solution. However, WordPress.com stats give you enough for a quick peek at how your site is performing.
Imagine you type in the address of one of your websites for a routine check. Instead of taking you right to it, you wait and wait and . . .the connection times out. What? Your site is down? How long has it been that way? How many visitors have you turned away without knowing? Oh my gosh, this is a disaster!
To avoid this kind of situation, Jetpack comes with Monitor. This service, the subject of a recent Weekend WordPress Project, will check on your site every five minutes and notify you via email if it detects downtime. This simple yet powerful feature alone is almost enough justification to install Jetpack on your website.
Every marketer knows that pushing your content out to the social web is necessary these days. However, connecting your WordPress site to all social accounts can be a pain. Luckily, Publicize makes it a breeze.
The service allows you to connect up to six social accounts: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Path, and Google+. After you have done so, whenever you publish new material on your website, it will now be automatically shared on these accounts. Pretty neat, huh?
5. Related Posts
The folks over at WP Engine have a list of plugins which they don’t allow to be used on their platform. Among them are almost all popular ‘related posts’ plugins. Why? Because they are extremely database intensive.
If you look further down, however, there are a few plugins of the same kind of that they don’t have a problem with and Jetpack’s related posts plugin is among them.
The reason for that is that Jetpack allows you to outsource all the heavy lifting to the WordPress.com servers. What they effectively do is index your WordPress website and – from analyzing the available content on your site — then suggest related content underneath your posts. Good news for your loading times!
6. Jetpack Comments
Let’s face it, the native comments of the WordPress platform are already quite nice and there are a bunch of plugins out there, which make them even better. So what can Jetpack do that others don’t?
First of all Jetpack comments do not hijack the entire comment section as other solutions do. Instead, it offers a few key improvements that make life (especially that of your users) a lot easier.
Most notably is the fact that Jetpack gives them the opportunity to log in with their social and WordPress.com accounts. That way they do not have to set up yet another login with yet another website just to interact with your content.
Jetpack Comments can also be further enhanced with Subscriptions. This functions allows visitors to subscribe to comment threads and your entire website from the convenience of the comment field. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
7. Spelling and Grammar
Though many of us who use WordPress mainly as a blogging tool like to think of ourselves as word magicians, there is always room for improvement. Luckily the Spelling and Grammar module is here to help with that.
It’s essentially a spelling plugin for the TinyMCE editor that uses Automattic’s ‘After the Deadline’ service to improve your content. Smart suggestion technology offers improvements for spelling and grammatical errors, as well as customized profiles for users. It has never been easier to write better content.
Jetpack makes integrating social media on your website as easy as drag and drop. Literally. Sharing allows you to change the number and type of social buttons visible underneath your content with just a few mouse clicks.
Besides the usual suspects, there are also a number of less common sharing services available such as Reddit and Pocket. If that is not enough for you, you can even create you own options. Besides that there are a number of customization settings available to make it all look the way you want.
Jetpack features – the full list
These eight services alone make installing Jetpack worthwhile. However, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Here is what else Jetpack has under the hood:
The settings area is broken down into 5 categories and they are:
GENERAL – Besides the connection tab there is also:
- MANAGE – Manage all of your sites in one place.
- NOTIFICATIONS – Get notifications on your admin toolbar and mobile device.
- JSON – Allow applications to securely access your content through the cloud.
- SEO TOOLS – Paid accounts only.
- SITE STATS – Of course, this is where it collects your stats, insights, and who gets counted in those stats.
- SHARING – This one is an important one. It includes the PUBLICIZE tab. Once you connect your social media accounts it will automatically post to them whenever a post publishes. It has an area where you can add sharing buttons to your posts/pages.
- PUBLICIZE – Redundant since it takes you to the exact page as SHARING.
- RELATED POSTS – This allows you to show related posts at the bottom of your blog posts.
- COMMENTS – Basic comments.
- LIKES – Adds WordPress likes at the bottom of each post.
- SUBSCRIPTIONS – Allows readers to subscribe to your blog posts or comments.
- GRAVATAR HOVERCARDS – Allows a “business card” of the commenters gravatar profile when you hover over their name.
- SITEMAPS – Creates sitemaps so that your site is easily indexed by search engines.
- ENHANCED DISTRIBUTION – Increases reach and traffic.
- SITE VERIFICATION – This tab verifies your site or domain with Google Search Console, Pinterest, Bing, Yandex.
- SCANNING – For paid accounts only.
- PROTECT – Prevents brute force attacks and Whitelist management which mean that you can put your IP addresses in there so that you can never be blocked out of Jetpack.
- MONITOR – Reports to you whenever your site is down.
- AKISMET – Spam detection.
- SITE BACKUPS – For paid accounts only.
- SINGLE SIGN ON – Your users will be able to log into your site with their WordPress.com account. This includes two-factor authentication making it the safest login mechanism for your site.
- TILED GALLERIES – Allows you to create image galleries that you put into your posts/pages.
- PHOTON – Speeds up images. I’ll talk more about this one further on. Photon is an image acceleration and editing service for sites hosted on WordPress.com or on Jetpack-connected WordPress sites. That means less load on your host and faster images for your readers. This speeds up your photos by serving your images to your viewers on the powerful WordPress.com servers.
- CAROUSEL – You can make slideshows out of your images. You can also choose white and black.
- EXTRA SIDEBAR WIDGETS – This is a really good one. It adds all kinds of great widgets that you can use. Add images, Twitter streams, your site’s RSS links.
- WIDGET VISIBILITY – Allows you to easily decide which pages show which widgets. You can turn them off and on easily inside your widgets area.
- CUSTOM CSS – Allows you to add CSS to your child theme.
- INFINITE SCROLL – Infinite scrolling pulls the next set of posts automatically into view when the reader approaches the bottom of the page.
- MOBILE THEME – Optimize your site if your theme isn’t mobile responsive. This is another one I’ll discuss further down.
- HOLIDAY SNOW – Yes, you can make it snow on your site. Used mostly during the holiday.
- WP.ME SHORTLINKS – Give your posts shortlinks.
- SHORTCODE EMBEDS – Allows you to easily add videos from Youtube, Vimeo, Slideshare.
- VIDEOPRESS – Upload and embed videos to your site.
- CONTACT FORM – Create a contact form on your site.
- SPELLING & GRAMMAR – Checks your spelling, style, & grammar.
- MARKDOWN – Compose posts and comments with links, lists, and other styles using regular characters and punctuation marks. A quick and easy way to format text without needing any HTML or coding. More on this later.
- POSTS BY EMAIL – You can upload any post from any client by email.
- BEAUTIFUL MATH – Add math equations to your posts/pages.
- CONSTANT CONTENT TYPES – You can enable portfolios or testimonials.
So, is Jetpack worth downloading?
There’s no denying it, Jetpack is chock full of a lot of awesome features. Putting them all in one centralized place inside “one plugin to rule them all” also sounds very appealing. Especially if you take into account that it is run by the people behind WordPress.com and each feature has therefore been stress tested on hundreds of thousands of blogs.
The biggest downside of the plugin, however, is the price you pay for its feature richness — the size. Unzipped, Jetpack is many times larger than the WordPress core. Especially for those running their websites on shared servers, this is an important consideration. Plus, pretty much all modules inside the WordPress stack can be had in other form as individual plugins, often with more features.
So should the Jetpack plugin be a part of your site? More than 13 million people, me included, have already answered that question with yes. However, it really depends on your needs. If you are only going to use one of its main features, you might be better advised to find another plugin for that purpose. But even if you will only utilize two or three of its compartments, in my opinion you should go for it. Either way, you will only find out if you test it.
Do you use Jetpack? What is your favorite feature? Or if you don’t use it, why did you decide against it? Let us know in the comments.
#wordpress is my wine