Jetpack is a free plugin by WordPress.com that comes pre-installed on most self-hosted WordPress websites. It offers a multitude of features and functions for your family history WordPress website including traffic stats and insights, security from brute-force login attacks, centralized management, custom CSS, contact forms, galleries and carousels for your images, notifications and subscriptions and automated social sharing all bundled into one easy plugin.
Even though Jetpack is running on your self-hosted WordPress.org website, to make use of many of Jetpack’s features, you do need to connect it to a WordPress.com account since the plugin relies on services over in their cloud for certain features. If you already have a WordPress.com account, you can connect the two from the My Jetpack link at the top of the screen, otherwise, Jetpack will help you create an account.
To see all the features in Jetpack, click on ‘See the other 28 Jetpack features’ at the bottom of the screen.
Pre-Activated Features in Jetpack
By default, Jetpack comes with several features pre-activated but if you aren’t using these, you will want to deactivate them since they will slow down your website if they are running. From the Jetpack dashboard, click on Settings to see all of the available options. To see all of the pre-activated features, filter on Active. To deactivate any that you don’t need, hover your mouse to the right of the option to show the deactivate link and click it.
1. Beautiful Math
Chances are, unless you are a math nerd, you won’t have the need to create complicated math formulas on your website.
2. Contact Form
If you want users to be able to contact you, you can easily add a contact form to any page or post by clicking an ‘Add Contact Form’ in the page/post editor. The contact form in Jetpack is easy to use, but there are other plugins that do it better and offer more features.
3. Custom CSS
The custom CSS feature is handy if you just want to make minor changes to the appearance of your website and your theme does not already support this. Be aware that if you add custom CSS and then later decide to disable this option or uninstall Jetpack, you will have to move your custom CSS to your theme’s option, another plugin or create a child theme for your website or your changes will be lost. If you don’t know what custom CSS is, you probably will not need this option yet.
4. Custom Content Types
The Custom Content types that Jetpack offers include Portfolio Projects and Testimonials. These are similar to posts and pages and let you add your latest projects or testimonials from happy customers. If you can’t think of a use for these right now, deactivate the feature. You can always activate it and configure them later.
5. Extra Sidebar Widgets
This feature lets you add a number of different widgets to your sidebar, including your latest tweets from Twitter, the Facebook Like Box and even your your Goodreads Shelf. The widgets each have their own configurations if you decide to use them.
6. Gravatar Hovercards
With Gravatar Hovercards enabled, you can see more information about the commentators on your blog if they have a Gravatar profile. Just hover over their image to see more about them. You can leave this feature active or deactivate it, however you should make sure that your own Gravatar profile is created and up-to-date so that it appears on comments you make on other people’s blogs.
WordPress.com notifications appear on your toolbar and in WordPress.com if this is enabled.
Omnisearch lets you search posts, pages, comments, media and plugins from the Admin area of your site.
9. Post by Email
Post by Email will let you create a post by emailing your WordPress site, however to create a properly formatted post, you will probably want to create your posts in the editor instead.
Protect will help stop hackers from trying to login to your WordPress site by running a password tool on your login page. It is derived from a plugin call BruteProtect and enabling it will disable that plugin if you have it installed. For this feature, you will want to click on configure and add your own IP address to the white-list to make sure you don’t get locked out by accident.
Publicize lets your easily and automatically share your latest posts on your social media accounts. To use this feature, you will need to click on configure and connect to each of the accounts that you want to share on. Options include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Path and Google+.
Sharing lets you enable the most common sharing buttons so your readers can share your posts too. In the configure menu, you can choose which features will appear and in what order. Some themes already have built in sharing options so you will want to make sure that you don’t configure them both, otherwise you will have multiple sharing options at the bottom of each post. There are many other sharing plugins out there, some that float on your post as the reader scrolls that probably will gain you more shares.
13. Shortcode Embeds
Shortcodes let you embed media and other content in your posts and pages. Click on the feature to see all of the supported shortcodes. One important thing to be aware of with any shortcode plugin is that if you later decide to disable it, you will end up with a lot of broken code in your posts and pages. If you already have been there and done that, there is a handy plugin in the repository called ‘Hide Broken Shortcodes‘ that I think I might be testing soon.
14. Site Stats
Jetpack has its own stats dashboard that shows you basic statistics for your website on your WordPress dashboard but it is no substitute for other free services such as Google Analytics.
15. Site Verification
The site verification tool lets you setup verification code for services such as Google Analytics, Bing and Pinterest that require this without having to edit your homepage code directly. There are other plugins that let you do the same thing including the free Yoast SEO plugin.
16. Spelling and Grammar
The spelling and grammar feature uses the After the Deadline service to improve your writing and catch any errors before you hit post. It has configurable options and supports multiple languages but it’s built in dictionary is limited and it highlights a lot of problems that aren’t really problems.
The subscriptions feature lets visitors easily subscribe to your posts and comments via email through WordPress.com. If you’ve chosen to set up a mailing list with a service like MailChimp or AWeber, you might want to disable this option.
18. WP.me Shortlinks
This feature enables shortlinks on your posts and pages, handy for posting to Twitter and Facebook without having to copy and paste long URLs. If you prefer bit.ly or goo.gl, you may want to disable this option and find a different plugin. In my experience, everyone is pretty emotional about their favourite method.
19. Widget Visibility
The Widget Visibility feature lets you control where your widgets will appear on your website, so you can show certain widgets only on your homepage or only on the category archive pages. This is configurable on each widget from the visibility button located beside the save button and is a nice feature. Some themes support this in their framework natively though so if yours does, you might want to disable this feature.
By default, many of the features in Jetpack are not activated and you have to activate them first if you want to be able to use them. From the Jetpack dashboard, click on Settings to see all of the available options. To see all of the inactivate features, filter on Inactive. To activate any that you want to use, hover your mouse to the right of the option to show the activate link and click it. After you activate some of the features, there will be a link to configure options specific to its appearance and function.
The Carousel feature will make your WordPress galleries pop with full screen viewing, great if you share a lot of images.
The Jetpack Comments feature lets your visitors comment using WordPress.com, Facebook or Twitter authentication.
22. Enhanced Distribution
Use Enhanced Distribution to automatically share your content with search engines.
23. Infinite Scroll
Not all themes support infinite scroll and this includes the default WordPress theme Twenty Sixteen. But if your theme does support it, you can use this feature to let your visitors scroll and scroll without having to click through to the next page.
24. JSON API
JSON API is one of those features that you would only enable for specific needs like authorizing applications and services to connect to your blog.
The Likes feature in Jetpack lets your readers ‘like’ your post, similar to the way we like posts on Facebook. While we all love comments, sometimes readers just want to show that they enjoyed your post without having to write anything.
Jetpack’s Manage feature lets you manage all your self hosted blogs from the WordPress.com dashboard. You can update plugins, activate or deactivate individually or in bulk. You can also manage your theme and your menus from the same interface. I’m not sure why you would want to do this from WordPress.com but this option enables that. I personally prefer to manage my plugins from the admin area of my website, reading the release notes before updating and then checking my site afterwards to make sure the update didn’t break anything.
The Markdown feature lets you create content for your posts with links, lists and other formatting by using characters and punctuation.
28. Mobile Theme
If the theme you are using does not support mobile, then this feature will optimize your site so that it can be more easily viewed on a mobile device. Ideally though, you should choose a responsive theme that scales to the size of the device your reader is using. This is especially important to Google who started rewarding mobile friendly websites early in 2015. These days, when I look at my Google Analytics for my websites, the balance has shifted and more than half of my readers are following along on their tablet or phone rather than reading from their desktop.
Jetpack will monitor your website and send you an alert when it goes down and let you know when it is back up again.
If you have a lot of images on your website, photon will host the images on WordPress.com servers, serving them up from their content delivery network, reducing the load on your host.
31. Related Posts
The related posts feature will show related posts under each of your posts, inviting the reader to spend more time on your blog. There are a number of other plugins out there that do this better and an excellent one that I’ve used is called Contextly Recommends.
32. Single Sign On
Users on your website can login or register with their WordPress.com credentials. If you manage more than one WordPress website, this means you have less passwords to remember, but on the other hand, it does put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. If your account is compromised, then all your websites are at risk.
33. Site Icon
With the latest release of WordPress (4.5), this feature is no longer required since having a site icon is now built into WordPress core and clicking configure on this option will now take you to the customize menu of WordPress. The Site icon is used as a browser and app icon for your website. The image you use should be square and at least 512 x 512 pixels.
Having an XML sitemap lets Google and other search engines understand how your website works and this feature automatically generates these files. Other plugins can be used to generate sitemaps including the free Yoast SEO plugin which I highly recommend.
35. Tiled Galleries
This feature lets you create tiled mosaic galleries with your photos and supports rectangular, square and circular galleries. Like Photon, it uses the WordPress.com content delivery system to serve your images.
If you want to put your own videos on your WordPress site, this feature works with a paid subscription to the VideoPress service to let you upload and embed your videos in your posts.
37. Data Backups
This feature works with a paid subscription to VaultPress to backup your site’s content, themes and plugins as well as performing regular security scans. Some hosting providers will also offer this service as part of your hosting agreement so check with them before you shell out money on the service. Either way, backups are important and you should have some method in place to backup all your hard work. Read How to Create a Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan for Your WordPress Blog over on Problogger for more reading on the subject.
As bloggers, the main purpose of our WordPress website is to share our stories, our methods and our journey. Some of us enjoy tinkering with our website to show off our stories and photographs for our readers, but many of us just want to get on with the business of writing about our chosen topic without having to worry about all that technical stuff under the hood.
The Jetpack toolbox has many useful plugins all bundled into one package, 40 of them by my count. Having all of these features in one plugin makes managing updates easier and Jetpack makes configuring the various features really simple, especially for new WordPress users, saving a lot of time and effort. For many of the features however, there are other standalone plugins that do it better and provide more configuration and opportunities for customization. Some of it’s features, like Simple Math, are only useful for a particular niche and not at all helpful for the rest of us. As a plugin, it has a really large footprint, and can use a lot of resources on your website. You can read a great analysis of whether Jetpack will supercharge or superbloat your website in this article over on wpmudev’s website. Although it was written two years ago, it has quite a few valid points to make.
If you are just starting out, Jetpack will provide you with most of the features you need on your WordPress website and it is worth taking some time to configure the ones that will work for you and to deactivate the ones that don’t add any value. Over time, you may find other plugins that do it better and replace some of Jetpack’s features with plugins that are more suited to your needs but Jetpack is certainly a great starting point.