in Marketing & Media

Best WordPress Plugins

Among the most popular posts on this website is 19 Top WordPress Plugins. According to Wikipedia, a plugin is a set of software components that adds specific abilities to a larger software application.

It’s been two years since my first post on the best WordPress plugins, so it’s time for an update.

WordPress Logo

First, I think WordPress is still the best overall blog platform — whether hosted on WordPress.org or (preferably) self-hosted on your own domain. WordPress is relatively simple, powerful and SEO-friendly. It has, by a longshot, the largest selection of top plugins to easily enable almost any functionality, thanks to its thriving open-source development community. As a result, WordPress is great for creating websites in general, not just blogs — and many big sites are doing so. WordPress may be too complicated for casual users (or the technically challenged), but it is great for intermediate to the most advanced users.

Before I list the best WordPress plugins, it’s prudent to acknowledge that it’s best to limit your site to only necessary plugins. One big reason is that plugins can slow down your site, and slow sites create poor user experiences and result in less search-engine visibility. Another is that each additional plugin is a link in the chain that can become outdated, break and cause subsequent performance issues. Third, plugins sometimes conflict with one another; so the more plugins you have, the greater the likelihood that some will conflict; the more plugins you have, the more complex troubleshooting becomes.

Best WordPress Plugins

WordPress Infrastructure Plugins

VaultPress — A monthly fee service to backup your site on redundant servers, and provide expertise for any security, recovery or other critical issues that keep your site from running. It’s provided by the same company that offers WordPress. I’ve had some database and file-corruption issues and they were very helpful. If the loss of your site would be devastating, then you should consider this plugin.

Akismet — Also from the makers of WordPress, this plugin protects your blog from comment and trackback spam.

W3 Total Cache — Improves the speed and user experience of your site by adding browser, page, object and database caching. It also enables enables simple activation of content delivery networks (CDN), which can significantly improve page download speed (I use MaxCDN).

Exploit Scanner – Scans your site for possible exploits. Hackers love WordPress, and no web software is completely immune. Why wouldn’t you install this?

WordPress Style and Layout Plugins

Thesis — Technically not a plugin, Thesis is a theme framework that makes it easy to customize your WordPress blog from a stylistic and SEO standpoint. It’s something you add on top of WordPress, and it is central to this site, so I thought it was appropriate to include here.

Thesis OpenHook — Allows you to insert arbitrary content and code into different page locations (“hooks”) that the Thesis Theme Framework provides.

WordPress SEO Plugins

Redirection — This is a powerful plugin that enables you to better manage all your 301 redirects and monitor 404 errors. I reset my URL structure on past and future posts to improve search-engine visibility. This plugin allowed me to program a script to automatically redirect old URLs indexed in search engines to the updated URLs. If you’re not technically oriented, I recommend getting help from someone who is. Also, document your settings, as this plugin once conflicted with another plug and required me to reset it.

SEO Slugs – Removes common words like ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘in’ from post slugs to improve SEO.

Simple Tags — Makes tagging your posts more efficient and effective with features like Suggested Tags, Mass edit tags, Auto-tags and Autocompletion.

Google XML Sitemaps — Creates a sitemap to help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com to better index your blog.

WordPress Functionality Plugins

Disqus Comment System – Replaces your WordPress comment system with your comments hosted and powered by Disqus. I’ve found that it prevents spam and makes commenting easier.

Like-Button-Plugin-For-Wordpress — Perhaps the most robust, customizable plugin to automatically enable Facebook Like buttons across your site. It’s a little buggy, requiring that you temporarily deactivate other plugins when changing settings. However, once set, it works. Facebook is colonizing the Web and become a huge channel and facilitator of traffic, so you need to have this functionality.

HelloBar For WordPress – Enables an unobtrusive drop-down bar at the top of your site where you can include offers or messages (like a call-to-action to subscribe) — and let visitors hide it if they’re not interested.

WordPress Related Posts – Generates a related-posts list using your post tags, at the end of each post. Helps users discover more content on your site.

Clean Archives Reloaded – Just a simple, nicer way to present your archives page.

Google Custom Search — Technically, this is not a plugin, but a service from Google to deploy its search technology on your own site. The experience resembles Google.com, which means more familiarity and less friction for users trying to find content on your site. There are WordPress plugins to make installation easier, but I simply inserted the code myself and styled the forms with Thesis.

WordPress Analytics & Syndication Plugins

Google Analytics For WordPress — Makes it simple to add Google Analytics to your WordPress blog, adding lots of features, eg. custom variables and automatic clickout and download tracking.

Fast Secure Contact Form — Robust and reliable contact form with features like anti-spam,  custom fields, post-submission URL redirects, auto-response emails and more.

Feedburner — Not a plugin, but probably the most widely used system for delivering, tracking, optimizing and monetizing RSS and email subscription feeds.

Feedburner FeedSmith — Detects all ways to access your original WordPress feeds and redirects them to your FeedBurner feed so you can track every possible subscriber.

 

These are my favorite WordPress plugins. Which are yours? Feel free to weigh in.