WordPress has thousands of useful and powerful plugins that can add extra functionality to your site. Some plugins are essential while others are just gimmicky – here is a list of just the essential ones.
Beware that installing too many plugins will put pressure on your CPU usage, slow down your system and increase the page loading time. If you have shared hosting then excessive CPU usage may get your site suspended. A good alternative is VPS Cloud hosting.
These are some of the most popular plugins, which help secure your WordPress site, make it load more quickly, fight spam, and increase your search engine ranking.
Security and Anti-Spam Plugins
Akismet is a powerful anti spam plugin for WordPress. It comes pre-installed with your WordPress installation, but you need to register at WordPress.com to get your unique API key and activate the plugin. Akismet does not always get it right, and sometimes it marks legitimate comments as spam and vice versa. Many WordPress users review the spams, but this is up to you.
2. WP DB Backup
Backup, backup and backup again! WP DB Backup allows you to easily backup the database. This is vital so you don’t lose your content, not even if your site gets hacked. There are three options to backing up your database: save to server, download to your computer, and email. You can also schedule your WordPress backups using this plugin – recommended!
3. Antivirus for WordPress
This simple plugin will monitor and detect malicious code in your WordPress system. Just enable the daily antivirus auto-scan feature, and you will get an email if the plugin detects a virus in the system.
4. Google XML Sitemaps
The Google XML Sitemaps will create a sitemap for your site, saving you a lot of hassle doing it manually. The generated sitemap is search engine friendly and fully compliant with Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com. This plugin can even notify the search engines about updates to your site automatically.
5. All in One SEO Pack
All in One SEO Pack is a highly recommended plugin if Google rankings are important to you and it automates a lot of the hard work in making your site search engine friendly. After you have installed this plugin, you can set the title, description and keywords for your site. As for your pages, posts and articles, let the plugin do all the work – it dynamically generates these for you based on your title and the first lines you write as content. Clever eh! Recommended upgrade: Scribe offers advanced SEO guidance, to ensure your meta tags and articles appeal to Google as much as possible.
6. WP Super Cache – for fast page loading and reliability
The WP Super Cache plugin builds static html files to speed up the loading of your site. If you tend to get spikes in your web traffic, this is an essential plugin to keep your site serving all its visitors and stop it from going down. The basic settings suffice for most users, but like many plugins, you can tweak the more advanced options if you know what you are doing.
Alternative for advanced users: W3 Total Cache, even faster but not for beginners!
7. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
The Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) uses a template system to display a list of related entries on your site and feeds. This can be customized in several ways, but you ideally need some knowledge of html and php.
Site Stats Plugins
8. WordPress.com Stats
Use you WordPress API key, like you did for Akismet and get all your basic stats in an easy format. If you want the more advanced stats, the best option is to also set up Google Analytics, below.
9. Google Analyticator
It is well worth having an account with Google, if you don’t already. Google have some very useful tools for any website, the most useful of which are all free! These include Webmaster Tools, Adwords, Keyword Tool, Google Trends and Gmail, but their best tool for running a website is surely Analytics, which gives you advanced reporting on visitors to your site. You can view a basic overview or go in deep to almost infinite possible ways of viewing data on your visitors e.g. where they came from, what route they take through your site, how long they spend on different pages, you name it, Google tracks it! Google even knows what browser and operating system the visitor is using!
10. Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 lets WordPress users create simple contact forms in seconds. It is highly customisable so you use the standard form as it comes, just with name, email, subject and message. Or you can include a range of different inputs as well, including for phone, checkbox selection boxes, radio buttons, text boxes, quiz questions, etc.
The plugin supports Ajax-powered submitting and CAPTCHA anti-spam. There are loads of supplementary plugins which act as add-ons to enhance the functionality of the Contact 7 plugin. Just search the plugin directory for “contact 7”.
If you want to avoid spam, just download the Really Simple CAPTCHA plugin at the same time, which inserts a small image of a code which users must type in order to click send.
Useful tip: many users have problems getting the CAPTCHA plugin to work, so there is a great alternative I recommend. Add a “Quiz” input and enter a simple maths problem as the quiz question, such as “What is 2 + 5? | 7”. If the user enters anything except 7, an error message appears asking for the correct answer. This blocks some spam which CAPTCHA cannot, but is open to other types of spam, so it’s “swings and roundabouts” really! But a great quick alternative to using CAPTCHA.
Alternative for advanced users: Gravity Forms