So you just started your very first WordPress blog, downloaded and installed the latest version of it on your server and now you’re looking to take advantage of the vast WordPress plugin community built around the WordPress platform, but with so many plugin choices you’re a little overwhelmed with which ones to choose. Have no fear! Below is a great starting point for anyone looking to optimize their WordPress blog/site with some basic, yet extremely important plugins to help keep your site secure, running smoothly and to help you get the most out of your WordPress install.
First and foremost, try not to use too many plugins. What I mean by “too many” is dozens and dozens. The reason being that not all plugin developers support their plugins or even update them regularly so using a small number of integral ones is probably a better choice. This is especially true since WordPress is constantly upgrading and some plugin developers may not be very quick in updating their plugins. The less plugins you have, the less problems you’ll run into down the road when upgrading your WordPress install.
Below I have compiled a list of 10 of what I think are “Must Have” WordPress plugins for anyone starting or even currently using a WordPress self hosted blog/site.
Note: Most if not all of the following plugins are available on the official WordPress plugin directory, updated frequently and supported by their respective developers.
1. WordPress Database Backup
You have to keep your site backed up! That’s just a no brainer. Unfortunately most people get lazy or simply forget. This can be a nightmare if your site unfortunately ever gets hacked or even if you happen to be drunk at 3AM working on your site and accidentally delete half your posts. WP-DB-Backup allows you easily to backup your core WordPress database tables along with other tables in the same database. This plugin makes it extremely easy to back up directly to your computer, via email or even to a folder on your server. Note: You should also make sure to back up all your theme files regularly as well.
3. WP Security Scan
Scans your WordPress installation for security vulnerabilities and suggests corrective actions. Work for everything from passwords, file permissions, database security, intrusion protection, auto hides your WP version, helps with WP admin security and removes WP meta tags from core among others. For me this plugin was most helpful in determining the proper file permissions I should have and is a must have for anyone looking to lock down their WordPress install.
4. WP Super Cache
This plugin generates static html files from your dynamic WordPress blog. After a html file is generated your webserver will serve that file instead of processing the comparatively heavier and more expensive WordPress PHP scripts, thus helping your server cope with the “Digg Effect” or any other social networking site one of your posts might jump to the front page of.
5. All In One SEO
This plugin helps optimize your WordPress blog/site for the use of search engine optimization otherwise know as SEO. This is a must have for anyone looking to gain traffic through search engines like Google. It allows you to optimize backend settings to get the most out of your posts, but also allows you to add specific titles, descriptions and keywords to each of your posts/pages. It also helps stop duplicate content from appearing on your site by allowing you to turn off indexing of archive pages etc…
6. Google XML Sitemaps
This plugin will create a XML-Sitemap of your WordPress blog for Google, Ask.com, Yahoo and Bing. It supports all of the WordPress generated pages as well as custom ones. Everytime you edit or create a post, your sitemap is updated and all major search engines that support the sitemap protocol are notified about the update. This plugin makes it extremely easy for search engines to index your site and get deep into inner pages. It’s a must have for helping improve your search engine rankings and indexing.
7. Analytics360 w/ MailChimp
This plugin which is extremely easy to setup allows you to pull Google Analytics and MailChimp (newsletter) data directly into your dashboard, so you can access robust analytics tools without ever leaving WordPress. This plugin makes it extremely easy to check traffic stats, growth and your top referrers. It also integrates stats for MailChimp newsletter data. I’ve only played with the newsletter feature a little, but it seems to be right up there with aWeber with a much more intuitive interface. Note: You will need to sign up for a free Google Analytics account prior to using it.
8. Feedburner Feed Replacement
The plugin will detect all ways to access your feed and redirect them to your FeedBurner feed so you can track every possible subscriber. It will forward for your main posts feed and optionally, your main comments feed as well. Google which now owns this plugin says it’s supported up to WP 2.5, but I haven’t seen any issues with it using later versions. If someone could chime in with any recent news on this plugin working with the latest WordPress installs I would greatly appreciate it.
9. Breadcrumb Navigation
This plugin generates locational breadcrumb trails for your WordPress blog so it’s easy to follow which page you’re currently on and get back to another page easily. This site currently uses this plugin and can easily be demonstrated as you click through the WP Theme Store. Making your site easily navigated is a must and will bring readers back again and again if they know they can easily find the content they want.
10. Social Bookmarking
This example is quite general as there are many, many social bookmarking plugins. I’d highly suggest you find the one that best fits the design of your site and will currently just link above to the search results on the plugin directory. Most do the same thing in the end so finding the one that best fits your look, but more importantly allows your visitors to easily share your posts/pages across sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg and Delicious with the click of a button. Most tend to put these at the end of their posts/pages.
Ok, so now you have a domain picked out, WordPress installed on your hosting account and all the necessary 3rd party plugins to help take your blog big time. Now get into the WordPress Theme Store Shop and find yourself the perfect premium theme to modify.
Also, please feel free to suggest any plugins you love using and couldn’t live without in the comments section below.