WordPress Plugins – Which Ones Must You Have?
I’ve written a number of posts about WordPress, which I believe to be the easiest and most useful way of publishing a Website today. Like everyone else, I used to create Websites in HTML, but WordPress is easier to use, is more configurable and much more flexible, thanks to WordPress plugins, which are tools that can add to the functionality of a Website. While a site will work just fine without any WordPress plugins at all, adding a few can provide a dramatically different user experience for both the creators of the site and the site visitors.
I saw an interesting question about WordPress plugins on a marketing forum recently that led to some interesting replies. The question was “Which WordPress plugins do you regard as essential?” You might think that this was a pretty simple and straightforward question, and yet it led to dozens of replies, and they were all different. It seems that no two people can agree on what, exactly, constitutes “essential WordPress plugins”, nor can any one agree on which ones, or even how many, one needs to run one’s Website effectively.
Opinions Vary on WordPress Plugins
Obviously, everyone is going to have a different opinion of the meaning of the word “essential” when it comes to WordPress plugins. Since everyone builds their sites to do different things, what is essential for one person may not be important at all to someone else. I own a number of sites and one of them does direct retail. For that site, having a shopping cart plugin was essential; I can’t do business without one. On the other hand, this site has no need for such a plugin and there would be no point in installing one.
There are, however, a few WordPress plugins that offer functionality that might be useful to nearly everyone who creates a blog. In a previous post, I mentioned four of them:
An SEO plugin. I use All in One SEO, but there are others, such as WordPress SEO by Yoast, that all do essentially the same thing – they adjust some basic features of the WordPress platform so that it will be easier for people to find your Website in the search engines. Since there are few people who don’t want search engine traffic, an SEO plugin is probably helpful to nearly everyone.
Google XML sitemaps – This plugin generates a sitemap, which is essentially a page with a list of all the pages and posts on your blog. It makes it easier for the search engines to find out about your site’s contents. It’s also helpful if you have pages on your site that you do not want the search engines to know about, as you can exclude them.
Social Media plugin – there are a number of these, such as Sociable or Social Media Feather and these plugins add functionality to your posts that make it easy for your site visitors to share your posts with friends on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites.
Pretty Link Lite – this won’t be necessary for everyone, but if you’re involved in affiliate marketing, it can make your ugly affiliate links look a bit more elegant. Most affiliate links are ugly alphanumeric strings, but this plugin can allow you to create a link that looks like this instead: http://yoursite.com/product.
While those WordPress plugins are going to be useful for most marketers, there are a few others that might come in handy. As I write this, I’m currently using about 20 plugins on this site. Some provide user functionality, while others simply help me.
Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin – this helps to minimize automated comment spam from people who are trying to post links to their sites from thousands of blogs.
Limit Login Attempts – This locks out hackers after three failed attempts to log in to the site
Random post plugin – there are a number of these WordPress plugins, but they all do the same thing – they post a list of recent blog posts in the sidebar.
WordPress Popular Posts – This one can be used to display the most popular posts on the site on the sidebar. I don’t use it for that, but I do have a link on my dashboard that allows me to see which of my posts have been read the most in the past 24 hours, 7 days, or 30 days. It’s just a handy tool that helps me see what my visitors are reading.
TinyMCE Advanced – This adds a few more bells and whistles to the basic WordPress text editor and makes it easier for me to type up my blog posts.
WP Post Date Remover – This removes dates from my posts. Some visitors come from the search engines and a lot of people check the dates of a post before they click on it in Google or Bing. Many visitors don’t want to see what they regard as “old” content, so removing the date can help here. There are different opinions on whether to include dates on your posts or not; I’m in the “no dates” camp.
WP Ban – This plugin allows me to block visitors to the site based on their IP address. I usually use it to block link spammers, but I have occasionally used it to keep impolite people out of my comments section.
Zen Cache – This plugin creates a “snapshot” of popular pages and preserves them as HTML. By doing this, frequently-accessed pages will load much more quickly for my visitors.
Other people have WordPress plugins they think are essential, but are ones that I’m not currently using, such as these:
WP to Twitter – This one, which I may start using soon, allows you to send your blog posts straight to Twitter. That could be useful for a lot of people.
Facebook plugin – this one is really buggy, but a lot of people use it to tie their blogs to their Facebook page.
Cloudflare plugin – if you’re using Cloudflare to speed up your site, this one’s helpful.
Optin Monster – this one creates easy to use optin pages for creating a mailing list
WordPress Plugins Summary
One thing I’ve noticed is that there seem to be two categories of WordPress plugins that are the most popular with bloggers – those that enhance site security and those that work to keep spammers out. Hackers are a huge problem; I had all of my sites down for about an hour the other day because someone was attempting brute force attacks on just one of my sites. Protecting your site from hackers is vital. Spammers, on the other hand, are simply a nuisance, but there seems to be no agreed-upon way of keeping them out. While the list of “essential” WordPress plugins is fairly short the beauty of the platform is that you can find a plugin to do just about anything you need. That makes WordPress great for just about anything you want to do with it.