Plugins are a quick and (relatively) easy way to enhance your WordPress site. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination with everything from plugins to protect to plugins for play!
Now for the stern warning: You remember when your mother would put a hand on her hip for and point her other hand firmly at the back of your head, almost as if she was trying to zap you? Sound familiar? Well be prepared – my finger is pointing.
You need to be aware that when installing plugins, things can go wrong! In a perfect world, we could compile a wish list of fantastical plugins, hit the right buttons and activate it all and everything would work. Not true. Sometimes it can be a little tricky to get all the plugins on the same page.
Introducing new elements to your site should be thought out and applied with a tad bit of caution. Be ready to pull back and revamp your plan. Better yet, setup a test site where you can test the new plugin first to avoid a site meltdown due to poor planning.
The WordPress Essentials:
Askimet – This comes core with any installed WordPress account, just remember to set it up! It’s easy to setup, really. Stop comment and trackback spam in its tracks, plus you’ll save yourself a whole lot of time going through comments. Sign up for your WordPress.org account to retrieve your Askimet API. Enter it in the ‘Plugins’, then ‘Askimet Configuration’. Done.
Bad Behavior – Keep at least some of the nastiness away from your site with a little advanced protection. Again you need to sign up for a 3rd party account to ensure all the features are working, but it’s well worth it.
WordPress Database Manager – A very comprehensive scheduled backup manager. But please take a big highlighter and note: this only covers your database contents, NOT your customized theme or plugin files. Use your FTP to backup those files.
ALL in One SEO Pack – Another one of those standard additions all sites should have in one form or another. SEO is a hot topic and the ALL in One SEO Pack plugin makes all that metadata easy to insert on a post by post basis, something that Google appreciates.
Google XML Sitemaps – This plugin will create a Google compliant XML-Sitemap of your WordPress blog. It supports all of the WordPress generated pages as well as custom ones. Every time you edit or create a post, your sitemap is updated and all major search engines that support the sitemap protocol, like ASK.com, Google, MSN Search and YAHOO, are notified about the update. You gotta love automation!
Plugins for Sharing:
Blogplay (a.k.a Sociable) – Automatically add links to your favorite social bookmarking sites on your posts, pages and in your RSS feed. You can choose from 99 different social bookmarking sites!
WP-FacebookConnect – Who doesn’t want to link Facebook up to everything, including their blog? This little plugin makes it easy. Although do keep in mind, you can go directly to the source (meaning Facebook) and get simple HTML code to embed the information yourself.
Tweetmeme – The Tweetmeme plugin adds a wonderful little Twitter counter to your site. Another popular Twitter plugin is Tweet This and now Twitter.com also has it’s own Tweet Button, plus a nice way to customize and share your own feed and lists.
Greet Box – Greet Box allows you to customize a message to the person landing on your site based on where they came from. For example, a Facebook user would see a completely different message than someone who stumbled-upon or googled your site. Another handy feature is when a visitor clicks through from Twitter, they will see a message suggesting they tweet the post and follow you on Twitter. You can also set a default greeting message for new visitors (not matching any referrer URLs) suggesting they subscribe to your RSS feed.
Disqus Comment System – Disqus gives you the ability to allow a commenter to use Facebook, Twitter, OpenID, Yahoo and other networks to authenticate and post comments (a good reason right there to add it to your roster). Heck Mashable.Com uses Disqus exclusively to handle their site comments, and if they use it, well I would recommend it.
Subscribe to Comments – If you opt not to use Disqus, then I would seriously consider adding this robust plugin. It enables commenters to sign up for e-mail notification of subsequent entries. The plugin includes a full-featured subscription manager that your commenters can use to unsubscribe to certain posts, block all notifications, or even change their notification e-mail address!
CommentLuv – Want to give a little love back to your commenters? This plugin will visit the site of the comment author while they type their comment and retrieve a selection of their last blog posts, tweets or digg submissions which they can choose one from to include at the bottom of their comment when they click submit.
Behind the Scenes Plugins:
WP-Super-Cache – Fantastic page-caching system to improve performance of your blog, even under heavy traffic.
Page Link Manager – Easily removes pages from site navigation, which is very handy if using your site as a website.
TinyMCE Advanced – It’s not ideal for advanced editing within your WordPress post or page box, but it is an improvement from the basic options.
Widget Logic – This plugin gives every widget an extra control field called “Widget logic” that lets you control the pages that the widget will appear on.
FAQ-Tastic – FAQ-Tastic Lite is the ultimate tool in enabling your site visitors to interact with you and ask question about you, your site, services or even your products. Whatever questions your visitors ask, FAQ-Tastic is flexible enough to handle multiple categories of questions on your site.
Gravity Forms – Need to add a form to your site? Try this paid plugin. It’s well worth the minimal cost as it saves you time and should give you all the features you need for a form.
TDO Mini Forms – This plugin allows non-registered users and/or subscribers (also configurable) to submit and edit posts and pages. New posts and edits are kept in “draft” until an admin can publish them (also configurable).
WP-Polls – WP-Polls is extremely customizable via templates and css styles and there are tons of options for you to choose to ensure that WP-Polls runs the way you want. It now supports multiple selection of answers.
WishList Member – This is a powerful membership script that can turn any WordPress blog into a full blown membership site, or simply setup secure pages for certain groups. The best part is, it’s easy to use.
A Few Flashy (and Functional) Features:
Events Calendar – A diverse replacement for the original calendar included with WordPress adding many useful functions to keep track of your events. The plugin has an easy-to-use admin section that displays a big readable calendar and lets you add and delete events.
NextGEN Gallery – A fully integrated Image Gallery plugin for WordPress with a Flash slideshow option, including many sophisticated features.
Featured Content Gallery – Featured Content Gallery is a WordPress plugin that creates an automated rotating image gallery of your posts or pages for use anywhere within your theme. Advanced options allow inclusion of custom thumbnail images, custom text, and custom gallery styles and transitions.
Advertising Manager – This plugin will manage and rotate your Google Adsense and other ads on your WordPress blog. It automatically recognizes many ad networks including Google Adsense, AdBrite, Adify, AdGridWork, Adpinion, Adroll, Chitika, Commission Junction, CrispAds, OpenX, ShoppingAds, Yahoo!PN, and WidgetBucks. Unsupported ad networks can be used as well.
Do you have a favorite WordPress plugin that’s not listed above? Please share yours in the comment section below.