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18 Essential WordPress Plugins

WordPress

WordPress is an open source blog publishing platform that is also widely used as a content management system (CMS). As of September 2009, WordPress is used by 62.8 million websites in the US and 202 million websites worldwide. By itself, WordPress is a very powerful and flexible system that is easy to get up and running, as well as easy to maintain. But when combined with the available WordPress plugins, it becomes an unstoppable powerhouse of a platform.

In this article, I’ll discuss 18 plugins that I consider essential for use on any personal blog. These plugins are all in use on this site, so you know that I really believe in the power of these plugins. Ready? Here we go:

Category: Spam/Security

  • 1. Akismet – “Akismet checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not.” This plugin is indispensable because it does the dirty work of weeding out spam for you.
  • 2. reCAPTCHA – “Integrates a reCAPTCHA with WordPress.” reCAPTCHA is another mechanism to help alleviate the spam problem. It makes sure that a human is responsible for the comment by showing a graphic with 2 words that the commenter must type in prior to submitting.
  • 3. AntiVirus – “AntiVirus for WordPress is a smart and effective solution to protect your blog against exploits and spam injections.” This is another valuable plugin that helps keep your WordPress installation safe and secure.
  • 4. AskApache Password Protect – “Advanced Security: Password Protection, Anti-Spam, Anti-Exploits, etc.” This plugin helps you to lock down the Apache server that WordPress is installed upon.
  • 5. WP-SpamFree – “An extremely powerful anti-spam plugin that virtually eliminates comment spam. Finally, you can enjoy a spam-free WordPress blog! Includes spam-free contact form feature as well.” One last plugin to help with the spam problem – but more importantly, this is what I use to power my Contact page. It’s very easy to set up, and it allows you to hide your email address from evil email harvesting scripts.

Category: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • 6. Google XML Sitemaps – “This plugin will generate a sitemaps.org compatible sitemap of your WordPress blog which is supported by Ask.com, Google, MSN Search and YAHOO.”
  • 7. Optimal Title – “Mirrors the function of wp_title() exactly, but moves the position of the ‘separator’ to after the title rather than before.”
  • 8. SEO Friendly Images – “Automatically adds alt and title attributes to all your images. Improves traffic from search results and makes them W3C/xHTML valid as well.”
  • 9. SEO Slugs – “Removes common words like ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘in’ from post slugs to improve SEO.”

(The above plugins’ default descriptions were self-explanatory, so I felt no need to add anything…)

Category: Page Speed

  • 10. W3 Total Cache – “Dramatically improve the user experience of your blog. Add transparent page caching, database caching, minify and content delivery network (CDN) functionality and more to WordPress.” I previously used WP-SuperCache, but W3 Total Cache seems to work much better, and it is equally easy to setup and maintain.
  • 11. GZIP Output. – “Allow GZIPped output for your WordPress blog. Restores functionality removed in WordPress 2.5.” Gzipping each page makes the page smaller, causing it to use less bandwidth, as well as improving the load time.
  • 12. WP JS – “Automatically GZIP your JS files and applies jsmin algorithm. Also add JavaScript files to specific posts/pages.” Another plugin that speeds up laod times.
  • 13. WP Minify – “This plugin uses the Minify engine to combine and compress JS and CSS files to improve page load time.” Compresses javascript files and cascading style sheets for faster load times.

Category: Administration

  • 14. Theme Tester – “Allow an admin to test new themes without showing your blog visitors.” Very handy for testing before going live with a new theme.
  • 15. WordPress Exploit Scanner – “Scans your WordPress site for possible exploits.” An easy to use interface that does the heavy lifting in keeping your WordPress install secure.
  • 16. Broken Link Checker – “Checks your posts for broken links and missing images and notifies you on the dashboard if any are found.” This ultimately helps you to keep your site’s SEO in top shape. It makes it very easy to identify and fix broken links.
  • 17. WordPress Database Backup – “On-demand backup of your WordPress database. Navigate to Tools -> Backup to get started.” Download a full backup of your WordPress database on demand, or schedule it to email a weekly backup.
  • 18. Auto-Close Comments – “Autoclose comments after 21 days.” This plugin is very handy since most of the time people do not comment on older posts. It is another way to thwart spammers.

I hope you enjoyed this list of WordPress plugins. There are certainly many others that are valuable and extremely useful. My goal was to choose my top picks and hopefully let you know about few plugins that you have not already heard of. These plugins work really well for me – I hope you give some of them a try, and that they work well for your site.

Are there any that I have forgotten that should be on this list? Let me know in the comments below.

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