One of the things that I love the most about WordPress is how extensible it is. If you host WordPress on your own server (verses hosting it on their cloud server via WordPress.com), you have the ability to add functionality by downloading and installing plug-ins. (More on WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org here.) Following are some plug-ins that I consistently recommend to my clients to enhance their sites.
If you think email spam is bad, consider comment or trackback spam. You will get spammy comments on pages and posts you didn’t even know you had—and hundreds of them. Akismet handles this problem better than any other solution I’ve tried. Every time a new comment lands on your site, Akismet runs it through a screening to determine if it is spam or legitimate, and automatically filtering out these messages.
All in One SEO
There are lots of different plug-ins available to juice up your SEO rankings. But my personal favorite is All in One SEO from Semper Fi Web Design. It comes with a lot of options for helping you optimize pages, posts, and even social media. It’s easy to use and makes updating information a snap. I recommend going with the Pro version since it offers so many advanced features to help drive up your SEO results.
Pretty much any server install of WordPress is going to ask you if you want to install the Jetpack plug-in. And for good reason! Since WordPress.com users can’t install plug-ins, the service created a number of cloud-based features to help them do everything from manage comments to embedding shortlinks or adding contact forms. With Jetpack, server-based WordPress installs can now take advantage of the same features. My favorite Jetpack add-on is the stats tracker—it offers lots of detailed information about how users access your site that beautifully compliments Google Analytics. Jetpack provides of interesting options, with more being added all the time.
Twitter Widget Pro
I have seen a Twitter plug-in or two in my day. It’s not unusual to discover a few weeks or months after you install it that it isn’t working in some capacity. The most reliable plug-in I’ve found is Twitter Widget Pro. Since it connects through Twitter’s API instead of just through their feed, it is the most reliable plug-in I’ve found. It gives you a lot of options for configuration and it’s (relatively) easy to format the look and feel using CSS.
WordPress Backup to Dropbox
If you haven’t already scheduled regular backups for your site, drop what you’re doing and make that happen. If your site gets hacked or if your data or server is somehow compromised, you need a backup to restore it to its original state. This plug-in lets you schedule automatic site backups and send the data to Dropbox on a regular basis. This makes it an easy way to keep backups of your site without clogging up your email with backup files, the way most automatic site backups are handled.
Sucuri Site Scanner
Unfortunately, vulnerability to hacking is a very real possibility with WordPress, as with any Web-based platform. The Sucuri site scanner runs regular site checks that scan for malware, blacklisting, spam, hidden code, or other site problems. It’s free for the plug-in, but if you want Sucuri to repair your site if it finds something, the cost is $89/year. (Which, in my opinion, is money well-spent.)
Slick Social Share Buttons
There is no shortage of plug-ins that will allow you to share your site with other visitors. But I really like both the functionality and design of this particular plug-in. It is easy to configure and provides lots of options for how you want users to share your content.
One last word on plug-ins—although most are free, many request a donation for use. I recommend making nominal donations when you really like, enjoy, and widely use a plug-in. This helps support developers, which often keeps them on top of software updates, which are necessary as WordPress evolves.
So what are your favorite plug-ins? Share in the comments.