10 Essential WordPress Plugins

Post Image by Jake Mates

You’ve got your shiny new WordPress installation up and running… so what next? The first thing I usually do is install some plugins. While the exact list might vary depending on what I want to do with the site, there are some that are always included. So here are my top ten essential WordPress plugins to make your blog even better.

  1. Akismet [FREE] – Included with the default install, Akismet just requires an API key to get going. It’ll guide you through the setup and, once it’s up and running, you’ll enjoy excellent protection against spam comments. How good is it? Well, it’s identifying spam comments on Geek-Speak with an accuracy of 99.588%. Not bad, really.
  2. Contact Form 7 [FREE] – This plugin allows you to create contact forms that will be e-mailed to you whenever someone wants to send a message. The nifty thing is that you can define several different ones, with different fields and information. The main contact form here is built using Contact Form 7, but I’ve also used it to create the question/answer sections of competitions too. It’s a good, adaptable plugin, and you won’t pay a thing for it.
  3. Executable PHP Widget [FREE] – Want to include PHP code in your blog’s sidebar? If you want to use the built-in widget system there’s a bit of a problem, because the widgets only allow plain text or HTML. No problem – you can install the Executable PHP Widget and code away to your heart’s content.
  4. FeedBurner Feedsmith [FREE] – Despite FeedBurner’s subscriber stats being up the creek, there are enough cool features on this free RSS provider to make it worthwhile. If you decide to use it, though, you’ll want to direct your blog’s visitors to use the FeedBurner feed rather than the WordPress default. Feedsmith does that automatically, so you don’t need to worry about changing links or wondering whether upgrading your theme will break things.
  5. GoCodes [FREE] – GoCodes takes any address and shortens it… assuming it was a fairly long URL in the first place! :) They shorten to the form “http://www.geek-speak.co.uk/go/whatever”. This is really handy for creating memorable addresses from awfully long ones; great if you want to tell your friends about something or want to ensure you get commission on an affiliate sale.
  6. Popularity Contest [FREE] – If you were wondering how I had a list of my most popular posts in the sidebar, this is how. What else is there to say?
  7. Popup Domination [PAID] – Lightbox signup forms are a double-headed beast. Some people say they’re annoying, while others say they dramatically increase the number of people signing up for their mailing list. I think the lightbox on Geek-Speak looks really nice and, while I’d love to take credit for it, it’s the product of the Popup Domination plugin. Popup Domination lets you customise the lightbox, has some lovely designs, and there’s a new version coming out today.
    The link to Popup Domination is an affiliate link.
  8. Scribe SEO [PAID] – Search Engine Optimization is a bit of a mystery. I mean, I get what it’s all about but the actual mechanics are beyond me. Fortunately Scribe SEO helps me craft my posts to make the best impression on search engines. It tells you how the search engines will see what you’ve written and includes some great tools for researching keywords and finding approprate external, internal, and social media links. The nice thing is that Scribe is available on a free trial, so you can try it out and, if it’s not right for you, you don’t need to keep it.
    The link to Scribe SEO is an affiliate link.
  9. SexyBookmarks [FREE] –  SexyBookmarks allows users of a plethora of social media sites to share your material with their friends. It’s all packaged up in a nice AJAX interface that stays out of the way until you hover your mouse over it. It looks good, works well, and it’s free. Perfect.
  10. WordPress Editorial Calendar [FREE] – The editorial calendar makes it easy to schedule posts for future dates by placing them on a calendar interface. It’s a bit of a pain having to manually edit the date on new posts… I always find it hard to remember what the date will be on Tuesday of next week, so being able to just plonk the post in the right place is a bonus.

OK, so those are the ten plugins I always like to include on my WordPress sites. They enhance the basic functionality of WordPress, creating a better working environment for me and a better environment for my readers. What do you think? Is there a plugin you would add to the list? Perhaps one you can’t do without? As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. I’m a bit of a plugin freak and have got into terrible trouble in the past when two plugins have clashed and crashed my site. Hence I am a bit careful about what I use these days. Having said that the editorial calendar is one of my favourites, allowing me to create posts and then reschedule them simply by dragging and dropping.

    • I’ve been fortunate not to have any conflicting plugins so far. Here’s hoping I never run into that

      Yeh, I think if I had to pick a favourite it would be the Editorial Calendar. I really used to get in a muddle trying to remember what date I needed to schedule posts for (terrible memory). Either that or Akismet, since it saves me from deleting a bucketload of spam every day.

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