WordPress’s extensibility, courtesy of its large plugin library, is one of the primary causes for its rapid spread as the platform of choice for web development across the internet – so much so that a whopping 15% of the top 1 million websites use WordPress as their CMS, with a total of 74.3M sites currently being powered by the platform.
In fact, an entire ecosystem has developed around plugins for WordPress, with several million-dollar businesses offering a range of products to extend the CMS’s functionality beyond its blogging origins and turn it into anything from forums to e-Commerce stores.
Regardless of the nature or scope of your website, a few plugins remain essential to every WordPress installation:
The WordPress Toolbox
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Despite the recent Google Penguin update that targets overly SEO-optimized websites, the All-in-One SEO plugin, often the first plugin installed by an astute webmaster, remains a musthave for every website. It automates what is largely a convoluted process of on-page SEO optimization, and lets bloggers focus on what they actually enjoy: writing.
Akismet is the anti-spam plugin developed by Automattic (the makers of WordPress) and is included by default with every WordPress installation. Akismet is more than adept at what it does – filtering spam comments and streamlining comment management – and stops more than 35 million spam comments every day.
Some might argue that the utility of sitemaps is fast diminishing in the post Caffeine world where Googlebot can crawl through and index new pages at an astonishingly quick pace. But that can’t change the fact that including a sitemap on your website is a good SEO and navigational practice, even if it only yields small returns. The Google XML Sitemaps plugin is fast, easy to use, and light on system resources, making it perfect for generating rich sitemaps that facilitate crawling and indexing by search spiders.
Losing the WordPress database after a hacker or malware attack can prove disastrous unless you have a ready backup. The WordPress Database Backup plugin is the perfect antidote – it can be used to run scheduled backups of the entire database, which can be downloaded directly or sent to an email address.
The W3 Total Cache plugin is the elder sibling of the more popular WP Super Cache plugin, and offers enterprise grade caching abilities in a free and relatively easy-to-use package. Put this plugin to effective use, and you could radically slice your site’s load time.
The Secure WordPress plugin removes several vulnerabilities from the standard WordPress installation, such as blocking bad queries, adding a virtual index.php file to the root directory, and removing error information on the login page. Essentially, this plugin fortifies the walls of your website against any potential attacks from hackers and malware.
Contact Form 7 is a flexible, full-featured form-building plugin that can be inserted dynamically in any page. A contact form is an essential component of any website, and this plugin helps you insert feature rich forms, complete with the CAPTCHA and attachment fields, with a few mouseclicks.
8. Share and Follow
Blogging is, by virtue of its very nature, a very public activity that depends on active participation from an engaged audience for its success. The Share and Follow plugin makes it easy for readers to share your blog’s content across a wide range of social networking websites, helping you build up an audience through the echo chamber that is social media. While there are quite a few social sharing plugins in the WordPress plugin directory (AddToAny and AddThis being other popular options), Share and Follow comes highly recommended because of its clean interface and quick sharing options.
Share and Follow →
9. Bad Behavior
The Bad Behavior plugin is like a virtual gatekeeper patrolling through your website, keeping malicious malware and link spam from breaking through the anti-spam channels. It is essentially a more proactive version of the Akismet plugin. Bad Behavior not only stops link spam, but also blocks out known sources of spam, thereby reducing the load on your system resources.
The Yet Another Related Posts (YARP) plugin boosts page-views by offering readers a dynamically generated list of contextually related posts from your blog at the end of each page. The related posts are typically highly relevant to the topic of the page and increase page-views and average time on site, while reducing bounce-rates significantly.
The ten plugins I have outlined in this article will help you add additional key functionality to your WordPress site that doesn’t come “out of the box.”
A caveat, though – It is quite easy to be a little trigger happy with WordPress plugins and flood your blog with dozens of scarcely-used or potentially dangerous plugins. Moreover, too many plugins will negatively affect your site’s performance. Instead, you should actively seek to reduce the number of plugins used on your site as much as possible. The ten plugins in this article will get you well on the road to serving all your SEO, security, and marketing needs.