Have you gone searching for plugins recently? There are a bazillion and one of them (and I don’t believe that’s an exaggerated number!). Knowing which you need on your blog can be very confusing. Worse is that you start downloading and installing dozens of plugins, and you don’t really know what they’re for and/or how to use them. I can help you make wise plugin choices for your blog.
WordPress Plugins – Choose Wisely
Plugins add features and functions to your WordPress blog above its core functions as is with an ‘out-of-the-box installation. Plugins are one of the things that make WordPress so powerful because there’s a plugin for nearly everything (and once someone creates a plugin, so my WordPress will give me my morning coffee – I’ll proclaim WordPress 100% perfect ;); however, just because there are so many plugin choices, does not mean you should download and install them all. So how do you choose?
You Start by Identifying a Need
If you find you need a specific feature or function on your blog, that’s when you search for a plugin to fill that need. Not before. So the plugins you may use might be completely different from those I might use; because our needs are different.
Know and Understand Your Plugins
If you’ve identified a need, then searching for plugins to fill that need is the first part of knowing and understanding why you are installing a particular plugin. You will find many ‘Top Recommended Plugins’ lists on the web, and there’s nothing wrong with those lists, but you need to know and understand the purpose and function behind a plugin before you download and install it. If you don’t, you will not be using that plugin to its full potential; or worse, it could be slowing down your blog or not being compatible with another plugin you’re using.
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Too Many Plugins?
There is no set number of recommended plugins; other than to only use those that you need. However, keep in mind that many plugins use a lot of resources, and some may really slow down your blog’s loading time. If you’re using a resource hog plugin, try to find a ‘lighter’ alternative that provides similar functions/features.
My Top 15 Recommended Plugins – and Why They are Useful
Ok, now that I’ve given you the lowdown on plugin selection and things you need to be mindful of; I do have a list of 15 plugins that I personally use, and I’ll share with you their function, so you can decide if they would also be useful on your blog. Do not install any of these plugins if you don’t want or need the function/feature any of these plugins provide. Simple as that. 🙂
Akismet: this is one part of my two-part spam-fighting system on my blog to combat comment spam. This plugin is already installed on every WordPress blog; you need to activate it with an API key from WordPress.com. All in One SEO Pack: an awesome plugin that allows you to set unique blog posts and page titles (i.e., keyword phrase specific titles that should be unique to every post and/or page you write) and set meta descriptions and add meta keywords as well. Articles: this plugin allows me to select ‘featured’ posts that will display on a separate page on my blog for quick and easy reference. Not the same as a sitemap, as only those posts you select will be visible, so a good way to keep your most popular posts all in one easy-to-find location.
Audio Player: a nice plugin that makes adding an mp3 audio to a post or page rapid and easy. Great for adding interviews or audio sound bites to your page. I prefer this plugin over the built-in audio player in WordPress. Comment Redirect: this plugin will redirect all first-time commenters on your blog to a page or post of your choosing. Make them feel special and appreciated! I have a page created where I thank them, as first-time commenters, for visiting my blog – you could even offer them a free downloadable report on this page, invite them to subscribe to your mailing list (include an opt-in form on this page!) or whatever you want.
Dagon Design Contact Form: by far the best and easiest to use and setup contact form I’ve found. It includes a captcha to control contact from spam by bots.
Dagon Design Sitemap: this is a human-friendly sitemap made to make it easier for your blog visitors to find all of your posts and pages in one spot. Has a place to enter the location of your XML sitemap (see below) Google XML Sitemap: this is a sitemap for search engines. Yes, it would be best to have a human-friendly sitemap and this XML sitemap, which works well with the Dagon Design Sitemap listed above. Sexy Bookmarks: this is a social bookmarking plugin that will add social bookmarking icons below every post and/or page on your site so your blog visitors can easily Stumble, Digg, Tweet, etc…. your site content. This is great for traffic generation! Similar Posts: adds a list of similar or related posts at the end of your blog posts. Subscribe to Comments: This allows site visitors to notice any new comments on a specific blog post. Thank Me Later: I will send a fully customizable follow-up ‘thank you’ email to anyone who has previously commented on your blog but has not been back. Great for reminding folks about your blog and getting return visitors.
Twitter Tools: This allows you to integrate your blog and Twitter account. This is the tool I use to automatically send a tweet out when I publish a new post on my blog. You can also add your latest Twitter activity in your blog sidebar.
WP Database Backup: this is a convenient plugin that everyone really needs to use. Not only will this plugin backup your database, but you can also schedule regular database backups with this plugin and have those backups emailed to you. I highly recommend that you install this plugin and schedule at least daily backups of your blog. Do not assume your web host is doing regular daily backups of your site. WP Super Cache: if you have a blog that gets a LOT of traffic, or you could potentially get a surge of traffic (like through Digg, Stumbleupon, or a trending topic), you need this plugin. It will save you from crashing your bandwidth during high traffic surges.