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. If you don’t want or need the function/feature any of these plugins provides – do not install them. Simple as that.
- Akismet: this is one part of my two part spam-fighting system on my blog to combat comment spam. This plugin actually comes already installed on every WordPress blog, you just need to activate it with an API key you get from WordPress.com.
- All in One SEO Pack: awesome plugin that allows you to set unique blog post 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 then 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 it very quick and easy to add an mp3 audio to a post or page. 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. 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. Make them feel special and appreciated!
- 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 form 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, you need both a human-friendly sitemap and this XML sitemap, so 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: allows site visitors to receive notice of any new comments on a specific blog post.
- Thank Me Later: 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: 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 an extremely handy plugin that everyone really needs to use. Not only will this plugin backup your database, you can 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.
There you have it, my top 15 recommended plugins and why and how to use them. If you do not yet have your blog online, and you need step-by-step help