BBU List of Must-Have WordPress Plugins (and Why)
WordPress plugin is an awesome way to extend the functionalities of a blog. Out of the box, WordPress is already a powerful publishing platform. However, with plugins you can enhance and customize it the way you want.
The idea of using plugin is a good one. If WordPress is about to include every single thing in its core, it would be a bloated piece of software, not to mention that it takes a lot of human resources and time to test it.
With the right design, plugin developers are able to write plugins to implement things that they expect WordPress to have.
Over the years of using WordPress, I’ve used hundreds of plugins in my various blogs and sites. Some of them were buggy while others were good. A few of them were excellent. Those that didn’t work as promised were uninstalled in a snap while at the same time I kept seeking for new plugins that were able to accomplish what I wanted.
Don’t get me wrong, until now I’m still testing out cool plugins but my adventure is far less bumpy than it used to be. Not that what I picked is best of the breed, but at least it does what it claims very well.
There are still many things WordPress can improve upon and if time permits I will even develop a few plugins in near future, but…
What this means is that you benefit from it.
If you have to setup a blog from scratch, at the very least you don’t have to be as adventurous as I was.
So without further ado, here is the list of plugins I use actively on my niche web sites.
(The list is sorted alphabetically, it has nothing to do with the importance of the plugins.)
The ©Feed plugin extends the feed of your blog. You may include a digital fingerprint so you could detect content theft, display a report of stolen content on the dashboard, add comments in the feed, and show related posts.
Even if you don’t plan to use the other features, you should at least implement related posts in your feed to attract more visitors back to your blog.
Add Link Attribute
Blog, specifically a WordPress blog, is search engine friendly because of the way it links your posts and pages together. Search engines are able to crawl your pages easily and that increases your visibility in search engines.
The thing is, it is still not optimized to maximize PageRank flow on your web site.
Add Link Attribute plugin solves this problem. It lets you insert your own HTML tag attribute into any template function-generated links without having to rewrite those functions directly.
In other words, you could avoid having to edit the core source code just to modify certain tag and add an attribute.
“How is this useful?” I heard you ask.
Well, if you implement silos on your blog / site, you probably know it. For instance if you want to display and link to category pages but prevent PageRank to flow to those pages, you may add rel=nofollow attribute to the_category function so WordPress displays and links the categories accordingly but add nofollow too.
Add Sig plugin extends WordPress to allows you to add custom signature at the bottom of your posts.
If you’ve ever noticed the call to action at the end of every of my blog post, you didn’t think I add it to every post of mine manually, did you?
I like this idea because it allows me to change the call to action — or any signature content you want — without having to edit all the posts or modify the database.
The good thing is, you can even use HTML and CSS in your signatures. You may also use various variables to customize your signature to include login name, email address, and so on.
If you display excerpts on your category or search pages, you should know how it looks like by default. In certain WordPress themes, it seems like WP churns out junk.
The Advanced Excerpt comes to the rescue. This plugin adds several improvements to WordPress, especially on how it creates excerpts by default.
With it, you can keep HTML markup in the excerpt, trim the excerpt to a given length using character or word count, and customize the ellipsis character used for trimming. The result is neat-looking excerpt that enhances readability.
Some people pronounce this as Askimet, but Akismet is a plugin that comes out of the box with every WordPress installation. It is not activated by default but if you use comments feature it should be.
Activation requires an API key, which you can obtain through WordPress.com. Although it sometimes has glitches and false negatives, I couldn’t be happier with such a free service.
Note: Commercial API keys are available at $5/month. It gives better priority and performance, among others. Consider that if your blog handles a lot of comment spam.
Another WordPress Meta Plugin
The Another WordPress Meta Plugin is considered obsolete, but I still prefer this to All in One SEO Pack because how I implement WordPress on BBU.
What I want from this plugin is the ability to add custom meta description to every post, which it does very well.
Broken Link Checker
This is one of those plugins that is a major time saver. Broken Link Checker notifies you — through a neat report in the Dashboard — when you have made a typo on your links, or when a page is deleted or moved.
Cleaning up your blog post from dead links not only enhances user experience but also overall site quality. While it is not proven that broken links may impact your search engine rankings negatively, if you think it from user experience standpoint, it could mean something.
Compact Monthly Archive
I have a mixed feeling about monthly and yearly archives. Unless your blog is a news site, I personally don’t think there is any value at all in time-based archives.
Readers who find an evergreen piece of content don’t care the time the post is done as long as it is there. I bet a few people remember when it was written, either. This is quite different for timely information though.
For people who want to keep it, or put it up just for the sake of keeping the blog tradition… here is a problem.
For blog who has been around for quite some time and the blogger posts to the blog actively, you may notice the list of archive pages gets way too long. Drop down menu to the rescue, but it is still less elegant that expected.
Compact Monthly Archive lets you customize your monthly archive so it is compact and consumes much less space.
Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 manages multiple contact forms. You may customize the form and the mail contents flexibly with simple markup.
I’ve tested several contact form before. For simplicity and functionality, nothing beats Contact Form 7 and this is what I use for BBU.
Simply put, the Exec-PHP executes PHP code in posts, pages and text widgets.
If you’d like to extend WordPress through custom programming, this plugin is an easy way for you to do exactly that. For instance, if you want the link in the sidebar widget to appear differently for current page, simple PHP command lets you do that.
Of course, you have to enable PHP with this plugin before you are able to execute code. In WordPress, this is disabled by default for security reason.
Although I prefer this implementation on the web server side as redirects instead of at the plugin level, FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin provides a way to let you keep your feed URL while still using FeedBurner to get additional stats.
Why do you want to keep your feed URL? Because that means you don’t have to modify your theme to display the new FeedBurner feed and if you decide you want to switch to another feed service, you are able to do that easily.
Google XML Sitemaps
This plugin generates a XML-Sitemap compliant sitemap of your WordPress blog. The format generated is supported by Ask.com, Google, Yahoo and MSN Search.
The XML Sitemap format was introduced by Gogle in 2005 and was adopted by Yahoo, MSN Search and Ask in 2006. Although it is often referred to as Google Sitemaps, actually it is useful for other search engines as well.
If you use Google’s Webmaster console, this helps you generate XML-Sitemaps automatically.
No Self Pings
I find this plugin very helpful to keep my blog sane. No Self Pings prevents your WordPress blog from sending pings if you link to your other blog posts in the same blog.
Without this, it clutters your blog posts tremendously, especially if you aggressively link from one page to another. Personally, I think there is little value in knowing which posts from the same blog actually link to a post.
Permalink Redirect plugin replies a 301 permanent redirect, if requested URI is different from the entry’s (or archive’s) permalink.
This is used to ensure there is only one URL associated with each blog entry.
I used to 301 redirect a post if it contains a trailing forward slash in the server redirect configuration, but it appears to me later that WordPress also shows a page for other incomplete URL as long as it knows which post specifically the browser wants.
In order to prevent duplicate content, this plugin is the answer. By permanently redirect it, you also take advantage of links other bloggers have mistakenly used to point to your blog post.
Out of the various RelatedPosts plugin out there, this is my favorite because it lets you display related posts as a sidebar widget.
Due to how my other blogs work, this is what I want, at least at the time I did research this was the only plugin that allows me to do that.
Using WordPress as content management often means pages are also flagship content. You want them to be included in search too when they are related to a search query.
Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t provide this function, but Search Everything solves this problem. It increases the ability of the default WordPress Search, including options to search for pages, tags, categories, comments, excerpts, and more.
Simple Yearly Archive
If you’ve ever wanted to create a sitemap (not XML Sitemaps) out of your blog, this is the plugin that will help you do it.
With a bit of modification, I was able to create a custom page that display posts only from a specific year without creating a new template with the right PHP command. Combined with Exec-PHP, you don’t need to do that though because there are functions to support yearly archives already.
Simple Yearly Archive, while simple, is my preferred way to display blog archives.
As you probably know, Wikipedia decides to add rel=”nofollow” attributes to every external web site. It stops transferring authorities to other web sites but at the same time keep all those good links for itself.
Link equity has to flow or otherwise search engines will not be able to calculate relevance objectively. And Wikipedia causes a dead end of the link flow. For that reason, I now implement Wikipedia nofollow plugin across all my blogs and sites.
If you’ve ever wanted to have a summary of Google Analytics report right in your Dashboard without having to log into your GA account, this is a neat plugin you should consider seriously.
WordPress Reports also includes the number of subscribers from FeedBurner so you are able to take a glance over the stats of your blog in one place.
WordPress Database Backup
I no longer use this plugin, but it can still be very useful for many bloggers out there. Basically WordPress Database Backup plugin allows you to backup your core WordPress database tables easily.
This is a best practice for every blogger who can’t afford to lose their work. Backup often. With this plugin, you don’t have a reason not to do that.
WP-Syntax uses GeSHI to support syntax highlighting in a wide range of popular languages. I use it in BBU not only to display nicely formatted code blocks in colors, but it also causes the blocks to display in the content column nicely.
Other useful features including the capability to start the first line at any number so you may create a representation of the code you quote precisely.
WP Super Cache
This plugin is able to save you when you have sudden surge of traffic, such as when your post is featured in Digg or Slashdot. WP Super Cache is an enhancement over the WP Cache plugin that efficiently returns static pages without executing any PHP code at all.
This plugin is smart enough to serve static page only to users who are not logged in, have not left a comment on the blog or who have not viewed a password protected post.
Return to WordPress How-to — Tips and Tricks to Work with WordPress.
Return to Blog Tips for a Better Blog — Blog Building University.