There are so many WordPress plugins to choose from! How do you even begin to make choices? To help get you started, I’ve compiled a list of my “go to” plugins, the ones that I use for each WordPress install I do. Most are free, some are premium (you must purchase).
Core Set of Plugins
- TweetMeme/Like/Share This — places a button at the top or bottom of a post, which helps readers share your content on a number of sites, such as Digg, Delicious, FaceBook, LinkedIn, MySpace, RSS, Twitter, email, etc. The tool I use is AddToAny. (Free)
- Akismet — a powerful SPAM filter built into WordPress. In order to activate it on a WordPress.org site, you need to create a WordPress.com account and get an API key. It’s a very simple process and well worth the effort. (Cost depends on the plan; ranges from $1 to $50 per month.)
- Backup Buddy — great for backing up, restoring, and migrating WordPress sites. (Premium)
Solid alternatives: Duplicator, WP DB Migrate (for database only), Updraft Plus, and All in One WP Migration.
- Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps — a fully-featured indexer of WordPress sites, which automatically notifies search engines about any updates (such as new blog posts) and thus helps with SEO. (Free)
- Google Analyticator — integrated with Google Analytics, which provides comprehensive information about your visitors. This tool sits on the WP dashboard, where you can access your stats directly without having to open a new browser page. (Free)
- Google Captcha (reCAPTCHA) by BestWebSoft — a small form that deters SPAM by requiring users to confirm they are human. Can be added to other forms (registration, login, reset password, comments, contact, and custom). (Free)
- Ninja Forms — a simple, flexible, intuitive drag and drop form builder. It has an impressive number of extensions, too, for integrating with payment systems, communication tools, data sheets, and other good stuff. (Free)
- Simple Social Icons — an easy, customizable tool to style and display icons, and link them to various social media profiles. (Free)
- Wordfence Security — provides great overall security by monitoring traffic and blocking suspicious attempts to login or install malicious files. It can be configured to limit the number of login attempts. (Free)
- WP Editor — replaces the default WordPress editor with a code editor that is more user-friendly. Key features include syntax highlighting, line-numbers, line wrap, and text search. The interface resembles what you find in the popular code editors, like Atom, Sublime, and Dreamweaver. (Free)
- WP Sweep — an effective, uncomplicated database cleaner and optimizer that keeps your WordPress site running smoothly. Over time, the database gets cluttered with stuff you no longer need. This plugin deletes what you don’t need: revisions, auto drafts, deleted/unapproved/spammed comments, unused terms, and more. Be sure you back up the site BEFORE using this plugin! (Free)
- WPS Hide Login — lets you change the URL address of the login page. This helps prevent hackers from gaining access to the backend of the site, because the usual URLs — wp-admin.php and wp-login.php — become inaccessible. Used in conjunction with Wordfence. (Free)
More Plugin Suggestions
Each website is unique, of course, so there will be other plugins to consider, depending on the site’s goals and needs.
- All-in-one SEO — one of the most popular WP plugins for Search Engine Optimization. (Free)
- All-in-One Event Calendar — a flexible and powerful tool for showcasing your events. Key features: view options, import feeds, categories, tags, labels, customizable styling, recurring events, and upcoming events widget.
- Slider — Meta Slider or Smart Slider 3. Both plugins build attractive slideshows via a simple, clean interface that’s easy to use. Smart Slider is more robust, with several features that enable you to create complex, layered slideshows. (Free)
- Email Subscription — Genesis eNews Extended or Mailchimp for WordPress. Both plugins add a subscription form to your site. I use the Genesis eNews Extended plugin for mail services other than Mailchimp. (Free)
- Advanced Custom Fields — gives you additional control over your WordPress site with custom fields that can be inserted anywhere. It’s particularly useful for recurring fields on pages, such as event dates, prices, subheads, etc. So flexible and powerful!
- Genesis Simple Edits — allows you to edit the byline, post-meta, and footer in any Genesis theme. Sure, you could edit the functions.php file and accomplish the same thing, but what if you don’t feel comfortable doing that? It makes a somewhat complicated task much easier.
- Genesis Simple Sidebars — allows the creation of multiple widget areas that can be assigned to any sidebar location in a Genesis theme. If you want a sidebar to appear only on the ABOUT page, and another sidebar to appear only on the CONTACT page, this plugin would do the trick. Awesome! (Free)
- TinyMCE Advanced — when a site uses a lot of tables, I install this plug-in, which makes it much easier to create tables, add/delete cells/rows/columns, and make edits. There are other nice features it provides: more options for lists, search and replace, and the ability to set font family and sizes. (Free)
Finding and Installing Plugins
It’s pretty straightforward to find and install plugins on WordPress. When you first login to WordPress, you’ll be in the Dashboard area. The left sidebar shows all of the main areas of the administrative back-end. Click on “Plugins” to see the page that lists all of the installed plugins. At the top of the page, next to the page title “Plugins”, click on “Add New” button to get to “Add Plugins” page. Alternately, you can simply hover over the “Plugins” label in the sidebar to reveal the pop-out menu where you can click on “Add New. On the “Add Plugins” page is a table list of plugins. I usually try the keyword search first. The search results will show the name, description, and ratings. I pay close attention to those ratings, and always look for compatibility with the current WordPress version. If the search doesn’t provide me with what I’m looking for, I try the filtered tabs “Featured”, “Popular”, “Recommended” and “Favorites”.
Before I do any installation, I back-up the site, because plugins can cause things to go awry and you want to be safe rather than sorry! I usually opt for the automatic installation. But if I encounter any snafus, I’ll do a manual install via the ftp server.