Most people are aware of what plugins are and know how to efficiently use them to their advantage. However, for those who may need a little bit of explaining, plugins are tools that extend the functionality that WordPress offers. WordPress has been designed to be lean and flexible and comes with a basic set of functionality that minimizes code bloat. They realize that all users have different needs and therefore it is best to let users choose what functionality they want added to their site in addition to the basic WordPress features. And plugins help bridge this demand for extra functionality. Thousands of plugins have been developed by many plugin developers who have contributed to this community by either providing free or paid plugins. Most plugins you will come across are free to use, however, if you really like the plugin it may be a good idea to provide some sort of financial aid to the contributor in the form of donations. Plugins are one of the main reasons why WordPress has gained so much popularity over the past years. Because of plugins, WordPress is no longer a simple publishing tool, but is being used in many innovative ways from simple website to e-commerce and more.
I am listing a few of the most popular WordPress plugins today and a little bit about the functionality they offer.
This plugin is very popular and helps check your blog or post comments against Akismet web service to determine whether it is spam or not. Comments are an important part of a blog as it lets users communicate with the blog owner and with each other. It is also a tool that let users express their opinion on a topic or article and helps build that sense of community amongst regular users. More often than not this tool is abused to post spam on sites and if left unchecked could generate enormous amount of spam that could take many hours each day to clean up by the blog owner. This is a huge waste of valuable time and resources. Akismet can really help cut down on the number of spam comments saving a lot of time and energy that otherwise would need to be spent on moderation.
2. All in One SEO Pack
SEO is important as it can improve the chances of your website being found online, which in turn can drastically increase the number of visitors to your site and in turn increase your revenue from sources like sales or advertisement. However, SEO can be a daunting task to learn and more difficult to keep up with as SEO is changing with every passing day. SEO is totally different today than what it was a year ago. This plugin makes the task simple for you. It can take care of your analytics; checking the title, description and keywords for a post; determine the right length of your title and description etc. There are many other things that it can take care of which otherwise you would be leaving to chances. This is also a must have plugin for any WordPress user.
3. Jetpack by WordPress.com
This plugin supercharges your self-hosted WordPress site by adding a lot of free features to your website. Some of the features it includes are Subscription to allow users to subscribe to your posts and comments via email; simple, concise stats for your site; Social Media sharing tools; Spelling and Grammar; Real-time backup features of your website; Contact Form and a lot more. This one plugin alone can eliminate the need to have different plugins for all the features above.
4. Google XML Sitemaps
XML sitemaps help search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to better understand the structure of your site and ensures that all pages are read and indexed by the search engines. Manually updating a sitemap could be a daunting task especially if the website has many posts and pages. The whole process is automated with the help of this plugin; it also supports custom URLs and all kinds of WordPress generated pages. The plugin also helps in notifying search engines when new content is created on the site.
5. Contact Form 7
This plugin makes it super easy to add a contact form to your WordPress website. As with all plugins, no technical knowledge is required on the website administrator’s part. Simply install the plugin and you can easily configure it on your website. This plugins is capable of managing multiple contact forms on your website. It also supports Ajax, CAPTCHA, and Akismet spam filtering.
6. WP Super Cache
Caching can dramatically increase the speed of your website as this plugin will serve static html pages to up to 99% of your website visitors. This plugin will be a lifesaver if one day search engine gods or social media like Digg and Stumbleupon decide to send you a load of traffic. This is also very helpful if you have an average server that cannot take too much load, the WP Super Cache can help your site run faster.
7. Broken Link Checker
As the name suggests, it will check for broken links on the site including page, posts, and comments; in fact the entire site. This is practically indispensable as it is almost impossible to scout the site everyday for broken links or missing images. Someone may have left a comment long time back with a link to his site; however, the site may no longer exist. It is always beneficial to know of broken links, images etc. as it will reduce the maintenance task dramatically; a very handy plugin to have.
8. NextGEN Gallery
One of the most used plugins where a photo gallery is required on a WordPress site or blog. It has a very good and simple administration back end system which is capable of handing multiple galleries. It’s simplicity and abundance of features make this plugin so useful and popular.
This is a Social bookmarking widget that allows your website visitors to share your website or blog content to hundreds of social media or popular services. Everyone wants to have their website content shared online by website visitors. Wishing that they would copy paste your URL to Facebook or other sharing sites is wishing for too much, really. Instead, why not make sharing simple for them? Visitors can easily share the content on your site by the simple click of a button. It increases the chance of a visitor sharing your content and hence the prospect of more visitors finding your site and visiting it. The AddThis widget makes this possible.
10. WP e-Commerce
Setting up an ecommerce shop is easy with this plugin. This converts your WordPress into an online shop easily. It is easy to install and is compatible with standard compliant themes. It is also 100% customizable and has loads of features that can easily convert your website into a professional online store. A must have plugin if you are looking to sell online.
There are hundreds of other plugins that are worth mentioning that make WordPress such a pleasant experience. However, these are the top 10 that I could think of. Hope you find the list useful.