Which WordPress plugins should you install?
So you have downloaded WordPress, created or installed a theme for your website and sat back and admired your work!
Time to start looking at the wonderful world of WordPress plugins which can expand your websites functionality and effectiveness no end.
There are over 24,000 plugins that have been downloaded almost half a billion times by the army of dedicated WordPressers!
This article is going to take you through some of the most popular WordPress plugins based on what we installed on our own website and WordPress plugins we have installed for our clients.
Spam Control Plugins
As any WordPress users knows that the minute you launch your WordPress site you open yourself upto spam comments on your blog entries. These spam comments are usually really complimentary , telling you how great your website is and what a fantastic job your doing. The reason for this? The default setting in WordPress is to approve any comments from a commenter that has had a previous comment approved. They start with a nicey nicey comment – you read it, are flattered by the high praise and approve them. They then proceed to bombard your blog with links to their own sites, virus websites and affiliate sites promoting everything from online casinos, cheap meds and porn.
Akismet stops them in their tracks. Once activated Akismet will scan all incoming comments and flag them as spam or approve them automatically. It does this by comparing them against its own web service which has an almost 99% accuracy rate for detecting spam. You can still go into the spam folder and approve any that it caught in error and it will remember those for the future.
Alternatives to Akismet like the Spam Free WordPress plugin just dont work. Akismet is free for personal use with a small fee for commercial websites. The time it will save you in trawling through mountains of spam is well worth the fee if applicable.
Search Engine Optimisation Plugins
If you want to know where, when and how many visitors your getting to your website you need to install the code from Google Analytics. This plugin makes that process easy by installing – simply add your unique code and click Save Changes. The full code is then automatically placed before the </head> tag in your header template file. Simple and easy. Another must have WordPress plugin.
Google XML Sitemaps
If you want Google or any other search engine to know about every page on your blog or website but dont want to submit a sitemap everytime you add a new page you need the Google XML Sitemap generator. Once installed and activated simply run the sitemap generator the first time and it will automatically re-generate the xml sitemap file every time you add a new page or edit an existing one. It even notifies the major search engines that the sitemap has been updated.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
WordPress out of the box is pretty well built for the search engines but WordPress SEO by Yoast helps you take it to the next level. Most WordPress themes dont have all the required meta tags installed and WordPress SEO add them in for you.
This WordPress plugin allows you to set a focus keyword for each page and then uses a traffic light system to help you determine which elements need additional content, keywords or attention. The plugin looks at your article heading, page title, page url, content and meta tags for references to the keywords and suggests improvement that can be made.
Redirects (Kevin Sylvestre)
If your moving from an old website to a WordPress website then WordPress plugins dont come any more handy than Redirects. As the name suggest this plugin allows you to enter your old website urls and the new url you wish to redirect users to. The Redirects are all 301 permanent redirects and help the major search engines re-index your websites content and maintain page rank.
A word of warning though – although Google says that you can maintain page rank via the use of 301 redirects in our experience you will suffer a drop in rankings and in our case this was quite dramatic – it will start to climb again but will take time.
WordPress is a little on the heavy side and some sites do suffer with delays whilst it serves up pages to your visitors. Google has also started to take notice of a websites loading speed in its ranking algorithms. Quick Cache helps to alleviate these delays by caching copies of your websites pages and serving visitors with copies of your sites pages that DONT need to communicate with your database and hence load faster. The time for each cache can be set up so that your always serving visitors with the latest information. Alternative WordPress plugins for caching include WP Total Cache and WP Super Cache.
Best Of The Rest
For advanced users and those that want more control over their WordPress site here are some plugins we would recommend.
Breadcrumbs are a great way of helping your visitors get back to the homepage or where they were before, Yoast Breadcrumbs is a simple way of adding them to your site. Enough said.
Advanced Custom Fields
Do you need another text box, text area, html editor or image placeholder? If so then ACF allows you to add as many additional fields as you require – using the shortcodes you can easily detect if a field has been populated and use it on your site. Great for previews, scrollers and custom content areas.
Blog Posts Order
WordPress tends to display blog posts in newest to oldest order. This WordPress plugin allows you to decide what order you wish to display your articles in. View our Portfolio page to see how we’ve used this plugin to help us order our latest works.
Contact Form 7
Need a contact form that is simple and flexible for most applications? Contact Form 7 is just the plugin you need.
WP Nivo Slider
Need a slider/scroller on your website? Since the birth of the smartphone and Apples reluctance to support Flash based scrollers has given rise to JQuery and in particular scrollers. Nivo Slider is one of the most popular scrollers out there and this plugin helps you install one on your site.