8 Essential WordPress Plugins

Part 6 in the continuing series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

Today we’ll cover plugins.

In many ways a WordPress plugin is similar to a WordPress widget: both enhance the functionality of a blog or website. Though widgets are visible to readers, plugins generally work behind the scenes. If a widget is like a smartphone app, a plugin might be akin to a computer software program. Here are eight essential plugins. These, by the way, are all free (though some have a paid premium version):

Akismet: Protects blogs from comment and trackback spam. If you have comments and trackbacks turned off, you don’t need this plugin, otherwise it’s essential.

All in One SEO Pack: The plugin adds search engine optimization (SEO) options to your blog, allowing you to add a title tag and meta description and keywords. If you expect people to find your blog, you need a good SEO package. This is the one I use, but others are good, too.

Broken Link Checker: Broken links are a disservice to readers and are penalized by Google search. This link checker alerts you to broken and redirected links so you can fix them.

Google XML Sitemaps: You don’t need to understand sitemaps or even know what they are, but search engines expect you to have one. This plugin automatically adds an XML sitemap to your website.

Jetpack: Jetpack provides a slew of added functionality to WordPress, and it now comes with all new WordPress installations. You won’t need every feature, but some are indispensable. Just activate the ones you want, and leave the rest turned off.

Online Backup for WordPress: Your host company should backup your site and the WordPress export tool allows you to save all your posts, pages, and feedback, but you still need a complete backup of your entire website under your control. I like Online Backup for WordPress, since backups are a breeze. However, restoring files is not as easy.

Wordfence Security: In addition to providing needed security protection for your website, such as real-time blocking of attacks, a firewall, and the ability to scan for known malware, Wordfence Security also includes two caching options to speed up performance.

WP-Sweep: This plugin removes old and obsolete items from your WordPress database. The result is a reduced database size for quicker downloads, the need for less storage requirements, and a faster site. Some of the items it removes are post and page revisions, deleted, unapproved, and spam comments, and orphaned or duplicated information. It also optimizes database tables.

More: There are now 50,000 other plugins to consider, but these are the ones I think are essential. Just as it’s unwise to become carried away with widgets, be careful to not overuse plugins. Only install what you need and completely remove any you don’t use.

If you are just getting started with plugins, install one and learn how to sue it. Then pick a second one and work through the list.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!