17 Must-Have Plugins for WordPress

Posted on Sep 5, 2012 | 16 comments

17 Must Have WordPress Plugins

Whether you’re setting up a new WordPress blog, trying to move an old one to WordPress (rip off the band-aid!), or simply maximizing your existing WordPress blog, you’re going to need some plugins.

A plugin is a tool that changes the way WordPress works. With the right plugin, you can make WordPress do almost anything you can imagine (and more, if you’re a concrete thinker like me).

Be aware that plugins work by installing scripts on your site. A script is like a mini program, a set of instructions telling the computer to do what you want.

In almost all cases, this is really awesome.

In a few other cases, scripts can leave loopholes through which hackers can enter your site.

Do some research, and make sure the plugins you add to your site are reputable and free of nefarious material.

I currently use or have used all of these plugins, and I think they are really good. Still, use them at your own risk, and don’t blame me if you break something.

They’re in alphabetical order because I’m compulsive like that.

17 Must-Have Plugins for WordPress

  1. Akismet. Akismet is absolutely positively necessary on any blog. It filters out spam comments (and you will have them, no matter how small you think your blog is), and it does it well. It isn’t perfect, so you should check your folder once a week or so for good comments marked as spam. (Akismet is included with Jetpack, below.)
  2. And the Winner Is. If you do giveaways, this plugin rocks. You mark the post as a giveaway, then when the giveaway period is over, you go into the Contests dashboard, tell the plugin how many winners to pick, and it randomly selects them. It displays the winner’s name and email address, and you can confirm the winner (and keep a record of it in the plugin) or reject the winner (because they didn’t get back to you in time or for whatever reason) and choose another.
  3. Article Templates. If you write series of posts with the same format, you will want to use this one. You can save templates, and with one click, the template populates and you can begin creating your unique post. Does that make sense? It’s just like using a template in Word.
  4. Broken Link Checker. Broken links are bad for your readers’ experience, and they’re bad for SEO. You want to remove them from your site as soon as possible. This plugin identifies them and makes it easy to edit or unlink them in bulk. (Think you don’t have any broken links? What happens if a commenter’s site changes its URL structure? If she changes her Twitter name? I see a hundred or more broken links a month, and very few are from my own site.)
  5. CommentLuv. I have a love-hate relationship with this plugin. It’s really nice. It adds “‘s latest post” with a link at the bottom of her comment. It encourages commenting because it rewards your readers with a link back to their site (albeit a nofollow link). The downside is that CommentLuv can never find my feed, no matter how many times I submit a work ticket. When it works, it’s great. Jenn from Rebel Chick uses this one, too.
  6. Comment Reply Notifications. This plugin is brilliant. It emails commenters when their comments have a new reply on your site. You can customize the text of the reply, and it’s very simple. Annie from Mama Dweeb uses a plugin called Reply-Me for this same thing.
  7. Copyrighted post. I like this because it puts this { © 2012, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved. } at the bottom of every one of my posts.
  8. Easy Recipe. If you post recipes, a recipe plugin is essential. This one converts the recipe to Google’s recipe format, making it infinitely more searchable. It’s really easy to use, too.
  9. Jetpack by WordPress.com. I’ve heard lots of mixed reviews of Jetpack, but I really like it. It includes Akismet. It does stats. It does spelling & grammar check. It does social sharing (which I’ve never used) and contact forms and gravatars and about twelve other things. Dresden from Creating Motherhood also recommends this one.
  10. Lijit. I use Lijit for my site-wide search bar. It’s much more reliable than my old Google search bar. (Don’t ask me why. I know not.) They also serve ads, but from my personal experience, you don’t make much unless you have 50k page views a month or more.
  11. Link Within or nRelate. You really should have some kind of related content plugin to help readers find similar posts on your site. I used to have Link Within. A friend convinced me to switch over to nRelate. So far, it’s related content isn’t all that related, but I haven’t switched back. It’s mostly laziness and lack of time, but there are some good reasons to chose nRelate (specifically that it doesn’t reroute your traffic through another location).
  12. PhotoDropper. I haven’t personally used this one, but Tina from Girls Lunch Out recommended it to me. She’s written a great article explaining how and why you’d want to use it on her site.
  13. Tweet old post. After you install this plugin and set it up, it Tweets out an old post every few hours. How cool is that? Remember, when you set it up, exclude giveaways and round-up posts. It gets great exposure to posts that would otherwise lie buried in the basement.
  14. WordPress.com popular posts. I use this to create a list of my most popular posts from the last 7 days. The list displays in my sidebar. This plugin is relatively simple, but it shows what’s going on with your site, and readers like it.
  15. Wp greet box. This plugin displays an annoying but effective box above my main content that says something to the effect of, “Hey Googler! I can see that you’re new here. Take a moment to subscribe and get daily updates from Feels Like Home!” and it has a link to the subscription form. There’s another plugin called What Would Seth Godin Do that does the same thing, but I’ve never used that one.
  16. WP Touch. Have you ever viewed your site from a smartphone browser? If you don’t have a mobile plugin, it is probably not a pleasant experience. Every site needs a mobile version, and this plugin will give you a customizable one instantly.
  17. WordPress SEO (often called Yoast) – Thesis has really good SEO information built in, but Yoast takes SEO a few steps further and replaces at least 3 other plugins. It provides a quick and easy place to enter the meta data for your site and for each individual post. That part couldn’t be easier (and there are at least 5 plugins that do exactly the same thing). Yoast is different because it shows you where you need to add your keyword or phrase to improve the SEO of the post.  It also creates an SEO dashboard for your site that allows you to customize at least 100 different things to improve your SEO.
    If Yoast’s options scare you, All in One SEO is really good and very simple, but you’ll also need something like Google XML Sitemaps at a minimum.

Okay. That’s it for my must-haves. I use more (and will share them soon), but these are the ones that I think make the biggest difference in how my site works.

What are your must-have plugins?

16 Comments

  1. Thanks, Tara! I have most of these already but there are a few new ones I’ll be checking out!

  2. Akismet is the bomb! Although, you have to check your spam mail every now and then because it does filter out some legit comments once in awhile. Some of the others I’m going to have to go check out. Thanks for sharing! :)

  3. Just installed lijit and am about to install Article Templates. I’ve been looking for one just like that for months! I too love Akismet and also All in one SEO. Thanks Tara!

  4. Great list. I have several of these but others that I don’t. Looking forward to trying them.

  5. Your timing is perfect–I really needed this list right now. I already use 2, 4 and 5, but I’ve been wanting to implement a recipe plug-in and a greet box. I have never heard of Tweet Old Post, but that’s a great idea!

  6. Thanks so much! I had never heard of Tweet Old Post either and am super excited to try it out.

  7. Thanks, Tara
    I was just talking to my VA about adding some plug ins for automatic tweeting/fb of new posts. Reading your list made me realize I could use some others, as well.

    Does anyone have a suggestion for a plug in that adds a search bar on your site? My VA told me she couldn’t find a search bar, so I need to add one.

    • Lijit adds a search bar. That’s what I use on Feels Like Home. I really like it.

  8. Thanks for this! I can’t find WP Touch so far, and I needed it the other day!

    • Oh no! I just downloaded it over the summer. I hope it’s not been abandoned. Try searching for wp-touch. Maybe that will make a difference? Just don’t go with WP Mobile Detector. I had that for a while, and it caused all sorts of problems with my database.

  9. Love these. Thanks so much for sharing. I will be installing most.

  10. This list is great! I already just a lot of them but had never heard of Jetpack before (already used Akismet separately) so I’m interested in learning more about that one! SEO is a big thing that I am trying to work on so I definitely want to check out the WordPress SEO plugin!

  11. These are great! I see a few that I don’t have that I want to try out!

  12. These are very helpful. Thank you!

  13. I’m just now getting back into the blogging groove after a baby hiatus. This post has been very informative so I’ll be logging into WP tonight to install some of these plugins. Thank you!

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