13,468. This is the number that comes up when you visit the plugins section of the wordpress.org website. Wow! If you’re a blogger you can choose from more than 13,000 different plugins. This is incredible. There’s a second number there as well. One showing how many downloads there’s been. It’s quickly approaching 160,000,000 at the time of writing this piece. This is even more incredible.
So who am I to say that you only need 16?! Well, I’m not saying that you need only these 16. I’m saying that they are the absolute minimum.
1. All in One SEO Pack
With more than 7,000,000 downloads this is one of the most popular WordPress plugins. And not without a reason. The same reason why it’s the #1 on this list. This is the best free plugin for getting your blog properly set up in terms of SEO. If you don’t have it installed yet (and you’re not using any worthy alternative either) do it right away.
2. Broken Link Checker
This is a big one. I mean, not big in kilobytes sort of way, but rather a kind of a big deal. Broken links can hurt your SEO. However, the problem lies in discovering them. If your blog has been running for quite some time you’ve probably linked out to hundreds if not thousands of different places. Some of these places are long gone, and discovering these broken links by hand is, in a word, impossible. Fortunately, Broken Link Checker can do it for you. And once it finds these broken links it can unlink them for you as well. Job done in 2 minutes.
3. Contact Form 7
Having a contact page on your blog is a must. You can either simply give out your personal email address or use a cool on-page contact form. Contact Form 7 lets you create and customize multiple forms (in case you want to use them for different purposes). The best thing is that it supports CAPTCHA, which should reduce the amount of daily spam. Plus, it’s delivered in a multilingual package. Besides, 3,400,000+ downloads can’t be wrong.
4. FD Feedburner Plugin
If you’re not familiar with Feedburner it’s a service that lets you gather data about the people who have subscribed to your blog’s RSS feed (but not only that). FD Feedburner Plugin integrates your blog with Feedburner by redirecting your main feed (and optionally the comments feed as well). Of course, to make it work you have to visit feedburner.com first and configure (“burn”) your blog’s feed.
5. Google XML Sitemaps
A sitemap is an important element of your blog’s inner SEO structure. Basically, it’s an easy to read list (that is if you’re a search engine) of all the separate URL addresses that your blog consists of. This plugin is the best one for getting the task done, mostly because it’s optimized to produce the most google-friendly sitemap possible. And since Google is the 800 pound gorilla of the market… you get the point.
6. MaxBlogPress Ping Optimizer
First order of business – pinging. Pinging is simply a way of notifying various search engines that something new has appeared on your blog (that it has been updated with fresh content). In theory, it can get your content indexed quicker. In practice, abusive pinging can get you banned from pinging services. Second order of business – the plugin. The guys from MaxBlogPress have come up with a plugin to prevent your blog from being banned and to optimize the way it sends pings.
7. Pretty Link
In essence, this plugin lets you take any URL from the internet and redirect it through your own domain/blog. I.e. it does some bit.ly-magic within your own blog. This is great for cloaking every kind of affiliate links, short versions of long post URLs, and all sorts of other stuff. It also provides tracking, so you know how many people have clicked on your pretty links at all times. You can go either with the lite version (which is perfectly sufficient for most users) or the pro version (which costs money, obviously).
8. Robots Meta
This plugin can help you to bring your blog’s SEO to the next level. You can use it to play with the “nofollow” and “noindex” tags to get your blog uber-optimized. WordPress is a great platform, but it creates many separate pages that can be easily considered a duplicate content by Google. Robots Meta prevents such a situation from happening. That is, of course, if you configure it properly. One of its many cool features is the ability to edit the .htaccess and robots.txt files from within WordPress.
OK, I have to start by pointing out a flaw cause it’s too annoying. It seems that not one day goes by without an update of SexyBookmarks. I kid you not, every time I check my admin panel there’s an update for this thing available, but what a GREAT plugin this is though. It gives you a sexy way of providing a set of share buttons for your content. The number of available services is just ridiculous. Of course, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, Stumble Upon, and Delicious make the top of the list.
Yet another plugin for displaying various social media share-buttons. Only this time the buttons are contained within a dynamic vertical box that scrolls along with the page. That way the buttons are visible and easily accessible at all times. Cool and equally sexy to SexyBookmarks.
11. Subscribe to Comments
By installing this plugin you’re showing your readers that you really care for them. It lets every commenter to subscribe for email notifications, so whenever a post receives some subsequent comments each commenter receives a quick email. It keeps the conversation going even after big periods of time.
12. W3 Total Cache
As the authors say themselves it’s “the fastest and most complete WordPress performance optimization plugin.” What it does is one important thing – it caches every dynamic element of your site, and then displays it when needed.
WordPress is essentially software, an app. An app accessible from a web browser. That means that whenever you want to view a WordPress blog some operations need to be executed. This takes some time and server’s resources. All of this can be sped up by caching the results of these operations and then fetching it whenever someone requests them. That’s what the plugin essentially does (I’m sure it’s a bit more complicated, but we don’t need to go into this here).
13. What Would Seth Godin Do
Interesting name for a plugin, isn’t it? This plugin lets you display a special message to every new visitor to your blog. The message disappears after the fifth visit by default (this can be changed). Welcoming every new visitor is a great idea. You can use this opportunity to offer them a gift, ask them to join your newsletter, or to subscribe to your RSS feed. The possibilities are endless. Very simple and very cool plugin at the same time.
You can use it along with this: How to Create WordPress Shortcodes.
14. WordPress Backup
Having your current WordPress installation backed up at all times is a very good idea. This plugin does just that. It backs up the upload directory, your current theme, and the plugins directory. Each directory is turned into a zip file.
I’m disappointed to admit that I haven’t been able to find a proper plugin for backing up the database. There’s always something not quite right with each one I check. If you know of something worth checking out, by all means let me know! For now I just recommend exporting your data via the standard WordPress’ export function.
It creates a very nice print-friendly version of your posts and pages. Your readers will appreciate this plugin a lot. Enough said.
16. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
YARPP is the best solution for displaying a list of posts related to the current one. If you want to encourage readers to keep browsing from one post to another, this is the thing that’s going to help you. The plugin utilizes a very effective algorithm, so once you have a significant portion of content on your blog you can be sure that relevant posts will be displayed every time. Of course, don’t expect much if you’re just starting out and have only a handful of posts.
Bonus plugins to put your blog on steroids
17. Comment Relish
This little plugin lets you communicate (sort of) with visitors right after they commented on your blog for the first time. You can set up an autoresponder message that will be sent to them via email. This email is a great place for a thank-you and letting people know what else is going on at your blog. Since that’s the first time they’ve commented they might be interested in some further interaction with your blog and its community.
18. Get Recent Comments
A plugin for providing some quick social proof, so to speak. If you have some commenting going on you should consider installing this plugin. It’ll display some information about the latest comments in your sidebar. This conveys a message that your blog is alive and people are interacting with each other.
How about you? What plugins do you consider as must-have ones? I’d love to get your input on this.