One of the best things about WordPress is the easy access to numerous plugins, which extend its use as a CMS.
It’s a repetitive cycle—more and more new plugins are developed for WordPress because it’s the most popular CMS, and more and more new users are attracted towards WordPress because it’s easier to extend by means of simple plugins.
Of course, the vast number of plugins in the repository are not all alike. Some are amazing, others are tolerable, and some are disappointing. When it comes to plugins, every WordPress user has his or her own preferences. In this post, I’ll talk about some of my favorite WordPress plugins.
This plugin is the gold standard when it comes to fighting spam! Akismet comes bundled with every WordPress install, and it’s the de facto choice to combat spam comments on your blog.
For that reason, Akismet needs no introduction. With features such as auto spam detection, this plugin should be on your list if you wish to keep your website’s comments clean and spam-free.
2. Jetpack by WP.com
Jetpack claims to supercharge “your self-hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com,” and it seems to be doing a great job at that.
Jetpack, as a plugin, includes a conglomerate of features. Social sharing tools, Markdown abilities, related posts’ section, enhanced comments, website stats, uptime monitor, and much more. You just need to connect Jetpack to your WordPress.com account, and you’re good to go.
On the downside, though, it’s often argued that Jetpack is a bloat of a plugin, and its code needs some work. Take, for example, this slightly older but relevant post from Joost de Valk.
But, in my opinion, Jetpack is a wonderful plugin that makes life easier in many ways. The Uptime Monitor has, to some extent, reduced my reliance on Pingdom, especially for side projects or hobby sites. Beyond that, since I am not a fan of third-party comment services such as Disqus, Jetpack Comments can be a great facelift for the default WordPress comment system. Similarly, for many of my clients who don’t need Google Analytics, Jetpack’s site stats do the job just fine.
3. WordPress SEO by Yoast
The WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast is another extremely popular and useful plugin that rightfully ranks high on my list of favorite plugins.
Apart from search engine optimization, WP SEO by Yoast also includes handy features such as content analysis, social SEO settings, automatic XML sitemap generation, support for OpenGraph property, and more. Overall, this is one complete SEO solution for WordPress.
I used to be a user of All in One SEO plugin, but I have since shifted all my websites to WP SEO by Yoast.
4. Wordfence Security
As someone who regularly runs and manages websites of political nature, I need to find a security solution for my WordPress websites. Sometimes I use Sucuri’s Web Application Firewall, other times I use CloudFlare, but most of the time, I turn towards Wordfence Security.
As a plugin, Wordfence offers real-time protection from malicious attacks, brute force login attempts, and other malware. This plugin also provides its own cache settings, though I primarily use it for security purposes only.
Once again, for hobby websites and personal projects, the free version of Wordfence is suffice. But for my major websites, I use the Premium version, which is well worth the price considering the features it brings to the table.
Unfortunately, Wordfence is a disallowed plugin at WP Engine, but that’s primarily because it duplicates most of the features offered by WP Engine.
Additionally, if you’re in a shared environment, be mindful about activating Wordfence features, because much like every other security plugin, it can be extremely resource intensive.
5. Related Links by Contextly
There are innumerable WordPress plugins out there that offer Related Posts functionality. However, I’ve noticed that virtually all related posts’ plugins (excluding Jetpack’s Related Posts feature, to some extent) tend to be really heavy on server resources. The manner in which such plugins index and search is extremely database intensive. Therefore, I generally try to outsource the Related Posts functionality to third-party services.
Unlike Outbrain or Taboola, Cotnextly doesn’t show ridiculous suggestions. You can customize the appearance of the Related Posts widget, and even build sidebars for use within your posts. The WordPress plugin links your site to Contextly, even though most of the settings are hosted outside WordPress.
But unlike nRelate, Zemanta, LinkWithin or other WordPress related posts’ plugins, Contextly is a paid service (there is a free version too, with 10,000 monthly pageviews, that suffices for my personal blog, but not for any other project). Paying $49 per month for showing “Posts You Might Be Interested In” to your readers isn’t an investment everyone would love to make, especially when there are cheaper and free alternatives. But, I find Contextly to be well worth the money: it keeps me tension-free from its end, and I can use its sidebars and widgets across posts, and even run A/B tests and other metrics to assess my readers’ behavior.
These plugins feature on almost every WordPress site that I run. But, there are also some other plugins that I use often:
- Soliloquy Responsive WordPress Slider: I generally stay away from WordPress themes with sliders, but if I do need a slider on my site, Soliloquy is the plugin I turn to. For the most part, their Lite version has been sufficient for my needs.
- WP-Optimize: A very handy database cleanup and optimization tool.
- WP Smush.it: WP Smush.it lets you optimize your blog’s images to improve load times. I used to do the optimization myself, but now I prefer to use WP Smush.it.
- Contact Form 7: I actually loved this plugin, and have used it for a long time. But now I just let Jetpack’s contact form shortcode do the job for me; not as powerful as Contact Form 7, but good enough.
- MailChimp for WordPress: Really useful for integrating MailChimp subscription stuff on your blog/website.
- Theme-Check: Because, as a long-time Perl and RoR coder, my PHP skills still need a lot of work (sadly), this is my go-to plugin.
- WordPress Importer: This plugin has helped many users move between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.
Which WordPress plugins happen to be your favorites? Share them with the world using the comments below!
Sufyan bin Uzayr is a freelance writer and Linux enthusiast. He writes for several print magazines as well as technology blogs, and has also authored a book named Sufism: A Brief History. His primary areas of interest include open source, mobile development and web CMS. He is also the Editor of an e-journal named Brave New World. You can visit his website, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.