Must-have WordPress plugins – part 1

WP LogoI really like WordPress. If you are looking for a blog/news-based website then there is probably no better option than to use WordPress. One of the things that puts WordPress at the top of my list is the thriving community of developers that use it. If you need your new website to do something then there is a good chance that someone else has already developed a plugin to accomplish that task… and it’s probably free. The only problem with such a vast community is that there are so many plugins to search through that it is sometimes hard to find the best plugins to meet your needs. No fear, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite plugins for WordPress to accomplish several common tasks in website development.

  1. Akismet. Use this! There is no better way to eliminate a large percentage of comment spam. While it isn’t a 100% solution, it makes a huge difference and it comes pre-packaged with WordPress. All you have to do is activate the plugin and then sign up for a free WordPress.com account–you don’t have to start a blog there, just an account. After signing up for your account just go to your new profile page and copy/paste the “API Key” that you will find at the top of the page into the Akismet settings page on your blog.
  2. Viper’s Video Quicktags. This plugin adds a row of buttons on the WordPress “write” screen so you can easily embed videos from many common video services like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Google Video, etc. You can even choose which services to show or hide and set standard sizes for your embeded videos.
  3. All in One SEO Pack. Every website is better with good search engine optimization (SEO). This plugin helps to automate that process by automatically changing your website’s title, description, keywords, and more to values that help search engines catalog your website accurately based on its content. This is a “set it and forget it” kind of plugin worth the download.
  4. WP Super Cache. WordPress, like most blogging engines and content management systems, generates dynamic pages. That means that every time someone goes to a page of your site, WordPress finds the content for that page in its database and creates the right HTML page on the fly. It’s pretty much magic. But, it can also be slow if you get a lot of people viewing your site at the same time, if you are on a shared hosting package, or if your theme has a lot of extra database calls. Don’t fret, there are things you can do to help speed up your blog and one of those is caching. Basically, this plugin saves those HTML files and instead of asking WordPress to generate new ones every time someone visits a page, it pulls out the already-generated file and displays it instead. This will not only make your visitors happy, but your web hosting service will thank you.
  5. Feedburner Feedsmith or FD Feedburner Plugin. Either one is good, but the most important thing is to use Feedburner to manage your feeds! Why? First of all, if you change the location of your website or the platform you are using to run your website your original RSS feed address will more than likely change. This means that anyone who is subscribed to your feed using that address will now get nothing. The only solution at that point is to post a link to your new feed and hope that most of your readers will subscribe to your new feed. However, if you are using Feedburner then all of those readers are subscribed to a feed at Feedburner’s address which doesn’t change. All you have to do is tell Feedburner to start getting its contents from the new location and you don’t loose a single reader. As if that weren’t enough, Feedburner will also help clean up any improperly formed feeds which can be especially useful for podcasters.

That’s a pretty good first five to get you started. I’ve got Part 2 just around the corner so stay tuned. But until then, what plugins do you use that you want to tell the world about?