I am a huge fan of WordPress. It could not be easier to setup, it is simple to use, it has a great set of features built in, and there are dozens of great plugins available to help you optimize your website. This is a list of some of my favorites:
Akismet – (Automatic-Kismet) (Comment Spam Blocker)This plugin needs a wordpress.com api key to work (free and commercial versions available.) Have you ever heard of comment spam? Start a blog and you’ll find out what it is – fast. It is a sleazy technique that uses software to take advantage of the open dialog nature of blogs. The software auto-posts irrelevant text comments, stuffed with links, in the comment sections of posts. This plugin will save you hours of clean-up work removing comment spam. I use a modified version of the plugin created by Rich Boakes. This version will automatically create a list of the IP addresses used by the spammers and write them in a ‘deny access list’ in your .htacess file. Any attempts by those computers to access your server get denied. This addition really cuts down on the spam and also the bandwidth used up by spammers searching your site.
Auto Links – This plugin searches for specific text on your pages and inserts preset links. Very handy way to reduce tedium and make sure you get relevant links connected up.
Adsense-Deluxe – If you are using Adsense to make money on your blog, this is really helpful. You can assign Adsense code into a list of presets in the plugin’s settings page. Then, a simple tag dropped into a post will insert an Adsense ad block. You can modify the ad blocks on your whole site by making changes to the settings in the plugin. I also use this plugin to insert Amazon affiliate links.
Adhesive – From time-to-time you may want a post to stay at the top of the page. With this plugin, you’ll have a check box on the post editing page that will allow you to make a post ‘sticky’.
Dashbar – When you are logged into your site, this plugin will display a header above your site pages with Admin links. Save a lot of clicks on the back button.
ToDo List Plugin – I like to keep notes of the work I’m planning for my site. Since I can work on the site from any computer with an Internet connection, it’s important to keep the notes online. This plugin integrates the notes right into my WordPress admin pages.
Khanh’s Instant Notepad – It might be redundant to have both this and the To-Do list plugin, but I use this one for research and article idea notes and focus the to-dos on task oriented items. The notepad does not show up on the dashboard, like the ToDo list items, when you log in.
WP-ContactForm – If you post your email address on your site, get ready for spam. A better feedback tool is a contact form and this plugin will let you drop a contact form into any page by adding a short tag into the post or page content. The format of the contact form is configurable through your admin page.
WP-Amazon – If you have an associate account to generate sales through Amazon, this plugin will add a link on your page/post editing interface that launches a pop-up search tool. Search the Amazon database, choose a product and this plugin will generate the link code with your associate ID embedded in it. Saves a ton of time (unfortunately it doesn’t always find everything – but it’s still a big timesaver.)
StatCounter – I use www.StatCounter.com to track user statistics for my site. This plugin automatically inserts the tracking code into my pages to link up with this service. You don’t have to modify your template files. A nice bonus is that you can set it to not include the code when you are logged in and working on the site. No code, no tracking – no need to filter out your own activity from the Statcounter results.
Site Functionality Plugins:
Search Everything – By default, WordPress’ search tool only searches through posts. I uses pages to hold a lot of content, like my resume, and found that important content wasn’t showing up in search results. This plugin includes page content in the search results too.
Audio Player – If you plan to post audio clips on your site (specially if you plan to podcast), this plugin is a must. Once installed, all you have to do is wrap an audio tag around the address of the mp3 you want to play and this plugin will automatically insert a Flash audio player into the post ready to play the file. It is an elegant solution.
vPIP – The name stands for ‘Video Play In Place.’ This means that your page will load with a still frame representing the video. When the user clicks on the still, it is replaced by the video – no pop-up windows, launching an external player, or loading a new page. An added benefit is that you don’t waste bandwidth sending the video until the user selects it. Once installed, this plugin adds an entry box on the ‘write post’ page. You enter the relevant data about your video, click the ‘generate code’ button, and it displays the appropriate code to copy and paste into your post.
Fold Page List – If you create a site with lots of pages and sub-pages, WordPress displays them in a fully expanded list. This plugin will cause the list of pages to only show the parent page links. Click on a page with child pages and it expands only that branch. You have to open the parent page before the list of child pages expands (no fancy twirl-down or expand on mouse-over), but it is better than a huge side navigation list on the homepage.
Post Teaser – I usually write long posts. This plugin automatically truncates posts in a title/teaser style. This keeps the home page manageable. Other solutions exist for doing this, but I find this plugin easy to use with excellent results.
Website Promotion Plugins:
WordPress Email Notification Plugin – Not all visitors like to use RSS feeds to stay current on your site’s updates. This plugin will give users a simple sign-up link to receive email notices. It handles all of the list administration duties and adds a Notify option on the ‘write post’ interface. Choose yes and it will send out an email to everyone on your list when you click publish. You can also send emails to the list through the plugin’s admin page which can be used for simple newsletters, etc.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Plugins:
Crawl Page – Making sure search engine spiders index all your pages is vital. The more levels the spider has to dig to find something, the less likely it is to get indexed. This plugin creates a single page with direct text links to every page in your site. Add a link to this crawl page in your template footer and a link to every page will be one level down from your homepage. Whenever you add new content, the crawl page is automatically updated. Check out the results by following the site map link in the footer of this page. (This plugin is no longer available from the author’s site. The copyright info says it is free to distribute, so I have placed a copy on my server for download. Right-click on the title and save the zip file to disc. I make no warranty for the reliability of this software and provide no tech support.)
Head META Description – Most search engines ignore the META Description tag when evaluating a webpage. But, there are still a number of directories and search engines that will display text from this tag on their search results page. I believe it’s important to make sure it is relevant to the page content and this plugin takes care of this by automatically generating descriptions based on the page content.
Related Posts – This plugin belongs under the promotion category as well as SEO. The best way to encourage people to check out your site is to let them know what other related content is available when they read a post. This plugin automatically inserts a list of links to related article at the bottom of each post that is based on the keywords in the post. A side benefit is that search engines like internal linking.
Google Sitemaps – You don’t have to guess what Google wants to know about your website. They’ve told you – Sitemaps! They want maps of all the web pages on your site and indications of how frequently you update them. This plugin will automatically create and update a map for your whole site and tell Google every time you update it.
Social Promotion Plugins:
WP-Email – This plugin requires a little template hacking to setup, but then automatically adds an ‘email this post’ link to every post. Click on the link and it opens a email form page for visitors to enter their message. The messages are captured in a log file and can be read when logged into your admin pages.
Sociable – Automatically add links to the most popular social bookmarking sites at the bottom of each post.
I wouldn’t start a new installation of WordPress without these plugins. If you have found better ways to handle the tasks and issues I’ve mentioned in this article, leave a comment and let me know. I’m always interested in finding a better solution to streamline my work.
The Go-To Guy