If you’re ready to add some fancy functionality to your WordPress blog or website and you don’t know how to write code, plugins can be your best friend. Of the over 23,000 plugins available there are some that rise above the rest. I’ve outlined 36 of my favorites in the Slideshare presentation below (originally presented at Workbar Boston in January 2013).
How the presentation is organized
The plugins are organized by category – starting with front-end functionality such as sharing buttons and slideshows. The second half of the presentation covers back-end plugins such as analytics and SEO. I give my top 2-3 recommendations for each category, with a total of 36 plugins mentioned.
Quick note: WordPress Plugins are available for self-hosted WordPress sites only (not WordPress.com blogs). If you’re not sure the difference, see this post.
Another quick note: The final slide was added during the session itself to take note of a recommendation from a member of the audience. Consider it a bonus. 🙂
To install plugins, login to your WordPress admin dashboard and click Plugins>Add New. Search for the plugin by name (I tried to use the exact plugin names in my presentation, as many of them have similar names). Once you find the correct one, click Install, wait a few seconds, and then click Activate. Configure your plugin per the instructions.
1. WPtouch – Reading a blog on a mobile phone web browser can be a pain–teeny tiny print with links that even the most slender finger can’t pinpoint. WPtouch makes your blog easy to navigate when viewed on mobile devices. This plug-in automatically turns your blog into an easy-to-read app-style experience when it’s viewed on certain mobile phones, including iPhone and Android. (see photo)
2. Akismet – A comment spam filter. Actually, more like the comment spam filter. You don’t want to go without Akismet. Unless you enjoy sifting through hundreds of porn spam comments. And if you do, I’d rather not know about it.
3. Share and Follow – This plugin places sharing buttons at the end of each post, so readers can pass along your amazing posts to their favorite social networks and/or social bookmarking sites. It can also create a sidebar that directs readers to your social accounts. I tried about a dozen social sharing plugins before finally settling on Share and Follow. What do I like about it? It’s incredibly customizable—there are dozens and dozens of options to turn on and off and it includes every single social sharing site you could think of, and about 50 you’ve never heard of. (Mister Wong? Plurk?)
4. CommentLuv – I resisted this plugin for a while, partly because I hate how they spell the word “love” and partly because I can’t stand the cutesy little hearts. But I’ve since gotten over the spelling thing and learned you could turn off the hearts. Sold. The best feature of CommentLuv? It automatically creates links to your commenter’s recent blog posts. This encourages bloggers to leave comments (what blogger doesn’t love to self-promote?) and it makes for a richer comment feed.
5. Google Analytics for WordPress – Most bloggers are curious about their readers—how many there are, how they found the site, what content they like best, whether they are redheaded women who live in Chicago and like to chew gum. Google Analytics tracks and shares this data (okay the hair color and gum are a stretch but surprisingly not that outlandish). Once you get your domain set up on Google Analytics, you’ll receive a tracking code to insert to your blog. Confused about where to put it? Let the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin do it for you. It also collects data with more accuracy and you can mess around with some advanced metrics like custom variables. Which, if you’re an analytics addict like me, sounds like super nerdy fun!
6. Quick Cache – A caching plug-in can dramatically improve your site speed. And believe me, your blog loading time is very important. Blog readers are a very impatient bunch. There are other very good caching plug-ins, but Quick Cache is simple and easy to use. And I’m all about simple and easy to use.
7. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – I’ve written about best practices for ending blog posts, and one of my favorite tips is to install a related posts plugin. It’s a great way to encourage readers to explore your blog instead of hightailing it off your site. YARPP gives a written list of related posts, which it assembles using some kind of advanced algorithm (which you can tweak to your liking). I also like LinkWithin (actually a widget, not a plugin), which serves up related posts visually using thumbnail photos.