So you’ve just started blogging. You set up your new WordPress site, found yourself a good theme, you’re comfortable with the design and now you want to add a few more functionalities to your blog. Most new bloggers however have the tendency to install every plugin you set your eyes on. There’s a ton of lists out there with plugins that have a very convincing and alluring description. One by one, each discovery becomes an indispensable tool to your website, a must-have. I know the feeling. Installing too many plugins however, slows down your blog and makes it use more resources. What is important is to keep the plugins that you need and that are useful for your blog. Making a correct list of must-have plugins for every WordPress blog is an impossible task since everyone has different needs and seeks certain functionalities for their site. Nevertheless, in the following I’ve made my own list of “must-have” plugins which could be useful to any blog. I’ve tried to make the list as short as possible in order keep the resources consumption low. Some are very complex plugins which add a lot of features to your site while others just take care of small details.
1. Spam protection
We all like comments on your blogs, sure. But, unfortunately, your first comment is probably going to be spam. Protecting your blog against spam is the first thing you should do. Askimet comes built-in with WordPress. All you need to do is get your API key from Automattic and you’re good to go. For ultra protection, you can also use Bad Behavior which blocks spam robots from even reading your blog. I only use Askimet for now, but if I see an increase in spam, I’ll also install Bad Behavior.
2. Backing up your WordPress
Backing up your blog is the other first thing you should do after setting up your site. Just installed WordPress? Good. Now back it up! Quickly! Disaster can strike at any moment! Ok now, seriously speaking, you should have this one covered up even before choosing your theme. Your back up solution is like your insurance. You never know what’s going to happen. WP-DBManager is a very good plugins which lets you back up your database periodically.
3. Create your Sitemap
Google XML Sitemaps creates a sitemap of your blog and pings major search engines upon making changes to your pages. XML Sitemaps are a SEO essential and make your site easier to get indexed search engines.
4. Cache your site
Caching speeds up your site. Why is caching important for blogs? Plugins! As I’ve already said, your blog gets slower as the number of plugins used increases. W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are both very good caching plugins. Choose one based on your needs. Not sure which one to choose? Well, I’m not going to say if one is better than the other since I don’t think they can be compared like that. And even id they did, I wouldn’t know about it. I, for one, use W3 Total Cache because it is easier integrated with TDO Miniforms. After experimenting with both, I’ve also noticed that W3 Total Cache has a lot more options than the other and it looks more advanced.
5. Make your blog mobile
Analysts show that by 2014 mobile Internet users will surpass desktop Internet users in numbers. WPtouch is a great plugin to make your blog accessible from mobile devices. Just one click and your site is mobile.
6. Upgrading your comments system
One important thing to improve about your blog’s commenting system is sending e-mail notifications to comment authors when someone replies them. This can be easily done with the simple to use ReplyMe plugin. If you wish to go a bit further however, you can check out the Disqus Commenting System or CommentLuv plugin. There’s a lot of options on better commenting systems for blogs. You just have to pick one that you like. For now, I just use the simple ReplyMe.
Whether it’s the Digg Digg floating bar, the AddToAny plugin, or just the simple ReTweet or FBShare buttons, make sure you encourage your readers to share and distribute your content.
8. SEO Plugins
All in One SEO Pack is, at the moment, the most downloaded WordPress plugin. With this plugin you will be able to customize your pages and post title tags, meta descriptions and meta keywords. It won’t skyrocket your rank, but used correctly, it could increase your SERP and Clickthrough rate from search engines. It’s easy to install and to use. Of course there’s a lot more SEO plugins out there which could serve as a viable alternative to All in One SEO Pack but this one is good for beginners.
9. Contact form
Whether you are a professional blogger or you administrate a corporate blog or even if you are simply blogging as a hobby, having a contact form on your site is a necessity. Your readers should be able to reach you by e-mail. Why is this so important? Well, maybe someone wants to ask you something. Maybe they would like to present you an opportunity. There’s a lot of examples. Taking this step will ensure you won’t have unrelated comments on your pages from someone asking if you accept link exchanges. Sure you could publish your e-mail in the about page but a contact form For one thing, it will protect your e-mail from spam and it will also give your blog a more professional look. Contact Form 7 and Fast Secure Contact Form are both reliable and easy to use.
Personally I hate those “Older Posts”/”Newer Posts” links at the bottom of the archive pages. What WP-pagenavi does is replace those links with a paged navigation system. It’s just an increase in usability of your blog and that’s why you should have it. You can put it in any type of archives: category, search, tags, date, etc
11. No Self Pings
I love interlinking between my articles. But WordPress treats pings from external pages and pings from internal pages the same. Why would someone ping their own articles? It looks unprofessional and insincere. Sure you can just delete those inner-pings from the admin area but No Self Pingsremoves the hassle of having to do that every time you interlink your posts.
12. Redirection after permalink structure change
Dean’s Permalink Migration. I don’t actually use this one but it’s good to remember if I ever want to change the structure of my permalinks. Normally, after doing this, anyone who’s linked to your posts will return a 404 page. This plugin will redirect all of the old links to the new web addresses, supposedly, without any page rank loss. Of course, it would be perfect to decide on your permalink structure right after installing your WordPress but I’ll keep it mind in case I ever change my mind on it. Well, these are the plugins that I use and which I think would be useful to any type of blog. If you know any other good ones and you consider them “must-have”, feel free to let me know in the comments section below. I’ll probably disagree with you but that’s just my opinion.