There are so many plugins it can be bewildering. Some are extremely valuable and others are silly. Some are well constructed according to best practices by experts in their field, and others are so bad they can bring your website to a grinding halt. Here are some that I consider especially worthwhile, plus some tips on how to find the good ones.

  • WP-DBManager (more full-featured) or WordPress Database Backup (easier to use) How to Secure Your WordPress Site tells you why you need this plugin.
  • Google XML Sitemaps Every time you publish a new post or page, this plugin notifies the major search engines so they can index it promptly.
  • Stats provides only the most essential statistics about your traffic. It gives you the big picture, not the details, which, unless you run an e-commerce site, is probably all you want most of the time. It uses the same WordPress API key that Akismet does.
  • Subscribe to Comments allows visitors to your site to receive notification via email of new comments to a particular post, enabling them to participate further in the discussion if they desire. On occasion, this has the effect of turning a blog post into a discussion forum.
  • Query Posts is intimidating at first, but it is very powerful, so don’t give up. Use this tutorial to help you experiment until you get the result you want.
  • Commentluv provides a link to each commenter’s last blog post, enticing other visitors to click on that link, thus rewarding your commenters with a bit of extra traffic.
  • All in One SEO Pack enables you to tweak the code in your posts to improve your listings in the search engines. The User’s Guide for All In One SEO Pack will help you get the most from this plugin.
  • You may have already discovered that posting your email address on your site can make you a sitting duck for spammers. A contact form will weed out most automated spam while still allowing legitimate readers to contact you. I use Contact Form 7, but Fast Secure Contact Form is also good.
  • TweetMeme Button allows readers to easily tweet your post by clicking a button.

Don’t Go Crazy Adding Plugins

Keep in mind that every plugin adds a little more to WordPress’ workload. Don’t activate two plugins that essentially do the same thing, and go through your plugins every so often and delete the ones you’re not actually using. Many plugins add tables to your database, and these tables are usually not deleted when the plugin is deactivated. After a while your database gets bloated, causing WordPress to run more slowly. Yeah, there are plugins for cleaning up your database, too.

More to Consider

  • Check out Lorelle’s list of WordPress plugins. She has them organized by specialized uses: fun, business, administration, blog networking, content, user-generated content, theme and design, CMS your mess, and rule-breakers and blog-changers.
  • Your WordPress dashboard lists the most popular plugins, newest plugins, and recently updated plugins. If a plugin is popular, you can be pretty sure that it fulfills a need and works well. It is worth checking out if it sounds like it provides a function you need. Keep an eye on the other two categories as well. You never know when you’ll find something you didn’t know you needed!