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10 Essential WordPress Plugins

If you’ve ever done a search for “Essential WordPress Plugins” you’ll have noticed that absolutely every single blogger on the face of planet Earth has their own list. So here’s mine!

First of all, here’s the rundown:

  1. Advanced Code Editor
  2. WordPress SEO
  3. Widget Logic Visual
  4. BackWPup
  5. Simple Modal Contact Form
  6. Fast Secure Contact Form
  7. GetSocial
  8. Newsletter
  9. Custom Author Link
  10. SEO Friendly Images


1. Advanced Code Editor

Advanced Code Editor Preview


This is the very first plugin I install on any WordPress installation. If you’re like me and you live in your theme’s CSS files, you’ll love Advanced Code Editor. It gives you line numbers and syntax highlighting like a proper plain text editor. Not only that, but it comes stock with several different color schemes and some other advanced features:

  • Search/Replace
  • Jump to line
  • Full screen editor
  • Creating and deleting files
  • Creating directories
  • Downloading files and themes


2. WordPress SEO


Wordpress SEO General Settings

Wordpress SEO General Settings

Wordpress SEO Social Settings

Wordpress SEO Social Settings

Another invaluable plugin, Yoast’s WordPress SEO allows editing of post/page titles, focus keywords, meta descriptions, plus descriptions for Facebook and Google+ directly from the Edit Post page. In addition, it comes with a Page Analysis tool which advises you on word count, reading ease, and keyword usage. Without WordPress SEO, your entries display in search results with any ole’ text snippet from that page. If you want the most attention grabbing title and description possible, you need this plugin.

Included in WordPress SEO are breadcrumbs and automatic XML Sitemap generation. You’ll never need to manually generate a sitemap to submit to search providers.

(Make sure you submit your sitemap through Google and Bing Webmaster Tools!)

Wordpress SEO Breadcrumbs

From the Edit Page dialog it also offers advanced meta robots settings (allow or not allow search engine robots to follow/index that page), sitemap priority, and 301 redirection.

Wordpress SEO Advanced Settings

Wordpress SEO Advanced Settings


There is also a bunch of back end functionality that I’m not mentioning, but since I could write a whole blog entry just on this one plugin I’ll have to stop here.


3. Widget Logic Visual

Widget Logic Visual Limitations

Widget Logic Visual Limitations

One of the strengths of many WordPress themes are their widget support, allowing you to place select text, images, code, or things like recent blog posts into areas of every page without having to edit your theme files.

But what if you don’t want a particular widget to display on every page? That’s where Widget Logic Visual comes it. It allows you to edit every item within a widget to choose which individual pages or posts it will display on, or not. You can choose to display on all pages, excluding only certain pages or posts as well. In my opinion, an absolutely necessary plugin for widget users and something that I wish was built into WordPress.

Widget Logic Visual Editor

Widget Logic Visual Editor


4. BackWPup

BackWPup

BackWPup New Job Menu

While most web hosts offer excellent uptime and data redundancy, it’s still important to have regularly scheduled backups. Hopefully your website never gets hacked, but someday you may accidentally delete a page or make changes which you can’t undo.

If you have a recent backup, that’s not a problem. While using MySQL to backup databases and manually downloading files via FTP might just be an annoyance for the web savvy, it’s a daunting and confusing task for the beginner. BackWPup offers a painless backup solution for your WordPress installation. Once you’ve created a backup job, you can backup your site with a single click, or you can have backups run automatically on a schedule. Choose which directories get backed up, tell BackWPup where you want the file saved (a compressed file available in a few different formats) and away you go.

In addition to saving a backup file on your local server, you can also choose to backup with any of the following methods or services:

  • FTP folder
  • Backup by Email
  • Amazon S3
  • Dropbox
  • Sugarsync
  • Google
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Rackspace Cloud


5. Simple Modal Contact Form.

Simple Modal Contact Form

Simple Modal Contact Form

Simple Modal Contact Form is a AJAX powered popup contact form with rounded corners. It features a simple, one page settings menu. All you have to do is give your Contact page link the class “smcf-link.” To do that, go into [Appearance --> Menus] and under Screen Options at the upper right of the screen click CSS Classes. (see right)
Appearance --> Menus Screen Options

Appearance --> Menus Screen Options

Then add the class “smcf-link” to the menu item linking to your Contact form page. (see below)

This plugin requires Javascript so you’ll have to have a backup contact form or email link on your contact page for users without Javascript enabled.

Add "smcf-link" to your Contact link


6. Fast Secure Contact Form

Fast Secure Contact Form

Fast Secure Contact Form

Need an email contact form for your website? While it may not look flashy, Fast Secure Contact Form is feature packed.

Build as many different contact forms as you like with any number of custom fields. Works with the Akismet anti-spam plugin and vCita sceduling. Built in auto-response and redirect after user submission, plus built-in Captcha. The Options menu allows you to modify the CSS of the contact form directly from the plugin options.

You can even send posted data remotely to another form when using 3rd party APIs and export form fields to a database. All in all, Fast Secure Contact Form has all the features most people would need and then some.


7. GetSocial

GetSocial

GetSocial Options

GetSocial is a great social sharing plugin that gives you a Mashable style floating sharing bar
(<----like this one here)
for your WordPress installation. Choose which social sharing options you'd like, pick the order, and customize the style all from one convenient menu. Really easy to use.

You can also add code for additional social sharing buttons that may not be included by default.

By default, GetSocial supports:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Stumbleupon
  • Digg
  • Buffer


8. Newsletter

Newsletter New Email

Newsletter New Email

Having multiple ways for your readers to subscribe to blog updates is critical. While WordPress has some RSS functionality built in (I recommend using Feedburner for RSS), there really aren’t any options for sending out newsletters. This is where the aptly named Newsletter plugin comes in.

Newsletter allows you to write up emails for your subscribers but also has one other major feature. With this plugin, you can hide content from users until they’ve subscribed and redirect them to the premium content. Newsletter does have extensive options to setup before you can use it so it’s not quite as plug-and-play as some of the other plugins on this list, but its functionality is also extensive.

The plugin utilizes a double opt-in method which sends a confirmation email to the subscriber before adding them to the mailing list, mandatory these days, and lets you customize every step of the subscription process. The Pro version comes with even more features like blog post summary emails, click tracking, and follow up emails for unconfirmed subscribers.


9. Custom Author Link

WordPress has a built in post archive by author which you access by clicking the authors name in a blog post byline. As you can imagine, this doesn’t serve much use on a single author blog! For the single user blog it’s much more useful to have a static About page. WordPress doesn’t allow changing that link, but Custom Author Link lets you do just that.

The best thing about this plugin is that it requires almost zero setup! It doesn’t even have a configuration menu. All you have to do is go into Users–>Your Profile and add the URL of your custom About page as your Website under “Contact Info” (see below). This works if you have guest authors on your blog as well because you can add the URL of their website to their profile.

Users-->Your Profile

Users-->Your Profile under "Contact Info"


10. SEO Friendly Images

What SEO Friendly Images does is very simple. It automatically adds ALT and TITLE attributes to the images in your posts for SEO purposes. You can automatically insert post titles, file names, post categories and tags, plus any text of your choosing. Set it and forget it. SEO Friendly Images works in the background automatically so you don’t have to write custom attributes every time you add an image. This plugin makes it easy to target keywords with your images.

SEO Friendly Images

SEO Friendly Images Settings

This is just a small sampling of the multitude of WordPress plugins out there. Look out for future posts on WordPress features and plugins.

What are your favorite WordPress plugins and why? Feel free to share in the comments box. Also, if there are any particular topics on running a WordPress site you’d like me to write about, let me know in the comments or click the Contact link at the top or bottom of the page to send me an email. I enjoy getting your suggestions and look forward to hearing from you.

David Santy

Wordpress web designer, manager and consultant based in Madison, WI. Visit My Google Profile+ and add me to your Circles!

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