7 Must-Have Plugins for WordPress

WordPress website logoThe content management system (CMS) landscape is beyond fragmented. There are literally hundreds (possibly thousands) of CMS options available.

My personal favorite is WordPress, the CMS platform we use for the Return On Now website and blog. It is also the most frequently used blogging platform today.

Plugins: Why They Matter

Bloggers love WordPress for a very good reason – you can get a website built and live in a very short period of time, without having to delve into PHP or .NET code.

But it’s more than that. The system is built by the open source community to be flexible and modular. No matter what your needs are, there is probably a plugin that offers your desired functionality.

Top 7 Must-Have WordPress Plugins for Bloggers

WordPress can be used for both blogging and overall website management. Let’s hone in on my top recommended plugins for bloggers.

SEO Management Plugin

If you want to drive organic traffic to your blog, you need an SEO plugin. There are many as good options as there are opinions, but SEO Ultimate is my personal favorite. It offers all of the basics for on-page, canonical tagging, and error tracking.

UPDATE: I moved to Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin in February 2013, and it is by far the best option available today. Ultimate is good, Yoast is better.

Performance Management Plugin

Page load time is crucial to both SEO and user experience. Particularly once you’ve started adding multiple plugins, you need to watch the performance of your WordPress based site. For this, choose a caching plugin  My top recommended plugin is WP-Cache.

Form, List, and Email Management

Don’t just create content; engage with the audience. This not only helps you build a relationship with them. It also offers the ability to market your or your partners’ products. If you don’t mind doing a little customization, Easy Contact Forms offers all the key features you will need to managed all of this.

RSS Feed Plugin

Every blog needs to have an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed, so readers can subscribe to have your content pushed to their inbox or RSS reader of choice. Feedburner offers a solid plugin, and also provides some basic reporting on their website. Do take caution though, because there is ongoing speculation that Feedburner may not be long for this world. As the only free option, I plan to use it until Google decides whether to keep it around or not.

Blog Comment Spam Filter

Trust me, if you are new to blogging, this is no small problem. The most well known and widely used plugin for WordPress is Akismet.

Webmaster Tools / Analytics

This can be one or multiple plugins, depending on your needs. Most bloggers find it easier to just start with Google and ignore the other search engines. If you choose that route, get good plugins for XML Sitemap generation and Google Analytics integration. Once you are comfortable with these, consider upgrading to a full webmaster tools plugin such as MDR Webmaster Tools.

Social Bookmarking / Sharing Icons

Don’t leave it to the reader to jump through any hoops to share your content. Make it easy by providing icons for the leading services right on each post. Rather than inserting manually, get a plugin from AddThis or a lightweight third party tool such as Shareaholic (which is what I use here) or WP Social Bookmarking Light.

Summary

There you have it – the top 7 plugins you need to get your blog started. This is not an exhaustive list. Surely you will find others that suit your needs. Just be cautious to keep site performance in mind as you add plugins. This is one situation where less is often much more.