The most essential WordPress Plugins available

The blog you read right now is based on WordPress.

I quite like WordPress. In fact I’ve grown fond of it over the years. While i had an aversion to lots of standardized open source CMS (most notably Joomla, Typo3 and Drupal), WordPress was always the one platform that i had highest hopes in. Maybe because it was only a blogging software at first – the plugins then became more complex over the years and WordPress eventually developed into a full blown CMS that could manage websites of quite some complexity.

What i always loved most about WordPress was its easy installation and setup process – it literally takes me no more than an hour to set up a fresh Installation, including hosting, domain handling and basic theme integration and adjustments.

“Best of Breed” WordPress Plugins that should come out of the box

While the abundance of available plugins is both curse and bliss at the same time, i’m trying to point out a few of the absolute “Best of Breed” Plugins for specific functionalities as i always found it hard to find a definitive Plugin for one certain Tool. For example there’s lots of SEO Plugins available, but only one managed to really convince me.

There’s loads and loads of blogs out there advertising the absolute best WordPress Plugins of every year – i’m not trying to add to the noise here, i just try to establish sort of a State of The Art of WordPress Plugins.

So in short: These plugins should be the first plugins you’re ever going to install on a fresh WordPress Setup, especially if you decide to put well indexable, accessible and shareable content out into the web.

SEO Tools

There’s two “Big Players” out there, out of which Yoast’s SEO Plugin for WordPress convinced me the most.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 12.10.32

I like it’s elaborate design and the “realtime” SERP preview as well as the feedback it gives you when editing posts or pages to match a certain keyword. If you really wanna finetune your content for SEO purposes, Yoast’s Plugin is the way to go.

Yoast’s SEO Plugin

Social Sharing

It took me a while to decide what’s best for social sharing, a must have feature on every blog if you want people to be able to put your content out there for the world to see and share.

I’m currently still using Digg Digg on this particular blog, but i recently made a discovery that trumped all other sharing plugins in terms of weight, simplicity and asynchronous loading. Most Sharing Plugins are just too bloated or include Spyware elements such as Flash Cookies for Cross Domain User Tracking.

WPBeginners Floating Social Bar is probably the most solid Sharing Plugin available. It only supports the “Big 5” of Social Sharing Platforms yet (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest), but do you ever really need a share button for all these other obscure Platforms? I mean who ever posts to Mister Wong anymore? As for Hacker News and Reddit, no API Sharing is possible anyway, i find it easier to just copy the Link and submit it there manually. Any additional icons would just clutter the post.

Floating Social Bar

Google Analytics Integration

This is a no-brainer actually and there’s many Plugins that will do the trick. But as with the SEO Tools Plugin, i give Yoast’s Google Analytics Plugin the Thumbs up here. It’s very user friendly, configurable and neatly looking.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 12.15.07

Yoast’s Google Analytics for WordPress

Performance Optimisation

All you basically need for a performance boost is some sort of caching mechanism enabled and in the ideal case a JS/CSS Minification engine. W3 Total Cache is a totally solid Plugin with basic Caching and Minification support as well as some additional Features and Tools, as well as the possibility for CDN Integration, most of which are available as a paid option only.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 21.47.20

You might not need the whole caching stack if your blog is hosted on a high performance and/or dedicated Webserver, but if you’re on a shared hosting solution, better make sure nothing breaks down if you might suddenly get lots of concurrent visitors. We don’t want anyone to write an awesome post and then have their website break down because the server can’t handle all the potential traffic, do we?

W3 Total Cache

Security

You only ever care about security once something bad happens. I never cared much about additional security either – most of the time nothing bad happens but once it does you’ll be sorry for the rest of your life not having gone all the way and added that extra layer.

Especially when using open source software such as WordPress, it’s of utmost importance to keep everything up to date, since outdated versions often sport known exploits that may allow hackers a backdoor entrance which in the worst case allows them to take complete control of your webserver.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 22.04.48

There’s a nifty plugin called “Better WP Security” which allows you to impose better security settings on one or the other corner, i highly recommend using it. You don’t need to activate every setting, but there’s a few nice pointers that might get you to think twice about certain security aspects.

Better WP Security

Tablular Data

The standard WYSIWYG editor in WordPress has lots of basic formatting function, but it’s really missing a good visual table editor. In fact it’s missing any table editor at all. Of course every novice web developer knows hot to create a table in pure HTML but if you expect laymen to use your Blog and/or CMS it’s best to give them a tool that does exactly that.

Whilst this plugin is not thought as a formatting or layout helper (which we all know is not what HTML tables are for anyway), it’s great to display rich tabular data on your blogs and possibly have people sort and rearrange the data. Hell, it’s even got support for responsive tables, a topic which could take a blog post for itself.

TablePress

Syntax Highlighting

You probably only need this Plugin in case you’re sharing code in your blog. If you’re not a software developer or web designer, it’s probably safe to skip this article. In any other case, you should grab a copy of Crayon Syntax Highlighter.

Look at that good looking code highlighting integration, just like your favorite IDE flavour! And it comes with loads of themes and options too!

Crayon Syntax Highlighter

Comment Spam Prevention

Forget about the Akismet Plugin that comes shipped with WordPress – it’s the first thing to throw out and replace with the much more efficient Antispam Bee.

There’s not much to say about this Plugin really, except that it keeps your Blog Comments as Spam Free as can be. It doesn’t quite catch everything, but i managed to keep comment spam as low as maybe one entry a week, as opposed to 10 a day as was the case without a Plugin.

Antispam Bee

Conclusion

As always, comments are very welcome! Maybe you found a better plugin for one or the other functionality? Or is there a plugin that you think should come directly out of the WordPress box? Let me know!

I hope to get your blog kickstarted with these essential Plugins on here. I’ll make sure to add to the list if i keep making discoveries but i tried to keep it as essential als possible.

Leave a Comment.