As WordPress evolves and becomes more efficient, doing more of what we want as standard, it is important to take a look at the plugins you are already using and which of those may no longer be necessary.
One example is the “Exclude from Navigation” that was always invaluable, especially when using WordPress for websites. Now that WordPress has the Menus feature as standard we can instead specify our navigation there (yes, a blog post on how to do this follows next week) – if your theme allows of course (but not to worry if it doesn’t as you can still use this plugin).
So – what are our latest plugin recommendations?
There are a number of essential plug-ins that we strongly suggest you install and activate. However, for each task you want taken care of there are several options, so putting together a definitive plugin list is not always that straightforward. There is such a choice now that you can choose the plugin that suits you best, or perhaps those that work best together – sometimes they can fall over each other and cause problems (only install and keep live those plugins you are using and need). So we’re not going to be overly specific, but rather encourage you to look for the plugins that will work best for you, your blog/website and for your business. Consider what you want your blog/website to do and look for the plugin (and/or theme) that will do it for you.
Within your Dashboard, go to Plugins, Add New and then Search for what you want.
For instance if you want to use Twitter (and there are different ways to do this – showing your tweets, asking people to Follow you or tweet the post) then search for what you want – i.e. Twitter Stream and see what comes up. There will be a dozen options, which can be daunting, but look for a well-rated plugin, check the Details to see if it is up-to-date and if popular – then Install and test it out.
Don’t be afraid to try different plugins, but remember to deactivate and ideally delete those you don’t want.
For basics, we do suggest the following:
Spam Filter – an immediate essential. For personal blogs you should just use Akismet as there is no charge, but even for business use, at $5 per month it can be worth it. There are other options – plugins that you can install such as Defensio, which works well and is free for small business use or you might like to consider using Disqus to handle comments while making use of its in-built filter.
Visitor Stats – again there are plenty of options providing us with whatever level of information we want, from the simple Count per Day plugin to one of the Google Analytics options. We install the former as standard now until the blog or website owner knows just how much detail they want. It is simple and offers an immediate overview of what’s going on.
Backup – of the many available backup plugins, we would not look at a complete backup solution, such as the WordPress Backup to Dropbox or the Snapshot Backup. either a combination of the WordPress Database Backup and or go with something more complete with the one-stop premium plug-in BackupBuddy, which we now use on all sites because it works a treat. Most will now enable you to backup to Dropbox or to Amazon S3 if you wish, or to simply hold the backup on your server, or email it to you.
Cryptx is still something we include as standard – scrambling any email addresses to avoid harvesting.
And for security the trusty Secure WordPress is as good as anything, combined with common sense processes that should put enough blocks in the way of anyone wanting to do harm to your blog/website.
And offering a level of protection for your content is the WP-Protect plugin – while this won’t stop people copying your content entirely, it does put a few blocks in their way.
If you like to write posts in advance or have several authors to herd, the Editorial Calendar is invaluable.
And as for the social media sharing options, well that needs a post of its own. There are many choices beyond the standard Tweetmeme and Facebook Like buttons – some that do the lot in one plugin and others that add individual buttons. The thing to do is keep it simple, don’t add things just because you can and they catch your eye – imagine that every plugin has to earn its place within your WordPress.
For contact forms we still like the Contact Form 7 plugin but as ever there are many to choose from, so do take a look at what you can use and do.
And then there are the various Google plugins, as well as for analytics (several strong contenders), there are many that help you integrate Google Maps, Google Ads and more… It is definitely sensible to include a sitemap and the Google XML Sitemaps does a good job of this.
Beyond these – well just about anything you might want to do with your WordPress, there is likely a plugin or 3 that does it for you. Explore and test and have fun!