It is my belief that for anyone who is passionate about writing and not so keen on developing websites, WordPress is the best content management system (bit of website software) to build and manage a website. WordPress is great because it is fully open source (so no cash needs to be handed over to use it) and there is a very active community which supports the software.
Although some SEOs and webmasters believe that WordPress works “out of the box” perfectly well, I do like to use a few plugins to give it a boost and enhance the CMS. Here is a list of the main plugins that I use. I do not use them all on all websites, but do use them all somewhere or other. Some are handy to have, some are vital, some simply save time and others can improve your website in ways you just could not imagine (OK, I am getting over excited, they are just all OK really).
Here are my recommended plugins for enhancing and WordPress blog.
Broken Link Checker
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/broken-link-checker/ – Checks for broken links, also for redirects (and fixes them, careful of aff links!). Broken link checker really is an amazing tool. Not only does it scan for webpage links, it also scans all images, embedded videos and redirects. It will even report on URLs that are not linked, just written in plain text. One very powerful use for this is if you change your permalink structure in WordPress. WordPress will set up 301s for any links you have within articles, and Broken Link Checker will then tell you about redirects. You can then click to check boxes and press “Fix Redirects” and hey presto, all links are fixed. Warning: if you have short URLs and advertising URLs in place be careful with the “Fix Redirects” buttons. I once accidentally fixed some affiliate links and was linking direct to the product pages and getting no commission (it is probably only me that makes such silly mistakes!). I actually blogged about this before, WordPress Broken Link Checker is Awesome!
Category Text Widget
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/category-text-widget/ – I use this to provide a manual recommended sidebar list for each category. Simple and effective. I generally have around 5 main categories for any blog and then with this simple WordPress widget I can list the most important pages for each category. Much more powerful than just relying on an automated related posts widget as you can choose the words and pages yourself.
I have actually replaced Category Text Widget with Display widgets on one blog and this is more powerful still. I used display widgets to place all advert banners on one site so that I could stop them appearing on the homepage (I wanted to homepage to be advert free).
Follow My Links
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/follow-my-links/ – any links the main admin makes in comments are followed. So if you point a reader to another page on your site or to a resource on another website those links do not have the “nofollow” attribute added and these keeps the PageRank flowing.
Google Sitemap Generator
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-sitemap-generator/ – does a good job I think. The easiest way to build a Google friendly XML sitemap. I do not always bother with it on smaller sites, but on larger ones it is really handy. As the sitemap is updated on the fly each time a new post or page is added you do not need to mess around with running programs to crawl your content and then create files to be uploaded by FTP. I used to use Softplus’s GSiteCrawler until I discovered the Google Sitemap Generator.
Pages in the RSS feed
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/rss-includes-pages/ – It does what it says on the tin! This plugin puts pages in the RSS feed. If you run a site using pages and posts then this is a great plugin. Some of my most popular pages are WordPress Pages (historical reasons, dating back to the time the whole site was a bunch of static html files).
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/merge-tags/ – if they have gone tag happy then this can quickly merge loads together. I used to randomly add tags like there was no tomorrow. Then I realised I had loads of tag pages with just one article listed. Duplicate content hell! Since then I keep tags to a minimum, I only use them if I feel a category needs to be subdivided (which is very rarely). In fact, I almost never add tags now.
Recent comments widget with comment excerpts
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/recent-comments-widget-with-comment-excerpts/ – rather than repeating the post name it shows what was written. This is a great little plugin, such a simple but important idea. If you show a list of the most recent comments on your blog sidebar, the default version will show the page title of the comment. So if the last 10 comments were all on the same page, you get a list with 10 identical links – it looks dumb. This plugin shows the first part of what the commenter has written which makes more sense.
Simple move comments
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/simple-move-comments/ – may be handy if you want to delete some posts and merge. I have used this on a site that needed a lot of tidying up. There were a lot of short and similar articles, which after the Google Panda updates no longer ranked. So I merged and deleted articles, bur before doing so moved all the comments on to one page. All done in a click with this plugin. It does not allow you to move individual comments though, which is a shame (hint hint developers!).
Subscribe to comments
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/ – This simply allows a commenter to subscribe to the page when they leave a comment. Very useful in a blog where people are asking questions, and helps to bring people back to the site too.
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/breadcrumbs/ – You want breadcrumbs? Then this makes breadcrumbs. You just need to chose some options and put the code somewhere in your theme (e.g. in the header.php below the site menu).
WP Super Cache + WP Minify for speed
I have tried a few caching plugins and this combination generally results in fewest errors and good response time. Although if you get the WHITE SCREEN OF DEATH first disable the WP Minify as this does cause the problem sometimes. On one blog I am using an alternative minify solution, Better WordPress Minify, which seems to reduce these errors.
Utech List Post Titles
Utech List Post Titles – http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/utech-list-post-titles/ – create lists of latest posts for specific category. Simple and effective. You just add a shortcode to a WordPress Post or Page specifying the category and it shows the most recent posts. I use it on some homepages to order the content better.
List category posts
For custom HTML sitemaps I use List category posts – http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/list-category-posts/. This will allow you to list all posts in a category in alphabetical order on any page using shortcodes. I use it to make custom HTML sitemaps (for people to read, not for googlebot).
There are other plugins that I run for various things, on some sites I use the AZIndex instead of the List category posts. For a simple contact form I often use the Dagon Design Form Mailer or the Fast Secure Contact Form.
To help with Google+ profiles I use the Allow REL= and HTML in Author Bios which I have blogged about previously.
The other plugins I use are more admin related and not designed to enhance user experience. I may discuss those in the next post, if this post proves to be popular.