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My Favorite WordPress Plugins

These are my favorite WordPress plugins. I use them on all of my WP sites and I highly recommend them. They’re useful. They’re easy to configure. And, best of all, they’re free.

I’ve compiled this list in hopes that it might help other WordPress fans with their projects. Did I miss any? What’s on your Favorite WordPress Plugins list?

1. W3 Total Cache Plugin page

This plugin will improve  the performance of your website, giving your visitors a better experience and faster load times, by using caching.

WordPress is a dynamic CMS, meaning that it pulls information from the database and computes things on the fly. It then compiles a response and serves it to the user. If there are too many things going on, that can be a very slow process. W3 Total Cache performs those functions ahead of time, then creates and serves a flat, lightning-fast version to your users.

The benefits of using W3 Total Cache are impressive.

  • At least 10x improvement in overall site performance, when fully configured
  • “Instant” subsequent page views, using browser caching
  • Optimized progressive render: pages start rendering quickly
  • Increased visitor time on site, due to reduced page load time
  • Improved web server performance, allowing your site to sustain high traffic periods
  • Up to 80% bandwidth savings via minify & HTTP compression of HTML, CSS, JavaScript & feeds

Drawbacks

Caching seems to cause issues with .htaccess once in a while. On occasion, simply saving a post draft will return a 404 error. It’s annoying, but doesn’t cause any major problems.

2. SEO Ultimate Plugin page

SEO Ultimate is the best out-of-the-box solution for maximizing your WordPress website’s SEO efforts. I’ve tried dozens of SEO plugins and SEO Ultimate is definitely my favorite.

The plugin gives authors complete control over vital SEO settings, like URLs, title tags, and meta descriptions. It has customizable settings for noindex attributes, canonical tags, autolinks, 404 errors, and more.

SEO is a tricky thing. The real challenge is providing great content and value to your visitors. This plugin can’t help you with that. But it can help you maximize your exposure and technical methods for appealing to search engines.

Drawbacks

None that I can think of.

3. DBC Cron Backup Plugin page

 You must backup your data! This is the plugin I use to do it. It’s easy to set up, with one potential exception: you must provide an absolute server path to a writable directory. If that sentence made sense to you, you’re all set. If not, you may need to ask for help from a local web nerd.

I work with WordPress a lot and I always keep local copies of my PHP, HTML, CSS, and Javascript code. I learned the hard way that I also need to keep backup copies of my database. This plugin does so automatically. It could be on that cooking show: “set it and forget it.”

It will create daily backups of your entire database. If daily is too frequent for you, you can change the interval to any number of days, weeks, or months, all the way up to once-per-year. It’s very flexible and does it job perfectly.

DBC Cron Backup also offers gzip compression (level 1 through level 9) of the backup file so it will take up less space on your server.

Drawbacks

None that I can think of.

4. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin Plugin page

 This plugin displays a list of related posts at the end of each single post. It’s very useful for keeping your visitors engaged with your site’s content and avoiding the dead-end feeling users sometimes get after reading a post.

The plugin is extremely versatile and customizable. Or, if you prefer, works perfectly right out of the box with no tweaks or changes.

“YARPP,” as it’s known, has been endorsed by Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, and by Matt Cuts, the head of Google’s Webspam team. If it’s good enough for those two heavy-hitters, it’s good enough for me.

Drawbacks

This one may not apply to everyone. I customize my YARPP templates pretty heavily and sometimes when the I update the plugin, I lose some of my customization. Very annoying.

5. WP-PageNavi Plugin page

 This plugin replaces the default “← Older posts | Newer posts →” links, used for browsing posts. It replaces those two links with pagination links dynamically calculated based on your posts and settings.

Its author, Lester Chan, is well known in the WordPress community for his many plugins and other contributions. The plugin is actively supported and continues to improve over time.

I find WordPress’ default “older”/”newer” pagination to be frustrating when I want to browse through several pages of post archives. WP-PageNavi provides a much smoother method of doing so. It does what WordPress should have done all along.

Drawbacks

The settings are customizable, but the template isn’t (unless you modify the plugin’s core files). The plugin does allow for custom CSS, but I’d like to see customizable PHP templates included.

6. Twitter Tools Plugin page

Aptly named, Twitter Tools provides a series of tools for integrating your WordPress blog and your Twitter account. I found this plugin most helpful for those authors who want to be content distributors, not just sharers or personal updaters.

Twitter Tools really does allow for complete integration: it’s like a two-way street. It can automatically tweet when you publish a new blog post. AND, it can automatically create a new post whenever you post a new tweet. It can also create a daily “digest” post, listing that day’s tweets.

The plugin’s Twitter-to-blog functionality can be very useful if your Twitter stream creates a lot of conversation and reaction. It’s also a great way to archive your Twitter stream for future reference.

Drawbacks

It’s a small drawback, but any Twitter Tools-generated tweet must have a prefix like, “Posted:” etc. I would prefer to tweet just the title of the post without any prefix.

Did I miss any?

These are my favorites. Honorable mentions go to Search Everything, WordPress.com Stats (now “Jetpack”), and Akismet.

What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments below.