I was on the phone the other day with a friend and we got to talking about plugins. He had noticed that his site had been loading slowly lately, and he wasn’t sure why. He had lots of plugins on his site (and using too many plugins can definitely slow down your site) and he couldn’t remember what some of them were. So we went through his list and identified which plugins were important, and which ones he could safely get rid of. It’s good to do a plugin audit like this every now and then.
There are literally hundreds of plugins out there that do all sorts of things, and with so many choices it can be tricky to find ones that do exactly what you want them to. Good plugins can add a lot of functionality to your site, but they also use valuable resources, so I don’t recommend using more than you really need.
This started out as a “top ten list” but quickly morphed out of control. I don’t use all of these plugins on every site, but these are definitely my favorites. Here they are, listed in no particular order.
Free WordPress Plugins
- Broken Link Checker – This plugin will check your posts, comments and other content for broken links and missing images, and notify you if any are found.
- Comment Luv – Gives your visitors the option of automatically adding a link to their most recent post after their comment.
- Digg Digg – Easily integrate sharing buttons into your site with a scrolling share bar.
- Contact Form 7 – create a simple contact form for your site. Integrates with Akismet to prevent spam (I prefer Gravity Forms, but if you want a free plugin, this is a good one).
- WP-DB-Backup – configure to back up your database on a regular basis.
- Simple 301 Redirects – Create a list of URLs that you would like to 301 redirect to another page or site (you don’t need if you use Thesis). Helpful if you’re redirecting posts from an old blog to a new blog.
- Search and Replace – A simple search for find strings in your database and replace the string. Perfect for when you’re moving a blog from one URL to another and you need to update a lot of links.
- All In One SEO Pack – Automatically optimizes your WordPress blog for Search Engines (you don’t need this if you use Thesis). There is also a pro version currently priced at $39.
- Google XML SItemaps – This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com to better index your blog, and update it every time you make changes.
- Maintenance Mode – This is helpful for those times when you’re working on your site and don’t want anyone to be able to see it – good for when you’re switching themes or when you have a new site that isn’t quite ready for prime time.
- Sociable – An easy way to add sharing links to the bottom of your posts
- Tiny MCE Advanced – This enables advanced features and plugins and allows you to customize TinyMCE, the visual editor in WordPress.
- WP-Cycle – Want a slideshow that looks like flash but isn’t? The WP-Cycle plugin allows you to upload images from your computer, which will then be used to generate a jQuery Cycle Plugin slideshow of the images.
- WP Touch – Automatically formats your site for viewing on an iphone.
- Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – (YARPP) Places a list of related posts at the bottom of a post
- Link Within – similar to YARPP, but allows for an image and text snippet for each post
- W3 Total Cache – A highly effective caching plugin to make your site load faster.
- Flexi Quote Rotator – Allows you to add the quotations to your site using a shortcode or php snippet in template instead of only as a widget. A good plugin for rotating quotes easily.
- Widget Logic – This plugin gives every widget an extra control field called “Widget logic” that lets you control the pages that the widget will appear on
- No Self Pings – Keeps WordPress from sending pings to your own site. Helpful if you do a lot of internal linking.
- JQuery Lightbox for Native Galleries – Create a lightbox using the native WordPress gallery feature
- Mailchimp List Subscribe Form – The MailChimp plugin allows you to quickly and easily add a signup form for your MailChimp list.
- SlideDeck – Create a visual slider with any type of web content. The free version is branded. Pro version ($99) has more options and you can remove the branding.
- NextGEN Gallery – NextGEN Gallery is a full integrated Image Gallery plugin for WordPress with a slideshow option.
- Twitter Widget Pro – A widget to embed your twitter feeds on your blog, including @username, #hashtag, and link parsing. It supports displaying profiles images, and even lets you control whether to display the time and date of a tweet or how log ago it happened (about 5 hours ago, etc).
Premium WordPress Plugins
- Gravity Forms – (with Mailchimp and Paypal integration) – I love Gravity Forms because it allows for complex forms, and it also integrates with Mailchimp and Paypal. If you have a registration form for an event, you can have your visitor fill out the form, and when they hit the submit button they will be taken straight to paypal. Pretty slick. The Gravity Forms Mailchimp Add-On integrates Gravity Forms with MailChimp allowing form submissions to be automatically sent to your MailChimp account. Gravity Forms is hands down the best contact form plugin for WordPress at this time.
- Backup Buddy – Backs up all your files, settings, and content allowing rapid restoration or migration to a new host or URL. Schedule backups of your database, and you can take full backups as well. Download backup files or send backups by FTP, email, or upload to Amazon S3. Just released 2.0 version now has more features than before. A good one to have. I just found out this is on sale this week! Enter the code APRIL30PB to get 30% off between now and Friday.
(affiliate disclaimer: there are a few affiliate links on this page, which means if you decide to buy them through these links you help support this site. I only recommend products that I would use myself.)
So that’s my “short list”. What are your favorites? Leave a comment and share!