Plugins are, in my opinion, the big reason why WordPress has become the juggernaut success story of content management systems. Plugins let you extend and enhance the functionality of your self-hosted WordPress-powered website. Anything from a simple contact form to full blown e-commerce functionality can be added to your WordPress site with plugins.
But because there are so many plugins, the question of which ones to use comes up for every WordPress site owner. There are often many plugins all trying to do the same thing. Some plugins cost money while most are free. The choice can be paralyzing, especially for someone who doesn’t feel terribly confident in their technical skills.
So I figured it would be helpful to you if I shared with you what plugins I was using and why I chose them over other similar plugins.
Backups for your WordPress site are a must. BackupBuddy (affiliate link) is a commercial plugin (in other words, it’s not free) and service that automates your WordPress file and database backups.
But it also does a lot more than that. For example, if you were to have your site redesigned or moved to a different web server, BackupBuddy will handle the exporting and importing of all the data and files for a smooth transition.
You can have your backups go into a DropBox folder or other online data storage service such as Amazon’s S3.
WordPress sites can be easily attacked and compromised even if you keep everything up-to-date. BulletProof Security does a number of things to protect your WordPress installation by rewriting your .htaccess file.
Fair warning: this plugin is pretty technical to set up and is not for the faint-hearted. You may want to search for something easier in the security department if you’re not up to it.
CommentLuv (affiliate link) fetches a commentor’s recent blog post and creates a link to it below the comment. It’s a great way to encourage comments because it provides added incentive for people to visit your site if they’re curious about you. These links are not followed by Google (the case for all links in WordPress comments by default).
If you also use CommentLuv and you comment on another site using CommentLuv, you have your choice about which link out of your last ten posts.
Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 is my contact form plugin. I chose this one over all the others I’ve looked at because it was the right mix of options without being too complicated to use. You create a form, add fields to it, and then the plugin generates a shortcode you can copy and paste into a page or a widget to place a contact form on the web page.
The DiggDigg social sharing plugin has nothing to do with the site Digg. It creates a social media sharing bar that floats alongside your page as visitors scroll down. You can see my how to set up DiggDigg post for more information. I’ve tried many different social sharing plugins and nothing has worked as nicely or looks as nice as DiggDigg.
Google Sitemaps plugin creates an XML sitemap for Google. What this means in plain English is that you can improve your site’s search engine optimization by suggesting to Google how often it should crawl your site for new URLs.
Links in Captions
Links in Captions is a gem of a plugin that lets you create hyperlinks in image captions, which currently is not possible otherwise in WordPress.
Pippity (affiliate link) delivers an opt-in form for your email newsletter to first time visitors. What makes it different from other popup managers is that rather than trigger based on time, it triggers when the visitor reaches the bottom of the page… after the visitor has read the article.
I am really bad at accidentally clicking the “Publish” button when I mean to click “Preview!” The Publish Confirmation plugin prevents these accidents by presenting a simple confirmation dialog box: Are you SURE you want to publish this post? This thing is a godsend: no more accidental post publishing!
Subscribe to Comments Reloaded
Subscribe to Comments Reloaded gives your commentors the chance to receive updates to a post’s comments via email. This greatly increases commenting and participation on your site. If you’re using a third-party commenting service like Disqus or Livefyre, you won’t need this plugin because that option is built into those services.
Tweet Old Post
The Tweet Old Post plugin does exactly what its name says: it tweets out links to older posts you’ve written. I have seen a lot more traffic and comments coming in to my older posts because of this plugin. You can set parameters for what will and will not get tweeted. For example you can tell it far back in your archives to go, or exclude certain categories.
W3 Total Cache
A caching plugin speeds up your site dramatically by delivering cached versions of pages to visitors instead of forcing a zillion database queries in order to load a page. Sometimes caching plugins can cause problems due to conflicts with your theme or with other plugins, but W3 Total Cache works beautifully with Headway (affiliate link).
And there you have it: those are the plugins I use currently. I’ll be redesigning the site soon and will work in a few more. I’ll publish a new post about those when the time comes.