Later update: One of the plugins I use a lot during the last few months is Blog Audit, which I wrote myself. Find out more about Blog Audit, download it, give it a try and don’t forget to send your feedback in the comments. It’s the only way I can make this plugin better. Thank you. 🙂
I blog for about 2 years now, and the only platform I used so far is WordPress. No need to argue here about the reasons, enough for you to read some statistics on the internet and you’ll see that WordPress is giving the best feature / learning balance that you’ll need when you want to easily publish yourself. And one of the most important advantages of WordPress in front of the competition is its plugin structure. Or, simply put, on demand functionality, when the need appears.
During those 2 years I used dozens of plugins, most of the time just to see what exactly that wordpress plugin does. But, as the blog grew, and as I started to focus more on the content than on the form, I started to let go the plugins that I didn’t really need. And I eventually come up with a list of only 7 essential wordpress plugins. Don’t expect any bells and whistles from the list below, just essential functionality for the every day blogger.
Your time is precious, so is mine, so let’s get started:
No wordpress blog is launched today without a very strong protection against spam. Having relevant comments on your blog is very important, but your comments form is the gateway for the spammers too. Amongst a very long list of spam protection plugins, I found Akismet to be by far the most effective and relevant. No false positives, no tricky configuration options, just no more spam. Brilliant. Don’t forget that you will need a WordPress.com API key in order to activate your Akismet plugin. Almost any wordpress package comes today with Akismet pre-installed, but if, by any strange accident, don’t have it by default, you can download it from here. And don’t forget to check out the akismet blog in order to keep you updated with all the anti-spam news.
2. Google XML sitemaps
Having a blog is just not enough. You must tell people about it, make your ideas known. And search engines is the mass media of the blogger. Google XML sitemaps creates a sitemap of your wordpress blog, which is a very easy to read image of your blog for the search engines. I have been worked several months with sitemaps for other projects I had, and I must tell you is not the easiest task in the world. Having somebody – like a wordpress plugin, in this case – to automate all the tasks for you is a huge time saver. The plugin has an enormous list of configurations, and is also a very “quiet” one: once you’ve installed id, you’ll never heard back from him. You can download the plugin from here. If you want to stay in touch with development news, you can follow the author’s blog here.
3. Simple Tags
Apart from Google, there is only one major online service that can make tremendous service to your blog, and that is technorati. I’m sure you know everything about it so far – admit that you’re checking your authority and ranking stats daily, ok? – so I’m not gonna tell you again what technorati is. Instead, I will recommend you this very simple, yet powerful wordpress plugin, called Simple tags. Whenever you are using it – by enclosing your tags within [[tags]] tags your words will be expanded to technorati tags. I found this plugin especially useful at the beginning of my wordpress blogging experiences, but I must recognize that I still use it from time to time. The recent changes in the WordPress tagging / category management are looking promising, but since I’m quite used to this plugin, I find it very easy to use it. You can download the plugin from here.
4. Brian’s Latest Comments
Another veteran here, Brian’s latest comments is a wordpress plugin that will publish on your sidebar links to the most recent comments (and their associated posts, of course). Having a quick way to show your comments to your blog visitors is one of the “must do” things if you are writing a blog in order to create a community. Even if your blog is just a simple publishing service, showing the most recent comments is a way to prove your transparency and need to communicate. Not much to say more about this, so here is the link for the download.
This tiny little wordpress plugin is a mashup of several tiny little plugins that will basically do just one thing: allow your uses to share your posts within the social networks of their choice. Nobody can ignore the social networks today, even if nobody really knows what are social networks good at. Nevertheless, by using this wordpress plugin by the end of each post you will have a list of small icons that will put your post on all the hyped networks: from Digg to netvibes, from reddit to del.icio.us. You can find more info about the plugin here and you can download it from here.
6. WordPress Download Monitor
From time to time I find enjoyable to add some type of downloadable content to my posts. Most of the time is just a mind map, but it can be anything. Using this wordpress plugin I can do (in a very simple way) 2 things that I am very interested in, when I add downloadable content: 1. I can do this from the wordpress admin panel and 2. I can see the number of downloads for each content I set up. As in my list of the most downloaded mind maps for instance. The author of the plugin – who also has a wordpress blog for himself, of course – have several other interesting plugins, but I found only the wordpress download monitor plugin to be useful for me. If you want to see the rest of the plugins visit his blog by following the link above, but if just want to download the plugin now, click here.
WordPress Reports (formerly known as tan tan) The following wordpress plugin is one of my all time favorites. From the time we all knew it as “tan tan noodles” I was delighted by such a complicated and useful functionality, brought to you in such a simple way. And that functionality was no less than your very Google Analytics stats. No more extra logins, no more extra browser windows, check out your blog statistics from your wordpress admin console. The latest version of the WordPress Reports (which seems to be packaged with the latest wordpress 2.5 version) add an extra statistics screen, and that is feedburner circulation for your blog feed. Once you added your account information for Google Analytics and Feedburner (which needs to have the Awarness API set up, by the way) you will be enjoying blog statistics from your very own wordpress admin console. More info about the plugin here, and you can download it from here.
Update: I don’t use Tan Tan for quite some time now, instead, I highly recommend Jetpack. It has tons of features, including advanced stats and even CDN-level image caching. Check it out here.
Bonus: WordPress automatic upgrade
Yeap, I know, this is the eighth plugin, and I’ve only talked about a list of seven. Take it as a bonus track, if you want, but please take it into consideration, because this wordpress plugin is really a gem. It actually upgrade your wordpress version to the latest available, from within a web interface. Now, I have to admit, I do know how to manage a Linux server, from the bottom up, but still, when it comes to upgrading a wordpress installation “by hand”, I have my hesitations. It’s a tedious task, and it requires a lot of attention. The WordPress automatic upgrade plugin allows you to skip all this and enjoy the latest and most secure wordpress version, without any knowledge of system administration. Check out the plugin home page here, and download it from here.
Well, that’s my list. I hope you find it useful. If not, you can always check out the wordpress plugin repository and find other plugins, most suitable for your needs.
By the way, most of the plugins listed above are donationware, so if you find them useful, you can leave a donation for the authors.