Plugins are one of the great things about having a self-hosted WordPress site.
They are essentially bits of code that add functionality or presentation options to your site.
When most people discover how to add plugins they go crazy and add as many gadgets, widgets and features as possible, in an attempt to draw in more visitors.
What this tends to do instead is slow down your site and make your message less prominent.
That’s why it’s a good idea to have a testing site on a separate domain.
A few guidelines for using plugins:
1. Use as few as possible.
More code means less speed and your visitors like speed. Only add a plugin that is truly making a big difference either to you or your visitors.
2. Where possible, use code (EEEK!) instead of a plugin.
Every plugin you add increases load times for your site. One simple example is adding HTML code to widgets as in this article.
3. If possible use only plugins that are updated regularly.
Here are the currently active plugins we’re using on this site with a description of what they do and why I chose them.
Post updated 23rd January 2013.
Active WordPress plugins on our website
The spam plugin that really works. Potential visitors IP addresses are screened against a database of known spammers and their comment gets rejected as soon as they comment. This saves bandwidth and grief!
Setup: You’ll need to create a free account at Akismet.com but you can also use your WordPress.com account details as well. When confronted with the cost slider on Akismet sign-up, remember to choose the personal box on the right if you can’t afford to pay anything. Sob
This plugin adds alignment to the images in your RSS Feed so that the formatting is consistent with your posts. This plugin still works fine even though it hasn’t been updated for a long time.
An excellent tool that searches your site, finds any broken links and makes it very easy to fix or remove them. You can leave it on and it will alert you when it finds them but I prefer to turn it on occasionally and let it to it’s thing.
Setup: Activate the plugin and go to Tools >> Broken Links to get it to check your website.
Makes it easy to manage and add to a dynamic FAQ page.
Allows you to track the activity of your website visitors. An invaluable tool made by one of the WordPress stars, Joost de Valk.
Setup: Activate the plugin, go to Settings >> Google Analytics and enter your Tracking ID into the field. More on how to add Google Analytics to WordPress.
I no longer use this plugin as I’ve turned on the XML sitemaps feature in Yoast’s SEO plugin. (see below)
Makes it easy to add an about me widget in the sidebar that links to my full about page.
This is more of a suite of plugins that can activate as needed. It has a bad habit of turning them all on at once when you activate it so make sure you turn off the ones you’re not going to be using. Trust me though it is worth it.
What does Jetpack include that we use?
- A new super cool and fast commenting system that allows traditional comment forms as well as Twitter, Facebook and WordPress.com logins. Options found in Settings >> Discussion.
- A set of fast sharing buttons that you can place at the end of all your posts or pages. Options found in Settings >> Sharing.
- Subscriptions that allow users to receive notifications on comments threads as well as posts. I only use the comments notification as I have a separate email system. Options found in Settings >> Discussion.
- Enhanced distribution which I assume is some kind of ping tool that lets search engines know when I publish new articles. Sounds good to me!
Setup: Activating the plugin will create a new menu called Jetpack. You’ll need to be logged in to a free WordPress.com account that you can then authorize to work with the plugin.
Allows images that link to larger versions create a black overlay in a window. Works with photo galleries as well.
Setup: Activate the plugin, go to Appearance >> Lightbox Plus and open Other Settings and tick the following boxes and press the Save Settings button. You can also change the look of the effect at General Settings.
This security plugin stops the most basic WordPress attacks. Password guessing. After 5 wrong attempts to guess your admin password the potential hacker will be blocked from your site for a set time.
Setup: Activate and go to Settings >> Limit Login Attempts to tweak the settings and make it even harder for them to get in!
This plugin allows me to create a series of articles that display in the exact order that I want. This adds some crucial functionality that is good for useability and for the publishing mindset.
This is a feature I plan to use a lot more on this site. The first example of which is the WordPress Publishing for Beginners series.
Setup: Activate and go to Settings >> Series Options and Posts >> Manage Series to configure and use.
You will also now see this in your post edit screen:
This updates the horrible default WordPress search algorithm to something that users can actually get some benefit from.
Adds a nice looking pop-up box for text and images that link to an image. Test it here.
This security plugin for WordPress, scans your site, looking for malware, spam, blacklisting and other security issues. Allows one-click hardening of your WordPress install as well as malware removal if required.
Setup: Activate and go to the new menu Sucuri Scanner to start the tests.
Setup correctly this plugin 0ptimizes a WordPress website and make it load faster for visitors by serving up cached pages instead all the database calls and weighty scripts in WordPress and your plugins. Very powerful plugin but quite a process to setup properly. An easier to use alternative to this plugin is WP Super Cache.
Setup: There is a detailed article on how to setup this powerful WordPress optimization plugin right here.
This plugin makes it easy to backup your entire website to your free dropbox account. Read how to setup this plugin.
By far the most powerful SEO plugin for WordPress. It helps both in setting up WordPress correctly as well as making it as simple as possible for every day people to publish well formatted articles with SEO in mind. Created by one of the WordPress superstars, Joost De Valk. Explore more about SEO in WordPress.
Setup: Activate and go to SEO >> Titles & Metas >> Home tab to configure your home page title meta tags. For a more extensive setup guide for this plugin, click here.
Provides a deeper set of tools to watch over and secure your WordPress website. It includes database backup, a password tool as well as another website scanner and other optimization tools.
Setup: Activate and visit the new menu item, WSD Security to start one of the many tests.
Adds some closely relevant links to other related posts at the end of articles. Great to keep visitors reading more of your content.
The rest of the features and functions on this site are served up by an awesome theme called Beveled.
But that as they say… is another story.
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions about these plugins.
Happy internet travels!