WordPress rookie? Been there! I used WordPress for the first time a few months ago. A friend of mine that runs a blog mentioned it’s what he used, so I just ran with that…having no idea that there was so much to be done to the “out-of-the-box” WordPress to make it more functional and more search engine friendly. I didn’t even know what “WordPress Plugins” were then. Hell, I didn’t know anything about CSS (except that it was the acronym for “Cascading Style Sheets”) a few months ago. Web development plebe, I tell you – plebe!
I learn a little bit more every day…and I’m quite certain I still have VOLUMES to learn – not only about WordPress itself, but about web development in general. Even for a code schmuck like myself, WordPress is pretty easy to learn – and even easier to manipulate, thanks to themes, CSS and plugins! I wish I’d have had a “must have WordPress plugins” list when I started using it, but I didn’t. Instead, I’ve just been searching – adding more plugins and playing around with code – ah, geek fun!
The Plugins Really Make WordPress
The plugins are my favorite part of the WordPress platform. I’ve yet to find a function I wanted to add that couldn’t be accomplished by installing a simple plugin. I don’t build fancy sites – I build clean, simple, pretty, SEO friendly sites…and WordPress is perfect for that. That said, a few months ago when I began this love affair with WordPress, I didn’t find any articles touting the must have WordPress plugins for rookies. Perhaps it’s because of the rate at which plugins change and new ones are released…or perhaps its just that I didn’t look hard enough for the info. So, I decided to write my own – maybe it will help you find some useful WordPress plugins more easily.
Since my professional life pretty much revolves around SEO these days, it won’t be surprising that my core list of must haves does the same. This should in no way, shape or form be considered an exhaustive or all-inclusive list of the best SEO-related plugins. These are simply the ones that I make certain to install during the initial development stages of every WordPress site I build.
So, without further ado, here they are:
- Platinum SEO Pack – this is a new find. I recently upgraded to 2.6 only to find that the Robots Meta plugin no longer worked. While I knew it should be fixed fairly quickly (and it was – a few hours later, in fact), I tend to be an impatient girl and felt the need to find a replacement immediately. That’s when I happened upon the Platinum SEO Pack. What I like most is that it seems to combine the best features of both the All In One SEO Pack and the Robots META plugin – both of which were my plugins of choice originally (and still use on several sites).
- Add This! Button – these “share & share alike” buttons are great ways to make it easy for the people reading your blog or visiting your site to share it with other like-minded people. Add This! provides several options for adding a button to your site/blog. You can simply add the code on whatever page you like manually, or – if you’re too lazy to do that (like me) – you can simply install the plugin. There is a “drop-down” version (my personal favorite) and a “not drop-down” version.
- All-in-One Bookmarking Button – okay, so this is similar to the Add This! button mentioned above, but it’s from SocialMarker.com and it deserves mention. It pre-populates the SocialMarker.com bookmark details and lets people choose what services to submit the info to without even having to input the info initially on Social Marker’s home page.
- Redirection – I think of it as more of a safety net at this point than anything else. I’m sure it has a number of features I’m not using, but…I can live with that for now. I like it because it will automatically generate a 301 redirect if a post URL changes. If you change a post URL after you’ve already publicized it, without a 301 redirect you’ll lose all the link juice and visitors unless you 301 redirect the old URL to the new one. Redirection will do it for you.
- Google XML Sitemaps – I’m not sure this really needs much explanation. Sitemaps are good. There is a plugin that will do it for you. Also good. It updates the Sitemap automatically when you make changes to the site/blog. Even better.
- Feedburner FeedSmith – burning an RSS feed is good for building and online reputation, as well as developing a following. If you will be regularly updating your blog with fresh content, you want the world to know about it. Again, I use FeedBurner FeedSmith because it was recommended by some blogger friends of mine. It’s easy to use and understand, but I have nothing to compare it to as this is the only burner I’ve used to date. Try reading “Top 10 Reasons to Burn Your Feed” for a little more info.
- Ultimate Google Analytics – I think the name sums it up. Thus far I have had little reason to use anything but the simple configuration. Highly configurable as your level of expertise and need for more specific data gathering increase. Frankly, rookies like me will probably just like that it inputs the Google Analytics code automatically.
- WordPress Automatic Upgrade – so, here’s the thing – when you’re new to WordPress and don’t know much about databases, servers, etc. one of the worst things that can happen is logging in to write a post and seeing: “There’s a new version of WordPress – please upgrade…”. The first time, “CRAP!” was all that leapt to mind…and off I went to learn how to do it manually. The second time, that “CRAP!…” was followed by, “…not so fast – I bet there’s a plugin that will do this for me!”. And there is…including making the necessary backups, deactivating & reactivating the plugins and cleaning up after itself when its done. I’ve now used the Automatic Upgrade plugin several times without issue.
- ADDED OCTOBER 1, 2008: “Social Profiles” – developed by Rae Hoffman and Joost de Valk, this plugin is an invaluable tool in building a sense of community and collaboration with those who take the time to leave comments on your posts. This plugin allows your registered users to add their own social profile information, as well as links to those social profiles, on each comment. The plugin is completely customizable and you can select the social networking sources that are most popular with your users. SCORE!
A Nod To Brilliance – PROGRAMMERS!
I love programmers. You guys are genuises – SERIOUSLY! Not only is WordPress stellar as far as content management goes, but the brilliant minds that increase it’s usability/functionality by authoring themes and plugins are equally awesome. I had never touched CSS, nor used any type of content management system before, so perhaps I’m unusually impressed with it just because I’m a development plebe. Who knows? The fact of the matter is that for someone like me who learns well on the fly and wants to take as much control as possible, without having to know everything there is to know from the start, it’s is perfect.
Get To It
So, there you have it – my glowing review of my experience with WordPress to this point, as well as a few plugins that I would label as “absolute must haves” for those building a site/blog with it for the first time.
I’m sure I’ve missed a ton of great ones – feel free to share your experiences and favorites! Shouldn’t you be installing some WordPress plugins right now? Oh…AFTER you Sphinn this, that is. ;)