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WordPress Plugins: The Basics of These Powerful Website Add-Ons

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There are over 31,635 WordPress plugins in the WP Directory. The GreenMellen team joined up with the All Things WordPress Meet-up and worked up a list of our favorites, along with some tips for choosing the best for your site.

Choosing a plugin

Google considers site speed as part of its complicated algorithm for search rank. Plugins are mini programs and as such, they can be large and slow down your site’s overall speed. Advice: load as few as you can, and remove what you don’t need.

How do you determine the quality of a plugin? Here are a few guidelines:

  • Verify that the plugin you’re considering is compatible up to the current version of Wordpress.
  • Double check that the plugin’s last update is relatively recent.
  • The number of downloads can be indicative of good plugin (or a very old one).
  • Ratings – higher is better.

Recommended Plugins

Think of our recommendations as a list of ingredients to produce a great meal. You may choose more than one from each category to meet your needs.

JetPack: JetPack is made and supported by WordPress. This feature packed plugin offers so many tools that it includes it’s own admin dashboard. Offering popular features like “Related Posts”, Omnisearch, contact forms, and more. Count it as 3 or 4 plugins when you consider it’s site load.

SEO

Why use a plugin for this instead of using a theme that offers SEO? AnswerIf you ever change themes, you would lose your customizations — you will not lose them with a plugin.

  • WordPress SEO (by Yoast): Improve your WordPress SEO: Write better content and have a fully optimized WordPress site.
  • All in One SEO: Automatically optimize your WordPress blog for Search Engines such as Google.
  • Page Links To: Lets you make a WordPress page (or other content type) link to an external URL of your choosing, instead of its WordPress URL.
  • PushPress: This plugin adds PubSubHubbub ( PuSH ) support to your WordPress powered site. The main difference between this plugin and others is that it includes the hub features of PuSH, built right in. This means the updates will be sent directly from WordPress to your PuSH subscribers.
  • Redirection: Redirection is a WordPress plugin to manage 301 redirections and keep track of 404 errors without requiring knowledge of Apache .htaccess files.

Forms

  • Contact form DB: Saves submitted form data to the database and provides short codes to display it. Captures data from Contact Form 7 and Fast Secure Contact Form
  • Ninja Forms: Forms created with a simple drag and drop interface. Contact forms, Email collection forms, or any other form you want on your WordPress site.
  • Gravity Forms: Quickly build and design your WordPress forms using the form editor. Select your fields, configure your options, and easily embed forms on your WordPress powered site using the built in tools.
  • Contact Form 7: Just another contact form plugin. Simple but flexible.
  • Wufoo: Allows the use of a special short code for embedding Wufoo forms. It’s best to grab the shortcode from the Wufoo Code Manager.
  • Formidable: Quickly and easily build forms with a simple drag-and-drop interface and in-place editing.

Security / Spam

  • WordFence: Wordfence Security is a free enterprise class security and performance plugin that makes your site up to 50 times faster and more secure.
  • iTheme Security / Better WP Security: The easiest, most effective way to secure WordPress in seconds.
  • GrowMap: Defeat automated spambots (even the new ‘learning’ bots with dynamically named hidden fields) by adding a client side generated checkbox.
  • Askimet: Akismet checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not.
  • Sucuri: Malware monitoring, removal and prevention

Back up / Management

  • Backup WordPress: Simple automated backups of your WordPress powered website.
  • BackWPup: Schedule complete automatic backups of your WordPress installation. Decide which content will be stored (Dropbox, S3…). (Our reviewers think this is good free program).
  • InfiniteWP: Install this plugin on unlimited sites and manage them all from a central dashboard. This plugin communicates with your InfiniteWP Admin Panel.
  • ManageWP: Manage all your WordPress sites from one place – including updates, backups, security and more.
  • Backup Buddy: The best way to back up (and move) a WordPress site. (Our reviewers recommend this as a good plugin for site migration).

Stat Tracking

  • SlimStat: The most accurate real-time statistics plugin for WordPress.
  • Jetpack: Supercharge your WordPress site with powerful features previously only available to WordPress.com users. Simple, concise stats with no additional load on your server. Previously provided by WordPress.com Stats.
  • Google Analytics for WordPress: Displays Google Analytics Reports and Real-Time Statistics in your Dashboard. Automatically inserts the tracking code in every page of your website.

Writing / Editing

  • HTML in categories: This plugin allows you to use unfiltered HTML in your category descriptions by disabling selected WordPress filters.
  • Search and Replace: A simple search for find strings in your database and replace the string.
  • Related Posts Thumbnails: Link to related content to help your readers. Get attention from other authors. Make great outbound links for SEO. With just a few clicks. (JetPack also can do this)
  • TinyMCE Advanced: This plugin will let you add, remove and arrange the buttons that are shown on the Visual Editor toolbar. It includes 15 plugins for TinyMCE that are automatically enabled or disabled depending on what buttons are chosen.
  • TablePress: TablePress enables you to create and manage tables, without having to write HTML code, and it adds valuable functions for your visitors.

Comments / Social

  • Subscribe to Comments Reloaded: Subscribe to Comments Reloaded allows commenters to sign up for e-mail notifications of subsequent replies.
  • Simple Social Icons: This plugin allows you to insert social icons in any widget area.
  • JetPack: Integration with and automatic posting to your favorite social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Path, and LinkedIn. Social networking enabled comment system.

Images

  • Soliloquy: Soliloquy is jam-packed full of powerful features that make slider creation both fun and easy.
  • Envira: The best responsive WordPress gallery plugin. Made lite and free.
  • Jetpack: With Carousel active, any standard WordPress galleries you have embedded in posts or pages will launch a gorgeous full-screen photo browsing experience with comments and EXIF metadata.
  • WP Gallery Custom Links: Specify custom links for WordPress gallery images (instead of attachment or file only).

Others

  • Pricing Tables: Wordpress Pricing Table is pure CSS3 and HTML pricing table packs.
  • 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.
  • Ultimate Coming Soon Page: Creates a Coming Soon page or Launch page for your Website while it’s under construction and collects emails from your visitors.
  • Widget embed latest Tweets: A Widget to show your latest tweets.

Events / Members

  • Event Espresso: Manage your events from your WordPress dashboard. Reduce your admin, reduce your costs, make your life easier!
  • S2 Member: s2Member® — a powerful (free) membership plugin for WordPress®. Protect members only content with roles/capabilities.
  • BuddyPress: Social networking in a box. Build a social network for your company, school, sports team, or niche community.

Development

  • Genesis Simple Edits: This plugin creates a new Genesis settings page that allows you to modify the post-info (byline), post-meta, and footer area on any Genesis theme. Using text, shortcodes, and HTML in the text boxes provided in the admin screen, these three commonly modified areas are easily editable, without having to learn PHP or write functions, filters, or mess with hooks.
  • Genesis Simple Hooks: This plugin creates a new Genesis settings page that allows you to insert code (HTML, Shortcodes, and PHP), and attach it to any of the 50+ action hooks throughout the Genesis Theme Framework, from StudioPress.
  • Genesis Simple Sidebars: This plugin allows you to create multiple, dynamic widget areas, and assign those widget areas to sidebar locations within the Genesis Framework on a per post, per page, or per tag/category archive basis.
  • Ultimate Coming Soon Page: The Ultimate Coming Soon Page plugin allows you quick and easily set up a coming soon or launch page for your website.
  • Widget CSS Classes: Widget CSS Classes gives you the ability to add custom classes and ids to your WordPress widgets
    Please note that this plugin doesn’t enable you to enter custom CSS. You’ll need to edit your theme’s style.css or add another plugin that allows you to input custom CSS.
  • 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. The text field lets you use WP’s Conditional Tags, or any general PHP code.
About the Author

Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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