We’re really big WordPress fans here. It’s free, it’s powerful, and it’s popular, meaning that it is constantly improving. Like any free software, however, it doesn’t come with any formal support or guarantees, so keep that in mind when considering things like security and backups. We recommend using the fully featured version of WordPress that is self-hosted, because there is much more control and flexibility, but you can also set up a blog at wordpress.com if you don’t have the capabilities (note that you won’t be able to add all of the plugins below). We covered the basics of WordPress in an earlier post, and provided some resources to learn.
Below is our list of plugins that we automatically install or activate for our own blogs or our clients. They are all available in the full installation, and the newest versions (2.8+) allow you to search for and add them easily via the ‘Plugins->Add New’ feature on the left menu of the Admin panel. Check them out and contact us if you need more help:
- Google XML Sitemaps. An important part of your blog is to make sure it has good search engine optimization (SEO). Google appreciates ‘help’ from you in knowing when there is new content on your blog, and this plugin will generate a sitemap and send it to Google periodically. This will help your SEO, so we highly recommend installing and configuring it.
- All in One SEO Pack. This pack makes sure that your blog content is optimized for SEO. It needs to be configured, as well, and is by no means automatic, read the documentation and do as you are directed to improve your SEO–this may mean adding content to each blog post, but it’s worth it.
- Redirection. This plugin is handy if you want to make ‘friendly’ or memorable URLs for blog posts that you’d like to promote. For example, for our monthly events with the San Diego Biotechnology Network, we make the URL ‘http://sdbn.org/december’ for the December event, etc. This makes it not only easy for our members, but for me in promoting it on Twitter, etc. If you foresee needing this capability, add this plugin.
- Akismet. This plugin comes installed as default, and it helps enormously to weed out spam. However, there’s a confusing ‘activation’ that you need to do for this plugin. You need to get an account on wordpress.com to get a key to activate it. If you have a self-hosted blog, you’ll likely not need this account for other purposes, so it’s a bit confusing, but activation of the plugin is worth it, as otherwise your email will soon be flooded with either obscene or vague, flattering comments meant only to promote the person who posted it.
- WP-DB-Backup. It is very important that you make frequent backups of your blog, and this plugin will do that for you. A few caveats–make sure that you set it up and that the backups are stored outside of your ISP. Also, take the time to do an extra check. Make sure that you know how to restore your blog from these backups, and document a procedure for doing so. If your blog is hacked, or goes down, the last thing you want is to have to figure out how to restore it while you’re stressed out that it’s down. It’s also possible that this backup plugin is not best for your system–if not, check around for others.
- TweetMeme Button. In order to get your blog more exposure, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to share your content. The TweetMeme button allows people on Twitter to share your posts using the button on the top left of every post (including this one). More sharing means more readers, which is always good, and as we covered in a previous post, making things as easy as possible helps as well.
- Sociable. Along this same vein, the Sociable plugin allows people to bookmark or share your content in a variety of ways. Configure it with the services you think your readers use, and the options will appear at the bottom of each post (including this one). There are even options for creating PDFs and printer-friendly versions of your blog posts, which can help your posts to have more ‘spreadability.’
- WordPress Related Posts. You want your readers to stay on your blog and read as much of your content as possible, right? Showing them related posts helps you with this. It’s pretty self-explanatory, check below for an example.
- Twitter for WordPress. WordPress sites are by default dynamic, changing often, and this is essential for your website to be more ‘web 2.0’ and compete with other sites. A great way to show your readers that you’re active is to display your Twitter feed in your sidebar, as we do here.
That’s our list of essential plugins, and of course we use others depending on the situation, and we encourage you to browse the WordPress Plugins page for more ideas–they show popular plugins, which can help. Also, look at other blogs and pay attention to what ‘attracts’ you as a reader–chances are those features are a good bet on your blog as well.
Which plugins have you found to be ‘essential’? We’d love to hear, leave them below! The great thing about WordPress is sharing ideas and having all benefit from the collective knowledge.
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