WordPress is our recommended blogging platform for a variety of reasons, one of which is its extensive library of 3rd party plugins. These plugins make life easier for us bloggers, with functionality ranging from aesthetics to SEO. You can link to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, include “sexy bookmarks,” flash headers, and add other great, useful, and good looking features to your site.
However, the problems with any extensive library are saturation and convolution. For example, there are 18 Twitter-related plugins, 19 Facebook plugins, and dozens of SEO-related plugins. So this article is intended to serve as a guide through the jungle. A few of these, such as Akismet, All in one SEO, and Broken Links Checker are considered must-haves, while others like Gravity Forms, Flash Fader, and Facebook Like Button should be used when appropriate. If you feel that I’ve left out some important ones, feel free to comment with recommendations in the comment section of this article.
The Akismet WordPress plugin ships with WordPress 2.0 and later by default, but make sure you activate it and input your API Key. If you’re tired of all of that comment and trackback spam, Automattic Kismet (Akismet for short), is your no-brainer solution. If, for some reason, you don’t have the plugin, you can download it here
This plugin is another must-have for anyone running a WordPress blog. You can download it here and check out its extensive full list of features. The most notable features are 1) Automatic optimization titles for search engines, 2) automatic generation of META tags, and 3) inclusion/exclusion of categories, archives and other pages to avoid duplicate content.
Broken Links, links that lead to an error or unavailable content, hurt you in two ways. First off, they reflect poorly on the content of your site, as it makes the information you present seem outdated and/or inaccurate. Secondly, it hurts your SEO, as you get dinged by search engines for every broken link on your site. The hard part about managing broken links is that the process of the link becoming broken is not controlled by you. If the webmaster or the site owner decides to change the URL or remove a page, a broken link is generated. With Broken Links Checker, you can avoid these problems, as it warns you in the dashboard of your WordPress site when your site contains a broken link.
There are dozens of Facebook and Twitter plugins, but Status Updater is my favorite. As of the time of this article, it’s the only one I found that allows you to automatically publish directly to a Facebook Fan Page. Others allow you to publish to your own status, but I prefer to only update those who have joined our fan page and not all of my Facebook friends. In addition to your Facebook status and your Facebook Page, you can include your Twitter account and (for those of you who still happen to use it) your Myspace profile as well.
The Facebook Like Button is a great way to increase awareness of your site. See the Facebook like buttons at the beginning and end of this article for an example. When your reader clicks the “like” button in your article, it appears in their Facebook profile. Talk about an easy way to advertise! This plugin gives you the option to include the button at the beginning of the article, the end of the article, both, or by an article by article basis.
This is actually a paid plugin, but Gravity Forms provides a look and feel that the other free form plugins just won’t provide. If you have any kind of form on your site, whether it be a contact form, an album order form, or any other form, Gravity Forms will give it sleek functionality and aesthetics. With conditional fields (fields that appear only when a certain other value in the form is selected) and validation (functionality that does not allow the form to be submitted unless certain forms are filled out correctly) these forms are worth the small price.
Create a Flash slideshow with Flashfader. There are drawbacks to this plugin, specifically the relative difficulty (in comparison with other WordPress plugins) to set up, but once you have it up and running, it creates a reliable, good-looking slideshow for your header, sidebar, or any other location on your site.
Image Searches can lead to a lot of traffic for your site, but in order for Google to find your images, they need to be optimized. The difficulty is the time it takes to create titles and alt tags for all of your images. With the help of SEO Friends Images you don’t have to spend hours on each post making sure each image is optimized. The plugin automatically creates titles and alt tags for your images. Now all you need to do is make sure you’re naming your images right and surrounding it with relevant, contextual content.
XML Sitemap Generator helps search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo index your blog and makes it easier for the crawlers to see and retrieve the complete structure of your site. I know we’ve beaten the topic of SEO to death in this article, but this one is just as important as the others in this article for getting you more readers and more clients.
If you started using WordPress out of the box, like most of us, you didn’t pay any attention to permalinks. If so, your URL’s look something like this http://example.com/?p=N. Even WordPress calls this “ugly” in their article on using permalinks. The problem is that if you change your permalink structure, you not only create broken links for anyone who has linked to your article, but you also lose all of your SEO page rank for that post. With Permalinks Migration, you automatically generate 301 Redirects that redirect the old URLs to the new URLs and also preserves their page rank.