WordPress is constantly evolving, new features are being added on a regular basis however it is rare that an ‘out the box’ version of WordPress will meet all of your requirements, this is where plugins come in.
Millions of free and premium plugins exist for WordPress, so the functionality you are looking for has often been created.
By simply searching the plugin directory, you will come across many popular plugins that will extend your WordPress installation.
For example WordPress doesn’t come with the ability to show your twitter feed in your sidebar, using a simple plugin, you can add this functionality (although it might need some styling!).
In this article we have highlighted 22 plugins that we use on a regular basis, with the hope that you will find some of them useful for your own website.
We have split the plugins into categories:
- Search Engine Optimisation
- Core Functionality
- Comments / Social
- Developer Features
- Back-end Functionality
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Optimising your pages and posts is essential if you want to gain organic search engine traffic. Below are the plugins we recommend to help optimise your website:
WordPress SEO is our favourite SEO plugin. It allows you to fully customise your title, descriptions and keywords within an interface that shows you the maximum number of characters you can use. It also provides you with page analysis of keywords, and a preview of how your page will appear in Google.
All in One SEO Pack
The All in One SEO Pack is the alternative to WordPress SEO. It is very easy to use and provides all the functionality you need to optimise your page. This plugin as slightly fewer features than WordPress SEO however it is easier to set up and get going.
Yet another related posts plugin
This plugin automatically adds links to other relevant articles based on your tags. This can help to improve your internal linking to relevant documents – Which search engines like. However please be aware that the resulting links might need some styling to fit in with your website’s design.
Google Analytics for WordPress
This plugin allows you to easily connect your Google Analytics account. It will also add the code required to track downloads and hits to specific links.
Below are plugins that extend the default functionality provided by WordPress:
Category Order and Taxonomy Terms Order
When you create tags and categories, they are ordered by creation date. In some cases (e.g. adding a list to your sidebar) you will want these to be displayed in a different order. This plugin allows you to change the order of the taxonomies (tags) and categories using a drag and drop interface.
They have also created another plugin that has the same functionality, but for custom post types – Post Types Order.
Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 is our form builder of choice. This is because it allows you to extend beyond a contact form to any type of form you may need. It has a code driven interface, therefore with some basic HTML knowledge, you are able to amend fields and add functionality as needed. If you’re not tech savvy, then Gravity Forms (Premium) is a good alternative.
There are a number of other plugins that extend Contact Form 7 that we would also recommend:
Contact Form 7 – Campaign Monitor Addon allows you to create a subscription form, or a tick box that automatically adds the user to a list in Campaign Monitor.
Contact Form to DB Extension will save all entered details into your database. It also provides an interface where you can view and download the data.
This is a simple plugin that will create an alert box if no categories are selected when publishing a new post. This is useful if categories are a vital part of your website set up.
Premise is a premium plugin, however it provides you with a lot of new functionality within WordPress. Using this plugin, you can quickly and easily create landing pages for your products with payment options. You can also have a members gateway where signed up members can access specific materials when logged in. If you are marketing online, this plugin is worth the initial payment.
Reveal IDs is useful for showing the IDs of your posts, pages, categories and tags. If you amend your theme templates, you are likely to need an ID of a category. This plugin displays the IDs within the WordPress admin so they are easy to find.
If you regularly update your website, you will be spending a lot of time in the WordPress text editor. TinyMCE Advanced will add more functionality to the text editor like the ability to add tables.
WordPress Page Widgets
When you create new pages for the website, you might not want every page of your website to have the same widgets in the sidebar or footer. This plugin provides you with the functionality to set different widgets on every one of your posts and pages.
WooCommerce / WP e-Commerce
Comments / Social
Most websites want interactivity on their website, whether that’s leaving a comment or sharing the latest news article through social networks. The plugins listed in this section will help you fight against spam comments and provide the means of sharing your content over the internet:
Akismet is a plugin that will be pre-installed with your WordPress installation. It is a robust anti-spam system. Websites with comment boxes will often receive hundreds of spam comments every month and a system like Akismet will filter these out for you.
Disqus Comment System
Disqus will completely transform your comment system into their own. It allows people to use their usernames from a social network such as Facebook, Google+ etc when leaving comments on your website. You can also vote up or down other peoples comments, @mention people and have links automatically shortened. This system also has it’s own built in anti-spam system therefore removing the need for another plugin like Akismet.
Digg Digg is a very popular plugin that will add social media buttons either vertically or horizontally to your posts. Every blog should have social buttons so that the website visitors can share the articles with their friends and followers.
These are plugins that can help theme developers or website developers. They enhance the functionality however need some coding knowledge to get the most out of them:
Advanced Custom Fields
This plugin is brilliant if you want to extend the functionality of a post or custom post type. It allows you to add custom fields for posts that meet a specific criteria. The custom fields can vary from a text field to an image upload field. All of these can then be pulled into your theme template using very simple code.
The Capability Manager plugin allows you to change which user roles can have permission to change certain elements of the website. It also allows you to add new roles. This is useful if you have a custom post type that is targeted at a specific user group like editors.
In this section I have listed the plugins that will help look after the database behind your website, and help to protect you from hackers. Make sure you take a backup of your website before adding any of these plugins as they will change the database and some of the files on your website.
WP Super Cache / W3 Total Cache
Both WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache will create a cached version of your website. This reduces the load time required for each user. It can also help to keep your website from crashing if you have a large number of visitors at one time.
This plugin allows you to clean up your database and schedule automatic backups. It’s very useful if you add and remove a lot of different plugins, or are worried about your website being hacked.
Better WordPress Security
Better WordPress Security will change some of the elements in your database to improve the security. It will also look for holes in your website and attempt to fix them, or alert you to the issues. The plugin also obscures your WordPress installation to the public. This means that others won’t be able to detect which version of WordPress you are using therefore making it harder to break into.