The thing that makes WordPress so attractive to bloggers and developers are the plugins, the ability to take a publishing platform and evolve it into seemingly anything you can think of. It’s very easy to get carried away with plugins, and rightfully so. There are a total of 22,947 plugins available in the official WordPress Plugin Directory, many of which an average blogger or freelancer won’t need. However, among that huge amount of plugins are a select few that are absolutely essential for all WordPress users. Here are the 6 that stand out and make WordPress better.
1. Akismet – Spam Prevention
Akismet is a plugin that comes installed with WordPress, and rightfully so. If you have Akismet installed and setup, Akismet runs comments from visitors on your blog through a series of tests to see if the comment is spam. It is a time-tested and widely approved method that saves blogs from a large amount of spam and trouble. It’s an absolute must for each WordPress user.
2. WordPress SEO by YoastThis plugin is the definition of an all-encompassing SEO solution. It combines multiple plugins into one and gives you the tools to properly optimize your website in a matter of minutes so you can focus on creating content for your WordPress site. It takes care of titles (text that shows up in search results), meta description, sitemaps, permalinks, interlinking, and RSS. It even lets you edit your robots.txt and .htaccess file through a settings page. This truly should be one of the first plugin installs of every WordPress user.
3. W3 Total Cache
Speed is a huge part of maintaining a website. Visitors are not that patient when it comes to searching for information, especially when there are many other blogs that may provide information similar to yours. If you’re worried about the speed of your website, then I highly recommend you install W3 Total Cache. It covers all facets of web performance optimization and is backed by countless websites. There is a wealth of information out there on how and what W3TC does and it can all be found in the plugin URL below. It really is a long list of what this thing does and why its the best.
WordPress is constantly evolving and improving as a web software. Developers from all over the globe are contributing to help patch and fix errors, errors that are only included in official WordPress releases. This plugin lets you stay up to date with those fixes without having to wait for an official release.
However this isn’t an excuse to not update to the latest version of WordPress. Hotfix simply provides temporary fixes to issues that have been found by the community. The official releases often come with new features that make WordPress safer and better.
As a WordPress user, you’re consistently tinkering and modifying with your blog. You’re modifying your theme, installing plugins, and changing files wp-config or .htaccess all to make your blog faster and better. The worst thing that could happen is you losing all of your hard work and progress, something absolutely every blogger and web developer has experienced. The only way to prevent yourself from unexpectedly losing all your files is by backing up your files on a regular basis. I learned this the hard way. I lost my WordPress setup to an unexpected error while modifying my theme. Thankfully my host had a backup, which happened to be 2 weeks old.
To prevent this from happening to you, you need to keep a personal backup and not just rely on your host. Many hosts deal with thousands of customers and don’t keep complete backups for everyone. BackWPUp lets you setup a schedule that takes a complete backup of your WordPress installation and either upload it to popular services like DropBox and Google Drive or e-mail it to yourself. Just take 5 minutes to setup BackWPUp and you’re covered if you ever come across unexpected issues.
6. Advanced Custom Fields
Custom Fields are an incredible resource for people who know how to use them. In a nutshell, it lets WordPress become more than your standard blog. It lets you add absolutely any field, anywhere you want. Developers and freelancers use this plugin everywhere, knowing that it powers their work and lets them build extraordinary websites. It lets you create field types like text areas, file upload areas, galleries, and much much more. However, this plugin isn’t really for the new guys. I really recommend you read up on custom fields from the WordPress Codex before you get started.