Remember when you were using Blogger and you wanted to make a relatively minor change to your blog – like numbering your comments? You had to Google for tutorials, go into your blog’s HTML file and hope beyond all hope that you didn’t screw anything up. It was painful. It was complex. And it was dangerous!
Thankfully, WordPress knows that we’re not all technical geniuses and has allowed those that are technically gifted to write “plugins” that are easily installed onto your WordPress blog to make these complex changes with NO coding required. There are thousands of plugins that you can choose from, but they are not all created equal. Here are the plugins that every blog must have when you’re getting started with WordPress.
Plugins are tools to extend the functionality of WordPress. – WordPress.org
This is the spam filter plugin. It catches practically all of my spam comments (there are a LOT) and puts them in a separate folder for me to review without publishing them. It takes minimal set up and it has never failed me. I have even stopped checking the comments it marks as spam because they are correct 99% of the time. The only time it marks legitimate comments as spam is if I have a giveaway that requires the same person to leave about 20 comments. That’s an understandable “oops” and one that I’m glad to handle on a case-by-case basis.
You will need an API key in order to use Akismet, but they’re easy to get and free for personal blogs. If you run a commercial or business blog, there is a fee for the key but it’s worth it.
Having your blog found by search engines and properly indexed is key to making your blog a success. This plugin allows you to easily define meta tags and SEO-friendly titles for your posts and even helps to determine if you’re getting the most out of your tags. It is super simple to set up and if you know what keywords you are trying to rank for, you will see improvement almost immediately.
Seth Godin is the founder of Squidoo and all-around marketing genius. This plugin allows you to interact with your readers on a more personal level by recognizing new and returning visitors through cookies. It inserts a little box at the top of your post with a customized message. You can set how many times someone is considered a “new” visitor (default is 5 visits) and put a message that prompts them to follow you on Facebook, RSS, Twitter, etc. I love this plugin. As a matter of fact, you’ll see the WWSGD box at the top of our pages here on BloggityBlah’s Official Blog.
This one is going to go hand-in-hand with All-In-One SEO Pack to making your site more search engine friendly. It doesn’t do anything to your blog that someone can see, but the spiders that Google sends out to crawl webpages will definitely see it and make your site easier to index. There is really no reason not to have Google XML Sitemaps – Unless, of course, you’re not interested in search engine rankings.
I wasn’t going to include this plugin in the “must have” list because I actually prefer to see full sites on my phone and I dislike “mobile” sites. But, a lot of smartphone users prefer to see the mobile sites that are smartphone friendly and this is the plugin to get it. WPTouch takes your site and puts it into a basic mobile format that looks like this for smartphone users:
There are currently more than 15,000 plugins in the WordPress directory and many more floating about the internet. On my personal blog alone, I have 48 active plugins. The key is to find plugins that work well together, improve the functionality of your site without slowing it down and overall help you run your blog better.