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10 Free WordPress Plugins Every Blog Needs and 5 Bonus Plugins

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It doesn’t matter what the aim of your is blog, whether you set out to become the next person getting rich in only 4 hours per week, want to run the hottest dating column in town, aim to take Arrington’s crown or just want to blog for fun, if you chose for WordPress there are some basics your blog needs.

You need a theme with solid, semantic code, and you will need some plugins to boost your setup. But before we proceed I have to disclaim that there are things I will not use a plugin for, or rely on WP for. Such as backup, I prefer having a cron based automated backup procedure

A Solid Theme

Before you start adding plugins to your setup, you should first consider a solid theme for your site. Of course you can always change your theme afterwards but often this will result in issues with sizes of embedded images, videos and so on. So better prepare yourself and start with a theme and stick with it for a while.

In the last 2 years the WordPress theme market has literally exploded and never have there been that many great themes to chose from. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer to go with a paid theme or with a free theme, as long as your preferred theme is based upon semantical code, you will benefit a great SEO boost. I have had great success with multiple themes in the past and used k2, the first Mimbo theme, Cutline, Thematic, Notesblog just to name a few of the free themes I have worked with in the past and recommend to anyone.

Time to add the most essential plugins to your WordPress installation now.

Akismet

Akismet is probably the single most important plugin needed for WP bloggers. Akismet still is bundled together with every WordPress download and requires to you have a WordPress.com account in order to retrieve a API key to use the Akismet functionality, which is based on a closed software algorithm.

Personally I have almost always been happy with Akismet as only option although on some, highly linked blogs within the Splashpress Media network, we also use WP-Spamfree as additional measure. Sergej Müller’s WP Antispam Bee is another alternative to additionally use together with Akismet.

Google XML Sitemap

The next plugin I will always install is Arne Brachold’s Google XML Sitemap plugin. The plugin does exactly what it says on the tin and adds a Google compliant XML sitemap to your blog.

Arne Brachold’s plugin comes with several configurations options, and although the default settings will be good for the majority of the users, this is one of those times when it’s actually interesting to RTM.
On slower servers, with huge blogs, it is a consideration to limit the number of entries/pages listed in your sitemap as rebuilding the sitemap with every new post can slow down posting considerably.

You can now additionally add your sitemap to Google’s Webmaster Tools as any SEO will advice you, but if you are mainly blogging for fun, Google will check your blog after every notification anyway from now on.

Align RSS Images

Aligned images in feeds are a pet peeve of mine and although there are ways to bypass the standard alignment of most feed readers, I like my images aligned the easy way.

Align RSS Images is one of many plugins offering this functionality and probably the easiest to use: upload/install the plugin, activate it and enjoy looking at your own entries with properly aligned images in your feed from now on.

AntiVirus for WordPress

AntiVirus for WordPress is another plugin from Sergej Müller, who’s Antispam Bee plugin we already mentioned above. AntiVirus checks your theme files for malicious code and encrypted code. Most of the time I will only use themes from ‘safe’ sources but because no software will ever be 100% safe, nor should the risk that your server/hosting might be hacked at some point be ignored, I highly recommend to install AntiVirus for WordPress, or one of the other plugins with similar function. Now if your theme files are hacked, you’ll at least be notified of the problem if you run the daily (automated) scan.

Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 is my preferred contact form for WordPress blogs, especially because it’s easy to tie in with Akismet spam filtering and thus keeps my inbox rather tidy.

Copy the following code to add Akismet filtering to the email sender’s name, email address and URL. The code the same setup used for our BloggingPro contact page.

<p>Your Name (required)<br />
    1 </p>

<p>Your Email (required)<br />
    [email* your-email akismet:author_email] </p>

<p>Your Website<br />
   1</p>

<p>Subject<br />
    1 </p>

<p>Your Message<br />
    [textarea your-message] </p>

<p>[submit \"Send\"]</p>

Subscribe to comments

Mark Jaquith’s Subscribe to Comments plugin is one of those no-brainers. The only reason why you would consider not implementing ‘Subscribe to Comments’ would be because you think it’s ethically not correct, borders on spamming or maybe because your blog receives hundreds of comments with every entry.

PostRank

I am a long-term fan of PostRank and first reviewed their product in May 2008 when still called aideRSS. Today the PostRank plugin has become a standard plugin in my WordPress setup as it provides me with quick details about the popularity of entries on social platforms.

Although I would love to see integration of the number of shares on Facebook and if possible even traffic coming via sites such as Stumbleupon, PostRank for WordPress provides me with valuable data and helps me to quickly analyse and understand what blog entries are popular and which content to focus more on.

If you are serious about blogging and want to learn from your own entries, PostRank is a must have plugin.

WP Super Cache

Another no-brainer plugin for every blog is Donncha O Caoimh’s WP Super Cache. WP Super Cache will store cached files of your pages and take the load of your server in case of traffic spikes. In certain hosting environments WP Super Cache might not work 100%, if this is your case consider W3 Total Cache as an alternative.

WP.com stats

There are many statistic packages available on the market but for a majority of WordPress users WordPress.com stats is the main statistics plugin they’ll need, unless at some point you plan to sell your own advertising and need to provide numbers about uniques visitors because WP.com stats only tracks page views, not uniques.

If not, WordPress.com allows you to analyse the traffic to every post, look at the history of posts, tracks both incoming and outgoing links and so much more. On co-authored blogs this stats package is great for authors to see how their posts do and even compare against the traffic generated by other authors, provided you are happy with pageviews and don’t need to track uniques.
Just like with Akismet, you require a WordPress.com account and API key for WordPress.com stats.

WP Twitip-ID

If it ain’t in my twitter stream, it don’t exist

If you’re a blogger, chances that you also have a Twitter account are rather large. Of course you love to promote yourself all over the place and discovered that you can share your wisdom, and links to your entries, easily via Twitter. The microblogging platform is also perfect to connect with your audience, and some will even go as far as saying ‘If it ain’t in my twitter stream, it don’t exist’. That would be me or him.

With Fiddy P’s WP Twitip-ID plugin it is easy to add the option to commenters to leave a link to their Twitter profile, like we did here at BloggingPro.
Note that you will have to add a small bit of code to the template of your comments.

Addendum: Twitip-ID is no longer maintained and has now been replaced by Twitterlink Comments as James correctly mentions in the comments. Personally I still use Twitip-ID on my sites though as it IMHO is cleaner and easier to implement/customise.

Bonus Plugins

FeedBurner Feedsmith

If you use FeedBurner to serve your blog’s feed, the Feedburner Feedsmith plugin is probably the easiest way to redirect your subscribers to the Feedburner plugin.

The Excerpt Reloaded

Sometimes when tweaking or customising a theme, I want more options to configure the display options of the excerpt on the main page or in archive pages. Although with the advent of the post thumbnail since WP 2.9, the often annoying task of uploading different formats of thumbnails has been made easier, I often still want/need more customisation freedom. And what else would I use for that than good ol’ excerpt reloaded?

WP Footnotes

If like me, at times you think you’re funny, or just want to expand on something, with a footnote, it would not be hard to do this manually with some HTML knowledge but things can be done easier. The WP Footnotes plugin takes the HTML out of your footnotes and all you have to do is1. WP Footnotes also has several styling options.

Future Dashboard Widget

Here on BloggingPro we use a slightly tweaked version of Janmi’s Future Dashboard Widget. This widget displays all scheduled, upcoming posts within the WordPress dashboard. We have tweaked our widget to allow every author to see when upcoming posts are scheduled and not restrict this to admins only.

WP Table Reloaded

Some users are hardcore or like living on the edge and what better way to do so than play in a live environment with the database of your blog. If that’s what you love, WP Table Reloaded is your best friend and our guide for automated database and files backup your second best friend.

No Twitter Tools or All In One SEO Pack?

I have left both plugins, and their alternatives, out of this post because I think that a strong theme with great semantics goes a far way when it comes to SEO. Actually, although installed on several blogs, I can not remember when the last was one of our authors used the All in One SEO Pack and nevertheless our sites still rank very well. Same applies to smaller niches sites I have built with WordPress.

There also are several ways to synchronise with, push your entries to Twitter and a plugin is not needed to do so. Sorry but no love for any ‘Twitter Post’ plugin in this entry.

  1. write your footnote in between double brackets []
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Categories: Important, WordPress Plugins, WordPress Tips
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Comments

  1. jamesakadamingo ) says: 3/24/2010

    The WP Twitip-ID plugin that you suggest is no longer an active project.

    It has been replaced by “TwitterLink Comments”.

    But great plugins otherwise!!

    Reply

    • Franky Branckaute ) says: 3/25/2010

      Thanks James, I had forgotten about that as I still use Twitip-ID myself (easier, cleaner to implement). I will add the new version with link to the entry.

      Reply

  2. Chris @ Fredericton Web Design ) says: 3/25/2010

    Franky, I’ve got to agree with you regarding the need for a theme to support great SEO without the use of plugins. Most plugins (including the Ultimate SEO) are good but they’re not great, SEO has to be customized for every website, or at the very least theme.

    Reply

    • Franky Branckaute ) says: 3/26/2010

      Chris, I couldn’t agree more. It will be interesting to see how things will/could change with theme developers like Brian Gardner/Nathan Rice looking at consolidating the SEO in their themes even more. Sounds like interesting times for the theme scene.

      Reply

  3. Melanie Baker ) says: 3/25/2010

    Hi Franky — Thanks for including PostRank!

    Yeah, we’d love to include StumbleUpon and Facebook, too, and if they ever offer APIs where we can get the data, we’ll be all over that action. :)

    As a side note, I came across this article the other day, which lists some good security-related plugins.

    Reply

    • Franky Branckaute ) says: 3/25/2010

      Hi Melanie,

      Thanks for passing by. I know from an own project that sadly they don’t offer an API (yet?) but it would be a cool addition. And yes, PostRank is included in this list because it’s a main part of daily workflow.

      Reply

  4. Sergej Müller ) says: 3/26/2010

    Franky, thank you for listing Antispam Bee and WP Antivirus. I love your posts.

    Reply

    • Franky Branckaute ) says: 3/26/2010

      Hi Sergej,

      Thanks for passing by. Good work needs to be showcased and WP Antivirus, is installed on all of my domains.

      Reply

  5. Neil ) says: 3/29/2010

    I thought I was up to speed on which WP plug-in are must have. This post sourced me 2 new plug-ins worth looking into, especially the TwitIp-ID – glad I found your stuff.

    Reply

    • Franky Branckaute ) says: 3/30/2010

      Neil, happy to have helped.
      Although when I sat down to write this entry I was aware that I was going to repeat/rehash many a (same) list, I still wanted to highlight some new or less known and very valuable plugins and thus make this ‘same list’ different.

      Reply

  6. Mark Jones Jr ) says: 4/2/2010

    WP.com Stats

    Statistics are WORTHLESS…

    Unless you use them to make INTENTIONAL course corrections on the way to your goals. Leaders chart a course and then use tools like WP stats to inform them of their progress. Don’t chase the stats…use them like mile markers and road signs.

    Reply

    • Franky Branckaute ) says: 4/2/2010

      Mark, as an editor statistics are one of many metrics I use to both analyse performance of course but also to constantly position a site, correct if needed. Statistics per se are for most bloggers nothing more than an ego stroke, which is also why I said wp.com stats are all most bloggers will ever need.

      Reply

  7. Benjamin Edwards says: 5/14/2010

    i host 5 of my blogs on Blogspot and it is really good for beginners. but if you want something with more features, nothing beats wordpress”";

    Reply

  8. Janmi ) says: 5/17/2010

    Hello!

    I’m the author of “Future Dashboard Widget” WP-plugin. Could you please contact me in order I can improve my plugin with your modifications? :)

    Regards,

    Janmi.

    Reply

  9. Basin Taps  says: 10/19/2010

    microblogging is nice but it also limits how much you can say about your daily activities`~-

    Reply

  10. Health Juice : says: 10/22/2010

    i always use feedburner for sharing the feeds of my blog, feedburner is really great~’,

    Reply

  11. Wordpress Development says: 11/2/2010

    Wow these sites are amazing. I love the clean designs. This shows that WordPress is a very versatile CMS.
    Thanks For Sharing. I want to Share some word press plug ins and themes.
    For more details gothrow this link wordpress.ktree.com

    Reply

  12. Neil ) says: 11/2/2010

    I find it useful to subscribe to certain blog posts I read and leave a comment. This is one of them. It would be timely and useful if you (Franky) or one of your illustrious readers could suggest or recommend a best of class set of plug-in for rendering a WP blog on a smart phone device.

    Reply

  13. Corner Cabinet · says: 11/4/2010

    there are many free software video converters on the internet that we can download but the best ones are always paid version ..

    Reply

  14. Laser Eye Surgery Info · says: 11/9/2010

    i enjoy microblogging because you do not need to type so many words just to fill in your blog ::

    Reply

  15. Sandeep Sachan ) says: 11/9/2010

    This information is very helpful. Thanks.

    Reply

  16. Commercial Diver ) says: 11/27/2010

    Can you please expand on the ways to automate announcements to Twitter without need of a plugin? I’d love to implement this on my own site. Many thanks.

    Reply

  17. Food Scales says: 12/13/2010

    i always syndicate feeds on my subcribers and of course feedburner is definitely a great help ,:~

    Reply

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  35. Yurosie says: 9/18/2011

    Thanks for Article. Nice post

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  37. Lynda Mama says: 4/15/2012

    I need Plug – ins Free, newbie with wordpress, thank for this information
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    • meg says: 4/19/2012

      @ Lynda , for wordpress plugins you can read http://webshasha.com/. What type of plugins are you looking for in terms of functionality ?

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  38. aqila ) says: 6/29/2012

    I Just start Blogging in Wp & This very helpfull

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  39. Dr Martin Russell says: 7/30/2013

    Nice list that has stood the test of time reasonably well from 2010.

    Every blog also needs a backup system. Automatic, comprehensive and NOT WP-DB-Backup even though it is really popular.

    As I mention in my blog post on my site it almost got me in to big trouble, so do your due diligence and find a good one.

    Reply

  40. Mehreen Ali Syed ) says: 4/16/2014

    Before that I was too a bit skeptical at first, but everything has worked out with no problems. I use same theme from last 3 years on my website http://dailynewscompany.com I always go with same, and i suggest this theme to all WordPress user.

    Reply

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