21 WordPress Plugins that Will Make Your Life Easier

WordPress is an amazing web publishing platform with tremendous capabilities right out of the box. But what truly makes WordPress my platform of choice is the dizzying array of plugins that you can download (for free, mind you) to customize things exactly the way you want.

outletPlugins are simply bits of code that you can add on (or “plug in”) that can do all sorts of things beyond the basic program.

As of this morning, WordPress had 5,546 plugins listed in their Plugin Directory that had been downloaded a total of well over 35 million times. That’s a whole lotta code!

Yesterday Rober Hruzek asked me which plugins I recommended. Well the short answer is, “It depends on what you want it to do.” But then he came back and asked if there were any “must haves” in my book.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that for me I’m a fan of things that make my life easier. So, with that in mind, here are 21 WordPress plugins that I have found make my life easier. I’m guessing they’ll do the same for you.

I don’t mean this to be an exhaustive list by any means. Heck, I’ve got more than twice that many installed here on SuccessCREEations alone. And not every one of these will work on every blog. Some of these are very popular plugins and some are more obscure.

Here’s my list:

Spam Protection

1. Akismet – [download]
Pretty much the gold standard of WordPress spam protection. Akismet comes from the creators of WordPress and is one of 2 plugins bundled with WordPress when you download it.
2. Defensio – [download]
Defensio is the spam protection plugin I prefer to use on all my own sites. The way Defensio displays spam in the spam folder makes it easier for me to review more quickly.

Actually I keep both plugins installed and updated (though only activate one at a time). The reality is tech stuff breaks and both systems have occasional outages where spam gets through. That way, if I see a problem with the one I’m using I can deactivate it, activate the other one, and never miss a beat. It’s all about making it easy in my book.

Utilities

3. Google XML Sitemaps – [download]
Having your site rank well in the search engines is paramount. Once it’s set up the sitemap plugin will take care of keeping the major search engines abreast of what your site is up to.
4. WordPress Database Backup – [download]
Servers crash from time to time. (Did I mention tech stuff breaks?) Having a recent backup of your database will prevent that sickening feeling of loss should you experience one. This plugin can automate that process for you. Oh, and don’t forget to back up your theme and upload files too!
5. All in One SEO Pack – [download]
WordPress is inherently SEO friendly, especially when it is set up correctly. That said, the All in One SEO Pack can supercharge your performance in the search engines and help you bring in more of that search traffic.
6. Page Link Manager – [download]plug
Do you have pages on your site that you don’t want cluttering up your main navigation? Page Link Manager creates a list where you can check which pages you want included and leave the others out.
7. Exclude Pages From Navigation – [download]
A twist on the plugin above. Instead of creating a master list, this plugin puts a check box on the edit screen when editing pages where you can select whether or not you want the page you are writing to be included in the site navigation. You probably only need one or the other of these two.
8. Executable PHP widget – [download]
Have you ever downloaded a WordPress theme because it had some cool functionality in the sidebar only to realize that if you added any widgets to that sidebar it disappeared? You can’t add PHP to the standard Text widget. Good thing you can add it back in with the Executable PHP widget. Very handy for making managing sidebars easy.
9. FD Feedburner – [download]
One of the great things about using Feedburner is that you can track how many people are reading your blog. It also gives you a ton of different ways to customize your feed. The trouble is, when you set up a Feedburner account and point all the links on your page to that feed your plain old WordPress feed is still discoverable. And you will have some folks subscribed to that feed that you won’t know about. FD Beedburner will redirect your WP feed so everyone gets subscribed to Feedburner.
10. WordPress Mobile Edition – [download]
More and more people are accessing the web via mobile devices. WordPress Mobile Edition makes it easy to accommodate viewing your WordPress installation on mobile devices.

Stats

11. WordPress.com Stats – [download]
WordPress.com Stats is probably the easiest basic stats package to implement on a WordPress blog. Like the Akismet anti-spam plugin above, you will need an account at WordPress.com for WordPress.com Stats to work.
12. Google Analyticator – [download]
Google Analytics is considered by many to be the gold standard of stats tracking packages. It gives you a ton more info than WordPress.com Stats does. There are several plugins for integrating Google Analytics into your WordPress site. Google Analyticator is my choice because it combines some good features and is easy to use. Keep in mind that Google Analytics only updates once a day.
13. Woopra – [download]
If you are looking for more extensive real time stats then you should consider Woopra. Their WordPress plugin integrates their stats into your WordPress Dashboard. And they have a desktop application (for both PC & Mac. Yay!) where you can see what people are looking at on your site right now.

Fun Stuff

14. Wp-Cumulus – [download]
I’m sorry, but WP-Cumulus is just about the coolest plugin I’ve seen. It’s what powers my tag cloud. And it even comes with a sidebar widget that you can see over on the bottom of my sidebar there.
15. What Would Seth Godin Do – [download]
A little bit of marketing here. This plugin shows a customizable message to anyone visiting for the first time that doesn’t get seen by returning visitors. You can get creative how you use it.
16. TweetMeme Button – [download]
There are a whole lot of Twitter plugins for WordPress. In my desire to keep life easy, I like the TweetMeme Button. It simply adds a button at the bottom of the post. Makes it easy for people who like your post to tweet it.
17. Subscribe to Comments – [download]
The rumors of the death of email have been grossly exaggerated. There are still a good many people out there who like to get updates and notifications via email. If you allow your readers to subscribe to your comments some of them will. And it might just bring them back to your site more.
18. TD Word Count – [download]
There was a time, back in the day, when WordPress didn’t have the little “Word count:” number at the bottom of the edit window. And if you’re a little, um, focused (a polite way of saying anal) like me you might want to know how many words you were typing. (This post is well over 1200 so far. Did I mention I’m a tad on the wordy side?)

Anyway… The TD Word Count plugin gives you all kinds of word related stats. Like, for instance, I’ve got over a quarter million words here on this blog. Yeah. Wordy. And focused.

And… I just noticed that this plugin hasn’t been supported since, well a long time. Since WordPress version 2.1 in fact. That being the case you might want to skip this one. Did I mention I’m focused?

Niche

19. NextGen Gallery – [download]
NextGen Gallery is the preeminent photo gallery management plugin. I’ve seen sites that have thousands of photo galleries all running along seamlessly with NextGen gallery. Here at SuccessCREEations I’ve got one.
20. WP Super Cache – [download]
For high traffic sites, WP Super Cache will dramatically reduce the server load. This is a very powerful plugin and installing it is not for the feint of heart. Nevertheless it is phenomenal plugin that can probably reduce your server costs if you are bumping into bandwidth issues.
21. Podcasting – [download]
If you are into podcasting then you’ll probably want to take a look at, well, the Podcasting plugin. It makes managing your attachments and integrating with iTunes easy.

UPDATE: The podcasting plugin has disappeared since I wrote this post. Instead I now recommend checking out the Blubrry PowerPress Podcasting Plugin.

Well there you have it. 21 plugins that will make your life easier. And it only took me 1,427 words to tell you about ’em! 😉

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