10 Most Useful Plugins for Your WordPress Blog

Whether you’ve just installed WordPress for the first time or have been running a WordPress install for some time now: you may be wondering what plugins you should absolutely have installed. Here’s a list of my top ten recommended plugins (both free and premium) for the common WordPress site.

1. Jetpack (by WordPress.com)

Last month the folks at WordPress.com released a plugin bundle titled Jetpack. The new Jetpack plugin allows you to have the “bells and whistles” of the WordPress.com hosted service on your own self-hosted WordPress install.

Features include:

  • Stats via WordPress.com Stats
  • URL Shortener via WP.me
  • Hovercard Popups via Gravatar
  • Easy Embeds (ie. Youtube, Digg, Vimeo, etc.)
  • Twitter Widget
  • Content Sharing via Social Networks
  • Grammar Correction (After the Deadline)
  • and More!

For more info check out Jetpack.me or the Official WordPress.org Plugin Repository.

2. Akismet (by Automattic)

Getting tired of fighting off spam? Akismet is what you’ve been waiting for. Akismet comes packaged with every WordPress install but is deactivated by default. Simply activate Akismet from your WordPress Dashboard, sign up for an API key, and let Akismet do all the spam fighting for you. This plugin is by far the best automated spam killer out there. Definitely a “MUST HAVE”!

For more info check out Akismet.com or the Official WordPress.org Plugin Repository.

3. Gravity Forms

At one point or another your probably going to need to create some kind of form on your website. In my opinion, Gravity Forms is the only solution.

Features include:

  • Form Builder – Easily and Quickly build and design WordPress forms using the Gravity Forms form editor.
  • Form Fields – Pick and choose from a variety of form fields you want to use.
  • Conditional Logic – Configure your forms to show or hide items based on user selection.
  • Order Forms – Gravity Forms makes it easy to create Order Forms in WordPress.
  • Entry Management – Store and manage all your form entries within your WordPress database.
  • Notifications – Easily configure notification emails when a form is submitted.
  • Customization – Like WordPress, Gravity Forms is easily extended using their powerful API.
  • WordPress Integration – It’s Built for WordPress!
  • Great Add-Ons – Campaign Monitor, MailChimp, Paypal, Freshbooks, User Registration, Twilio.
  • and More!

Gravity Forms isn’t free but it’s WELL worth your time and money. Prices start at $39 USD. If your looking for a fully free solution check out Contact Form 7.

For more info check out GravityForms.com and their Pricing & Purchase page.

4. WP Super Cache

If your site is running slower than expected or your simply looking to optimize your site’s performance you should probably look into caching solutions. There are a other good solutions such as W3 Total Cache and Hyper Cache but I recommend WP Super Cache for the common site. If your not familiar with the term “cache” it simply means WP Super Cache generates static html files (cache) from your dynamic WordPress pages instead of processing PHP scripts from your webserver which will take more time to load.

Installation is quite simple. Install WP Super Cache, visit the settings page and enable caching. There are advanced settings for those who want to dig a bit deeper but simply enabling the “Easy Mode” will greatly improve your sites performance.

For more information check out WP Super Cache on the Official WordPress.org Plugin Repository.

5. All in One SEO Pack

With over 7.5 million downloads All in One SEO Pack is the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress and easily the best. Simply put, AIOSEOP optimizes your WordPress blog for search engines (aka. SEO or Search Engine Optimization).

Features include:

  • Custom Post Type Support
  • Advanced Canonical URLs
  • Custom Page Navigation Links
  • Extensive API for Developers
  • SEO Integration with WP e-Commerce Plugin
  • Enhanced Security
  • Avoids Duplicate Content
  • Generates META Tags Automatically
  • Optimizes Titles for Search Engines
  • Customize any Title, META Description and META Keywords
  • and More!

Like WP Super Cache, All in One SEO Pack is highly customizable but for the average user simply turning this on will work great out of the box.

For more info check out AIOSEOP on the Official WordPress.org Plugin Repository. (Or check out the Pro Version Here)

6. Redirection

Another “Must Have” WordPress plugin on my list is Redirection. Redirection is a plugin used to manage 301 redirects, 404 errors and more without needing to know any knowledge of editing .htaccess files.

Features include:

  • 404 Error Monitoring
  • Full Logs of Redirected URLs
  • Automatically add 301 redirects when a post’s URL changes
  • Manually add 301, 302 and 302 redirects
  • Redirection Stats
  • and More!

For more info about Redirection check it out on the Official WordPress Plugin Repository.

7. VaultPress

Better to be safe than sorry. VaultPress is a premium service by Automattic which adds a layer of protection to your self hosted WordPress install.

– “VaultPress is designed to deliver protection and peace of mind.”

– “It’s easy to get started. Sign up, install one plugin, and let VaultPress do the rest. Protect just one or as many WordPress blogs and sites as you like.”

– “Disaster happens. Things go wrong. Aliens attack. Enter VaultPress… VaultPress is here to protect what’s most important to you.”

For more info check out VaultPress.com and their Pricing & Purchase page.

*Note: If you don’t feel like dishing out the money for a premium service there are plenty of free solutions on the Official WordPress.org Repository to help keep your WordPress site backed up and secure. Also check out my recent post on WordPress Security here.

8. Google XML Sitemaps

The Google XML Sitemaps plugin generates an XML sitemap which helps search engines (like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) to index your site. It’s also good practice to submit your generated XML sitemap to Google’s Webmaster Tools.

For more information check out the Official WordPress Plugin Repository.

9. WPtouch

Automatically turn your WordPress site into a mobile theme, when viewed from a touch device (ie. iPhone, iPod touch, Android, etc.) with WPtouch. Simply install and activate this plugin or use the admin panel to customize how your site looks on a touch device.

For more information check out WPtouch on the Official WordPress Plugin Repository. For more features (like iPad support) check out WPtouch Pro.

10. NextGEN Gallery

If your looking for a way to easily manage and embed image galleries on your WordPress site try NextGEN Gallery. NextGEN Gallery fully integrates into your WordPress install.

Features Include:

  • Custom Theme Templates
  • RSS Feed for Media
  • User Roles
  • AJAX
  • Easily Sort and Create Albums and Galleries
  • Create and Embed Slideshows
  • META Data Support
  • and More!

View a Demonstration of NextGEN Gallery here.

For more information view the Official NextGEN Gallery site or NextGEN Gallery on the Official WordPress.org Repository.

What do you think?

What do you think of this list? Any plugins you would like to recommend for others that you don’t see here? Agree/Disagree on any of the plugins listed? Let us know!