We build several WordPress sites each month and our clients are always asking what plugins they should be using for their new WordPress site. Depending on the functionality of the site, the need for plugins vary. For example, if the client has a blog or plans to have a place for comments, I will always recommend Disqus over Intense Debate and the default WordPress comment system because I think it functions better overall. I like the interface for Disqus much more then any other comment system and they have an Android app that makes it easy for me to moderate comments on the go.
When it comes to site performance, there is only one caching plugin that needs to even be talked about and that is W3 Total Cache. This plugin is so complete that it is shocking. It is packed with features and accounts for every type of WordPress user. It is very easy to configure and it actually works! I run a Lacrosse news website where I recently installed W3 Total Cache. According to the Google Analytics Site Speed metric, from September 17 to October 16, the average load time was 3.47 seconds. From October 17, the day I installed W3 Total Cache, to November 16, the average load time was 2.36 seconds. That is a difference of 1.21 seconds! The plugin also shows your Page Speed Report on your Admin Dashboard so you can see how well your site is performing. Every time I visit the site I am pleased with the results.
Every once in awhile, a WordPress install will be compromised and hacked. This can cause huge headaches and hassle if you are unprepared and don’t have a backup of your site. The remedy for the problem is to backup your database and files regularly. For database backups, I use WordPress Database Backup. It is very easy to use and you can customize what database tables will get backed up. Usually you want to backup all of them. I also love it because I have automated the process so I don’t have to worry about it. The plugin can be configured to send backups on a schedule that you choose. You can have it send Once Hourly, Twice Daily, Once Daily or Once Weekly. I have my lacrosse send it Once Daily. To continue the automation, I have setup a filter in Gmail to automatically archive the message so I don’t see it come in but I know it’s there! To backup files, I have to do it manually through FTP but most hosting services will offer a solution in some form or another.
Everyone who owns a site wants to have visitors and be found on Google. I’ve found that the WordPress SEO plugin is top notch when it comes to SEO. I love how it adds an admin box below your post or page that is stacked with options. It even provides a snippet of what your page will look like when people see it in on Google Search Results. You can also set a Focus Keyword, SEO Title, Meta Description and Meta Keywords. The Focus Keyword is cool because the plugin will tell you if you are using that keyword in your Article Heading, Page Title, Page URL, Content or Meta Description. Using this plugin will make you actually think about your SEO rather then just inserting words.
Along the same lines as SEO, I highly recommend having a sitemap for your site. For this, I use Google XML Sitemaps. I like how the plugin tells me the last time a sitemap was generated. It also tells me if Google, Bing and Ask.com were successfully notified. It’s a great little plugin that will help your site get noticed.
You’re probably saying to yourself, “What about a social plugin?” To that question, I would simply reply that I prefer to use the tools provided by the developer. I think that Twitters Tweet button and the Facebook Like button are perfect. If those two don’t tickle your fancy, then I would probably use AddThis or ShareThis.
What plugins do you use?