I’ve had a self-hosted WordPress website and blog for about three and a half years now, after several years on Blogger. I’m extremely happy with my site and receive excellent support from my host, Tiger Tech. When you sign up with TT, one of the options you see right away is downloading WordPress to your new site. Love it!
As you see the FREE plugins I currently am using, I’d like to assure you that I’m not super-techie. My html and CSS knowledge has holes big enough to swim whales through, but I’ve managed to figure out, one way or another, how to make all of these work, sometimes with the help of my good friend Margaret Fisk. If you are techier than me, you can probably set all of them up by yourself. If less techie, let me know in comments what question you have about a specific plugin and I’ll see if I can help.
First, 3 no-brainer plugins every WordPress site should have:
1. WordPress Database Update: The last thing you want is for your whole site to go “poof” and you can’t get it back. Face it, if you’re a tinkerer like I am in that editor pane, it’s not that hard to delete something vital that makes your site disappear. This plugin allows you to decide how often you want it to email you a backup. I created a folder in my email where all emails from WordPress go automatically, so I don’t have to pay attention to the backups unless I need to.
This site, my main website and blog, is set to back up daily. On other sites I run that have fewer changes or blog posts, weekly is enough. Tiger Tech also backs up my site as part of their package. I still run this plugin as well. You can never be too safe. Do it!
2. Akismet: Worried about spam comments? Don’t be. Akismet is THE plugin that handles spam 99% effectively. The beauty of this is that you don’t have to think about it. Ever. Just get this baby set up and remove all the “prove you’re a human” captcha codes and whatever. Only real comments from real people will get through. Akismet: don’t run a WordPress blog without it. Period.
3. Jetpack by WordPress.com: While not as vital as the two above, installing Jetpack is awesome and allows a bunch of little tweaks that make life so much nicer. I can choose which aspects of Jetpack to use, which is awesome. The parts of the pack I use enable the blog-subcription-by-email code in my right sidebar, the Facebook/Twitter/etc share buttons at the bottom of each post, and WordPress.com Stats (which aren’t nearly as accurate as those from Tiger Tech, but do give a great quick overview).
Alrighty. On to a bunch of plugins that solve specific problems!
4. Blubrry Powerpress: This cute little plugin enables the embedding of an audio player. I don’t need this very often, but when I do, I’m thankful to have it. Here’s a clip from one of my appearances on Nicole O’Dell‘s radio shows, Parent Talk. Doesn’t it look slick?
The beauty of this plugin is that you can put multiple players on a page, exactly where you want, interspersed with text, as I have here.
5. PhotoDropper: Do you get frustrated trying to find the right photo for a blog post. . .for free? Me, too! I take a lot of the photos I use on my blog, but frankly, I don’t have one for every occasion. Enter PhotoDropper. It adds an icon to the top of “new post” beside your upload/insert button. With your cursor where you’d like to add that perfect image, hit the PD button and enter a search term. PhotoDropper then searches through Flickr and other sites as allowed by Creative Commons license and displays images you can pick from. You set this plugin to provide attribution for the photo (which is only fair!) right below the photo or at the bottom of the post.
PhotoDropper just announced a beta pro version where you’ll be able to more easily narrow down your search to pro quality photos (rather than other peoples’ snapshots), starting at $3.00 per photo. Sounds like a deal! I’ll be interested to see how that works out for them.
6. PollDaddy Polls and Rating: Here’s another one I don’t use often, but when I want to run a poll, this one is awesome. It also creates an icon that sits on your “new post” page. You then create the poll you want by specifying the question to answer with a list of options–you choose how many options. You can also choose if readers can select more than one answer, add their own answer, see the results, and comment on the poll (not just the blog post). Not only that, but you have a few choices as to how you want the poll to look, and whether or not you’ll allow a person to return and vote again. Lots of options for this free plugin!
The next 3 plugins relate to comments.
8. Subscribe to “Double-Opt-In” Comments: I love this plugin. It’s something that Blogger ought to have but doesn’t. Why, you say? It allows anyone to subscribe to comments on your blog–not all the comments, but for one particular post. If I interview you, review your novel, or provide a guest spot for you on this blog, you can subscribe to the post and be notified by email whenever someone comments. No need to check back every hour or two. And if someone finds the post weeks later and comments on it, your subscription is still good. This spring when I did a bunch of guest appearances for the release of Rainbow’s End, I realized how few blogs have this capability and it made me love it even more.
9. Facebook Comments Importer: Ever notice when you post a link to a blog post on your Facebook fan page and everyone comments there instead of on your blog, where you want the traffic to show? Yeah. This plugin imports those comments so they are both places. Doesn’t work from a personal profile page, though.
10. Intense Debate: Not every WordPress user needs this plugin, only if your theme doesn’t come with threaded comments. What’s that? When people can respond directly to someone else’s comment, rather than at the bottom of the list of comments. It makes things much more conversational, so it’s highly recommended. Mine is deactivated because my current theme, Headway, incorporates threaded comments. (Headway is a paid theme–first time I’ve gone that route. But that would be a whole different blog post!)
And finally, 3 plugins that simplify things:
11. Fast Secure Contact Form: I don’t know who to believe about whether or not you’ll get a ton of spam emails if you leave your email address visible on your site. I do know I get enough spam as it is. But the fact remains that visitors to your site may need a way to contact you. The contact form on this page solves that. I get several emails a week from this form, straight into my most-used inbox. Setting this one up was a little tricky, but once I got all the fields done correctly, it works like a charm.
12. Print Friendly and PDF: This is the most recent addition to my plugin arsenal. Click on the Print/PDF button at the end of this post to see how it works. I’m not sure when this capability will actually be needed, but it’s there if someone wants it.
13. WordPress Mobile Pack: My husband asked for this plugin, as he likes to check my blog on his iPhone on breaks at work. Because a lot more people are using various mobile devices to access the worldwide web, it makes sense to ensure your site is optimized for mobile. This is especially important if you use QR codes on business cards or bookmarks, but even if you don’t, think about optimizing. If you scroll to the VERY bottom of this page, you’ll see a link on the left “switch to our mobile site.” Now you can see what this page (and site) look like on a mobile device.
There you have it. 13 of my favorite WordPress plugins. Do you have any favorites you think every WP user should have in their arsenal? If so, feel free to pop the link to the plugin and an explanation of why you like it in a comment below.
Sherri Wilson Johnson says
Adding this to my to-do list. I’ve got most of these activated but need to use the others. Thanks for compiling!
Valerie Comer says
No problem! I’ve been meaning to do this forever. As you probably know, one has to kiss a lot of toads to find plugins that do the job! So it seemed a good idea to share.
Deanne Durrett says
Nice post; good info. Like you, I’m using WordPress.org within my webpage. I like it but sorting out the plugins has been a task. Thanks for your recommendations.
Valerie Comer says
I agree. It’s a chore digging through the hundreds (thousands?) of plugins. Also, sometimes I didn’t even know I could get a plugin to do a chore I wasn’t aware I needed done! Okay, that was convoluted!
Lorraine Beatty says
Valerie, this is so helpful. My hubby is in the process of creating my website and all these little plug-ins will be great. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Valerie Comer says
I hope it helps, Lorraine! There are so many possibilities it’s hard to know where to start sometimes.
Diana Lesire Brandmeyer says
I’m still using blogger as I’m not ready to take that much time to switch. But the pdf print would be great if you wanted to post a recipe. I don’t have that abiltiy so people have to copy paste. Not sure that they do.
Diana Lesire Brandmeyer says
Thanks Valarie! I figured out how to add the pdf print to my blog!!!! Sometiems it’s just knowing what’s out there.
Valerie Comer says
Yay! So glad you could use this information on your own blog as well!