WordPress has a vast number of plugins, to try them all would take an eternity, but of all the ones I’ve used this list is the top 20 plugins that are utterly essential for every power blogger.

The Ultimate Plugin’s Round Up.

essential-pluginsThese plugins have not only withstood the test of time they have helped to take my blog to the ‘next level’. This is a list of ALL that I use, nothing more, nothing less.

I’ve had one of the plugin authors leave a comment on my blog earlier this morning and that has inspired me to write this post. I think the task of writing a list of ‘Ultimate Plugins’ would be almost impossible because it depends on what you wish to achieve with your blog/website. However this post has a complete list of every plugin I use for this site and every one I list here I consider the best of the best.

To all the plugin authors – thank you, for the time you have spent in writing these. As an ex-video games programmer myself I understand the time it takes to write bug free and effective software and I very much appreciate the time and effort you have all gone to.

To save you a huge amount of time I have taken ALL the plugins I use, zipped them up and moved them to a file server so you can just download the whole lot in one go. Unzip them and upload them to your website. It’s a lot easier to automatically update them than it is to search, download, decompress and upload each one individually.

These plugins are certified virus free and you can download them ALL from here (3.96MB) in one go. Alternatively the heading of each plugin below links directly to their respective download page should you wish to download them individually.

The Plugin’s.

(in alphabetical order, not order of importance)

Akismet.

Does an excellent job of keeping the comments on your blog spam free. I think every WordPress user is already familiar with Akismet, but just in case you’re new to WordPress this is one essential plugin! You will need a ‘key’ to get it working which you can get for free from http://www.wordpress.com.

All-in-One Adsense & YPN.

Making a living from your blog is not impossible – unlikely maybe, but not impossible. If you’re incredibly successful and you have traffic upwards of 100,000 per month having Adsense on your blog is enough to turn a hobby into a living. With Adsense you will make a few pennies every time someone clicks on a banner on your site. Remember every penny counts and with even a modest amount of traffic, displaying Adsense should bring in enough revenue to pay for your domain name and hosting costs for the year.

Bad Behaviour.

I have come to appreciate this plugin quite a lot over the past few months, I noticed that as soon as I had written a new post – BAM! Some horrible content thief would visit my site with a ‘bot’, copy my post and add it to their own blog. This can be annoying especially if you’ve just spent hours writing the best post of your life and it gets stolen – and not only that they have sometimes had a higher ranking in the search engines that I have! Bad Behaviour will put the ‘bots’ in their place and keep your content from being violated.

Clicky.

We all love our stats and for a pro blogger it’s essential to know exactly how popular each post is. Google Analytics is great (which I suggest you use as well) but Clicky works in ‘real time’ you can actually tell who’s reading your blog right now! Cool. I’m still in the last few days of my trial pro version, so I don’t yet know what the free versions capabilities are, but from what I’ve seen so far Clicky is a great little plugin.

Configure SMTP.

Don’t bother with WP-SMTP any more. Configure SMTP is as easy as falling off a log to install. It’ll work first time, be rock solid and the setup for sending email through your free GMail or Google Apps domain is built in and just takes one ‘click’ to activate.

Contact Form 7.

Easily the most flexible and powerful contact form for WordPress. Contact Form 7 will allow you to add or customise any field, make any of them mandatory or optional and will allow for text fields, radio buttons, tick boxes – the whole schbang.

Exploit Scanner.

For the truly paranoid blogger. Exploit scanner is WordPress’ version of an anti-virus scanner. It will check for rogue code that might have somehow attached itself to your blog. It’s worth remembering that exploit scanning is not an exact science, but for whatever it’s worth Exploit Scanner will help to keep your mind at rest.

Fuzzy SEO Booster.

Quite why Fuzzy SEO Booster is in this list I don’t know because with my version of WordPress 2.8.6 (as of this post), the plugin simply doesn’t work. However the idea behind Fuzzy SEO is excellent. People will find your blog through a number of weird and wonderful searches. Fuzzy SEO Booster will import the words typed into Google, Yahoo, Bing etc. that find your blog and then add them as ‘keywords’ to your post. This means if someone else types in those same words in a search your blog will now contain those exact keywords and your blog will appear in a higher position – It’s worth installing so eventually when this plugin actually starts working you’ll be ready to implement it’s use.

Google Analytics for WordPress.

What can I say? Utterly essential, easy to implement and as Google Anaytics is free this is simply a bread and butter plugin. The Google Analytics for WordPress plugin will automatically exclude visits from Administrators and Editors – you don’t want to count your own visits, you just want real-world stats and this plugin will do it nicely for you.

Google Sitemap Generator.

There is some contention as to whether a sitemap is a good thing, but the discussion wanders a little too far into Geekdom for my liking and I really can’t be bothered to waste my breath on discussing a sitemaps pro’s and con’s. If you would like to be able to select which pages or posts of your site appears in search engines, or if you would simply like them all indexed by Google, then ‘Google Sitemap Generator’ is for you.

Meta SEO Pack.

Don’t bother with the All-in-One SEO plugin, it still has bugs even after being updated one a week, deactivating and asking for a donation every time. The Meta SEO Pack by Daniel Frużyński is far better, provides an enormous amount of flexibility and is a lot more effective at is job. It’s so nice not to see %post_title% in Google where my blogs page name should be. Good work Daniel!

Odiogo Listen  Button.

This is a nice little plugin. You will need to register a free account with Odigo.com, then, whenever you write a post the Odiogo servers will come and read your post and using a fairly decent text to speech program will convert your blog post to an mp3 file which will then be streamed from their servers when someone clicks on the Odiogo listen button. I have included it in this list because it deserves to be mentioned; however you might have some problems with the styling of your site depending on the Theme you’re using.

Subscribe to Comments.

Again, this is an utterly essential plugin. Keeping your visitors engaged in a thread of conversation  is what blogging is all about. Adding your post to a browsers bookmark and then visiting every once in a while is old hat. Alerting your visitors to when a new comment has been posted on your blog is how it’s done properly – and this plugin will take care of that for you.

Twitter Tools.

This plugin consists of a number of extensions that can fully integrate your Twitter account into your blog. Personally I’m not much of a Twitter fan, but if you would like to have a live news feed directly to your blog which you can update from your mobile phone then Twitter Tools is for you.

WordPress Backup.

Yet another bread and butter plugin. WordPress Backup will backup your entire blog according to a schedule. It will backup all your posts, images and plugins and then email them all to your GMail account or other email address. There’ll be no more need to panic about whether you have a backup of your blog or not. WordPress Backup will take care of it for you.

WordPress Popular Posts.

A fantastic plugin. WordPress Popular Posts will display your most read posts for the World at large to see. It’s the people on the Internet who select which posts of yours are important and which are not. Sometimes I’ve written posts thinking that they’ll bring in lots of traffic and they haven’t; and sometimes I’ve written a post almost as an incidental and they’ve become one of the post’s bringing in the most traffic – you never really know what will be successful, but this plugin will tell you which ones are.

WP-Cache.

If you know WordPress quite well I bet you’re wondering why I’ve put this plugin in my list – and fair enough. This is the plugin that only just made it in to this list. There are many, many cache plugins out there and the one you choose to use will be dependent on the server you are using to host your pages. For example I’m hosting this site on IIS 6 running on a Windows 2003 Server. I have already activated automatic GZipping of static content, set HTTP-Headers so that my ETag headers are blank and also set Accept-Encoding: gzip which has really speeded up the delivery of this site. If you’re using Apache and Linux there are other plugins available for you.

WP Optimise.

If you’re anything like me, each post I write gets edited many, many times before I’m happy with it. Correcting spelling / typos editing this and that. But did you know WordPress stores a copy of every revision in it’s MySQL database? After 100 or so posts and numerous edits on each I found when I ran this plugin for the first time that it could reduce the size of my database to a fraction of what it was. This plugin will also allow you to change user names for logging in and several other blog optimising features – Excellent!

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

Last, but by absolutely no means least, the singular most effective plugin you could possibly have at reducing your bounce rate, increasing the time spent reading your blog and generally engaging your visitor more effectively. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin will scan through your post’s in the background and display a list of links to related articles on your blog, making it far more likely that you’ll get another ‘click’ from your visitor.

That’s the round up for the end of November 2009. I’ll keep checking back with this post to make any major modifications or to incorporate any excellent suggestions. If you feel you have a plugin or know or a plugin that really deserves to be in this list please let me know. I’ll give it a run for it’s money and should it be truly excellent I’ll added it to this list.

That’s it from me for today. Happy blogging!

Simon

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