WordPress is estimated to power around 16% of the world’s websites – a proportion that in practice runs into millions upon millions of pages. Powerful without being overly complicated, robust without being clunky and user friendly for those who want to develop good looking websites with regular updates, WordPress is quite rightly the content management system of choice for around 60 million online brands.
Those downloading the WordPress codex for the first time will be greeted with the promise that the CMS can be up and running in five minutes flat. This famous five minute installation is one of the things that make the platform so popular. But even when you have the system up and running and can add new pages, images and media to your site via the WP Admin login, your work is not done. The fun part starts – choosing which WordPress plugins to add to your domain to increase user engagement and site functionality. Here’s our pick of the essential WordPress plugins:
1. SEO Ultimate (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/seo-ultimate/)
SEO Ultimate is an all-in-one plugin that does exactly what the title suggests. It allows you complete control over title tags, noindex/nofollow, meta tags, rich snippets, slugs, canonical tags, autolinks and 404 errors. It is free to download, easy to install, and easy to use. What’s more, it’s a powerful weapon for those chasing better search engine rankings. When activated, you’ll see a form below the body text area with options for titles, meta descriptions, and meta keywords. This is a great plug in to use while your site is still in development as it also allows page-level search engine blocks.
Other popular options for similar functionality include WordPress SEO by Yoast and All-in-One SEO Pack.
2. Contact Form 7 (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/contact-form-7/)
There’s little point in having a website if it doesn’t provide visitors with an easy means of getting in touch with you. Having said that, contact forms on websites can be difficult to get a handle on. Contact Form 7 takes a lot of the stress out of adding a contact form to your WordPress site. It’s been downloaded more than 7 million times, is simple and flexible, and rated four out of five by WordPress users.
3. Google XML Sitemaps (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-sitemap-generator/)
As a 4.5 rated plugin, this is an essential addition to your WordPress-powered site. The program generates an XML sitemap of the entire site, allowing search engines like Google and Yahoo! to index the whole site effectively. The plugin will not only index custom URLs and all kinds of WordPress pages, it will also update each time a new page is created and notify the search engines of your new content. This handy automation saves a lot of time and effort on the part of the web publisher and means the search engines will always have the most up-to-date picture possible of your entire content store.
4. Backup (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/backup/)
Simple but effective, Backup will securely back up your site to a specified folder on Google Drive. The file is created locally as a .zip. In the event of any issue with the site, the server, virus attacks or spammers, the archives can be accessed and re-instated to return the site to normal within a few moments. The plugin is free and required WordPress 3.4 or higher.
5. Akismet (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/akismet/)
One of the great features about WordPress is the ease with which you can encourage user engagement via comments on your latest posts. Of course, this also means your site is open to spam comments from users simply wanting to place a link back to their own site. Akismet is one of WordPress’ most popular plugins. It will check if the comments posted on your site by users to see if they look like spam or not. Any spam caught is flagged up for your review on the dashboard of the admin area.