The 4 WordPress Plugins Your Site Can’t Live Without

A DreamHost Disclaimer:

Picking the right plugins for your site isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. The arguments here at DreamHost over which plugin is best to use can be fiercer than our foosball competitions, faster than a ping pong match, and louder than– well, you get the idea. The mess starts with over 20,000 plugins in the official WordPress repository, and there are even more when you add in professional plugin shops. No one can agree on what the be-all and end-all of plugins are either, but that’s actually okay by us. Diversity is the spice of life and all that jazz. Of course, when you’re getting started, picking any plugin is a scary thing. Thankfully there’s Claire Broadley from whoishostingthis.com gets you started with her top [4] recommended WordPress plugins.

WordPress

WordPress is a blogging platform that you can customize and expand to your heart’s content. With more than 23,000 plugins, it’s difficult to think of a task WordPress can’t handle. But with so many plugins available, how do you know which ones are worth installing? Here are the 4 WordPress plugins your site can’t live without. They add value to any WordPress install.

1. WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast (FREE)

If you’ve tweaked the WordPress permalinks structure, and you know the basics of SEO, you’re already on the right track when it comes to optimization. However, in order to ensure you’re playing by Google’s rules, you need a plugin that helps you manage SEO in greater detail. In other words, you need to control SEO on a post-by-post or page-by-page basis.

Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin is a free tool that integrates nicely with the WordPress admin interface and adds countless useful features to various screens. It warns you if your page titles are too long, or if you haven’t mentioned your keywords enough times within the post. It allows you to tweak meta descriptions to exactly the right length and set up Google Authorship. It also includes an XML sitemap builder and a robots.txt editor, amongst other useful features.

If you enjoy using the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin, you can install a number of add-ons to expand it: Video SEO (premium), News SEO and Local SEO.

2. Disqus Comment System (FREE)

The WordPress commenting system is pretty good, but it can be a magnet for spam and nuisance content. If you leave comments open, they’ll quickly become littered with junk links and nonsense; if you close comments and require a password, commenters might not bother to sign up for an account.

Disqus is a third party commenting system that integrates nicely with WordPress’ commenting system. In a click, the Disqus plugin syncs existing comments with its database and replaces the default commenting form with a Disqus interface.

Why use Disqus? Well, it’s used on thousands of websites, and it has more than 700 million users. People are more likely to comment if they’ve already got an account on a website, and with Disqus, you’re improving the odds of engagement. Sites already using Disqus include CNN, The Telegraph, All Things D, Boing Boing and Rolling Stone. So if you install it, you’ll be in good company.

3. Gravity Forms (from $39)

In some countries, companies are legally required to display their email address on their website. Regardless of whether you do this, you’ll want to direct the majority of your website visitors to a contact form, since it offers a more user-friendly way for people to get in touch.

Gravity Forms is a sophisticated form builder that can create simple contact forms or very complex multi-page order forms. The plugin ships with a straightforward, dynamic form builder, so you’ll rarely need to dive into code to create the form you need. What’s more, Gravity Forms integrates with popular third party applications like AWeber, MailChimp, PayPal and the internal WordPress user registration system.

Gravity Forms is priced from $39 per year, which covers documentation, updates and support for the period of the license. If you want to keep your plugin up-to-date, you’ll need to renew annually.

4. Redirection

If you’re keen on providing a top-notch user experience – and you want your website to be Google-friendly – you need to stay on top of dead links. As WordPress websites grow, broken links become common and can be troublesome to find and fix.

Redirection is a plugin that keeps track of 404 errors and allows requests for those pages to be redirected to a valid URL. The plugin keeps track of the number of requests for bad links and allows you to create custom redirects. For example, you might want to shorten a URL without actually changing the post’s permalink, or you might want to redirect requests from only one referrer. The plugin automatically creates 301 redirects when you change the title of a post or page, which is a killer feature in itself. Read Redirection’s instructions carefully before using it – it’s surprisingly easy to create redirect loops or bizarre errors, particularly when you’re redirecting using regex. But, used carefully, Redirection is an extremely useful tool that will keep your WordPress install free from 404s.

In Conclusion

A bare WordPress install is a perfectly good tool for managing, publishing and showcasing content, but why stop there? These plugins could make your copy of WordPress easier to handle, more appealing for visitors and more attractive to search engines too.

This is a guest post by Claire Broadley who is a writer for WhoIsHostingThis.com, which features web hosting reviews.

Claire Broadley