I consider the first five in this list to be essentials for all of my own websites. The last five are plugins that I have started using on my sites to help boost participation from my site visitors.
The list is my recommendations of FREE plugins. I’ll come out with a list of premium plugins soon. And, in honor of 2011… I have given you an 11th plugin as a BONUS. Enjoy and Happy New Year.
1. Google Analyticator
This plugin is for tracking all your website stats using Google Analytics. Of course, you need to sign-up for a Google Analytics account first and then copy and paste the AU code for your domain into the plugin. Then simply set any additional settings in the plugin and click Save at the bottom. Google will then track all your website traffic stats for you and you don’t have to go into any complex code editing. Pretty sweet and easy to use.
2. Google XML Site Maps
This improves the SEO of your website. You will also need a Yahoo API key if you want their search engine to be updated as well as Google. The once you have adjusted all your desired settings click Save at the bottom of the page then scroll back to the top and click Build Site Map to create your first site map. Then every time you make a change to your site, the search engines get pinged. An active website tends to score higher in the search results.
3. All in One SEO Pack
This top rated plugin is great at significantly improving the SEO of your site. Experiment with the various setting to see what effect it has on the appearance as well as on the SEO. It’s simple to use and full-featured. I highly recommend it.
This is a great content sharing tool that lets you choose from nearly 50 different social sites. It makes it super easy to put those little Facebook, Twitter, & LinkedIn icons at the bottom of your posts and pages so others can easily share your content with their audiences. This is great for getting others to your website. Remember to click Save at the bottom when you have made your selections and arranged them in the order you like. I usually go with the following: Print, Email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious, RSS
This is the anti-spam function that comes built-in to WordPress. It’s free for personal use blogs but there are various fee levels depending on your business use and number of websites you use it on. I have tried going without using it and my site was quickly over-run with comment spam. Trust me… you need this plugin activated as soon as you set-up your site. It is the very first thing I do when I set-up a WordPress site.
6. Page Link Manager
This makes it easy to hide page links from your site navigation. For example: I use it to hide the Thank You and Error pages so they don’t show up in my site’s primary navigation. People should only see these pages when they sign-up for my compelling offer or they don’t complete the opt-in form correctly. They’re important pages to have but their administrative in nature and not content related so the typical site visitor doesn’t need to see them. Simply un-check the box next to the page want to hide and click Save.
This is a great plugin for building an active following on your site… especially if you are trying to build a membership site. One of the most important things you can do is encourage your members to stay active on your site. CubePoints lets you reward your members for their activity. You can read my post on CubePoints when it goes live on Jan. 28th at 8:00 pm.
This plugin lets you add a nice community forum to your website. You can use this as a tech support area where you answer FAQ’s or instruct your site visitors how to use your product or service. Forums are also great for creating user generated content. It gives your users a place to hang-out, ask questions and get answers. Be sure to download the skins and icon sets as well. You will need to FTP this one to your plugins folder because it’s not available in the WordPress Directory but it is FREE.
I LOVE this plugin. It turns your WordPress dashboard into a collaboration tool. I have only recently started using it for project management with my team members but I am already seeing benefits. I had looked at collaboration and management tools like BaseCamp, ManyMoons and others but they get expensive and require that I log into yet another website or tool. CollabPress lets me accomplish what I need within my own website where I am already logged-in. The interface is already familiar so the learning curve is small. I highly recommend this plugin for anyone who is working with multiple team members in different locations. You can read my previous post on CollabPress.
10. Vertical Scroll Recent Comments
I like this plugin for putting a scrolling comments box in my sidebar. This is great for showing testimonials or website activity. You can specify category, speed, number of comments and comment length. These comments are clickable and will take you to the page where the comment was posted. It’s great for prompting additional comments.
I thought I would throw in an 11th favorite in celebration of 2011. I highly recommend adding WPTouch to your line-up of plugins. This one makes your website mobile friendly so that it works well on all sorts of mobile devices. There is a button at the bottom of the screen that lets you toggle between mobile and standard views. You can read my previous post WPTouch.