Essential Wordpress Plugins
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Essential WordPress Plugins

Essential WordPress Plugins

Plugins are a huge boon to the WordPress blogger, adding as they do every conceivable sort of functionality, but it can be a chore to find just the right ones to enhance your blog. Hopefully, I can save you some of the hard work by sharing plugin choices I have made on my blogs.

Akismet


The Akismet plugin saves you time by automatically detecting comment and trackback spam. Once you’ve installed the plugin you’ll be prompted to enter an API key, obtainable by registering (for free) on the Akismet website.

Akismet is very successful at identifying comments from spammers, and will hold it in a spam queue for you to audit. You can also set an option to automatically delete the spam queue after a month.

So far I haven’t seen any false positives generated by Akismet, but on a higher traffic site it would be worth doing spot checks every once in a while.

http://akismet.com/wordpress/

Yoast WordPress SEO

Yoast WordPress SEO is a very comprehensive Search Engine Optimisation tool, with some extremely useful extra features.

As flexible as WordPress is, sometimes that flexibility overcomplicates the user experience of your content, and can hurt it’s appearance in Search engines. One example of this is the “author” view. This allows for formats like www.cerebis.com/author/cerebis/this-is-a-post

For a multi-author blog, this is a great feature, but where there is a single author it’s just overkill. It also causes search engines to find duplicate data, which they can interpret as gaming (trying to cheat the system). It’s also just plain unnecessary. The Yoast plugin allows you to disable that feature of WordPress, and not just turn it off, but it also allows you to update the robots.txt file to stop search crawlers from attempting to access the “author” view.

I highly recommend reading Yoast’s blog, it’s a mine of information on SEO, WordPress and lots more.

http://yoast.com/wordpress/seo/

Facebook Like Box

Displays a Facebook Like Box, with the option to show the portraits of up to 100 likers. You can also choose to display your latest wall posts.

The best way to use this plugin is to link it to a Facebook fan page, rather than creating a Facebook for the webpage itself.

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/facebook-like-box/

Twitter Fans

Twitter Fans shows your Twitter profile picture, the number of followers you have and a “Follow” button to allow your fans connect to your tweets / twits.

SexyBookmarks (by Shareaholic)

You want people to be able to share your content with their friends and peers as easily as possible, so leveraging the existing social media to achieve this is a no-brainer.

The SexyBookmarks plugin inserts social media sharing icons in to your posts and pages, at points you choose. There are several icon sets to choose from, and quite a nice animated effect when the user hovers over the icons.

There are dozens of social media services to choose from, but I can’t see many people choosing more than four or five of the most popular ones.

http://sexybookmarks.shareaholic.com/

Avoiding RSI

If you have a presence across several social media services (and who doesn’t) then you owe it to yourself to take the pain out of posting the same information separately across each service.

Luckily there are several plugins to help you avoid RSI, and below are the ones I use.

Tumblrize

This plugin lets you connect your WordPress blog to your Tumblr account, so that when you add a new post, it is automatically published on Tumblr as well. You can choose to either publish the post in it’s entirety, or provide just a teaser to drive traffic to your blog. I would recommend the latter, as it avoids duplicate content, which Search engines dislike, and it also helps migrate your followers to your main portal.

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/tumblrize/

WP to Twitter

This plug-in does the same thing for your Twitter account, publishing links back to your posts as you add them. It also uses the bit.ly link shortening service to turn the long WordPress URL’s into something … shorter. You need an API key from bit.ly to use this functionality, which you can create by registering for free.

http://www.joedolson.com/articles/wp-to-twitter/

WP-Cumulus

Normally I try to avoid Flash for compatibility reasons, but this one’s too cool to ignore. It transforms your tag cloud in to a 3d environment, which the user can navigate using the mouse. The most popular tags are shown larger relative to the others, and you can get quite a good spin going if you really whip the mouse J

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-cumulus/

WordPress Google fonts

There are a few ways to use pretty fonts on the web, with Cufon being the option of choice for most premium themes, but Cufon and it’s ilk replace the text with images that Search engines can’t read. This mean that these themes add “alt” and “title” tags to replicate the same text for the benefit of the Search engines. However, there is now a better option, courtesy of Google.

With the simple addition of one line of css, you can use a whole range of typefaces on your website (275 at last count) rather than the 3 or 4 you normally get to choose from.

The Google Fonts plugin allows you to use these on your WordPress blog. There are few plugins to choose from, and I tried three or four before I got this one, but this is by far the best. You get to choose up to 6 typefaces, which you can assign to a variety of html tags, such as <h1>, <p>, etc.

For many themes you will also need to over-ride some other custom css selectors using the provided box for each typeface. For example, this theme uses a specific combination of tags to control the style of widget headings, so I needed to use the over-ride box to force these tags to use the new typeface.

Since you can’t see what the typefaces look like within the plugin, you will need to visit http://www.google.com/webfonts to find your favourite, take note of the name and then pick it from the drop-down in the plugin.

The drop-down list is a sub-set of those available on Google. I say “sub-set,” because the list is hard-coded, so isn’t updated when Google updates the available typefaces. I manually added the new ones myself, but while it’s simple to do, it’s outside the scope of this article. I will cover it in a future post though.

For now I’m using Google Webfonts just for the titles on my blogs, because I couldn’t find a typeface that was easier to read than Arial or Verdana, there were all a little too “designed.”

http://adrian3.com/projects/wordpress-plugins/wordpress-google-fonts-plugin/

WP Super Cache

A caching solution is vital if your site gets a decent amount of traffic, as it will render static pages instead of the database queries that would normally be caused by posts being viewed. There are several available, I chose WP Super Cache in particular because I wanted specific support for another plugin that I’ll cover next (WP Touch Pro). It got also gets a lot of positive reviews from other blog users.

WPtouch Pro

This plugin provides a mobile version of your blog, in a friendly, readable format that works across a number of mobile phones. I went for the Pro paid version in order to gain support for multi-site, but if you’re running a single blog the free version will be fine.

http://www.bravenewcode.com/store/plugins/wptouch-pro/

WP Youtube channel gallery

This plugin provides the ability to display your Youtube channel on a single page. This is a great time-saver, as now I don’t have to edit that page every time a new video is posted to Youtube. You can also just show one video on the page, which by default will be your newest video.

http://brunotnteixeira.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/update-to-2-0-version-of-wp-youtube-channel-gallery/

Lux Vimeo

The Lux plugin allows you to embed Vimeo clips at your chosen size in your posts or pages. Simple as that.

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/lux-vimeo-shortcode/

 

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