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Check out the current recommended plugin list at 2017 Recommended WordPress Plugin Guide.
Several times I’ve had folks ask what plugins I recommend. Well, there is no single list that works for everybody. There are a couple of plugins I believe everyone should use and then there are the ones that I use a lot with projects and clients.
Let me also make a pitch for making donation to the plugin developers, if you find you are using their plugins. If care about improving our quality of life, the courtesy of saying “Thank You” with a gift goes a long way whether it’s bottle of wine for a hostess or gift card for tech support from a friend, so a US$5, $10 or more donation for feature support is a tangible “Thank You”.
If you are just interested in the bottom line, a donation is a smart business move because having to hire a programmer to customize your WordPress features is a lot more expensive than encouraging plugin developers with a modest payment.
In short, give a donation to the plugin developers whose work you use. End of sermon.
These Are Basic Plugins I Install on My Sites
a) Askimet which comes with WP but needs a key you can get by registering for a WordPress.com account. You don’t have to start a blog on WordPress.com, but you do need to register for an account.
b) Google XML Sitemaps is another I consider an essential. Google likes you to have a site map and this handles that for you. the other search engines — Yahoo!, Bing, et al — read and use the file as well so you’re killing a lot of SEO birds with one plugin.
c) WordPress Database Backup is another one I install on all my sites — except my primary. The only reason I don’t have it activated on my primary is that because of the wonky set-up by my hosting service, which prevents me from using the new automatic upgrade, plugin install and theme install, I can’t use it. (Well, I *could* but only if I set my permissions to 777 which I’m not about to do…) This is another large part of the reason I’m moving to a new hosting service this summer for my primary domain.
d) I’ve also become quite fond of Bad Behavior which blocks some spammers and some script kiddies. It’s not essential, but I run it on my primary domain.
Here are some additional WordPress plugins that I find I use most often
After that it becomes a matter of your particular need and focus. Some premium themes have specific needs; others are choices made because they work for you. Here are a few that I find myself using most often. (Keep in mind, though, that the more plugins you have, the more likely to have a plugin-WP conflict or a plugin-plugin conflict. If you install a plugin or do an upgrade and something breaks, test by deactivating your plugins one by one starting with the last one installed.)
Exclude Pages from Navigation: some themes, particularly premium themes, have this built in, but if not, it’s a great way to solve the problem of not listing things like your “Thank you” pages or Terms and Conditions in your main navigation.
WP-PageNavi: Speaking of navigation, this plugin offers some more advanced navigation options for your WP site like drop-down menus. Again, some premium themes have this built in, but soem simply tell you to use this plugin.
Contact Form 7 or cforms: These plugins allow you to create forms and then put them where you want in your WordPress pages/posts using a shortcut code. I was using cforms, but it needs an upgrade and the new Pagelines EcoTheme I purchased recommends Contact Form 7, so I’ve made the switch. I’ve liked them both, so it’s your choice.
Wickett Twitter Widget: If your theme doesn’t have built-in Twitter support, this plugin allows you to feed your tweets into your WP site. (Acutlaly, you can feed anybodies tweets into your site if you have their Twitter username.)
NextGEN Gallery: If didn’t like NextGEN when it had to run as a separate program, but since they’ve developed an integrated WP plugin, I find it very useful for sites wanting a photo gallery. The new Pagelines theme I purchased has a lovely “carousel” template specifically for displaying a NextGEN gallery.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin: If you are trying to decrease your bounce rate and increase your pageviews, this is a great addition allowing you to offer suggestions of other posts based on your categories and tags.
I still haven’t found a solid, quality Event Calendar plugin and if we were building products and I had some development cash, I seriously consider working with a hired coder to perfect an Event Calendar Plugin for WP 3.0. If anyone finds one they really like, please share.
Well, those are my general recommendations.