Geek Friday: My Favorite Essential WordPress Plugins

You’ve probably heard the line, “There’s an app for that.”  Well, when it comes to WordPress, there’s a plugin for that.  There are hundreds (if not thousands) of plugins, but there are some I have found so useful that I consider them essential.

Want to increase traffic?  There are plugins that will help you out there.  Want to enable Facebook users to like and comment?  There’s at least one plugin for that.  Need to backup, restore or even move your blog somewhere else?  There’s a plugin for that.  Need to whack inactive users?  There’s a plugin for that.

While it is difficult to rank them, I’m going to attempt to put the most important first.  It shouldn’t be surprising that they are the ones that help tighten up the security on your site.  Few things are worse than getting your blog hacked, unless it’s getting your blog hacked and not be able to restore it in a timely manner.

1. Duplicator – “Create a full WordPress backup of your files and database with one click. Duplicate and move an entire site from one location to another in 3 easy steps. Create full snapshot of your site at any point in time.”  This is about as complete of a backup as I have ever seen for WP.  I have used this to create a test site using the live data from a real site, which is about as good as testing can get.  The normal export/import plugin will not recreate databases.  This will.  I’ve listed this as #1, as the first three rules of computing are: 1. Backup, 2. Backup and 3. Backup.

2. Admin renamer extended – “Lets you rename all admin usernames with GUI.”  WP is setup with the default administrator account of “admin”.  I have noticed that most hack attempts will attempt to login to this account.  This plugin allows you to rename it without losing any information.

3. Limit Login Attempts – “Limit rate of login attempts, including by way of cookies, for each IP.”  The worst part about these bogus login attempts is that WP will never at some point stop and block further attempts.  This plugin will block them for a specified period of time.

4. Bad Behavior – “Deny automated spambots access to your PHP-based Web site.”  This plugin will check the IP address of the HTTP request and if the poster is trying to post a comment and is on the blacklist, it will disallow the comment.

5. Captcha Code – “Adds Captcha Code anti-spam methods to User front-end WordPress forms.”  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so keeping spambots from creating an account in the first place beats trying to block them from commenting.  CAPTCHA is one way to ensure it is a human being on the other end submitting the form.  There are lots of CAPTCHA plugins, but I recently posted about why I selected this one in “Geek Friday: WordPress Captcha Plugins, Which Ones Do not Work and Which One Shines”.

6. User Spam Remover – “Automatically removes spam user registrations and other old, never-used user accounts. Blocks annoying e-mail to administrator after every new registration. Full logging and backup of deleted data….”  If you have had your blog for a while, you probably already have spambot accounts, and this helps to get rid of them.  It will also remove inactive users, so use with care.

7. Broken Link Checker – “Checks your blog for broken links and missing images and notifies you on the dashboard if any are found.”  If you’ve ever moved your blog, this is a “must-have”.  Finding broken links, particularly internal ones, can be a daunting task.  This plugin will at least make the broken links easier to find.  However, I suggest deactivating it in-between searches because it can be a performance hog.

8. Add Link to Facebook – “Automatically add links to published posts to your Facebook wall or pages”.  Only after security or performance plugins, this is a “must-have” if you want real Facebook visibility.  With this plug-in, you can automatically post articles to your timeline or page (paid version), and your friends can like or comment on the blog article without creating accounts on your blog.  The best part is that it works two-ways (some plugins only work one way or host your blog comments on their site).  Comments on the blog will show up on the Facebook posting as well.

9. WPtouch – “A plugin which formats your site with a mobile theme for visitors on Apple iPhone / iPod touch, Google Android, Blackberry Storm and Torch, Palm Pre and other touch-based smartphones.”  More and more users are surfing the Internet on their handheld devices, and this plugin makes it easy for a WP site.  You don’t need to create a separate mobile theme (and do updates twice if anything changes).  Best of all, it is easy for the user to turn the theme off if it isn’t working correctly.

10. Simple Local Avatars – “Adds an avatar upload field to user profiles if the current user has media permissions. Generates requested sizes on demand just like Gravatar! Simple and lightweight.”  This plugin will help make users feel right at home.  They can personalize their avatars and present the image they want to your community.  It will also use Gravatars.

There are many more I could list, but I’ll give honorable mention to Fast Secure Contact Form if you have the need (and you really should!) for users to contact you or give personal feedback about your blog.  It’s a cool plugin that will present a form that can be filled out, and your email address doesn’t have to be out in the open.