The year is coming to a close, and if 2012 has taught us anything, it’s that WordPress is still the most widely used free, open source content management system (CMS) out there.
While the extensive adoption of the platform obviously benefits users, as it means there are going to be more developers creating plugins and designing themes that WordPress users can employ to spruce up their blogs or websites (in both appearance and functionality), it also presents a bit of a nagging problem. The issue is that there are so many options to select from, which makes it very difficult to differentiate the good from the bad.
Luckily for you, Website Magazine editors recently compiled a list of the 25 best WordPress plugins for websites of all shapes and sizes, just in time for the new year. However, if there's a plugin we may have missed, or you disagree with a selection, feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.
If you want to get your hands on one of the best WordPress plugins around, why wouldn’t you want one developed by the creators of the platform? Well, Jetpack is just that, a plugin that is meant to expand the capabilities of your site by harnessing the cloud power of WordPress.com. There are a number of great features you can utilize, including displaying site analytics, creating photo galleries and even spell checking your copy, among many others.
Don’t let the punny title fool you, Disqus is one of the best comment systems available. The tool allows users to add comment functionality to their site/pages, giving visitors an opportunity to engage with the content (and the brand). Those interested in building a community of users on their sites should get Disqus ASAP.
Social media has become a necessity for most Web professionals, so it’s more likely than not that you’re on at least one (and probably more) social networks. Why not show off your social prowess with Social Toolbar, a plugin that places a toolbar at the bottom of your blog/site to display links to all of your social network profiles. But that’s not all it does; additional features including sharing buttons, a full display of your latest tweets and more.
WP Google Fonts
A big part of having a sleek design for your blog or website means utilizing cool, appropriate fonts that really invoke the spirit of your brand. Unfortunately, most generic font packs are limited in what they offer. That’s why you should download WP Google Fonts, which allows users to easily incorporate a slew of new fonts from the Google Font Directory into your WordPress theme.
Mobile is hot, and any successful Web strategy must include a mobile-optimized site. For WordPress users, the fastest and simplest way to accomplish this is by using the WPtouch plugin, which will serve up mobile visitors a different theme. This comes complete with a new device-optimized and user-friendly version of your content.
One of the most important aspects of working on the Web is gathering consumer data to use in the future, and the best way to go about doing that is by using forms. The Gravity Forms plugin is able to create any kind of form you may need in a flash, regardless of its complexity. This can include email signup forms or extensive applications.
Look, even with all of this social media hullabaloo, SEO is still one of the most important practices that a site owner can conduct to increase his or her audience and generate more revenue. WordPress SEO from Yoast is one of the better plugins for search engine optimization, featuring XML sitemaps, customizable title and meta description options, RSS optimization and social media optimization – and that’s just for starters!
W3 Total Cache
Want to make your WordPress site run up to 10 times faster? Check out W3 Total Cache, a powerful plugin that caches every single element of your site, so readers can read your post in no time. Use this plugin to reduce download times and provide transparent CDN integration.
Everyone loves images, and the more you can (appropriately) add to your site or blog, the more likely you are to drive traffic and interest users. So why not add this fully integrated image gallery plugin? It is absolutely chock-full of features, which offer a lot of flexibility in creating gallery content, such as the ability to add watermarks to images, create slideshows, use different display themes and organize pictures into albums, among many others.
As aforementioned, social media plays a big role in Web success these days, and accruing Likes or +1s (or other social seals of approval) on your content is a great way to get it (and your brand) noticed. Use the Digg Digg plugin to integrate the most popular social buttons into your WordPress site, which can be configured to display in various locations.
All in One SEO Pack
The All in One SEO Pack is the most comprehensive search engine optimization plugin available for WordPress users and remains one of the platforms most downloaded plugins ever for a good reason. It’s especially useful for new users or those who aren’t terribly familiar with coding. In includes Google Analytics support, as well as other features like custom post types, canonical URLs, automatically generated meta tags and much more.
Dagon Design Sitemap Generator for WordPress
Create a fully customizable sitemap for your WordPress website with this plugin from Dagon Design, which gives users multilevel categories, pages and permalinks support. You’ll be able to choose which links you want to display, the order their shown in, comment counts and post dates to make your site more searchable for, uh, search engines.
This is one of the most popular and easy-to-use e-commerce platforms available for WordPress sites. WP e-Commerce offers a 100 percent customizable experience with easily modified templates, in addition to community support, integration with multiple payment gateways (including PayPal, Authorize.net and Google Checkout), various marketing and SEO features, checkout capabilities with SSL security and the ability to manage orders and shipping from within the plugin. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To say this plugin is “feature rich” is a massive understatement.
Make your content more social with Sociable, which will automatically add links to your favorite social bookmarking sites on your posts, pages and RSS feeds.
Google Analytics for WordPress
Google Analytics is the widely adopted, fully featured analytics platform from one of the Web’s leading companies, so it makes sense that it would eventually be turned into a plugin for WordPress users. With this plugin, you can easily track your WordPress site or blog and use a lot of fancy custom variables to track the metadata on your pages, such as author, single or multiple categories, post type, publication year, tags and more.
Have a bunch of different RSS subscribers that you don’t know how to manage? Never fear! Just use FeedBurner FeedSmith to detect all of the possible methods through which users can access your original WordPress RSS feeds, and then redirect them back to your FeedBurner FeedSmith feed to track every single subscriber.
If building a community is an important part of your Web strategy, you no doubt allow your visitors to comment on and discuss your content. Unfortunately, as your traffic increases, so will the amount of comment and trackback spam you receive. Luckily, this popular plugin from Automattic checks comments and trackbacks against the Akismet Web service, and if they’re found to be spam, they’ll automatically be moved into your WordPress installation’s spam folder. You’ll never have to get your hands dirty.
Google XML Sitemaps
Google just does it all, doesn’t it? With this plugin, you can generate an XML sitemap that will help search engines – and not just Google, but Bing, Yahoo and others – better index your WordPress website, which means crawlers can see all of your site and retrieve data from it much more quickly and efficiently.
You’re probably well aware of the delicate nature of working with digital content, likely because some mishap or other in the past has led you to lose a substantial amount of work before you were able to back it up. Don’t let that happen with your website or blog; instead, download the WP-DPManager plugin that allows you to optimize, repair, backup and restore your database. You can also delete backed up content, drop/empty tables and run selected queries. WP-DPManager even supports automated backups, optimization and repairs.
Contact Form 7
This simple, yet flexible contact form plugin allows users to manage multiple contact forms. Also, they can customize their forms and mail content by using some simple markup. Contact Form 7 also supports various security enhancements, including Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA and Akismet spam filtering.
Managing a blog can be a hassle, but never again with the Editorial Calendar plugin that lets users see all of their scheduled posts and when they’ll be posted and offers drag-and-drop functionality to change post dates, draft management, quick edits of post titles, content and times and the ability to manage posts from multiple authors.
All in One Favicon
Website owners and bloggers can easily add a favicon (the small icons next to the URL in the address bar, the page name in a browser tab and/or the page’s name in a bookmark list) to their websites and WordPress admin pages. The All in One Favicon plugin offers complete upload functionality and supports all three favicon types, ico, .png and .gif, which can even be animated.
WooCommerce is one of the best e-commerce platforms for WordPress users, allowing users to turn their websites into fully functional, highly customizable online stores that deliver enterprise-level quality and feature. This includes a PayPal standard gateway, Mijireh checkout, free and flat rate shipping functionality, Google Analytics and international and local shipping and local pickup, among many others.
This social media plugin enables WordPress users to seamlessly allow visitors to share the site or blog’s content on up to 120 different social channels, including email, Facebok, Twitter, Google+ and more. With ShareThis, users can do more to engage their audiences and increase traffic. Plus, the plugin features customization functionality that means it can be seamlessly integrated into a user’s site.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
YARPP may be just "another related posts plugin," but its also the best. It provides a site or blog’s visitors with a list of posts and/or pages that are related to the entry they’re currently reading. Site owners can use this plugin to introduce their readers to other interesting, relevant content on their site.