This post is outdated.
Edit 06/06/2009 – I have recently written a much more current and similar article. Please check out 20 WordPress 2.7 Plugins You Can’t Live Without.
Reader experience is the most important element of any site. Whether it be an entertainment site or an information portal, the ease of use for the reader is vital. I run this blog using WordPress because it gives me incredible control over the reader experience. I large part of that control comes in the way of plugins.
What are plugins?
Plugins are basically optional programs that run behind the scene. Some of them are never even seen by the reader. Technically, they aren’t programs — they are really scripts that run on the web server. They add functionality to WordPress. Below is an alphabetical list of 25 WordPress plugins that add incredible reader functionality. If you run WordPress for your blog and don’t have them, add them!
- 404 Notifier
After installing this plugin, I was amazed at how many 404 errors were being produced. It helps me to know when there are broken links in old articles and I have been able to go in and fix them. I just installed the plugin, and subscribed to the RSS feed in Google Reader and I was done.
I find that as I get more plugins, my menus in the WordPress administration pages become more and more crowded. The solution? Drop-down menus.
This plugin comes included with WordPress. As the blog gets more popular, spam comments increase dramatically. The number of spam comments that this thing catches is crazy. If I had to go in and delete them all the time, I would have little time for anything else.
- All in One SEO Pack
Google is my biggest referrer still. This plugin helps me to get higher search results by optimizing post titles, adding meta keywords, and just all sorts of other cool things.
- Bookmark Me
Occasionally kind people will want to share one of my articles with others. This plugin adds little icons at the end of each post to make doing that easier. Right now, all I have is StumbleUpon, but I could add a lot more if I wanted to. I find that the less choices readers have, the better. This is also the reason, I am only campaigning for one category in The Edublog Awards.
- Category/Archive Indexing
Instead of showing excerpts for my category listings, this plugin allows me to show a list of all of the articles. Check it out here.
- Chunk Urls for WordPress
Sometimes comments include web addresses to other sites. If those addresses go too long, they can mess up the whole presentation of the site. Just in case that happens, it is never a bad idea to have this plugin installed to keep that from happening.
- Contact Form ][
It is always helpful to have contact information available to readers. It’s also nice to have an easy-to-include contact form.
- Dagon Design Sitemap Generator
This plugin is great! It is the way that I built my site’s Archive Index. Some key elements that are way cool about this plugin are that it can list the articles alphabetically rather than chronologically. This facilitates much easier navigation, and helps readers find what they are looking for faster.
- Enforce www. Preference
When I am analyzing my site’s statistics, this plugin helps out a lot. If someone is at soyouwanttoteach.com and clicks on a link, they will be transported over to www.soyouwanttoteach.com. Not a big deal to them, but to stat trackers, that is a completely different site. It also lowers Search Engine status if some links come to one and some to the other. This plugin solves that. It can go either way, with or without the www.
Sometimes you just want to do some cool PHP stuff in the middle of your WordPress pages or posts. This plugin allows that to happen.
- FeedBurner FeedSmith
If you are not using FeedBurner for your RSS feed, start now. Then install this plugin to make it automatic.
- Google Analytics
Google Analytics is one of the most comprehensive stats trackers I have seen out there. This plugin makes it simple to set up.
- In Series
I recently got finished writing 25 Tips For Less Stress. I wish I would have known about this plugin as I was writing the series. Instead, I have added it after the fact. It automatically includes all of the articles in a series and links them together. It includes a table of contents for the series as well. I am just learning about this one and will go back soon and link together some of my past series of articles such as 7 Questions That Will Save Your Career and 5 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers.
- JAW Popular Posts Widget
Used in addition to the Popularity Contest plugin, this plugin creates a widget that drops right into the sidebar and automatically shows your top 1 to 10 articles. Great stuff!
- No Self Pings
I reference a lot of my articles when I write. When I reference one of them, I don’t want it to leave a pingback on that other article. This plugin keeps that from happening.
- Popularity Contest
This plugin does a couple of things. It tells me which articles are the most popular on the site, and also lets me see what kind of traffic they get. I can adjust how popularity is determined (whether comments or feed reads or home page views receive more weight). Great for finding out what the pillar articles of your blog really are.
- RSS Feed Signature
This allows me to put a copyright in my feed. When my blog was featured on Zen Habits, twice in one week, I began to be overwhelmed by other blogs publishing my content. This plugin has virtually eliminated the worried I had with that.
- Similar Posts
At the end of each article, we have a list of 5 Related Articles. These come about by way of the Similar Posts plugin. This helps to stir up old content and give it a chance of seeing the light of day.
- Simple Tags
With the addition of tagging in WordPress 2.3, this plugin really helps out. It will scan the content of an article and suggest tags that you can easily add by clicking on them. That’s not all though. This plugin lets me include related posts (not necessarily the same as the Similar Posts plugin) in my feed. This way, RSS subscribers will also get a taste of some of the older archived material! It is worth its weight in gold just for that feature alone.
- Subscribe To Comments
Ever leave a comment on a blog with a question and never hear back from them? This plugin allows readers to comment and then subscribe to receive further replies. I recommend leaving the checkbox unchecked by default and allowing readers to choose if they want to subscribe.
- What Would Seth Godin Do
If this is your first visiting the blog, you notice a little area at the top of the first article suggesting you go to the Welcome Center. After you visit the blog a few times, it is gone. This is the result of this plugin. Some our encourage you to hype up the RSS subscription here. I used to do that, but if they want to subscribe, there are plenty of easy ways for them to do it. I’m not going to use this plugin to insult the intelligence of my readers!
- WordPress.com Stats
I love the graph and easy-to-read way that this information is laid out. I use it more frequently than Google Analytics, but it does not give me the information quite as in-depth as Google does.
- WordPress Automatic Upgrade
Every time that a new version of WordPress is released, this plugin makes that upgrade super simple. No longer do I have to log into MySQL and backup the database and download and all of that. I simply use the plugin and it guides me through the process without ever having to leave the site.
For those routine backups. I fear losing all of the information on my site, so this plugin at least gives me a bie more peace of mind. Again, I don’t have to leave the site to do the backup.
So there you have my Top 25 list. What are some plugins that you find invaluable?