Wordpress remains one of the best, and hence the most widely used blogging platform and Content Management System (CMS) out there. And it’s hardly a surprise why. It has a powerful front and back end, a functional and powerful dashboard, offers tons of customizability in terms of looks, interface and management, is a very quick CMS and is extremely easy to use and user-friendly, and of course, offers a slew of plugins that considerably improve its functionality.
It is hence no surprise when one discovers that Wordpress is currently being used by roughly 75 million different websites on the internet from all over the world, including around 25% of all new websites that went online till the end of 2011 – making it by far and wide, the most popular CMS out there.
All this essentially means that anyone with even the most basic computer or internet skills at all, or zero website hosting and management knowledge can easily manage a Wordpress blog. Organizations which cannot afford to hire IT personnel don’t need to any more, all thanks to Wordpress.
Let’s talk plugins. As of August 2012, there are 21,100 free plugins on the Wordpress plugins directory, amounting to a total of 341 million downloads in total! Wordpress plugins significantly enhance its functionality, and can also totally transform the way your blog looks (or how you’d want it to look).
Here is a list of 10 of the best, most essential (free!!) Wordpress plugins that every blog on the Wordpress platform – old or new – needs to use:
1. Wordpress SEO
As a blog owner, your aim is to get as much traffic and visitors as possible. That is where SEO or Search Engine Optimization comes in. If you’ve been struggling with getting traffic for a while, or are looking to improve your blog’s traffic levels, you will need to do a bit of optimization, and luckily, Wordpress SEO plugin makes it extremely simple to do just this. The plugin is easy to use, even for newbies, and will allow your blog to rank high on the search engine SERPs. It will also help you to vastly improve many of your blog’s on-page SEO elements, such as meta information, tags, generate and submitting a XML sitemap, setting up breadcrumbs, etc.
2. Broken Link Checker
Broken links is probably one of the biggest reasons why your traffic remains low and why you don’t get a lot of return visitors – even if you’re doing everything else right. No one likes broken links, simply put. Broken links also pose a problem when search engine crawlers index your blog. As the name implies, the Broken Link Checker plugin allows you to find and correct or delete any broken links on your blog. Checking for broken links manually can be a tedious and time-consuming process; an unrealistic proposition – particularly if you have even a few hundred posts on your blog, which could potentially have hundreds or thousands of links.
If your blog is not optimized for touchscreen-based devices, you’re losing out big time, it’s as simple as that. Touch-based cellphone and tablets have taken off, and thanks to high-speed internet connections and high-speed wireless interner access in the form of Wifi and 3G, a large proportion of internet users and browsers are browsing the internet on the likes of the iPhone, iPad, Android-based phones and tablets, and Windows-based phones, to name a few. WPTouch seamlessly integrates with your blog and optimizes your blog for smaller-screen devices such as phones and tablets. Whenever someone access your blog from any one of these devices, he is shown the optimized, phone/tablet-friendly, easier-to-navigate version of the blog, rather than the full-blown web-based version. The plugin does this on its own, without affecting the interface of your website at all!
4. WP Smush.it
Pictures and images make an essential, important part of your posts. Adding images to your posts adds a bit of variety to them, helps/assists your explaining or getting your point across in a better way, and of course, prevents your posts from looking like a boring wall of text. However images considerably add the size, and hence the load times, of your posts. Which is where WP Smush.it comes in. Smush.it automatically reduces files size of any and all images in your posts, improving blog performance and load-times significantly. You won’t be required to do anything, apart from adding images the way you usually do; the plugin will work on its own behind-the-scenes.
5. WP Super Cache
Another plugin, that should considerably improve the performance, speed and load times of your blog is WP Super Cache. Essentially, what this plugin does is it generates a static HTML file from your Wordpress blog, which will then be served to anyone trying to access your blog, instead of the comparatively heavier PHP file. In simple terms (read: English), what this means that you can significantly lower your blog’s access and load times by simply installing this Wordpress plugin. It will also greatly reduce the load on your server. Once done, it runs in the background and does its job automatically. So your website will be able to serve pages more quickly, and cope well with large spikes in traffic as well.
6. Wordpress Backup to Dropbox
As the famous saying goes, “you never know what you have until you lose it, and once you do, you can never get it back” … or something to that effect. And it is then that one truly realizes the importance of backups! Don’t risk your Wordpress blog that your probably spent hours and countless sleepless nights setting up and tweaking to perfection – back it up now using the Wordpress Backup to Dropbox plugin. The plugin helps keep your entire Wordpress-based website (including the media and the database) safe by automatically backing everything up to your Dropbox account. It takes anywhere from a couple of minutes to hours depending on the size of your blog. This plugin is simple and easy to use, and is very functional as well; you can choose how many times you want the backup to run, and when (what time) it should run on those days. You’ll need to configure it first in order to integrate it with your Dropbox account, which is an extremely simple, 3-step process. Backup your blog right now, before something happens and you regret not doing this!