Michael Torbert of semperfiwebdesign.com and author of the All in One SEO Pack WordPress Plugin wrote an article recently on his “Best WordPress Plugins” that every blog should use. It is a great recommendation for a default install of WordPress. Check it out here: http://semperfiwebdesign.com/blog/best-wordpress-plugins/. I know ‘All in One SEO Pack‘ is on the top of my list. Even if you are not going to put in the effort on your writing for altering titles and descriptions for each post, it does a lot for you just by turning it on with it’s default configuration. While most of what we do is using WordPress as a content manager for full websites or more specific customizations, so things like popups we usually handle on a case by case basis. I also don’t recommend just activating plugins on every site by default, because you’ll be running a lot of unnecessary updates for plugins you are not really using not to mention adding unnecessary overhead to the site. So I’ll go through his list here and break down when we would recommend using these plugins.
Google XML Sitemap Generator: This is always a good plugin to have, but by itself only provides the xml file that you will need to submit to Google through the Google Webmaster tools.
Backup Buddy: Backup Buddy is a great way to schedule backups. Just about anyone who is constantly adding and growing their site will enjoy the security of knowing there are redundant backups being stored. It’s offers a lot of options for storing backups off-site and for restoring sites from backup and migrating sites.
Gravity Forms: Any time you want to collect data from web visitors whether it’s for contact forms, event registration or even simple product purchases, Gravity Forms is a great place to start.
Jetpack: I have mixed feelings about Jetpack. It does offer a lot of solutions in one plugin, but they are not always the solutions that the user wants. As a blogger you can just choose to use the solutions that Jetpack offers and it’s a simple way to solve a lot of problems, but the best part of Jetpack is WP Stats and although I like the way they made it simple to integrate your self hosted WordPress site into the WordPress.com tools, it can be overkill to install a dozen plugins and only use one or two. It is well supported though, so even if you only needed the WP Stats, it might be the most dependable plugin to install.
Akismet: For a while Akismet didn’t really offer solutions for business websites that were affordable for low traffic business sites. They now offer a $5/month plan for businesses who just want to avoid deleting the spam comments. It’s still free for personal blogs.
Pippity: Popup messages represent everything that is wrong with the web, but we also do get requests for them and this seems like a quick flexible option. Generally, I prefer to build popups manually as you can fit them in to the user experience more seamlessly through both design and functionality.
WP Super Cache: Everyone really aught to be running Super Cache on their WordPress site. But there are a few caveats to be aware of . The Cache takes time to renew, so if you like to play with your sites theme files or widget layouts often, then you may notice that you won’t see the changes take place on your site. There are simple fixes for this, but on some sites, that won’t work for administrators, so in those cases, you can use a DB Cache plugin that will help with site load but not be caching the entire page, but just the requests to the database.
My personal additions to this list.
Display Buddy: The entire line of Display Buddy Plugins are very useful when building business websites. Primarily Billboard and Slideshow for placing images in a layout through widgets.
jQuery Colorbox: For image galleries to have a lightbox, I have found jQuery Colorbox to be the most stable across browsers and iPad type devices.
HandHeld: Creates a mobile friendly version of the site quickly and easily. Mobile themes are customizable, but the default theme is quite nice with a custom header option.