Vital WordPress Plugins

Vital WordPress Plugins

When it comes to WordPress, some plugins are almost a necessity. These plugins are the ones that have – so far – met my needs most consistently, or been most easily adapted and customised to meet my needs. They are (almost) all free or donationware. I receive no compensation or other benefits from recommending these plugins.The descriptions of the plugins are taken from the official release descriptions and do not necessarily represent my opinion:

  • Adrotate – The very best and most convenient way to publish your ads. [I tend to pair this with some external scripts for generating consistent banners en masse, based on product feeds, and the like.]
  • Antispam Bee – Easy and extremely productive spam-fighting plugin with many sophisticated solutions. Includes protection again trackback spam. [Not sure why, but I prefer this over Akismet. I haven’t seen any appreciable difference in performance, coverage or accuracy.]
  • Clef two factor authentication – maybe not essential, but very cool two factor security method, described by the creators as “Modern two-factor that people love to use: strong authentication without passwords or tokens; single sign on/off; magical user experience.October 2015
  • Exploit Scanner – Scans your WordPress site for possible exploits. [Mainly useful when adding new themes and plugins, or applying their updates. I find that the reporting is somewhat paranoiac, but in a good way.] March 2015
  • GAna – Adds the Google Analytics code into your WordPress site. Just specify your tracking ID and it’s good to go. [For speed, I know I should be just adding the Analytics code to the theme, or to a child theme, but with the addition of caching, I don’t think it makes that much difference.] March 2015
  • Jetpack by – Bring the power of the cloud to your self-hosted WordPress. Jetpack enables you to connect your blog to a account to use the powerful features normally only available to users.
  • SEO Smart Links – SEO Smart Links provides automatic SEO benefits for your site in addition to custom keyword lists, nofollow and much more. [Very useful for cross-linking without having to remember which articles to link to.]
  • Smart 404 – Rescue your viewers from site errors! When content cannot be found, Smart 404 will use the current URL to attempt to find matching content, and redirect to it automatically.
  • Ultimate Category Excluder – Easily exclude categories from your front page, feeds, and archives. [An easy way to segregate ‘asides’ and other commentary from the main core of the content.]
  • Yoast WordPress SEO – The first true all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more. [Simple, straightforward, and very rational. Good on-page analysis too.]
  • WP Security Scan – Perform security scan of WordPress installation. March 2015
  • Wordfence – Wordfence Security is a free enterprise class security and performance plugin that makes your site up to 50 times faster and more secure. [Security, blocking, integrity checking and caching all in one] March 2015
  • WP Super Cache – Very fast caching plugin for WordPress. [I know there are benchmarks out there that give rankings for different caching engines in different scenarios, but at the scale in which I’m currently working, the differences are miniscule.] March 2015

Occasional WordPress Plugins

Some plugins are relevant sometimes, depending on the specific application:

  • Bloginfo Shortcode – Displays information about your blog in a page or post, such as page title or blog title. [Especially useful when MiniMU is involved.]
  • Broken Link Checker – Checks your blog for broken links and missing images and notifies you on the dashboard if any are found.
  • Contact Form 7 – Just another contact form plugin. Simple but flexible.
  • MiniMU – Manage multiple blogs with a single standard WordPress installation. Each may have its own theme and domain while sharing users and administration. [A much simpler – but less powerful – solution when a full network of WordPress MU is overkill].
  • Simple Twitter Status Updates – Automatically publishes a status on your twitter account when a post has been published, modified or commented by a user.
  • WP All Import – “WP All Import is an extremely powerful importer that makes it easy to import any XML or CSV file to WordPress.” With a one-time license covering as many sites as you need (current licensing model in November 2015), this plugin allows for quick import of content en masse. The Pro version includes the ability to download and integrate external images and assign them as Feature Images, which is a great boon. Love this plugin.

Spinning and Content Reuse

Spun content is something of a grey area – ok, so it’s usually a dark grey one – but I stand by my use of this one so far. At least, I haven’t seen any ill-effects of using it in the light manner that I do.

It’s not so much about generating differently spun versions of the same page, and spamming the search engines, but judicious use in conjunction with the “ggis inline Post plugin“.

This combination allows for reuse of a couple of paragraphs that are applicable to many pages – parts of a product review, for instance. would benefit from being phrased differently each time (not only to avoid SEO duplicate content penalties, but also for variety.

This particular spinner has the advantage of being able to seed the randomisation using the URL; although the content is spun, it will always spin the same way in the same location. Less duplication of the content, but consistent content for search engines.

I’ve modified the back end to use a different Spintax parser that competently copes with nesting, and added another shortcode that allows me to produce combinations and permutations of a list of items.

  • ggis inline Post – Allows you to include posts in pages (and in other posts). [Some pieces of boilerplate are useful to re-use in multiple pages, with the SEO WordSpinner plugin helping to make them different. I have a modified version of this plugin that allows insertion of pages by name which can help when there are numerous template texts.]
  • SEO WordSpinner – SEO WordSpinner is an SEO plugin for WordPress that can be used to ‘spin’ the content in your blog. Spinning content allows you to create SEO-friendly variations of articles. The idea is to avoid content such as excerpts or page titles being seen as duplicate content when seen on various archive pages. Spinning the entire page – including the results of plugins – breaks some of the Amazon link creators out there. I haven’t delved into it too much to find out why. Possibly a jQuery clash of some kind.
  • Spintax Combinatorics – homegrown plugin for helping generate combinations of words for processing by SEO WordSpinner. It’s so tedious writing the combinations for ‘black|white|grey|black and white|white and black|white and grey|grey and black|grey, yellow and black‘ and so on, when I can easily put [combo list=’black|white|yellow|green|blue|purple|orange’ min=1 max=3 final=”and”].

WordPress Plugins to Avoid

  • Specific Google Adsense automators – perhaps of use for an exclusively Adsense monetised environment, but when Commission Junction, direct advertising and Google Affiliate Links are thrown into the mix, it makes far more sense to use a broader advertising management plugin such as adrotator.

Missing Wordpress Plugins

  • Geolocation matched with advertising. Some advertising should be targeted by geographic region. Geolocation is easy. Ad management is easy. [Yes, I know. Adrotate paid edition. Maybe one day]
This post is mainly about helping me keep track of which plugins I use, and why. Some plugins may get superseded by newer ones – or by newer, more capable versions of older plugins. This list will be updated as necessary to reflect that.
jon m wilson Written by:

As half of the team behind, I am a serial starter of things, beginner of projects. I work in bits and in bytes, in words and paragraphs; I work in wood, metal, and paper, in fabric and in leather; I work in fits and in starts. Most of all I work intermittently and inconsistently.

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