One of the best things about WordPress is the community of savvy developers who create all those wonderful plugins. If you visit the WordPress Plugin Directory, however, you’ll find over 8000 available plugins to give your WordPress site a little extra bling.
Phew. That’s a lot to pick from. Unless you like to experiment ALOT, how can you possibly know which ones you should be using? So, with that in mind, here are 5 of my top WordPress plugins for 2010.
1. Stop Comment and Trackback SPAM With Akismet
If you get any traffic at all to your site, you will get some SPAM comments and trackbacks. The more traffic you get, the more SPAM you get. And you certainly don’t want Viagra ads popping up (no pun intended) all over the comments section of your site. So, you need some protection.
Akismet, created by the same folks who develop WordPress, is an awesome first line of defense. In fact, it’s the only SPAM plugin we use on all Solostream sites. The only minor drawback is you need to set up an account at WordPress.com, and get an API key to make Akisment work. And if you’re using it for a commercial site, you’ll need to shell out $5 per month.
If you’re not into paying for SPAM prevention, a great free alternative is WP-SpamFree. I’ve used it on a few sites, and it seems to work just as well as Akismet.
2. Protect Your Email Addresses with SpamShiv Lite
Did you know there are little computerized critters crawling around out there on the Interwebs just looking to gobble up email addresses that are published on your site? It’s true. Spammers love to create automated bots and spiders that go around collecting email addresses to add to their SPAM lists.
Anytime you post an email address on your site, it’s vulnerable to such attacks. And who needs that, especially when there’s a relatively simple solution.
SpamShiv Lite converts any email addresses on your site to code that is not recognized as an email address. So, for example, email@example.com shows up in the site source code something like this:
Pretty cool, huh. However, the plugin creators admit that the system is not full-proof. There will always be some wily developers out there who will figure out a way to get around such measures, but at least it’s a good start.
3. Get More Traffic from Google with Google XML Sitemaps
According to one one source, As of December 2009, Google performs over 85% of searches done on the Internet. Comscore says it’s only around 65%. Regardless of who’s correct, the fact remains that Google needs to know about all the pages on your site so they can get those pages into their search results … so you can get more search engine traffic.
One way to make sure Google is aware of every page on your site is to submit an XML sitemap. An XML site map is basically a directory of all the pages on your site, and according to Google Webmasters Central:
Creating and submitting a Sitemap helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google’s normal crawling process.
Google XML Sitemaps plugin automates the process of submitting a sitemap to Google, as well as Yahoo, Bing and Ask. Once the plugin is installed and activated, it will automatically create and submit a new sitemap to these search engine each time you add or modify content on your site. Does it guarantee you’ll get more traffic from search engine? Of course not, but it can certainly help ensure that all your pages gets indexed a bit quicker.
4. Engage Your Readers with Polldaddy Polls and Ratings
Reader engagement is crucial to a successful blog. Not only does it help develop a community around your blog and/or your business, it can also provide you with crucial intelligence about what your readers or customers like and don’t like about your content.
Blog comments are a one way to engage with readers, but not everyone has the time or interest to post comments on a blog, so you need to find other ways to engage folks. One way to do that is through polls and ratings. And Polldaddy, owned by the developers of WordPress, provides a simple solution to implement these tools on your site.
With the Polldaddy plugin, you can create polls that can easily be embedded into your posts, pages or sidebar via the widgets panel. After the poll has been created, there’s also a cool little reports section in your WP control panel that displays the results of the poll.
The plugin also gives you the ability to add a ratings function to your posts and/or pages so folks can rate your content.
See the bottom of this post for an example. We’re using the Nero (thumbs-up, thumbs-down) rating function.
There’s also a 5-star rating function available, and you can select either via your WordPress control panel once the plugin is installed and activated. And just like the polls, there’s a reports section in the WordPress control panel that tells you how your stuff is being rated.
5. Make Your Content Easy to Share with AddToAny
Maybe this has happened to you. You read something really great, and you want to share it with your friends and colleagues. But hey, you’re a busy person, and you just don’t have the time to type and send an email or open up your twitter account to tweet about it. So, you move on to your next task without sharing the great, new idea you just read. It happens all the time. People ARE busy, and you have to make it as quick and easy as possible for them to share your stuff with their network.
That’s where AddToAny comes to the rescue. You can see this plugin in action also at the bottom of this post. Once the plugin is installed and activated, it automatically places either a text link or button at the bottom of your posts so that folks can easily share your content on various social networking sites or via email.
For part two of this post, visit: Top WordPress Plugins for 2010 (Part Two).