4 Essential Plugins for New WordPress Users
Most experienced WordPress users could spend hours discussing their favorite—and least favorite—WordPress plugins. If you’re still fairly new to WordPress, though, you might be wondering which plugins you really need.
Below is a breakdown of four WordPress plugins that all new users should consider installing. There are a lot more great plugins than the ones listed below, but the following list represents the core group of plugins I find essential to maintaining the optimal health and functionality of a WordPress blog.
With traditional, static web sites, it’s easy to keep backups of all your files right on your own computer. With interactive, database-driven sites, however, the content is always changing, so you consistently need to create new backup files. For instance, if you have a WordPress blog, all of the site’s posts, pages, comments, and registered users are stored in a database on your hosting provider’s server. Because of this, it’s important to make regular backups of everything stored in the site’s database. That way, if anything goes wrong—if someone hacks into your site or your hosting provider accidentally wipes out all your files—you’ll be able to restore your web site with relative ease.
BackUpWordPress is a plugin that automates this backup process. With BackUpWordPress you can schedule automated backups and choose which files and database tables to include in those backups. Moreover, these files can be saved to a remote directory of your own choosing and/or e-mailed to you so you can keep a copy on your own hard drive.
This plugin comes with WordPress versions 2.0 and up, so you shouldn’t even have to download and install it. If, for some reason, you don’t see it listed in your control panel, though, you can find it here: Akismet.
“So, what is Akismet?” you might ask. It’s a spam-fighting plugin that monitors and filters comments posted to your blog. It’s reliable, as spamware goes, and while it’s automated, it does give you the option of going in manually and reclassifying comments (after all, no spam-fighting software is perfect).
I put this on the list of essential plugins because blog comments can quickly become overridden with spam, and when that happens, your blog loses a lot of credibility. Visitors get the idea that you don’t read posted comments and that you don’t bother to maintain your site.
Note: in order to activate Akismet, you’ll need a WordPress API Key. To get one, just sign up at WordPress.com, and one will be created for you.
Robots Meta is an essential, configurable plugin that automatically populates your blog’s posts and pages with appropriate meta robots tags so search engines will know which posts and pages on your site to index, crawl, and archive.
“Don’t I want search engines to index everything on my site?” you might ask. If you’re using WordPress, the answer is, “Absolutely not.” If you don’t know why this is true, or you’d simply like to learn more about configuring the Robots Meta plugin, please refer to my article, “XML Sitemap and Robots.txt Considerations for WordPress Users.”
Google XML Sitemaps
The Google XML Sitemaps plugin dynamically generates an XML sitemap for your blog and updates it any time you add a new post or page. Moreover, this plugin allows you to choose how often search engines check your site for new content, and to designate which parts of your site the search engines should consider most important.
To learn more about the need for an XML sitemap, and to learn how to configure the Google XML Sitemaps plugin, again refer to my article, “XML Sitemap and Robots.txt Considerations for WordPress Users.”