One of the biggest reasons why many bloggers are using WordPress is because of the huge number of WordPress plugins available. For anything that you want to get it done, you’ll almost find it available. Plus, most of the plugins are free and the developers kindly offer a reasonable level of support. Below is a personal list of top WordPress plugins for the year of 2012. All the plugins listed here are free, but for a few plugins, an optional upgrade is available.
1. W3 Total Cache
Faster loading of your blog can mean more traffic and visitors for you in the long term. You won’t be expecting any returning visitors if you blog takes 5-10 seconds to load for every page. Google is also using site speed in their web search ranking since Apr 2010.. How fast your WordPress loads does not have a big factor in the SERPs compared to content relevancy, but every bit matters right? Therefore it’s a good time for you to look into this area. W3 Total Cache is one of the top caching WordPress plugins, if not the best. It is also recommended by web hosts like Hostgator. It claims to have at least 10x improvement in overall site performance – but the results will vary for different blogs. To check your page speed, you can use Google Webmasters, or Page Speed (Firefox Add-on). There could be other plugins/products available to do the job, but we won’t go into that for this article.
2. WordPress SEO by Yoast
In the previous years, I have been using All-In-One SEO, and the Platinum SEO plugin. This year I made the switch to the SEO plugin by Yoast, The plugin allows easy integration with your Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools, and Alexa. You can customize your on page SEO settings, decide on the indexation rules, setup Facebook OpenGraph (if you use it), load up your sitemap, and many more. Switching from other SEO plugins? You can import them from HeadSpace2 and All-in-One SEO. I believe Joost the creator will add in more features to make this even better in time to come.
This is a WordPress plugin to convert your blog into a theme that’s mobile friendly. Even non-savvy users are now using their mobile gadgets to surf the internet because of the ease and convenience. This is pretty self-explainatory. You have to decide whether is it pratical for your blog though, since the widgets are all stripped away. However, connecting and engaging your reader won’t be a problem.
4. Ultimate TinyMCE
This is an efficiency for pluginWordPress users. Even if you are skilful with HTML coding, this will help a lot especially when you write frequently. Huge time saver. You can easily insert Youtube videos, tons of text formation options, add in tables, emoticons, advance features such as mouseover, and page anchor to posts are all possible.
5. SEO Smart Links
Want to engage your visitor more, and give them more reason to stay and read your blog posts? The plugin automatically link keywords and phrases in your posts with corresponding posts, so you can save time manually linking up relevant posts. Just let the plugin do all the work for you at the background. You can also use this with the related posts plugin below that lists all related posts at the bottom of each post.
6. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
This is one of the all time favorites of many WordPress blogger, so I believe this is not new to you. Pretty straight forward. Install it, then decide on the settings. The plus point of this plugin is that it caches related posts data, and this is a bonus to your speed loading. You can get it here.
7. Sexy Bookmarks
Want to get on the social media wagon? The plugin allows your visitors to bookmark or share your article to a variety of 60++ bookmarking and Web2.0 sites, including the big boys Facebook, Twitter, reddit, tumblr to quote a few, and others like Evernote, Friendfeed, mixx, squidoo, plurk, posterous, and many more.
8. Tweet Old Post
This is one of the hidden gems – set it up, and get traffic on auto-pilot for the posts that you have written in the past. Basically what the plugin does is it chooses a random (older) post to tweet, based on the interval set by you. This is also helpful if you are slowing down on your content publishing (for whatever reason), and you still want to “feed” your twitter followers with some useful information. This is a free plugin, but the creator is coming up with a Pro version. The basic free version works good enough.
9. WordPress Importer
Makes importing so much simpler with a plugin. Import posts, pages, comments, custom fields, tags, categories and much more from a WordPress export file. Get it here.
10. Tumblr Importer
Big user of social media networks like tumblr and want to move all your posts to your main blog? This is your answer. The plugin works on a cron, and you can start it up and let it run automatically. Duplicates will not be imported, so you don’t have to worry about that.
12. WP eCommerce
A free WordPress shopping cart plugin that allows easy setup and for your customer to buy your products, services and digital ebooks/software online. Awesome plugin with many users and supported by a team of developers. Use the plugin to setup your products, tags, and categories. Note that you may have to pay to setup certain payment gateways.
13. Smart Youtube PRO
If you work extensively on videos on your blog. This will be your cup of tea. The plugin allows you to easily insert videos/playlist into your posts, comments and even your RSS feed. Supports Youtube, Vimeo, Metacafe, Liveleak, and Facebook. Apple fanatics will be happy to know it works on iPhone and iPad too.
14. SEO Friendly Images
Improve your SEO, and get additional traffic from images search using this plugin. Of course you could do it manually whenever you insert pictures into your article. But won’t it be even better that the plugin automatically adds alt and title attributes to your images automatically?
15. WordPress Database Backup
Never hurts to be more careful. Backup your database regularly with this.
16. GD Press Tools
The plugin is a collection of various administration including SEO, maintenance, backup, and security. For advance users, you can also tweak the settings of WordPress using the admin panel. Good tool with all the important stuff under one roof, I like the Security feature most. If you are looking for better features and support, you can upgrade to the PRO version.
Backing up the WordPress database is just one click, and you can subsequently download the *.sql.gz files via FTP. The option to Optimize, remove overhead and repair all tables is available too.
17. Lightbox Gallery
The way the pictures are displayed currently in WordPress gallery is a disappointment if you are with me. Make your pictures come alive and more professional with this plugin. Using this plugin you can divide your gallery into several pages, displays the metadata with images, and a ton of settings that you can manipulate to your delight.
18. WordPress Security Scan
This plugin is dedicated to security, so it will be more complete compared to GD Tools Press which is mentioned above. It scans your WordPress for security vulnerabilities and suggest corrective actions for your passwords, file permissions, database security, administration protection and more. Prevention is always better than cure. Highly recommended plugin. Get it here.
A plugin to manage 301 redirections and keep track of 404 errors. Keep a copy. Useful when you are migrating pages from an old blog, or doing changes to your WordPress installation. More details.
20. Pretty Link (Lite Version)
As the name suggests, the plugin beautify your links (instead of using tinyurl, or bit.ly shrinking services). On top of that, you can manage and track any URLs that you share on your WordPress blog. Use it for your affiliate links, or to track clicks from emails, or where the clicks are coming from. The free versions works for most users. For more powerful features, you can look at the pro version. Another alternative is Thirsty Affiliates, and you can check the review I have written here.