The Best WordPress Plugins Used on My Site

NOTE: the Link Roundup is beneath this post.

The Best WordPress Plugins Used on My SiteLet’s face it, there’s a lot of information out there about which plugins are the best WordPress plugins.

That’s why I wanted to help you cut through the noise by sharing with you my own personal list of top WordPress plugins.

I actually use each and every one of these plugins on the Matt About Business site and each was selected after exhaustive testing of all the alternatives.

Not 100% sure what WordPress is or for what WordPress plugins are used? Don’t worry – I’ll give you a brief overview of those subjects as well.

So, put on your website management hat, sit back and get ready to learn about some of the best WordPress plugins available.

The Best WordPress Plugins Used on My Site

What is WordPress?

According to WordPress, “WordPress is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog”.

Here are the key things to understand about WordPress.

The key things to understand about WordPress are:

  1. It is a software platform that you can use to build a website or a blog without little-to-no tech skills.
  2. There are two flavors of WordPress (learn more by watching this video):
    • WordPress.com – you can get up and running very fast, they host your website, no tech skills required; and
    • WordPress.org – you can get up and running fast, you host your website somewhere else and minimal tech skills are required.
  3. The WordPress core system is free.
  4. You can change the look-and-feel, as well as the functionality, of a WordPress website or blog by using themes and plugins that are available for free or at a cost (depending on the theme or plugin).

What are WordPress Plugins?

Simply put, a WordPress plugin adds functionality to a WordPress site.

Simply put, a WordPress plugin adds functionality to a WordPress site.

Some examples of plugins include:

  • Photo galleries;
  • Website backup tools;
  • Social media sharing buttons;
  • Integration with online apps and tools such as Google Analytics, Twitter, Facebook, AWeber, MailChimp and many others; and
  • Enhanced WordPress features such as “Featured Post” widgets, HTML table creators and much, much more.

There are A LOT of plugins available to enhance your site. To see the whole ball-of-wax, take a a look at the available plugins at wordpress.org.

The best feature of plugins is that, as with most things WordPress, you do not need many (and often not any) technical skills to install and begin using plugns on your WordPress site or blog.

Important note:

Plugins can only be used for self hosted sites (WordPress.org) and not WordPress hosted sites (WordPress.com). If you host a blog at WordPress.com, you cannot use any plugins.

Selecting WordPress Plugins

If you took a look at the available plugins at wordpress.org, you were probably a little awestruck by the sheer number available (19,786 and counting!).

If you looked closer, you might have noticed that there were a lot of plugins that essentially do the same thing.

This is when you ask the question, “How do I know which plugin is the best for a specific task?”

This is where the fun of finding and selecting the best WordPress plugins to use begins. This is when you ask the question, “How do I know which plugin is the best for a specific task?”

Luckily for you, I have listed my pre-tested set of top WordPress plugins below, but if you’re looking for something else, here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Make sure that the plugin is still being updated - since the core WordPress software platform is constantly improving, you can never be 100% sure that a plugin that works today will work when WordPress is upgraded tomorrow. Therefore:
    • You should not select a plugin that has not been updated within the past two years and you should be wary of ones that have an last-updated-date of over 1 year ago.
  • Make sure the plugin is supported well - When you’re on a plugin’s main page at WordPress.org, check out the “Support” tab to see if there are current issues with this plugin and to see if the developer responds when there are issues. Bad support can impact you greatly if you have any issues of your own.
  • Test, test, test - the best way to see if a plugin is the right one for you is to install it on your site and try it out. As far as compatibility is concerned, WordPress has a number of safeguards in place to prevent newly installed plugins from breaking your site, but in the worst case, it’s pretty easy to go in on the backend to fix any issues that arise when you install new plugins to test.

My List of Top WordPress Plugins

And finally, here’s my list of pre-tested WordPress plugins, most of which I do, or have recently, used on the Matt About Business site:

Akismet

Click for a larger look at Akismet...

  • Akismet – Akismet is the plugin that most folks use to filter out SPAM comments on their WordPress site. Yes, you read that right – SPAM isn’t just for e-mail anymore – people also use comments to SPAM both you and your readers. This plugin is well worth the $5.00 a month cost for a SPAM-free comment life!
  • BackupBuddy – this plugin provides an easy-to-use backup for your WordPress site, but it does cost money to buy and keep your license up-to-date. The 2nd best (and free!) backup plugin is XCloner. It’s a bit harder to set up, but not by much and did I mention that it’s free?
CataBlog

Click for a closer look at CataBlog...

  • CataBlog – I love to use this plugin for those times when using images as a list works better than plain text. One example is how I use it on my “Small Business Guides” page (CataBlog helped me to easily create and design the image boxes with rollover functionality that you see there). See the documentation on this site for more information in how CataBlog works.
  • Digital Access Pass (DAP) (affiliate link) – this is my favorite WordPress plugin to use for membership site functionality (where paid members need to login to access content). They have great documentation and are very responsive via support ticket, too. Best of all, they just keep making it better with upgrades and enhancements.
  • External Links – this plugin gives me an easy way to mark outgoing links. Simply put, it adds the little box-and-arrow to the right of any link that leads off my site so that folks know that they will leave my site if they click that link. Here is an example using a link to Yahoo!.
  • Good Old Gallery – a very handy plugin to use when you want to create slideshow galleries on your site. The example below shows some of the past websites I’ve built:
NOTE: Good Old Gallery disabled until it is updated to work with the latest version of WordPress.
  • Google Analytics for WordPress – this is an easy-to-install and easy-to-configure plugin that allows Google Analytics to collect data from each page on my site. Once the data is collected, I can run all kinds of reports in Google Analytics such as how many visitors my site had, where they came from and what they looked at while on my site.
  • Google XML Sitemaps – sitemaps allow search engines to easily index the pages that make up your Website. This straightforward plugin creates a sitemap for me and, when I update or add any site content, it notifies not only Google but also a whole bunch of other search engines to come on by and re-index my site.
Gravity Forms

Click here for a larger look at Gravity Forms...

  • Gravity Forms – Gravity Forms is a very functional and easy-to-use webform builder (think “Contact Us” page). It includes most if not all the types of fields you will need and also handles confirmation (to the user) and notification (to you) e-mails very well. The 2nd best (and free!) form builder plugin is Easy Contact Forms.
    • ReCaptcha

      Click for a larger look at ReCaptcha...

      By-the-way – to avoid getting automated SPAM form entries, you can use either plugin to add a ReCaptcha field (which confirms that the person submitting the form is a human). You need to get some “keys” to do this, so head on over here to register (it’s free!). Make sure to choose the “Enable this key on all domains (global key)” checkbox when creating your keys so you can use the same key on all your sites (just saves a step).

  • Redirection – this plugin enables me to set-up and manage redirections of site page addresses. This is handy when I change the URL to reflect a new title.
  • Regenerate Thumbnails – if you change your thumbnail sizes, or accidentally delete some, this handy utility will recreate them for you. Really comes in handy when you’re testing different plugins and need to reset all the image sizes for some reason.
Tabber Tabs Widget

Click for a larger look at Tabber Tabs Widget...

  • Tabber Tabs Widget – I love this plugin because it really helps you clean up your sidebars. Essentially, the Tabber Tabs Widget plugin enables you to group widgets together. When you do this, each widget is shown as a tab. You can see this in action in my sidebar where I have grouped the “Popular – Guest Posts – Featuring Me” widgets together. There are lots of design options as well or, as I have, you can create your own design for the tabs and links.
  • Revision Control – this plugin keeps my database from getting bloated and slow by allowing me to limit the number of revisions of each post and page it stores (the default is to save all!).
  • S3 Media Vault – developed by the same folks as the DAP plugin mentioned above, this plugin enables me embed or link to my videos stored in the cloud. Sounds basic, but here’s the trick – S3 Media Vault lets me protect the URL of the videos in my paid membership areas (even if someone looks at my page source code) so that the video’s address cannot be given to a non-member for download. Nice and clean protection of my “for sale” intellectual property. :)
Sharaholic

Click for a larger look at Sharaholic...

  • Shareaholic (a.k.a. Sexy Bookmarks) – adds that cute little sharing space at the bottom of your posts. You can change the text above the links (the fun text with the arrow) and each little pop-up button will show how many people have shared a particular page using that method. I’m not currently using this plugin, but did for a long while until recently.
Subscribe to Comments Reloaded

Click for a larger look at Subscribe to Comments Reloaded...

  • Subscribe to Comments Reloaded – this very handy plugin lives underneath the “Post Comment button on my site and allows my readers to both subscribe to comments (i.e. they will receive an e-mail every time a comment is added to that page) and to unsubscribe from comments (because sometimes the amount of e-mails get pretty high which can = annoying).
W4 Content Tabset

Click for a larger look at W4 Content Tabset...

  • W4 Content Tabset – this is a great plugin for creating tabs that live on your WordPress posts and pages. There are a few preset styles or you can go-to-town with CSS designing your own.
  • WordPress Popular Posts – this plugin is a handy way to show off what posts and pages readers are paying attention to on your site. There are a TON of options here allowing you to specify things such as the time period that should be used to judge popularity (e.g. month, year, all-time) and which types and categories of content should be included in the list. There are some good design options in here as well so you can style how your content list appears.
WP PHP Widget

Click for a larger look at WP PHP Widget...

  • WP PHP Widget – a bit on the geekier side, this plugin allows me to use PHP code in my widget areas. For example, I use this plugin to check to see if the page being shown is my home page or not (see the image to the right). If not, it will show my newsletter sign-up form in my sidebar. I don’t want to show that form on my homepage because I have a huge newsletter sign-up box at the top of that page and having the form in my sidebar would be repetitive.
  • WP Render Blogroll Links – This plugin enables you to show the links you store in WordPress within your site’s posts and pages. For example, I use this to show my links on the “Interviews, Webinars and Guest Posts” page. The plugin allows me to use WordPress’ link categories to show the links I want and is very versatile in enabling me to select the exact information I want shown for each link.

Bonus: Great WordPress Theme

I couldn’t end this post without talking about Genesis (affiliate link), my favorite WordPress theme framework.

I couldn’t end this post without talking about Genesis (affiliate link), my favorite WordPress theme framework.

I call it a framework because it’s just that – a WordPress-based platform that comes “pre-loaded” with tons of functionality and easy-to-use features (such as the ability to use double columns on my home page).

I also love the multitude of child themes that can be used with Genesis. These themes allow you to modify the look-and-feel of your website dramatically and new ones are released all the time (to all of which I continue to have access (even new ones!) thanks to my one-time “Pro-Plus” package purchase).

StudioPress (affiliate link) (the company that developed Genesis) has also created some Genesis-specific plugins that I love:

  • Genesis Simple Hooks – this plugin enables you to add anything anywhere on a WordPress page, inside and outside of the WordPress loop, with the minimal amount of technical skills. For one example (out of many), I use this plugin to display Google ads at the top of each of my posts.
  • Genesis Social Profiles Menu – a really handy plugin, Genesis Social Profiles Menu enables you to put your social media links anywhere a widget can go by using the “Custom Menu” widget type.

Weekly Link Roundup

Weekly Link RoundupEach week, I collect the 10 best posts that I’ve read and share them with you here.

These posts focus on web-based solutions, online resources and up-to-date news for small businesses.

Enjoy!

B2B Marketers: Your Targets Are Mobile: Some interesting insights into the habits of B2B decision makers.

4 Ways to Conduct Market Research with Google: Some actionable tactics for learning more about what customers want using Google’s multitude of free (or almost free) tools.

Google’s “Webmaster Academy”: Excellent resource for learning more about your site and Google (including how to help make them get along better).

Sorry, Gary Vaynerchuk. This Time You’re Wrong: Some interesting insights here on the goals and implementation of social media for small businesses.

5 Ways To Get Other People To Send You Free Website Traffic: I have used all of these approaches to much success. Give them a try and see if they work for you!

Social Media Customer Service Faces a High Bar: Think you don’t need to focus on customer service on your company’s social media profiles? Think again.

How to Create a Search-Friendly Website: Great actionable tips here to help you open your site’s arms to search engines.

Stay on Schedule with These 7 Mobile Calendar Apps: Here’s a handy list of scheduling apps to check out.

10 Websites Every Entrepreneur Should Bookmark: A solid collection of resources listed here…take a look!

4 Unique Ways to Use Facebook for Your Business: Basic but solid tips for making the most of Facebook.

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Comments

  1. Great post. I blogged about my five essential WordPress plugins earlier this week, but missed some of these – like the Good Old Gallery plugin you link to. I’ve usually just resorted to Flickr + SlideFlickr for website galleries.

    Nice post!

    • Graham,

      Glad you liked the post and thanks for sharing a link to even more WordPress resources.

      BTW – I found that W3 Total Cache actually slowed down my site considerably.

      -Matt

  2. Impressive list. I’ll pass this along to my website services folks.

  3. Hi Matt,

    Thank you so much for including our plugins DigitalAccessPass (DAP) and S3MediaVault in your list of recommended plugins.

    We very much appreciate your show of support.

    Cheers!

    - Ravi Jayagopal
    Founder & Co-Developer, DAP

  4. Thanks for the great post Matt. Can you tell me what you use for the red bar at the top of your page for Sign-up?

  5. Can you tell me how you would go about getting a wordpress blog and linking this to your existing domain?

  6. Thanks for the great post! Curious, why don’t you use Sharaholic anymore? What did you use for the share bar at the top of this post?

    • You’re welcome!

      I don’t use sharaholic anymore because I did not like the way it looked at the top of my posts so instead I use the individual code for each share button and include it using my WordPress theme functions file.

      -Matt

  7. You could certainly see your expertise within the work you write.
    The world hopes for even more passionate writers such
    as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe.
    All the time go after your heart.

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