Plugins can extend WordPress to do almost anything you can imagine. In the directory you can find, download, rate, and comment on all the best plugins the WordPress community has to offer. As of writing this post today there are 24,650 WordPress plugins, 445,724,538 downloads and counting. The most popular WordPress plugins are matter of opinion and their relevance to your site. WordPress users are able to tailor their site to their specific needs with needed custom functions and features without looking for a developer. The fifteen that I’ve listed are the ones that I use myself and on client projects.
1. Really Simple CAPTCHA
Really Simple CAPTCHA used to stop SPAM messages and comments. Really Simple CAPTCHA does not work alone and is intended to work with other plugins. When you generate a CAPTCHA, Really Simple CAPTCHA creates two files for it; one is an image file of CAPTCHA, and the other is a text file which stores the correct answer to the CAPTCHA. I personally use it with Gravity forms and a working example can be seen on my Contact form. However, if your looking for an excellent free contact form the Really Simple CAPTCHA plugin was originally created for the Contact Form 7.
2. Select Simple URLs
Select Simple URLs is a great plugin that allows you to manage all affiliated links and or advertisement campaigns from your WordPress control panel. There is a lot of talk on the net both good and bad about affiliate footprints. This plugin is the best method I’ve found that takes advantage of 301 redirects. The old way, upload a .htaccess file via FTP with the affiliate code in individual files for each campaign. The Simple URLs adds a new custom post type to your Admin menu, where you can create, edit, delete, and manage URLs. It stores click counts in the form of a custom field on that custom post type, so it scales really well. By avoiding page based redirects, which is the current trend in masking affiliate links, we avoid any issues with permalink conflicts, and therefore avoid any performance issues.
3. SyntaxHighlighter Evolved
SyntaxHighlighter Evolved allows you to easily post syntax-highlighted code to your site without losing it’s formatting or making any manual changes. I initially saw this plugin in action on the Gravity forms support forum and knew immediately that I wanted to use it to post my code examples. Simple to use just copy your code between open bracket css and closed bracket css in your post. You can see it in action on Mindstream Theme Tweaks post.
WP-Filebase is an advanced file manager for WordPress. It keeps files structured in categories, offers a template system to create sort-able paginated file lists and can side-load files from another web site. The Plugin is made for easy management of many files and consistent output using templates. There are way to many benefits to list but I personally like; download counter, user role access, browser file upload and permalink structure.
5. Gravity Forms
Gravity Forms unleash the power! I use Gravity forms do you ? Over a half million WordPress sites can not be wrong. Build and publish forms in just minutes. The best part is there’s know programming requirement. Check out my Advertise and Contact pages! Those two forms set me back around five minutes each. Do like my newsletter signup box in this post? I’ve already done the leg work and heavy lifting just follow my instructions here Gravity form newsletter and you can have it working on your site. I’ve only taken advantage of just a few features and it’s loaded; multi-page, limit entries, schedules, polls, signatures, aWeber, registration, twilio and the list goes on.
6. Genesis Simple Hooks
Genesis Simple Hooks plugin designed specifically for Genesis that creates a settings page that allows you to insert code and attach it into any of the fifty plus action hooks throughout the Theme Framework. Lets face it the tedious and unfamiliar process of creating functions in your theme files sucks and this plugin gives you an attractive, easy to use interface for modifying your Genesis theme via the WordPress control panel. My typical use includes; newsletters, ads, about author and affiliated promotions.
7. Genesis eNews Extended
Genesis eNews Extended creates a widget to add mailing lists to Genesis websites. This plugin takes the place of the old Genesis eNews Widget that was kicked to the curb in Genesis 1.9. The plugin is used to set; Feedburner ID or MailChimp, form action, e-mail form field and hidden fields to mimic the subscribe form of other mailing list services. The problem in my opinion is that you are still redirected to the corresponding site! However, if you like free then this is the best and works seamlessly with the Genesis framework.
8. Add Logo to Admin
Add Logo to Admin plugin allows you to get rid of the WordPress logo in the dashboard panel and the Admin login/ Lets face we all know you want to or at-least dream about it. So download this plugin and activate it! Get your logo/image and replace that WorPress logo with your own artwork.
9. Link Manager
Link Manager in WordPress 3.5, the Link Manager has been disabled by default. If you have links when you update to this version then it will remain active. To be on the safe side you can use this plugin to ensure it will always be there, even if you update to a later version of WordPress or remove all of your current links. You can use categories to divide up your links and display them in multiple widgets. Example blogroll or products category.
10. Google XML Sitemaps
Google XML Sitemaps plugin generates a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com to better index your blog. With such a sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve content more efficiently. The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs. Additionally it notifies all major search engines every time you create a post about the new content. This plugin is deemed most important in my book. Here’s my Sitemap created with this plugin. Take the time to download it and activate! Don’t forget to submit the sitemap to Google’s Webmaster Tools.
11. Simple Social Icons
Simple Social Icons are the easiest social media icons plugin I know of on the market to link visitors to your various profiles. Choose which profiles to link to, customize the color and size of your icons, as well as align them to the left, center, or right, all from the widget form. Fourteen included social icons; dribble, email, facebook, flickr, github, google+, instagram, linkedin, pinterest, rss, stumbleupon, twitter, vimeo and youtube. So download it activate it and add all fourteen social icons. Let me know how you get on with managing that many social sites. Personally I just use twitter, google+, rss and maybe youtube in the near future.
12. Posts in Page
Posts in Page allows you to easily add one or more posts to any page using simple short-codes. I use it to to turn a page into a blog page and then make the front page static. It’s an easy way to integrate a blog within the same site structure.
13. Column Shortcodes
Column Shortcodes for Genesis Framework adds short-codes to create columns, to the post editor to create columns in Genesis-based themes. This is fastest way in my opinion to add columns in the Genesis framework. I use this plugin on the front page of my business site Neuic, Inc.
14. W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is the only WordPress Performance Optimization (WPO) framework plugin; designed to improve user experience and page speed. Recommended by web hosts like: Page.ly, Synthesis, DreamHost, MediaTemple, Go Daddy, Host Gator and many more.
15. Subscribe to Comments
Subscribe to Comments is a robust plugin that enables commenters to sign up for e-mail notification of subsequent entries. The plugin includes a full-featured subscription manager that your commenters can use to unsubscribe to certain posts, block all notifications, or even change their notification e-mail address!