WordPress’ biggest selling point is, in my humble opinion, the astonishingly huge selection of free plugins available from the WordPress.org repository. While one shouldn’t simply ignore the importance of the WordPress core itself as well as the ease with which one can change up your design with themes, it is plugins that equip us with the ability to achieve just about anything (just consider the apps that the likes of ManageWP and Digital Telepathy have created using WordPress).
With that in mind I’m always on the lookout for new plugins to check out and review and not a month goes by that I don’t stumble across a new plugin that totally blows me away in terms of its functionality. However, one should still pause for reflection and consider those plugins that have delivered value to literally hundreds of thousands of WordPress users.
That’s where the periodic table of WordPress plugins comes in.
Back to School
You may well have come across lists of the most popular WordPress plugins before (I’ve produced my own before), but probably nothing quite like the periodic table of WordPress plugins. It looks exactly how you might imagine it:
The table features the top 108 WordPress plugins by number of downloads and hovering over each “element” gives you a brief snapshot of information relating to the plugin coupled with its total number of downloads.
Very cool, right? It’s certainly fun to play with as someone who is familiar with WordPress but is perhaps a little less useful to those on the hunt for some of the best plugins available. Whilst the table does represent the “top” 108 plugins, the quality and usefulness of those plugins certainly varies a great deal.
With that in mind I decided to give you my own personal pick of the top five best plugins in the periodic table of WordPress plugins. These are what I essentially consider to be the ten best plugins available for WordPress (within the confines of the top 108). Enjoy!
I have considered the varying merits of a countless number of anti comment spam plugins in my time but I always return to Akismet. Whilst it is not the perfect solution, I do consider it to be the best.
To best understand the quandary of spam protection, you must consider what anti-spam solutions must deal with. First of all you have automated spam comments which are relatively easy to spot. There are quite a few plugins out there that are capable of catching these, but the real issue is with human spammers. If you have a human leaving a comment on a site (spammer or otherwise), the decision as to whether or not they are a spammer becomes almost wholly subjective. As such, a plugin has to be very effective in making accurate decisions according to what we might consider to be right.
Akismet does this better than any other plugin I have come across, so if you are left a little disheartened by the occasional spam comment getting through (or legitimate comment being marked as spam), my suggestion would be to accept it as a cost of having comments on your blog. Akismet may not be perfect but it is the leader of the pack.
I am a little obsessed with site speed as I made pretty clear in a recent post on the topic. I tend to go through stages of trying every little tweak to increase the speed of my own blog. But in reality, the single biggest thing you can do to increase WordPress site speed is install a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache.
Why does a simple plugin make such a difference? To put it as simply as possible, WordPress works by loading multiple separate files to form one web page. A caching plugin does most of the combining job ahead of time so that when a web page comes to be loaded, it renders far more quickly.
Fortunately, setting up W3 Total Cache is not a complicated process. Just follow the steps covered in the video below:
A lot of WordPress users tend to neglect security considerations until it is too late — i.e. when their site is compromised. With that in mind, if you were going to do just one thing to make your site more secure I would recommend that you install Wordfence Security.
I won’t go into the full details here but rest assured that Wordfence Security is a pretty comprehensive solution for WordPress sites. There is of course no such thing as a guarantee against your site being compromised in some way but you can far reduce the odds of it happening by installing this plugin.
If site speed is one obsession of mine then broken links are another. In an ideal word your visitors would never hit a 404 page as they are an absolute killer in terms of engagement. The fact is that most web surfers are pretty impatient and will move on from a site if they hit a 404 rather than stick around and try to find your lost content.
So in the case of broken links, prevention is the best cure. That’s where Broken Link Checker comes in — a plugin so functional and comprehensive that I still struggle to believe it is free.
In a nutshell, Broken Link Checker will scan every single link on your site and check if it returns a 404 error. It will then provide you with a list of broken links and enable you to change them directly from the plugin’s screen (as opposed to fixing each link manually). Not only that but it will continually scan your website on an ongoing basis and notify you of any “fresh” broken links.
I’m just scratching the surface here — Broken Link Checker has a load more features and more customizable settings than you can shake a stick at. I consider it to be a mandatory download for any WordPress user.
Although WordPress is relatively well set up for SEO out of the box, if you have any ambitions to rank in the search engines you are going to want to install an SEO plugin with additional features.
With that in mind, if you have been following my articles here on WPExplorer for the past few months then you will know that I am a huge fan of SEO by Yoast — that much is made clear by my two part series on on the most common onsite SEO mistakes. It is in my opinion by far the best SEO solution for WordPress, and just like broken link checker, I am blown away at the value it offers.
What Are Your Favorite Plugins?
I have selected just five plugins from 108 and there are of course a huge number that you could put an argument forward for inclusion in the top five. I have focused on the plugins that I feel benefit the greatest percentage of WordPress users and have also honed in on “big impact” solutions rather than some of the more niche offerings available.
Not only that, but I can think of a number of plugins that didn’t make it into the top 108 that arguably warrant inclusion. Examples include:
With the above in mind, I would love to know what your favorite plugin picks would be, so please fire away in the comments section!