While plugins won’t make or break your blog, they can definitely have a profound impact. Plugins can be incredibly useful for search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, reader interactivity, and countless other purposes. Since there are so many plugins developed, there are many to choose from when looking for the perfect plugin for your blog.
However, this can become a slight issue when the amount of plugins you’re deciding between overwhelms you. With so many look-alike and act-alike plugins at your fingertips, it can be tough deciding which one is best for your blog or even whether it will work or not. Luckily, there are a few tried and true plugins that no blogger should ever be without.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links (at no extra cost to you). I recommend that you do your own independent research before purchasing any product or service. This article is not a guideline, a recommendation or endorsement of specific products.
Of all the sharing and social media button plugins out there (trust me, there are a lot), I have found that DiggDigg is the most flexible and reliable. Not only does it allow your readers to share through a variety of social media (Digg, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook share and like, Google +1, StumbleUpon, Delicious), DiggDigg is also very flexible in how you display your buttons, offering a condensed version and allowing you to position your buttons pretty much anywhere (even scrolling and on the left or right of the screen).
The only thing I wasn’t thrilled about with DiggDigg was the lack of ability to customize sharing buttons. For those really wanting to include their own custom-created social buttons, I recommend checking out ShareThis. Of course, be sure to experiment around with what sharing plugin works best for your blog’s theme and the way you work with your blog. Other great sharing plugins are AddToAny and SexyBookmarks.
Ever seen those really cool, professional-looking blogs that show “related stories” under each post with neat little thumbnails or short descriptions? For sites with lots of images or graphical hooks, this plugin is a must. Even if you rely more on textual content, having related posts linked right below every post can be a godsend for your blog. Once applying this plugin, you will notice that traffic will stay on your blog longer, and that is always a good thing. Also, this plugin is really simple to setup, and integrates well with most themes and designs.
This extensive SEO pack does so much for your blog with very little effort required on your part. This SEO pack works on all different blog themes and custom post types, and does a number of SEO work for your blog automatically, such as optimizing your titles for search engines and generating meta tags. You don’t even have to know much about SEO to use this pack, as it works out-of-the-box extremely well. Of course, for those more SEO inclined, you can definitely experiment with different options and fine-tune just about anything.
While there are quite a few comment platforms out there, I prefer Disqus for my blogging needs. Another runner up is definitely Intense Debate. Both are nearly identical in features, allowing RSS subscribing to comments, email notifications of replies, reply by email, commenter profiles, Facebook and Twitter integration, multi-media embedding, and moderation and blacklisting.
However, keep in mind that both commenting platforms have plenty of known and reported bugs. Most technical difficulties occur with conflicts between the comment plugin and other plugins of your blog, but the theme of your blog can also cause bugs too. Ultimately, the deciding factor between these two platforms is probably going to be usability on your blog. Simply choose what works best and has the last bugs. If you decide you want neither, at least use akismet to reduce your comment spam.
Google Analytics (for web traffic) and Feedburner (for syndicated traffic) are two of the most popular web tracking services out there. I highly recommend either (or both) of them for any blogger or webmaster. Previously, you had to log into both of these services on their websites in order to check your blog’s stats. Now, WordPress has a plugin that allows users to view their stats easily from their WordPress administration area.