10 Fantastic WordPress Plugins to Make Your Blog Sizzle
I was recently asked to identify some of the essential WordPress plugins that we use are here at 40Tech. A few years ago, we covered five of them. Amazingly, we’re still using all five. There are other plugins, though, that we also use. While I would prefer a lean WordPress installation, these other plugins bring functionality that is important. With that in mind, here are ten additional plugins that make 40Tech tick.
At the end of every post here at 40Tech.com, you’ll find a list of five posts that are (usually) related in some way to the topic of the post that you’re reading. The Efficient Related Posts plugin takes care of generating that list. While not perfect – some unrelated stories sneak in at times – the plugin generally does a good job. Many other related post plugins generate that list on the fly, which can put a real strain on the memory and CPU of a web server. This plugin avoids that problem by generating the related posts list when a post is saved, not when it is visited. It keeps the related list for old posts current by regenerating the list for an older post when a new post finds that older post to be related. The drawback of the plugin is that instead of the reader having to wait for the list to be generated, the post author must wait when he or she saves a post. One word of caution – the plugin hasn’t been updated in over a year, although it still works fine here on 40Tech.
The ightbox effect is what you see when you click on a photo, and its expands while the rest of the screen darkens. For an example, check out some of the screenshots in Bobby Travis’ post on using Google Drive as an alternative to Evernote. Other lightbox plugins were hit or miss when trying to get the lightbox effect here on this site. This plugin was plug and play, out of the box.
At the end of the new comment box here on the site, you’ll see a checkbox that you can check to be notified of new comments via email. This plugin takes care of that.
With two writers here at 40Tech, we need to keep track of when we are publishing articles. This plugin gives us a nice visual way to do just that. It provides a calendar in the administration panel, that lists each post scheduled for each day. Posts can easily be dragged to different days, too, giving this plugin a speed advantage over the default WordPress method of opening individual posts.
I’ve previously written about Updraft as a WordPress backup solution. Since then, I’ve moved on to XCloner. XCloner will backup both your files and your database, and you can select from a few different backup destinations. On every WordPress site where I use XCloner, I send my backups to Amazon S3. The only trick I haven’t figured out is how to automatically prune backups from S3, so I periodically go in and manually delete older backups from my S3 account.
Maintenance Mode is an old standby. If you’re performing work on your site, you can activate this, and your visitors will then see a custom welcome message, and be unable to go further into your site.
Contact Form 7 lets you insert highly customizable contact forms onto your site. It allows for a great amount of customization, as opposed to generating one-size-fits-all forms. That means it is a bit more complicated, but once you dig into it you’ll find that it isn’t too difficult.
If you’re going to use Contact Form 7, then you may want to cut down on spam using CAPTCHA. You know CAPTCHA – it is the verification system that requires you to read some offset characters, and input them into a text entry box. Really Simple CAPTCHA is a CAPTCHA plugin for Contact Form 7. I’ve actually had very little spam on any WordPress site using Contact Form 7, but the Really Simple CAPTCHA plugin eliminated the little bit that did get through. One issue to be wary of – the latest version of this plugin doesn’t play nice with servers that run LiteSpeed, causing the CAPTCHA image not to display. Some WordPress users have come up with somewhat of a workaround.
I have a love-hate (or luv-hate?) relationship with CommentLuv, which is a plugin that gives a commenter the ability to append a link to a comment that he or she leaves on your site. That link is typically to the commenter’s latest blog post on his or her own blog. I like to learn about other blogs, and also appreciate the general sense of community this plugin can foster, but it also attracts comments that aren’t much better than spam. It got bad enough here at 40Tech that we switched the plugin to “no follow,” which means that commenters won’t get any help in their Google ranking just be leaving a comment.
We keep the lights on here at 40Tech by running AdSense ads most of the time, but occasionally run ads submitted directly by advertisers. AdRotate lets us specify when certain ads will run, and designate ads as fallback ads. You can also group ads together, so that ads within a specified group will rotate through a spot.
There are ten of our key plugins, to go with the five we listed previously. What plugins do you use on your site? Let us know in the comments.