6 Types of Essential Plugins for a New WordPress Installation

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While interacting with people on Twitter, I often encounter a common question. Which plugins one should use on a new WordPress powered website? Literally, there can be infinite combinations of plugins one can use on a fresh WordPress website. But, the big question is - Do we need dozens of popular plugins to pimp up a new WordPress site? I always advocate less reliance on plugins unless avoiding them in not possible. I'm going to list only the most essential plugins one must use for a new WordPress blog. Most of these plugins are vital for a healthy, secure and user friendly WordPress site. I've divided these plugins into several categories so that you can differentiate between them easily. You may test each of these to select the best one for your new site. So let's get started and see these vital plugins for WordPress.

Spam Protection Plugin

Unfortunately, every popular web publishing platform is prone to tons of spam from countless sources. Newbies often panic when they encounter it for the first time. Most spam is in the form of comments and trackbacks though user registration spam can also create havoc provided it is open on your site without any anti-spam measures. Every website owner must preemptively take measures against fighting this spam. And, here are the two best plugins to fight spam on your WordPress site.

Akismet anti-spam plugin for WordPress
Akismet - This is one of the most popular and widely used anti-spam plugin for WordPress platform. Built and maintained by WordPress core developers, this plugin blocks over 99% of spam reaching your site. It has a simple interface with easy to configure options. Once the plugin is activated and the relevant settings are done, you can relax and can watch the plugin do its work automatically without your intervention. You can also configure it to delete the spam queue automatically after a fixed period of time. Personal and non profit websites can use this plugin for free.

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin for WordPress
Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin - This is yet another popular alternative to kill comment spam on your WordPress site. It's frequently updated and enjoys a large user base. It uses various techniques to combat spam bots from leaving junk content on your site. It also has various other options to specify the spam queue size and to weed out links for the comments waiting in moderation queue. This plugin is ideal for sites experiencing moderate to low volume of comment spam. Plugin configuration interface is very easy and you can get started with it instantly after activation.

Caching Plugin

Google has specified that page speed is one of the factors that are considered while calculating ranking of websites. That's where caching technologies come into play. Instead of going into the technical details, I will say that caching of your WordPress site speeds up the downloading and rendering of the page. This gives a pleasant browsing experience to the readers. Fortunately, there are several good plugins to cache your WordPress powered site content. Here are the two best caching options.

W3 Total Cache - A caching plugin for WordPress
W3 Total Cache - This is the first plugin developers recommend when it comes to implementation of caching for a WordPress website. With dozens of configuration options designed for different types of hosting servers, publishers can fine tune it to get the best results. You can also integrate different popular content delivery networks with this plugin to enhanced performance. If you feel overwhelmed by the options provided by this plugin, you may take help of the expert to configure it correctly for you. I'm using this plugin for my sites and found it very effective.

WP Super Cache plugin for WordPress
WP Super Cache - This plugin is relatively easy to configure and gives impressive results. It converts dynamically generated content into static files thereby speeding up the serving of resources by many folds. This plugin can be configured in three different ways depending on the type of caching technology you prefer to use. If you're technically challenged, I'd highly recommend using this caching plugin since configuring it is much easier than other available options. This plugin also includes support for all major content delivery networks for dispersing cached content.

Search Engine Optimization Plugin

No website is complete without a proper SEO checklist to ensure it's search engine friendly. Although search engine optimization is not a rocket science, lately lot of meta data associated with it is required for a better SEO setup. Thankfully, there are several powerful SEO plugins available for the WordPress community. All these plugins hides the SEO technicalities of the back end and lets you focus on creating awesome content. Let's check out the two most popular SEO plugins used by millions.

WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin for WordPress
WordPress SEO by Yoast - Once your WordPress site installation is complete, this is one of the select plugins every seasoned site owner will recommend installing on your server. It's an all-in-one solution for all your SEO needs. It also includes support for automatic sitemap generation. It has a handy page analysis feature that ensures all your content pages are search engine friendly ensuring good presence on these traffic pulling channels. The options interface of this plugin is excellent and one can easily customize and fine tune the important SEO settings without any problem.

All in One SEO Pack plugin for WordPress
All in One SEO Pack - With massive user base, this plugin is one of the strongest candidates for getting place in your list of essential WordPress plugins. It has tons of options to customize the settings as per your preferences. Its powerful API lets power users and theme developers to tightly integrate the plugin's functionality in themes. This plugin is capable of generating optimized post titles and meta tags automatically. It is also compatible with several other popular SEO plugins to easily import or export the data. This useful plugin is frequently updated by the developer.

Security Plugin

Whether you're starting a new website or running an old one with massive traffic, hackers and intruders are always a major threat towards its proper functioning. That's why it is always advised to harden the security of a WordPress site. There are dozens of plugins for the same. Some of these plugins includes lots of features generally not required on a general site. I've handpicked two popular options that can help you make your WordPress site secure from hackers' malicious attempts.

Wordfence Security plugin for WordPress
Wordfence Security - The name itself suggests that this plugin has everything to do with securing your WordPress powered website. It has a large user base with tons of security options. The support community of this plugin is vibrant and a new user can easily get started with the available options. It has a powerful real time traffic analysis module that diligently keeps an eye on the activities happening on your website. Power users and administrators can easily take advantage of its several unique features to easily debug and repair corrupt WordPress installations.

Better WP Security plugin for WordPress
Better WP Security - This plugin has witnessed over a million downloads that itself tells the popularity of this plugin. Once activated, this plugin instantly takes several steps to preemptively rectify or cover several common loopholes found in the default WordPress installation. It also runs an entire site scan to check for malware and other malicious software hidden inside directories. It also takes advantage of certain security features supported by your web server. This is one of the few security plugins that also includes a backup module for added security of your website.

Backup Plugin

Sooner or later, every WordPress site owner changes his web host. That's where backup plugins comes into play. It's not just about transfer of site from one host to another, but from security perspective, taking regular backup of the site is always a good move. Different backup plugins are available, some of which are quite easy to use while others require lot of configuration. A good backup plugin always secure the entire web content as well as the site database. Following backup plugins are good.

WordPress Duplicator backup plugin for WordPress
WordPress Duplicator - I often use this backup plugin for my client websites and found it very easy to not only clone websites but also for transferring them from development server to the live web server. Its easy restoration process makes the migration and backup procedure so simple. You can even pull an entire website made on your local computer to the live web server in a few easy steps. To be honest, this plugin is more suited for developers and designers who are technically more comfortable than an average user. This backup plugin has a fairly large user base.

UpdraftPlus backup plugin for WordPress
UpdraftPlus - This powerful backup plugin supports both manual as well as automated backups to keep your website's data safe. It supports several online services where you can keep your data secure. The restoration process is also quite easy through this plugin. It can also clone an entire website in a few easy steps. Optionally, administrators can also encrypt entire backup files for better security. This is very helpful when your website contains sensitive information that cannot be shared with general site visitors. You can also get premium support for this plugin.

Social Sharing Plugin

Social media platforms like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter plays an important role in connecting with target audience. That's why every WordPress website must include content sharing options to let the visitors easily disperse your content on these popular social media channels. There are several good plugins that lets you integrate social sharing features within a WordPress site quite easily. Most of these plugins can be configured within minutes. Following sharing plugins are my picks from the lot.

Digg Digg social sharing plugin for WordPress
Digg Digg - I always advocate for using this plugin when it comes to integrate social sharing features with a WordPress powered website. It's simple to use and works out-of-the-box. The default layout embeds the sharing buttons in horizontal alignment though I prefer the vertical approach as the sharing bar scrolls up and down as the visitor scans the article. This plugin support integration of large number of social media sites. I generally prefer to activate integration of major 4 to 6 social sites that's good enough to allow majority of visitors to share your content easily.

Share Buttons by AddThis plugin for WordPress
Share Buttons by AddThis - Quite similar to the previous plugin, this one also presents rich set of features to easily integrate social sharing features on your website. It supports integration of over 300 social sites giving too many options to the website owners. Through its free account, you can also analyze the associated analytics data to see how visitors are sharing your web content. It also includes a handy print integration that lets visitors take printouts of your web pages. This plugin is ideal for food, photography and similar blogs that use lots of images.

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