Five WordPress Plugins Every Site Should Have

WordPress is a CMS (Content Management System) that is used by millions of websites and blogs all over the world such as CNN, NY Times, OMG! Ubuntu! and of course RefuGeeks. What makes it so popular is the versatility that comes with it. You can theme your site so it looks completely different within seconds and you can also improve your visitors experience with the use of plugins. This article will mention some of the plugins that I have found invaluable whilst creating a WordPress based site.

Disqus Commenting System

The default commenting system in WordPress is by in large very good. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon and that’s were Disqus comes in. Disqus (pronounced Discuss) is a commenting system that has a few extra features over and above what the default WordPress commenting system has to offer.

The main features that Disqus has to offer over the WordPress default are better spam filters (including whitelists, blacklist & word restrictions), the social network integration is also excellent, allowing readers to login with their social accounts and also share straight from the Disqus interface. Finally, there are a lot of personalisation settings that mean you can make Disqus fit in perfectly to your website. Disqus really is a superb tool that will take the commenting system on your site to the next level.

Disqus Admin Panel

UpdraftPlus Backup/Restore

A lot of work goes into running and maintaining a website and as with anything digital it is extremely important to protect yourself. So, backups are an absolute must. Personally, my webhost takes a backup once a week, but I can’t rely on this so I also take regular backups of RefuGeeks with UpdraftPlus (UDP).

What UDP allows you to do, which a lot of other backup plugins don’t is to create regular backups automatically then forward them on to another place away from your server. After all, what’s the point in taking backups if they’re going to be stored on your server also? If your server dies then so do your backups.

With UDP you can have your backups automatically uploaded to an FTP server, Google Drive, Amazon S3 or via email. Personally, I have mine uploaded to my FTP server at home (which is in turn backed up automatically as well). I get an email once the process is complete so I can review the logs and I also have UDP save the last backup on the server just in case.

UpdraftPlus

WordPress SEO

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is extremely important for any website. SEO is what’s used to get your website listed on search engines like Google and Bing. Basically, without good SEO you site stands very little chance of being found.

The WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast will really help you to get your site noticed on search engines. All you need to do is tweak some settings like meta data and how links are displayed then the SEO plugin will autimatically submit your site to the search engines so that they can be ‘crawled’. As an example of SEO, head over to Google and search on some of these phrases: “elementary luna review”, “pinguy os review” & “cinnamon vs unity”. You will see that RefuGeeks is on the first page (if not the top result) for these search phrases.

Good SEO is extremely important and the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast will really help you get going. It’s not just as simply as installing this plugin and away you go, you need regular, unique content amongst other stuff to really get you up there. There are many article online that will give you pointers on how to get the best out of SEO.

Pinguy os google

Custom Contact Forms

What’s the point in having a website if visitors can’t contact you? There are many plugins around that will add a contact form to your site for you, but Custom Contact Forms is the only plugin that I’ve found were you can completely customise the look, feel and function of the form so that it is themed perfectly for any site.

Custom Contact Forms (CCF’s) supports all the usual forms of anti-spam like Captcha and Re-Captcha. The customisation options of CCF’s is so advanced that you can literally change any single part of a form to your needs. The contact form on RefuGeeks was made with CCF’s.

Custom Contact Forms

Lightbox Plus

When you click on an image in this article what happens? It pops out in a little box and allows you to cycle through all the images right? Well, that’s Lightbox Plus at work. Clicking on a image in WordPress by default simply opens a link to the image either in a new tab or navigates the reader away from the content they’re currently reading. Lightbox Plus allows readers to still view a larger version of an image yet remain on the same page.

It’s extremely easy to setup but the effect it has is profound, making your site flow better and look generally more professional. There are a handful of themes that come bundled with the Lightbox Plus plugin, so this should cater for most sites. However, if the bundled themes are no good for you then you can always create your own CSS style and have a completely unique look.

Lightbox Plus

UK Cookie Consent

I realise that I have already covered 5 plugins, but I thought it best to add this one in as a bonus. The title of this article is “Five WordPress Plugins Every Site Should Have”. Well, if you have a website that is hosted in the UK, it isn’t a case that you should have this plugin, it’s a case that you need this plugin by law.

The new “Cookie Law” basically says that as of 26th May 2011 if cookies are used in a site, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive Regulations 2011 (UK Regulations) provide that certain information must be given to that site’s visitors and the user must give his or her consent to the placing of the cookies. I’m sure many of you have seen the “this site uses cookies” popup on a number of websites that you have visited. Well, that’s why.

So the UK Cookie Consent plugin adds a small banner at the top of the page that allows visitors to accept the cookie that is stored from your site and also allows them to read more information about cookies. The plugin automatically creates the informational page for you so you don’t have to do it yourself, this can then be edited like any other page in WordPress.

The banner itself can easily be customised by the simple settings interface and you can change the look of the banner with some very simple CSS code changes. Remember, this is a requirement by law, so if your site is hosted in the UK you need to have this message on your site. For more information check out the About Cookies website.

RefuGeeks Cookies

Conclusion

All of the plugins I have listed above are created and maintained for you to enjoy completely free of charge. Most of the plugins do have a donation button on their respective settings pages so if you do decide to use any of the plugins above please consider making a donation to the developers so that their projects can stay alive.

Having good plugins can make a massive difference to the experience your visitors get whilst on your site. Do you have any plugins that you would recommend? Why not give them a mention in the comments section below or head over to our forums.

Five WordPress Plugins Every Site Should Have
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