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WordPress is one of the most popular blog hosting providers in the world. They host thousands of blogs for free at wordpress.com and also offer extremely popular self hosted blog software at wordpress.org.

If you wanted to start a blog that you hosted yourself at somewhere like HostGator.com or GoDaddy.com, you would most probably use WordPress software because of it's superior functionality, features and ease of use. WordPress plugins make this possible, allowing you to do almost anything with your blog.

There are thousands of brilliant plugins availabe at wordpress.org, most of which are completely free. Here are 10 Wordpress plugins that I personally think are some of the best, and that you should install on your blog.

1. PS Auto Sitemap: This plugin automatically produces a sitemap page for your WordPress blog. A sitemap is a great feature to include on your blog because it makes it easier for search engine bots, such as Google spiders to crawl and index your site. This can improve your blogs Search Engine Optimization and help your blog to rank higher in Google search results, getting you more traffic. A sitemap lists every page in your blog in order and this plugin is the easiest way of creating a sitemap automatically. It is so easy to create a sitemap with this plugin that you cannot afford not to because it really will help your blog's SEO.

2. All in one SEO Pack: This is another plugin that makes it easier for you to optimize your blog for search engines (SEO). Just install it and it will automatically optimize your post titles for search engines and generate META tags automatically as well. If you already know a bit about SEO, You have the ability to override any title and set your own META description or META keywords and fine tune everything.

3. Share and Follow: A very customizable and attractive set of share and follow icons. This plugin is relatively simple to operate and gives you complete control over the sharing icons on your blog. It has the option to put facebook, twitter and stumbleupon in your posts as well as all of the bookmarking or social networks you would ever need. I have tried other sharing plugins, but I feel this one gives you the most control and i the most attractive.

4. Fast Secure Contact Form: Another very customizable plugin that gives you complete control and a lot of options for your blog's contact page. It Includes CAPTCHA technology and allows you to tweak the contents of your contact form relatively easily, though you may have to test out the different settings to get used to the plugin. Again I have tried other WordPress contact forms, but this is by far my favourite.

5. W3 Total Cache: This plugin enables you to optimize the performance of your blog by improving your server performance, caching your whole blog and reducing it's download and load times. This plugin is easily the best for optimizing your blogs performance no matter how popular it is and is even used by Mashable.com and JohnChow.com. If this plugin is fully configured it promises at least a 10x improvement in overall blog performance!

6. Top Commentators Widget: This plugin is great for encouraging users to leave comments on your posts and creating interactivity within your blog. The visitors that leave the most comments on your blog will be listed in your sidebar and get special recognition, which will encourage them and other visitors to leave more comments. You have full control over who appears in this list, and if a commenter leaves a lot of useless comments just to become one of the top commentators, you can choose to exclude them from the list.

7. Efficient Related Posts: As the name suggests, this plugin enables you to list a recommended 10 related posts efficiently and smoothly. Instead of wasting bandwidth and causing slow loading times like other related post plugins that build a list of related posts when your visitors read a post, this plugin builds a list of related posts when you save your post. This speeds up the process and doesn't waste bandwidth and is easily the best plugin for related posts.

8. WP-PostRatings: This plugin allows you to add a simple yet effective and fully configurable post rating system to your blog. Other rating plugins are overly complicated or contain adverts, whereas this one is easy to use and has no adverts. Visitors can only vote once per post and you can add a widget to your sidebar showing your top rated posts.

9. Advertisement Management: This plugin provides you with an easy way to place Google Adsense or other advertisements into various parts of your blog such as below the titles of your posts on your homepage, below the title of your post or page when the it is open, at the bottom of your post or page when it is open, above your header or below your footer and below your comment box. It is very easy to use and does the job very well.

10. Google Analytics for WordPress: This plugin allows you to easily integrate google analytics into your blog with features such as views per author & category as well as automatic tracking of outbound clicks and pageviews. Most bloggers utilize Google Analytics when they create their blog to track their blogs visitors and statistics and this plugin is great for doing just that.

These are some of my personal favorite plugins, but there are many more brilliant plugins and depending on what you want from your blog or what you want to turn your blog into, you probably have your own personal favorites.