WordPressCredit: Vero Pepperrell - http://www.flickr.com/photos/thatcanadiangirl/3556391164/

If you want to unlock the true power of WordPress, you have to use plugins. What may have begun as a simple blogging platform has turned into an entire website development tool. In fact, based on my experience, it is one of the best suites to develop a website on today.

In this article, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite WordPress plugins. These are not in any particular order.

1. Contact Form 7

I come from the “dark ages” of web development when having proper, secure contact forms on your website was a really big deal. Unless you were particularly good at coding, you usually had to use a third party tool, which often meant plastering their ads on your website along with their non-customizable forms.

It’s a simple thing, but I’m grateful for the fact that it’s so easy to integrate forms on your website using a plugin like Contact Form 7. It isn’t necessarily the most secure plugin in the world, but there are other plugins that can help to tighten it up.

2. JetPack by

I had heard so much about JetPack, and yet, I just didn’t get it at first. When I started using it again at a friend’s recommendation, something finally clicked for me.

This is a plugin that does a bit of everything. It allows you to keep track of your site’s stats, publish your posts by email, check your spelling and grammar, add extra sidebar widgets, and so much more. One of my favorite features is the ‘Publicize’ function that automatically pushes your latest posts to various social sites (you still have to connect those sites), and enables you to add sharing icons to your posts.

You have to create a WordPress dot com account to connect this plugin to your WordPress installation, but the upfront investment of time is well worth the effort.

3. W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache allows you to tweak the performance of your WordPress site. In this mobile age, it’s important to make sure that your website loads quickly, and with this plugin you can test and optimize your website for quicker load times.

4. WordPress SEO by Yoast

WordPress SEO by Yoast is a plugin that makes it easy to search optimize your posts and pages. At first, I had mistakenly thought that merely installing it would optimize my site.

Well, it’s not a miracle worker, but it does help you through the SEO process. Optimization can take a little bit of extra time if you’re not used to developing your posts or pages in such a way that they‘re SEO ready when you’re done creating them, but by the time you’ve gone through the process a couple of times with the aid of this plugin, you will have learned how to do it.

5. Blubrry PowerPress

Publishing podcast episodes has been made significantly easier by this plugin. I used to use Movable Type as my primary publishing platform, and I had to do a lot of manual code insertions for my podcast episodes to properly connect with BluBrry. With this plugin, I don’t have to think about those extra steps anymore.

Anything that makes life easier and simpler is good in my books.

6. Disqus Comment System

Blogging platforms like WordPress and MovableType come with blog commenting functionality by default. These options used to be fairly reliable, but these days they pose significant security risks, and you can quickly become a target for comment spam if you don’t disable comments or add additional plugins to tighten up the protection.

The Disqus Comment System does away with these worries. You can configure this plugin so that visitors have to log in to one of their social media accounts to comment, which is going to be hard for spam bots to do. 

7. Highlight Schedule Posts

Do you produce a lot of content in advance of it being published on your site? Then this plugin will come in handy. It will simply highlight any queued posts that are scheduled for a future date. This allows you to see what posts have already been published, and what has not appeared on your site yet. Much easier than having to look at the publish dates.

8. Pretty Link

Many social media management tools now offer the ability to shorten links. Though Pretty Link can be used for similar purposes, one of the best uses of it is to send visitors to landing pages, or make it easier for people to discover certain content on your website.

For example, if you have an offer that you want to promote to a specific community, instead of having them go to yourwebsite/online-community-offer/, you could simply send them to yourwebsite/offer, and have that link redirect to the original page.

This works great for podcast episodes too (i.e. yourwebsite/episode1 instead of something like yourwebsite/001-our-first-ever-podcast-episode/).

9. Advertisement Management

Although I don’t currently have any websites that make a heavy use of ads, this is a great plugin for placing ads in posts and pages in strategic locations. All you have to do is copy the code for the ad, and paste it in to your desired form fields and hit ‘Save’. If you choose to have your ads displayed under each post title, for example, the ads would now appear below the title on every post.

10. RSS Blogroll

I come from a time when sharing content from other feeds meant using awkwardly designed third party tools that almost never displayed the feeds in a way that suited my website. They usually weren’t terribly configurable either.

Anyone that has been using WordPress for any length of time probably doesn’t share in that frustration. However, with RSS Blogroll, it’s easy to display content from any number of sites of your choosing, and it is very configurable besides. It’s fantastic.