Five must-have WordPress plugins

Successful blogs require effort, imagination, and a feature-rich platform. WordPress can help you out with the last item, thanks to a wide assortment of powerful plugins.

WordPress is the most powerful and popular blogging tool available. And blogging isn't just for personal use now. It has turned into a great marketing tool that can help spread the word about your product or service.

Naturally, if you decide to take on a blog for your company, you'll want to make sure it has as much in the way of features and flexibility as you can get. WordPress offers just that in the way of plugins. With them, you can get more from your blog than you thought possible.

Of course, defining "must-have" is challenging, simply because every blog is different. And there are plenty of plugins out there to take WordPress beyond the standard blog. But here are five plugins I have found that benefit the widest reach of blogs.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: Akismet

Akismet (Figure A) is the single most powerful tool you can use in the prevention of spam on your blog. This is only necessary if you allow discussions on posts (and why wouldn't you want to promote user interaction?). If you do happen to encourage users to converse about a topic, you will definitely want to enable Akismet. This plugin comes with the base WordPress install, but it isn't free. You will have to pay a fee based on the purpose of your blog. It's worth it.

Figure A


2: GRAND FIAGallery

GRAND FIAGallery (Figure B) is one of the best gallery tools out there. With it, you can rotate banners, images, music, video, and more. FIA is a flash and jQuery plugin that is simple to install, easy to use, and incredibly powerful. You can even purchase amazing "skins" that will turn your gallery into a work of art itself.

Figure B

Figure B

3: SEO Ultimate

SEO Ultimate (Figure C) is one of the best plugins you'll find to help you gain an edge on search engine optimization. This extension gives you control over title tags, no index, meta tags, slugs, canonical, autolinks, 404 errors, and rich snippets, among other things. Even though SEO might be the last thing you think of for your blog, your competition isn't feeling the same way! You need to help your product or business in every way you can, and SEO Ultimate might be the easiest way to get that blog up the rankings on the Web.

Figure C

SEO Ultimate

4: Track That Stat

Track That Stat (Figure D) allows you to view your blog status in real time. See your unique views, referrals, keywords, who's logged in, individual page status, and much more. You can even monitor how traffic has been for the past 30 days. This is a great way to determine which days your site is more popular so you can better manage when content hits the front page.

Figure D

Track That Stat

5: BWS Captcha

BWS Captcha (Figure E) is one of the simplest Captcha plugins around. And BWS allows you to do more than have the user enter a string of text. It lets you enable simple math questions that are sure to stop bots from getting in and making comments. Using BWS Captcha along with Akismet delivers a one-two punch to keep your content safe from the scum of the net known as spam!

Figure E

BWS Captcha

Other good extensions?

There are many extensions for WordPress available. These five have done a great job for me and I'm sure they'll help protect and extend your WordPress-powered blog. Have you found other must-have extensions for the WordPress system? If so, share them with your fellow TechRepublic members.