Getting started with a self-hosted WordPress install? Here's our top list of essential plugins to install and activate on your new site.
Akismet is pre-installed with the core WordPress framework but new installs still require users to navigate to the plugins page and activate it. Akismet, pronounced ah-ki-mit, is produced by Automattic and assists with managing spam comments on your site's posts. Essential for site security and safety.
JetPack is another Automattic produced plugin that is a combination of several essential WordPress plugins. The functionality of JetPack ranges from blog statistics and Gravatar support to social share features and a "grammar" checker but, ultimately, it provides a pipeline to the WordPress.com API to run WP-Stats.
Netherlands based developer Joost de Valk - a.k.a Yoast - is a plugin developer that most new WordPress users get to know quickly. His popular WP SEO plugin and his Google Analytics plugin (See next entry) are probably two of the most commonly downloaded plugins in the WordPress planet. WP SEO is a great extension to any WordPress install for a comprehensive way to manage your site search strategy on all three popular search platforms. Plus, it's a great replacement to the Google XML Sitemap Plugin.
Some theme frameworks, and many others, will tell you you can just add the Google Analytics tracking code snippet to your blog's theme files. I used to agree with this but installing Yoast's Google Analytics plugin puts me at ease knowing that my Analytics tracking code is inserted on each and every page of my blog's sites.
Frederick Townes of W3 Edge created a nifty plugin to completely manage your WordPress site's speed enhancements and optimization. Formerly, the popular WP Super Cache was all the rage for speeding up your blog but W3 Total Cache is totally a new approach to the complete guide to speed enhancements. It can be a bit tricky for noobees to get started with this plugin but if you're looking to speed up your site with page cache, browser cache, minify, CDN and more, Total Cache has got it all. Plus, it now features connectivity with CloudFlare, a great way to boost your site's security and speed. More on this plugin and CloudFlare later.
A contact form can be a great addition to any website. Whether it's for standard inbound messages or for more advanced information gathering, there are several plugins that provide promise these types of features. While I haven't tried a ton of them, there are two that I know provide the right results. Contact Form 7 is a simplistic free plugin to create basic to semi-advanced contact forms while Gravity Forms is a premium plugin great for creating a bit more complex forms with conditional logic and other cool features.
I'm a huge fan of email marketing and love the email marketing provider MailChimp. I personally use it for all of my email marketing needs thus it's important that it syncs with my WordPress blogs. MailChimp and CrowdFavorite manage the standard MailChimp subscribe form widget plugin. It doesn't really provide a ton of bells and whistles but servers its purpose, inserting an email subscribe form into a WordPress site.
There's a ton of great social media widgets in the WordPress plugin repository but I prefer the one created by developer Brian Freyteg. He's always readied to add new social network icons as they come and this plugin is pretty simple for the average user. Oh yeah, that reminds me, why don't you join us on Facebook!
What are your essential WordPress plugins?