33 Active Plugins, Or How My WordPress Blog Works Behind The Scenes

WordPress puzzle pieceI love all kinds of tweaks and utilities, be it software-specific addons or standalone tools. WordPress is no exception – if server hardware was infinitely capable, I’d probably have a hundred or so plugins installed.

But since the Moore’s law is being all too tardy, there’s a constant pressure to weed out underperforming and superfluous plugins. Over more than two years of using WP I’ve tried a lot of plugins, and now only the very best remain in my list of installed plugins, which I shall present today.

Well, that’s the theory 🙂 Gratuitous hyperbole aside, there are currently 33 WordPress plugins active on this site and I suspect some of them may also prove useful to you. So here’s a complete list that includes even my “private”, unreleased plugins.

The Essentials

These are the plugins that I would install on any new blog, regardless of the site’s topic or business model. Chances are you won’t see a whole lot of obscure names in this section.

1. Akismet by Matt Mullenweg
The standard standby spam-stopper, Akismet does a good job at keeping spammy comments and trackbacks to a minimum. With spambots as prevalent as ever, this plugin is the first (and often only) line of defense of many a personal site. However, you might want to supplement it with something like WP-SpamFree for maximum effectiveness.

2. Broken Link Checker by Janis Elsts
Sometimes, links get broken. A webpage can be removed or move to a different domain. This plugin will notify you when that happens and help you ensure your readers aren’t annoyed by clicking invalid links.

3. Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi
Blog comments are a fine venue of communication but, depending on your site, some visitors may want to discuss something privately or inquire about matters not directly relevant to any particular post (e.g. how they’d like to send you massive sums of cash for an ad spot on the front page). A customizable contact form, like the one provided by CF7, is a good solution.

4. Ozh’s Admin Drop Down Menu by Ozh
It looks better than the default WP menu. And it’s easy to use. So… yeah.

5. PHP Speedy WP by Leon Chevalier
You want your site to load fast – studies show that a user’s opinion about your website is strongly influenced by it’s response time. PHP Speedy WP comes in handy here, as it “speeds up the display of your blog by combining your JS and CSS files, adding far future expires headers and GZIPing.”

6. Simple Tags by Amaury Balmer
Simple Tags provides a number of much-needed tag management features like mass tag editing, tag suggestion, auto tagging, tag completion and more. If you’re using tags at all, this plugin is a must. Kitchen sink not included (yet).

7. Subscribe To Comments by Mark Jaquith
Fosters conversations with email notifications. With this plugin, the user can tick a checkbox when leaving a comment and they will be notified if/when someone posts a new comment. It’s also another subtle way to get people to revisit to your site in the future. Anecdotal example : there’s a post on this site that has endured a (rather silly) conversation in the comments section for several months now.

8. WP-DBManager by Lester Chan
Automatic DB backups for everyone! WP-DBManager can do more than that, like optimizing the database or running arbitrary SQL queries, but I mainly use it for the hands-free daily backup feature. Set it to send the backup to a reliable email account and you’ll know your DB data will be safe even in case of server failure.

9. WP Super Cache by Donncha O Caoimh
The now-standard response to “my WP blog is slow!” woes, WP Super Cache is the easy way to make your site load faster. It basically caches your posts/pages as static HTML files. This means that once a page is cached it can be served without running any PHP code, which is considerably faster than re-generating a dynamic page each time.

Making Money

Search engine optimization, visitor tracking, AdSense and other mercantile pursuits.

10. AdSense-Deluxe by Acme Technologies
There’s a lot of plugins that you can use to display AdSense ads on your blog, but I prefer to stick with this oldie. AdSense-Deluxe is a basic plug-this-code-into-your-theme/post plugin with a simple ad code editor. It doesn’t have any fancy features like “automatically insert ad X after the second paragraph”. It just works well enough for me.

11. All in One SEO Pack by Michael Torbert
In essence, this plugin provides an instant SEO boost for any site. You can use it to generate meta-tags, avoid duplicate content issues, optimize page titles, and so on. And chances are you already knew all that – at the time of this writing All in One SEO Pack is the most popular plugin hosted on WordPress.org.

12. Google Ad Sectioning (unreleased; here’s an alternative)
This is a little hack I made to improve AdSense ad relevance on this site. It wraps post content in special tags that tell the AdSense bot “this is the important part of the page!” and make it more likely to select targeted ads (in theory). The source code for this one isn’t publicly available, but you can download a very similar plugin from the link above.

13. Google XML Sitemaps by Arne Brachhold
Creating an XML sitemap probably won’t be a top-priority SEO concern for most sites, but it’s still a nice-to-have addition. Google XML Sitemaps will generate a standards-compliant sitemap and automatically update it whenever you create a new post or page.

14. Homepage Excerpts by Daniel Scocco
Homepage Excerpts is another tool for reducing duplicate content problems. Instead of displaying the entire post body both on the homepage and on the single post page (= duplicate content), this plugin lets you display up to X full posts on the homepage and display the rest as excerpts.

15. Link Cloaking Plugin by Janis Elsts
‘Tis a dastardly contraption for fooling your visitors into thinking your affiliate links aren’t. It can automatically “cloak” some or all links and has a few other useful features. The plugin serves mainly as a live demo on this site, as I rarely do any real affiliate stuff here.

16. Privacy Policy by Eric Giguere
Recently Google has decreed that all sites that run AdSense ads must have a privacy policy statement that includes certain AdSense-related terms. If you don’t have a lawyer handy then using this plugin is one of the simplest ways to create a Google-compliant privacy policy page.

17. Ultimate Google Analytics by Wilfred van der Deijl
Now you, too, can consign your visitor stats to everyone’s megacorp of choice with this handy plugin! UGA will automatically insert the GA tracking code without any theme modifications. It can also track external links, downloads, mailto links and more.

18. XNofollow by Janis Elsts (unreleased)
This is a private hack that I use for adding nofollow to some internal links. For example, the “Recent Posts” links in the sidebar are nofollow’ed and the category links vary between do-follow/nofollow based on carefully selected rules. This controversial practice is sometimes called “PageRank sculpting” and may or may not be effective (I can say that it doesn’t hurt).

Theme & Navigation Enhancements

A number of small plugins that improve visitor experience in one way or another.

19. Different Posts Per Page by MaxBlogPress
Normally WP only gives you a single, global “posts per page” setting. With this plugin you can set the number of posts displayed on the homepage, in tag or category archives (including individual settings on per-category basis), in the search results, etc. This can be useful when, for example, one of your categories contains only short posts and you’d like to show more than the default number of posts to visitors browsing the category.

20. Highlight Search Terms by Janis Elsts
Hmm, how did this one get here? It’s a plugin that highlights search terms on the WP search page, but I’m not using the built-in search functionality on this site. Apparently I forgot to deactivate it after I finished testing it. Oops 🙂

21. Paged Comments by Keyvan Minoukadeh
Even though comment paging is built-in feature of WP 2.7.x, Paged Comments is still be useful for various small tweaks. For one, it displays a list of comment pages at the top of the comment section, making navigation easier. You can also configure it to always display the maximum number of comments on the last page which means the most recent comments can always be viewed quickly, without loading another page.

22. Related Posts (site gone, linked through Internet Archive for posterity)
There’s a boatload of advanced “related posts” plugins available now, but somehow I still stick with ye-olde Wasabi product. The version I have has been hacked modified to use post title, content and tags when looking for related posts. Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend this one – the plugin is old, completely unsupported, and the original creator is missing in action.

23. Sociable by Joost de Valk
Sociable adds unobtrusive social bookmarking buttons to your site. You can select from a large number of supported “Web 2.0” sites and choose where to show the buttons (e.g. individual posts, category archives, search results, etc).

24. WP PageNavi by Lester Chan
The second paging-related tweak on this list, PageNavi, lets you add better pagination controls to your archives. You can set the number of displayed page links, the captions for the next/previous/first/last links, and so on. Works well together with Different Post Per Page.

25. WP Syntax by Ryan McGeary
WP Syntax is a simple, zero-configuration syntax highlighter based on GeSHI. It supports a wide range of programming languages, automatic line numbering… and that’s it. It does one thing and does it well.


Everything else, from Dashboard tweaks to random uncategorizable hacks.

26. Align RSS Images by Janis Elsts
While you can align images left/center/right when inserting them into a post, they will still appear unaligned in the RSS feed. Align RSS Images fixes that. Then again, this is mostly a matter of taste, so it’s up to you whether you want to use it or not.

27. Angsuman’s Feed Copyrighter by Angsuman Chakraborty
Content theft happens. Unscrupulous individuals bots trawl the web looking for attractive RSS feeds and may re-post your articles on their own sites without giving credit. So what can we do about that? For starters, you can use this plugin to attach a copyright message to your feed items. This will ensure proper credit is given, and you can also attach a unique tracking keyphrase to the copyright notice to find stolen posts via Google.

28. FeedBurner FeedSmith by the almighty FeedBurner@Google
I believe this one needs no description.

29. One Click Plugin Updater by Janis Elsts
One Click Plugin Updater was one of my most popular plugins, but it is now mostly obsolete. I keep it running because the built-in WP plugin installer doesn’t work on my “optimized” server configuration. It also has a few neat features like upgrading all plugins in one go and installing a plugin or theme via a Firefox extension.

30. Preview Frame by Rob Miller
Once, WordPress had a built-in preview frame on post editor page. Then, for some strange reason, it was removed in WP 2.2. This pugin puts it back where it belongs.

31. Quick Configuration Links by Janis Elsts
With a lot of plugins installed, it becomes increasingly hard to hunt down that one configuration page you need to check. Quick Configuration Links solves this problem by putting a “Settings” link near each plugin on the “Installed Plugins” page.

32. Raw HTML Capability by Janis Elsts
RawHTML lets you use any HTML or JavaScript code without WP messing it up. It also lets you disable automatic newlines and smilies on a per-post basis. Personally, I don’t have much use for it on this site, but I keep the plugin installed for demonstration purposes.

33. Tree Link Count by Janis Elsts (private plugin)
Last, and quite probably the least, this is the script that updates the counter on the Tree Link page. All it does is periodically get the backlink count via the Yahoo Site Explorer API.

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One Response to “33 Active Plugins, Or How My WordPress Blog Works Behind The Scenes”

  1. Michael Jackson Updates says:

    great post. I wasn’t aware of the google privacy policy plugin

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