The base WordPress is very functional on its own, but its extensibility is another great feature that can really help improve a blog’s performance and make it your own. Below I’ve listed a number of the WordPress plug-ins that I use and would recommend. Each plug-in listed has a link to its homepage and a small blurb about it describing my experience with it. All are compatible with the latest version of WordPress (2.7.1).
Akismet – Anti-spam period. Very few spam comments get past Akismet. You have to have a WordPress.com API key (free) and it is well worth it. Spam comments help the bad guys and make your blog look bad. Akismet also has stats so you can see a graph over time of how many spam comments you’ve received.
Anti-AdBlock – A controversial plug-in, but this allows you to display a message to individuals using Ad-block software explaining the importance of displaying your ads so that you can continue to provide quality content. You can have it lock-down your site after a configurable number of visits or just provide a small informative pop-up once.
Bad Behavior – Blocks bots and other traffic that could have a negative effect on your server. Detects spambots that are likely to spam your site and prevents them from accessing it. I’ve had bots render my page inaccessible before, so this was a must. There is a chance for false positives to be caught, but it could also be that a visitor could have malware on their computer that attacks all the websites the visitor goes to in the background. If you find yourself being blocked by Bad Behavior check your computer for malware and try with another browser.
Floatbox Plus – Displays images full-size on the same page automatically so visitors don’t have to go to the file and then back. Makes for a snappier presentation when it comes to images that you have scaled down on the main page.
GD Star Rating – A very detailed, very configurable means to add ajax-powered star ratings to your posts and/or pages. You can see a list of your articles and their ratings on the administrator side.
Google XML Sitemaps – Creates a sitemap for your site in .xml format and can notify popular search engines that it has been updated so your site gets crawled after a new post. This helps get new content into the search engines faster and results in a better indexing of your site.
IntenseDebate – Improved comment discussion. Ties your comments into IntenseDebate with optional syncing. This improves the commenting interface and allows nested comments (replies and such).
PS Auto Sitemap – Allows you to add a link-friendly sitemap page organizing your posts by category automatically. It pulls information from your database and links it accordingly. This is good for improving human navigation and site inner-linking. You can see it in action on my site at my SiteMap.
Sociable – Allows you to add a wide variety of social news networks to the bottom of posts and pages. Visitors can then just click a button to recommend an article to Digg, Reddit, Slashdot, and many, many more.
WordPress.com Stats – Keeps track of your visitors and can graph how many visitors you have each day, week, or month. Requires a WordPress.com API key (free) and let’s you see how popular an individual article is per-day, how people are finding out about your site, and any external links they might click on.
WordPress.com Stats Helper – Pulls information from WordPress.com Stats to list popular pages as a widget on your site.
WP-DBManager – Allows you to regularly optimize your database and make database back-ups. I have this automatically e-mail myself a copy of the database to a Gmail account every 3 days so I always have a copy available if things go wrong.
WP-Print – Adds an easy configurable link to your page to let visitors easily access your content in a print-friendly format. You can remove video, images, or anything else with a special tag. Be sure to read the instructions upon installing it, you’ll need to add the line of code to create the code to your theme manually.
WP-Sticky – Allows you to make a post “sticky” meaning it will be the top post even if you post a new one for that day. You can also make an “announcement” post which means it will stay at the top of the front page unless you make a newer announcement post or edit the post to change it to a normal post.
WP Super Cache – Speeds up WordPress by a lot. Instead of having to query the database each time this plug-in caches the static HTML that gets generated after the first visit to a post and then serves that up instead of the having to query the database. It reduces the workload on your server and speeds up response time for visitors. Definitely a must-have. The cache gets rebuilt every time a new post or page is published.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – Allows you to add a configurable amount of links at the end of posts and/or pages to other posts and/or pages that have a certain level of “related-ness”. This improves inner-linking visitors to more of your pages and may help them find what they are looking for. A recent update also allows you to include this related-posts section into your RSS feeds.
ZD YouTube FLV Player – Allows you to embed YouTube and .flv/.swf videos in your posts with full player controls. See this in action with my post on benchmarking using some clips from Fraps.
If you would recommend any alternative plug-ins or have other suggestions, please share them in the comments.