The Toolbox: 4 WordPress Plugins I Can't Live Without

Whenever I speak at conferences, attend meetups, or even just causally mention WordPress in conversation, there’s one question that comes up in nearly every conversation I have:

What WordPress plugins do you recommend?

That list is constantly in flux – a new plugin will be developed that replaces an old one, or an old one will stop working or be depreciated.  Nonetheless, this list is an attempt to quantify those favorite plugins down to an essential five.  So, in no particular order, here are four WordPress plugins you absolutely must have in order to run a successful blog or website.

WordPress Plugin #1: WordPress SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

I waffled for a long time between WordPress SEO and All-In-One SEO.   Joost de Valk‘s plugin has, finally, come out on top as the victor.  Other than the obvious SEO functionality (rewrites, nofollows, etc) that plugins like this give you, WPSEO has a fantastic “SEO Grader” built right into the template.

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This WordPress plugin lets you tweak the content in real time to see how much better or worse your content gets from subtle changes.  Once you have a score you’re happy with, you simply publish – and you know you’ve done a lot to optimize the content for your readers.

WordPress Plugin #2: W3 Total Cache (Cache, Speed)

Without a doubt the number one caching plugin is W3 Total Cache.  Built for speed, with lots of functionality and the ability to work with other services (like CloudFlare and MaxCDN) , it’s the one resource you need to keep your pages loading fast.  And, it’s super easy to set up. Out of the box, most server setups will be ready to go.

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WordPress Plugin #3: Gravity Forms (Lead Generation / Forms)

Yes, it’s a paid plugin.  Yes, it’s a little pricey.  Is it worth it? Absolutely.

The number one form plugin for WordPress is that way for a reason.  It does forms – any forms – and does them well.  Need to charge people once you’ve submitted a form?  There’s an add-on.  Want to add them to your eNewsletter?  Easily done.  Date pickers?  Bring it on.  This plugin will cover any form-related task you can throw at it.  And, it even integrates (using another plugin) with a third party service, so you can store your data outside of WordPress.  What’s not to love?

WordPress Plugin #4: All-In-One Favicon (Favicon)

There are so many ways to get a favicon on a site – and most of them involve actually editing the core files.  I want to end this list with a plugin that does one thing, and does it well: this allows you to have a favicon on your WordPress site extremely easily.  You can use PNG files, ICO files, and even set up images to use when someone on an iDevices bookmarks your site to their icon menu.  Easy Peasy!

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In Conclusion

WordPress plugins are a dime a dozen.  It’s great to cut through the fluff and see exactly which ones are serving their purpose well – especially when you consider that these plugins add great functionality to the site.  And a functional site is one that people will come back to time after time.

Note: I’ll edit this list as I find new resources

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