I love plugin discussions! No matter how many times I hear them I always pick up on some plugin that turns out to be useful to me, either on my site or on a client site.
But no matter what site I’m working on there are a hand full of “utilitarian” plugins that I always use. While there are several that I regularly, below are plugins I use without fail. If you know of alternatives to any of these that you like better for any reason let us hear about them! I’ve provided a couple extras as well.
Redirection: Redirection is a plugin that enables easy 301 redirects from any url on your site to any other. This plugin comes in handy in so many ways and so many instances I can’t begin to elaborate on them all but if you deal with anything from an incorrect URL to wanting to redirect specific 404′s to the proper page this plugin make it easy. Note: while I love this plugin it’s usually one of the first I deactivate is something goes weird on my site, it’s good but not flawless, as long as you go in knowing you’ll be in good shape.
WP No Category Base: Ever notice how WordPress automatically adds /category/ to the url for your posts and archive pages? Since it serves no real SEO value, or user value, and makes the URL longer than needed your better off getting rid of it. WP No Category Base does the job perfectly.
Gravity Forms: Simply the best most efficient form builder out there. It is a premium plugin but after working with a few other form builders for WordPress none really compare to easy, flexibility and support. Easily the most justifiable premium plugin purchase you can make. Even if it’s nothing more than a contact form you’ll love the features and functionality of Gravity Forms. Runner up and good alternative, Contact Form 7.
W3 Total Cache: Caching pages is one of the best ways to speed up your site but W3 goes beyond just regular chacheing, it integrates with CDN’s (Content Delivery Networks), AmazonS3 and more. It’s easy to install and set up and will improve the user experience on your site while reducing server load. Runner up and good alternative, WP Super Chache. However, I’ve personally found WP Super Cache takes a bit more work to set up and was in some instances a little buggy, though John P. is a big advocate and knows this plugin well.
WP-DBManager: Backup your database! I can’t say that enough times. WP-DBManager will not only back you up, it’ll store or email you the backup files, optimize your database and more. Essential for running your site.
Align RSS Images: A good feed is essential to any blog but unfortunately images that you put in your post can get a little funky in your feed, use this plugin to straighten them out.
Google XML Site Maps: Google XML Sitemaps is the easiest and most efficient way to build and publish your XML site map to Google, essential for keeping your site updated with Google, don’t fail to do this one.
Simply Show ID’s: This is more useful from a development standpoint but just makes accessing ID’s for pages, posts, categories,… a little easier when building out your site.
As a bonus, here are a few others I almost always use:
Scribe SEO: Scribe is a service based plugin. The service is not free but unless you post a ton the entry level is probably sufficient and well worth it. Even if you know SEO well Scribe provides some great insight and feedback in an automated fashion that would be much more time consuming to determine any other way. If you’re serious about your writing then you know SEO is an part of the game and ScribeSEO in conjunction with Heasdspace 2 is w wicked combination!
Pretty Link Pro: One of the best premium plugins out there. Lot’s of services provide short link for use on services like Twitter but if you really want to own your content then pretty Link Pro is a no brainer. Pretty Link Pro provides, short linking, analytics, and more using your domain name. As a big advocate of owning and controlling my content I’ve been a big advocate of this plugin since John P. introduced me to it.
Additional Image Sizes: Sometimes the base image sizes that WordPress generates aren’t quite enough and you need some extras for different thumbnail sizes or whatever. Creating them manually is a time consuming pain, I was about to write this plugin but fortunately was smart enough to look before I lept to see if there was already one out there, and sure enough… it’s a great little plugin that will save you a ton of time if you use anything beyond the default WordPress image sizes on your site.