Updated: September 26, 2015
Once you know how to install plugins, you’ll want to find some good ones. Before you go crazy (it’s easy to go crazy), I recommend you read my plugin tips. In short, plugins have a frustrating way of breaking sites so I use as few as possible.
As of today, I have a whopping 8 plugins on my site. This changes from time to time, but I like to keep things super lightweight. All are free except where noted.
I’ve noted the plugins I’ve stopped using and the reason why when applicable.
To build my email list
I use LeadPages (referral link) to boost my email subscriptions. There is a WordPress plugin I would use if I didn’t just paste in the raw code.
I used to use Dreamgrow Scroll Triggered Box which is a slide-in box to grab the attention of potential subscribers. This plugin worked for me, but if I no longer wanted to pay for LeadPages, I might try Scroll Triggered Boxes (similar name, different plugin, slightly better reviews).
I switched because I was wooed by the cool things LeadPages can do (scroll down and click the “demo this feature” buttons to see what I mean).
For social sharing
Social Warfare (referral link) is a premium plugin that puts social sharing icons at the end of posts and pages. It has a built in click-to-tweet feature and makes providing your Pinterest image and description super simple. It’s worth the small cost.
Simple Social Icons allows you to add social media icons to your widgets in WordPress. It works great with Genesis. This is how I get the light gray social media icons in my sidebar.
Yoast Comment Hacks is a new one for me and so far so good. I used to use Send Email Only on Reply to My Comment which sends a notification to someone when they have a reply to their comment. I switched because I trust the expertise of Yoast.
To combat spam
Antispam Bee is my current spam fighter. It’s worked quite well, although not nearly as effective as turning off comments more than 30 days old. Now THAT has virtually eliminated spam altogether.
I used to use Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (G.A.S.P.) and is the plugin I talked about in my tutorial, How to Install a Plugin. I used it in conjuction with Akismet which is automatically installed in new versions of WordPress but must be activated (follow the prompts when you activate it under Plugins–>Installed).
I switched because Antispam Bee came highly recommended and because I’d rather have one plugin instead of two.
For the backend
W3 Total Cache makes your site run faster and smoother by caching. Caching is basically keeping a copy of images and content that has already been seen so those things don’t have to be fetched from the server every time, which slows things down.
a3 Lazy Load helps speed up your site too by only loading images as the reader scrolls to see them instead of loading them all at once.
UpdraftPlus is the plugin I recommend to create automatic backups of your site. It’s free. Update: I recently deactivated this on my main site at the suggestion of my host (Synthesis) who has a robust backup system in place.
Genesis is the theme I personally use and Genesis Simple Edits makes editing your byline (the bit of information like date and author name under your post titles) and your post footer (the bit of information like number of comments, categories, etc. at the end of your post) a cinch.
WishList Member (referral link) allows you to have a membership site right in WordPress. It was the first plugin I used to run the Useletter Archives (the membership portion is no longer active; see my Knowtbook instead). Update: I also bought and tinkered with MemberPress (referral link) which I think I may like better.
Comment Reply Notification allows people who leave a comment to be notified via email if anyone responds to their comment. Update: It hasn’t been updated in 2+ years so I opted for an up-to-date one (see above).
WordPress Ping Optimizer keeps your site from being marked as a ping spammer. What’s that? Have you ever published a post but found mistakes and had to update it? Well, every time you update a post after it’s published, your pinging services are notified. This plugin only pings them once when the post is published the first time. Update: WordPress now handles this on its own.
WP Smush.it reduces the file sizes of images you upload to your blog, thus making your site run faster. I’d also recommend resizing your images. I just manually compress my images now and I wasn’t hearing good things about this plugin after a while.
Google XML Sitemaps creates an automatic sitemap which helps the “bots” index your site more efficiently. This helps with SEO Update: Now I use Yoast’s SEO plugin for this.
WP Maintenance Mode is handy if I want to make design changes or do other maintenance without confusing anyone. Basically, I can work on my site as usual behind a screen that lets visitors know the site is undergoing a little maintenance and will be back to normal quickly. This is a nice thing if you have a demo site or a client site. I reinstall it only if I need to do some work and then delete it when it’s done.
FeedBlitz Member Mail puts a check box at the end of the comment form, so anyone who leaves a comment can also subscribe to receive posts via email by checking the box. It’s an easy way to build subscribers. Update: Now I use Mad Mimi instead of FeedBlitz as my email service provider.
Editorial Calendar is a great way to keep track of your posts by scheduling them. I have used this plugin only a little bit but didn’t find I used it enough to warrant keeping it activated.
Genesis Simple Hooks is a plugin that is a bit more techy, but is a nice way to add elements to your blog layout (like banner ads under your header for example, or ads at the end of single posts, etc.). Update: I no longer needed it.
What are your favorite plugins?