I know there are many different articles out there that cover WordPress plugins but I felt the need to create one based on my own experiences. I have compiled a list of the top 5 most useful WordPress plugins that I actively use on my sites.
This plugin is the heavyweight in WordPress Caching plugins and is being used on the high traffic blog Mashable.com. W3 Total Cache provides the most options of any caching plugin that I have ever used. If you don’t know what caching is let me explain that briefly first. Caching on a WordPress blog or any blog can be very important due to limited server resources or days of higher than normal traffic. Caching plugins will create static versions of your dynamic pages on your site so they can be served much quicker to visitors with less load on the server than dynamic pages.
W3 Total Cache also provides more functionality than just caching your content. It can also provide you with Database Query Caching, Minify your code, CDN, and Browser Cache. I want to talk more about the CDN or (Content Delivery Network) this feature allows you to use an already in place CDN like Amazon or create your own. You can actually create a self-hosted CDN network within your own server or on another server that you own via FTP. Why would you want to create a CDN on your site, because it will dramatically improve load time on the site or appear to when your users visit. A CDN allows a browser to load more objects and images in parallel than without.
Overall, if you haven’t tried W3 Total Cache on your blog you are missing out, go ahead and give it a try.
The Sharebar creates a Mashable-like (looks just like the one found on Mashable.com) social media sharing plugin that follows along side your posts when scrolling. The plugin is completely customizable which gives you the freedom to ad any kind of button that you like. The plugin also allows you to change the background color, width, and positioning to better fit the design of your site. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
The Visitors Maps and Who’s Online plugin is a traffic statistics plugin for your WordPress installation. This plugin allows you to track which users are on your site at any given time, where they are from in the world, and much more.
The Who’s online page that comes with the plugin displays information about every user that enters the site. It will display their IP address, location, browser type, whether they are a robot or person, what page they are on, and the last time they clicked something on the site. This information can be quite useful to determine what post or posts are popular on the site at any given time. It can also help you determine how many people are on the site at any given time of the day especially if one of your articles becomes quite popular.
The plugin WordPress.com Stats is also a traffic statistics plugin for your WordPress blog. The plugin provides you with a comprehensive look into your traffic data. With the plugin you get a nice graph that sorts your data into Days, Weeks, or Months. There is also a page that displays where your hits are coming from called Referrers, and Top posts and pages, search engine terms, and even clicks on your content. This plugin is a must have for any WordPress blog, if you use it now let me know what your experiences with the plugin are.
I don’t have much to say about Lightbox 2 except for the fact that this plugin looks great! Like any other Lightbox plugin this one also allows users to click on your images which will then pop up and enlarge. Lightbox 2 however has a much easier to use GUI for the end user in my opinion than other Lightbox plugins.
If you use any of the WordPress plugins I have listed above leave a comment about your experience with any and I will try to help you if I can. If you haven’t used them, feel free to leave questions.