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Recently two of my friends have started blogging. I have been sharing little detail so far on some aspects of setting up their blog. I thought to write up a post on the basic plug-ins essential to begin with in the hope it will help more people.
The default spam filter that comes along with WordPress installation, from the developers of WordPress. This should be the very first plug-in you activate on your blog.
This plug-in allows you to refine keywords, titles etc on a per-blog post basis. Essential to tweak the amount of metadata you supply to search engines and in turn improve findability.
Users love to bookmark or mail the URL of content they find interesting and useful. This plug-in makes this process easy. One of those minor usability improvements that provides immediate results.
The comment system in WordPress has a limited world view and is restricted to your own blog. What if you wanted to track your commenting across multiple blogs? Disqus is one attempt to track conversations across all Disqus enabled blogs.
WordPress allows users to subscribe to RSS feeds of your blog posts. What if you could better manage how you serve this feed, say subscribe by email, track subscriber statistics etc, then you need this plug-in. Besides it takes the load off your servers if your subscriber count is large. Of course this is just a simplistic description, the FeedBurner provides lots more features, check it out.
This is a free analytics service from Google. Register and receive a tracking code and embed it using this plug-in within your blog. Track every aspect of your blog’s visitors- entry and exit pages, bounce rate, duration stay..should be more than enough for personal bloggers. This is essential.
This plug-in generates metadata files required by search engines to scan your site for content and updates to them. Again essential if you want your content to be discovered by search engines.
Allows usage of WordPress infrastructure to show stats. Google Analytics always has a latency in showing information, WordPress stats are near real-time.
Click through upgrades of your WordPress installation. If you do not have version 2.7 and above then you need this.
You have written more than a handful of posts and tagged each post. This plug-in uses these tags to display a random list of posts that have similar tags like the current post. Again, improves stickiness and will be a easy way for visitors to check out your other relevant posts.
Imagine your blog is Slashdotted. An electronic equivalent of the barbarian hordes would arrive at your site. The web-server after dutifully following your scalability tactics would eventually kneel. Use this plug-in and be untouched by this assault. Generates static HTML pages for each post. Essential once you have large traffic.
Engage your visitors better by soliciting structured feedback via polls. A fully featured plug-in, it allows you to design, track and measure polls and the responses.
Welcome your visitors like a good host in a targeted fashion. And also request them to subscribe to your blog via the RSS feed. One of those simple but essential usability enhancements.
Of course these are basic ones that I use currently, feel free to share details of what other plug-ins you think are essential.