As of March 2012, WordPress is on 72.4 million different websites around the globe making WordPress the most widely used and popular content management system (CMS) in existence. In 2011, WordPress was responsible for 14.7% of the top 1,000,000 websites in the entire world. Nearly 48% of the top 100 blogs, as ranked by Technorati, currently use WordPress as their CMS. There are approximately 19,225 plugins freely available in the WordPress Plugin Directory.
If you’re a newbie and have just installed WordPress then it will be a very difficult time to choose the most Essential and Best WordPress Plugins for 2012 from among the 19,000+ plugins. So I’m going to introduce you Free WordPress Plugins which I use/recommend. It includes – a WordPress SEO Plugin, a WordPress Backup Plugin, a WordPress Contact Form Plugin, a WordPress Sitemap Plugin and everything in between.
Top 30 Essential WordPress Plugins 2012
You don’t have to install all the 30 plugins listed below. Select according to your requirements. I will update the following list regularly as I come across new or better plugins.
Last Updated: September 7, 2012
1. AdSense Deluxe
AdSense Deluxe is a WordPress Plugin which allows you to manage your Google AdSense (or any other ad network) seamlessly. However, this plugin is not present in WordPress.org plugins directory as the author stopped it’s development several years back. If you’re not comfortable in using AdSense Deluxe then you can try AdSense Manager it’s the best alternative for AdSense Deluxe. AdSense Manager supports most advertising networks including AdBrite, AdRoll, Project Wonderful and plain old HTML code.
Akismet identifies and blocks comment and trackback spam on your blog. It checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not. Akismet has protected my blog from 143,961 spam comments already.
Learn More & Download: Akismet
3. All In One SEO Pack
All In One SEO Pack is a WordPress SEO Plugin which optimizes your WordPress blog for Search Engines (Search Engine Optimization). If you’re a newbie then it’s the perfect SEO plugin for WordPress. If you are code savvy then I recommend WordPress SEO by Yoast. It’s a complete SEO plugin with much more advanced features.
4. Broken Link Checker
Broken Link Checker checks your WordPress blog for broken links and missing images and notifies via email or on the dashboard if any are found. (Essential WordPress Plugin 2012)
Learn More & Download: Broken Link Checker
5. Contextual Related Posts
Contextual Related Posts displays a set of related posts on your website or in your feed. It helps to increase the reader retention and reduce bounce rates. The Related Posts is generated based on the content of the title and/or content of the posts which makes them more relevant and more likely to be of interest to your readers. However, if you want to show the Related Posts using tags then I recommend using WordPress Related Posts plugin. Both the plugin adds Related Posts to your feeds as well.
6. Dagon Design Form Mailer
Dagon Design Form Mailer is a simple PHP WordPress Contact Form Plugin. It has a wide range of features including multiple instances, multiple recipients, multiple file attachments, auto reply feature, an image verification system, multiple languages etc. The author haven’t updated this plugin since July 2009. So this plugin is not available via WordPress.org you need to install it manually or you can try the alternative plugin called Contact Form 7 which is easy to use and is flexible as well.
Update: I have recently switched to Contact Form 7 from Dagon Design Form Mailer. It’s very simple, flexible and a powerful contact form plugin for WordPress which you must try. You can customize almost everything from “Submit” button label to “error messages”.
7. Dagon Design Sitemap Generator
Dagon Design Sitemap Generator a fully customizable sitemap. Dagon Design Sitemap Generator is not just an XML sitemap plugin, but rather a true sitemap generator which is highly customizable. Again, the author haven’t updated the plugin since July 2009.
Learn More & Download: Dagon Design Sitemap Generator
8. Exclude Pages From Navigation
Exclude Pages From Navigation provides a checkbox on the editing page which you can check to exclude pages from the primary navigation. If your WordPress Theme supports “Menu” then you don’t require this plugin.
Learn More & Download: Exclude Pages From Navigation
9. FeedBurner FeedSmith
FeedBurner FeedSmith detects all ways to access your original WordPress RSS feeds and redirects them to your FeedBurner feed so you can track every possible subscriber.
Learn More & Download: FeedBurner FeedSmith
10. Google Analytics For WordPress
11 .Google XML Sitemaps
Google XML Sitemaps generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com to better index your blog.
Learn More & Download: Google XML Sitemaps
12. Jetpack by WordPress.com
Jetpack brings the power of the WordPress.com cloud to your self-hosted WordPress. Jetpack enables you to connect your blog to a WordPress.com account to use the powerful features normally only available to WordPress.com users. (Best WordPress Plugin 2012)
Learn More & Download: Jetpack
13. Page Links To
Page Links To allows you to point WordPress Pages or Posts to a URL you choose. It’s a must have plugin as it’s good for setting up navigational links to any external links. (Best WordPress Plugin 2012)
Learn More & Download: Page Links To
14. Popularity Contest
Popularity Contest enables ranking of your posts by popularity; using the behavior of your visitors to determine each post’s popularity. You set a value for every post view, comment, etc. and the popularity of your posts is calculated based on those values.
Learn More & Download: Popularity Contest
15. SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam
SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam adds CAPTCHA anti-spam methods to WordPress forms for comments, registration, lost password, login, or all. It prevents spam from bots as users will have to type in the code shown on the image.
Learn More & Download: SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam
16. Subscribe To Comments
Subscribe To Comments allows readers to receive email notifications for subsequent comments. It includes a full-featured subscription manager that your commenters can use to unsubscribe to certain posts, block all notifications, or even change their notification e-mail address!
Learn More & Download: Subscribe To Comments
17. W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is the highest rated and most complete WordPress performance plugin. It dramatically improves the speed and user experience of your WordPress blog. It adds browser, page, object and database caching as well as minify and content delivery network (CDN) to WordPress. If you’re looking for a simpler Caching plugin then you can go for WP SuperCache. It’s a very fast caching engine recommended by top web hosting companies. (Essential WordPress Plugin 2012)
18. WP PageNavi
WP PageNavi adds a more advanced paging navigation to your WordPress blog.
Learn More & Download: WP PageNavi
19. WP PostViews
WP PostViews enables you to display how many times a post/page had been viewed. Modified by David Potter to include options for when and where to display view counts.
Learn More & Download: WP PostViews
20. WP UserOnline
WP UserOnline enables you to display how many users and bots are online on your WordPress blog with detailed statistics of where they are and who they are (Members/Guests/Search Bots). It also shows a referral URL as well so you know exactly where they came from.
Learn More & Download: WP UserOnline
21. WordPress Backup To Dropbox
WordPress Backup To Dropbox is a WordPress Backup Plugin which is an easy to use plugin that keeps your valuable WordPress blog, its media and database backed up to Dropbox in minutes.
Update: I have recently switched to Google Drive For WordPress from WordPress Backup To Dropbox. I’m not a fan of Dropbox and I prefer to stick with Google’s Cloud as my primary e-mail is Gmail and Google Drive integrates well with Gmail. Check out WPMU’s guide on how to automatically backup your WordPress site to Google Drive.
22. WordPress Importer
WordPress Importer will import posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories, tags and more from a WordPress export file.
Learn More & Download: WordPress Importer
WPtouch automatically transforms your WordPress website into an application-like theme, complete with ajax loading articles and effects when viewed from the most popular mobile web browsing devices like the iPhone, iPod touch, Android mobile devices, Palm Pre/Pixi and BlackBerry OS6 mobile devices. (Essential WordPress Plugin 2012)
Learn More & Download: WPtouch
24. SEO Friendly Images
SEO Friendly Images automatically adds alt and title attributes to all your images improving traffic from search engines.
Learn More & Download: SEO Friendly Images
25. SEO Rank Reporter
SEO Rank Reporter automatically tracks your Keyword positions Google SERPs every 3 days and report the data in an easy-to-read graph. You can choose any of the Google’s country level domain if you want. You will also be able to visualize your traffic flow in response to ranking changes and receive emails notifying you of major rank changes.
Learn More & Download: SEO Rank Reporter
26. Maintenance Mode
Maintenance Mode adds a splash page to your blog that lets visitors know your blog is down for maintenance.
Learn More & Download: Maintenance Mode
27. WP Stats Dashboard
WP Stats Dashboard displays your blog’s stats graph plus your blog traffic, social media engagement and social influence directly in your WordPress dashboard. See how you’re ranking on Alexa, check out your Technorati authority, monitor your ranking across multiple sites and much more. I tried this plugin last week only and became one of my favorite WordPress plugin. Before that I was using WP Stats. (Essential WordPress Plugin 2012)
Learn More & Download: WP Stats Dashboard
28. WP Smush.it
WP Smush.it reduces image file sizes and improve performance using the Smush.it API within WordPress. WP Smush.it optimizes images by compressing JPEG images, converting certain GIFs to indexed PNGs and by stripping the un-used colors from indexed images.
Learn More & Download: WP Smush.it
29. SimpleReach Slide
Learn More & Download: SimpleReach Slide
30. Scrolling Social Sharebar
I have tried various plugins to show a scrolling social media sidebar. I think Scrolling Social Sharebar is the best among them. It integrates with Twitter, Facebook (like & share), Google Plus One, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, and Addthis. (Essential WordPress Plugin 2012)
Learn More & Download: Scrolling Social Sharebar
31. Pricing Table
Price Table is an easy to use plugin that allows you to create beautiful pricing tables in a dynamic way. It lets you to place tables on WordPress posts or pages by using Short Codes.
Learn More & Download: Price Table
32. Robots Meta
Robots Meta plugin by Yoast allows you to add the appropriate meta robots tags to your individual posts and pages. You can use this plugin to noindex or nofollow specific categories, archives, tags, etc. This plugin is not required if you have already installed WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin.
Learn More & Download: Robots Meta
33. RSS Footer
RSS Footer by Yoast makes it easy to add a line of content to the beginning or the end of all the articles in your RSS feeds. Again, this plugin is not required if you’re using WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast. You can insert a post script like “An original article by ‘Your Name’ at ‘Example.com’”
Learn More & Download: RSS Footer
Liveblog is a new plugin by Automattic for live blogging. If you want to update your blog as quickly as possible – let’s say you want to cover an event and post its updates in real-time – then this plugin is for you.
Learn More & Download: Liveblog