Must-have WordPress plugins

Installing WordPress onto a CentOS server is easy. If you've done that, and learned how to avoid common WordPress setup mistakes, you're ready to customize your WordPress installation with the best plugins available. Plugins let you easily extend WordPress functionality.

In the past we've talked about some top WordPress Plugins for business. To augment these, here are more plugin recommendations for additional functionality in a number of WordPress usage areas.

You can install any WordPress plugin in one of two ways:

Method 1:
  • Open up an FTP client and connect to the server hosting your WordPress installation using your FTP login information.
  • Browse to the /wp-content/plugins directory.
  • Upload the unzipped folder with the target plugin contents to the plugins directory.
  • Browse to and select the Activate option for the new plugin.
Method 2:
  • Browse to
  • Enter the name or description of the plugin, then click Search Plugins.
  • Locate the plugin you wish to install, then click Install Now.
  • Enter your FTP or sFTP credentials when prompted, then click Proceed.

Defensio – The more popular your blog, the more problem you're likely to have with comment spam. Defensio is the most effective comment anti-spam plugin I've used. Defensio gives you access to a profanity filter, a threshold control for obvious comment spam, and automatic comment spam deletion. Logged-in users can configure additional options for handling spam on the website, include category blocking and script blocking.

Delete-Revision – WordPress lets you save different revisions of documents while using the WordPress post or page revision system, which is a useful feature for editorial professionals and others. However, too many revisions over a long period can add a lot of excess baggage to your WordPress database. By eliminating extra WordPress posting revisions, Delete-Revision can streamline your WordPress database and give users a smoother, faster experience. Despite its lack of recent updates, this plugin continues to work reliably.

Hyper Cache – Since WordPress pages are database-driven rather than static, the more hits you take to each page, the more likely you are to overburden your server. To counter this problem I've had great success with web page caching, which allows each WordPress post to act as a static page, lowering the chance of your site crashing due to heavy visitor load. To make the webpage caching process automatic, I've found Hyper Cache to be both the most reliable and the easiest to use out of the half-dozen plugins I've used for the purpose. Additional benefits to using Hyper Cache include cached page timeout settings, RSS feed caching, comment caching, and mobile device theme compatibility. Advanced features such as the ability to specify URLs, user agents, and cookies to not cache provide you with a great deal of control over your WordPress caching options.

Before installing Hyper Cache, you must create an empty file called advanced-cache.php and upload it to your wp-content directory on your server. Use your FTP client to make the file writable with 777 permissions so that Hyper Cache will cache correctly. Next, download your copy of wp-config.php from your main WordPress site directory, and edit it to add define('WP_CACHE', true); to the file. Save it, then upload it back to the main directory on your WordPress server. You can then upload the Hyper Cache plugin and enable it.

Thumbnail For Excerpts – Images can help you create an engaging WordPress home page. I've found the best way to add thumbnail images to a WordPress home page is by using the Thumbnail For Excerpts plugin. Adding thumbnails to the excerpts of each post on your home page with this plugin can promote a higher click-through rate. This plugin can also generate thumbnails for categories, archives, and other areas of your site. While you can forgo using a plugin for adding excerpt thumbnails, it's not nearly as easy as using the plugin. Despite this plugin not being updated any longer, it still works well.

Wordpress Firewall 2 – As any security expert will tell you, simply keeping your WordPress installation up-to-date isn't enough to foil hackers. WordPress Firewall 2 helps protect your WordPress installation from brute force password attacks and rogue file upload hack attempts, and can block potentially dangerous URL variables, which might be used to execute malicious code. The best part about using this firewall plugin is that once it's installed, you can set it and forget it.

WordPress Database Backup – You should make sure that the contents of your WordPress site are always backed up. While backing up the files that serve up your site via FTP is a good start, it's meaningless if you don't have a solid backup plan for your WordPress database too. The database contains all of the text for each page, post, and comment, as well as details about your URL scheme and general settings. I recommend using WordPress Database Backup to keep a backup copy of your database at all times.

To get this plugin running, you need to temporarily make /wp-content/ writable using the same method you used with the Hyper Cache plugin above. Install the plugin, then activate it. This automatically creates a /wp-content/backup-*/ directory, where the * represents random numbers and letters created by the plugin. From your FTP client, make sure permissions on the backup-* directory are set to 777, then set permissions on /wp-content/ back to their original values. Do not leave /wp-content/ with 777 permissions for any longer that it takes to activate this plugin. Once you've done all this, visit If you don't see any errors at the top of the page, the plugin is set up correctly.

WordPress SEO Plugin – You have many options when it comes to optimizing your site for search engines. I recommend using the powerful WordPress SEO Plugin, which gives you find control over SEO options.

After you install the WordPress SEO Plugin, you can find your default SEO settings at The left side of the screen shows you all your options and lets you make changes. The plugin options include:

Dashboard: The main control area for the SEO plugin. From the SEO dashboard you can check or uncheck the Security box; when it's checked, other site authors cannot redirect or noindex posts using this plugin.

Titles & Metas: In the General section of the plugin, you can force WordPress to rewrite your page titles into something better suited for SEO, as well as change the titles for noindex subpages, archives, pagination pages, and categories. You can use sitewide settings to create meta keywords tags, block DMOZ-style site robots from scraping your page descriptions, and block directory site robots. You'll also find options for cleaning up page headers, such as removing header noise such as unwanted shortlinks and RSS links.

Home: Here you can set up your rel="author" function for authors on your blog, which allows Google to award authorship for search engine discoverability.

Post Types: You can use the templates here for SEO titles, pages, and media. Each of these templates allows you to enter a meta description along with a title format to provide the best possible title and meta information relating to your blog's content.

Taxonomies: In this section you can edit templates for your categories, tags, and format. As with Post Types, you can edit the meta data to meet with the needs of your site. Most people, however, generally don't need to bother editing this section.

Other: As with Taxonomies, you probably won't need to edit these settings, though you might if you want to add meta descriptions for author or data archives.

XML Sitemap – You can find other sitemap plugins, but having one built into the WordPress SEO Plugin is a timesaver, and it presents features not found in most alternatives. A sitemap helps alert search engines when new content is available.

Permalinks – Avoid the Permalinks tab if you don't fully understand what it does. If you do, you can "strip" the category base, redirect URLs to parent URLs, remove select URL variables, or redirect unwanted URL formats to a newer and more attractive URL scheme rich in keywords. You can also force a transport option, so that a visitor's browser views your site via the more secure https instead of http.

Internal Links – Breadcrumbs display internal links within a given area of an individual WordPress post and make it easy for visitors to see where they are on a WordPress site, though they don't really enhance the user experience. This section lets you specify breadcrumb options. You can then insert breadcrumbs into your WordPress posts. Most WordPress themes provide a theme file called "single." Download single.php to your computer, then add the following code to the location on the page where you want to display the breadcrumb:

<?php if ( function_exists('yoast_breadcrumb') ) {yoast_breadcrumb('<p id="breadcrumbs">','</p>');} ?>

RSS – One of my favorite features of the SEO Plugin is the option to add links back to a website from within the WordPress RSS code. Some nasty website scrapers repost copies of your WordPress content without permission, often confusing search engines into thinking the thieves first posted the article. By adding a link back to your WordPress website within your RSS feed, you send a clear message to all readers that the content originates from your WordPress website, and not that of the content scraper.

The plugin gives you the option of posting your linkback code either at the top or the bottom of your RSS feed. I recommend posting at the top, as it is more noticeable and is likely to irritate scrapers who steal content. I suggest specifying something simple and straightforward:

The post %%POSTLINK%% appeared first on %%BLOGLINK%%.

You can also use author link and blog description link variables. Use the options you feel most comfortable with.

Import & Export – The simple checkboxes on the Import/Export page let you import settings generated by competing SEO plugins. And of course, you can also export your configuration for the SEO Plugin by clicking on Export Settings.

And there you have it – some of the most useful plugins I've found that help extend WordPress's functionality. Each plugin, when used correctly, helps you run a safer, more effective WordPress website.


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