WordPress is a powerful web platform in its own right, but if you really want to get the best out of your website, there are a handful of third-party plugins which will really give you the edge over other sites.
Here’s a few that we use frequently to supercharge our sites:
WordPress SEO by Joost de Valk – The ultimate SEO plugin for WordPress. We’ve tried them all, and this stands out above the rest. We’ve reviewed this plugin before, so I won’t go into detail, but you need Yoast SEO in your life!
Yoast Breadcrumbs by Joost de Valk – Used to be a separate plugin, but now it’s an option within the WordPress SEO plugin. Switch it on if you want breadcrumbs on your site. Simple!
Google Analytics for WordPress by Joost de Valk – Another one from the mighty Yoast, and again, the best Analytics plugin we have used. Setup is automatic, so you don’t need to add any code yourself, and there are tons of advanced settings for the experienced Analytics user.
Spectacu.la Advanced Search by Interconnect IT, James R Whitehead – If you have any experience of the default search function that comes with WordPress, you’ll know that it sucks hard. Results are returned in date order! What’s that about? Spectacu.la Advanced Search improves the search results by listing them in order of relevance. Yay!
Q and A by Dalton Rooney – FAQs can be great for SEO and conversion, but the key is not to have a single FAQs page, but to put relevant FAQs on your landing pages. Q and A lets you do just that. The questions and answers are entered as custom posts, and you can slot them into any page or post with a simple shortcode. Lovely!
NextGEN Gallery by Alex Rabe – The WordPress media library is fine for occasional imagery, but if you want to have image galleries on your site, you’re much better off with NextGEN. Your images can be sorted into galleries, and galleries can be sorted into albums, all of which can be displayed in your pages with shortcodes.
wp-jQuery-Lightbox by Ulf Benjaminsson – I use this alongside NextGEN, as I think the lightbox style looks nicer, and it uses lightweight jQuery instead of Prototype and Scriptaculous, so everyone’s a winner.
AJAX Thumbnail Rebuild by junkcoder – Ok, not essential, but let’s say you redesign your site, and find you want to change the size of all your thumbnail images. You can make the change in the admin panel or the functions file, and all future images will be the new size, but all your existing thumbnails will still be the old size. This plugin will resize all of your old thumbnails for you. Nice!
ProPlayer by Isa Goksu – If you want to host your own videos, this is the best plugin we’ve found for the job. Just give it your video URL and a few other optional settings, and it takes care of the rest, with a nice Flash video player. We use this plugin to play our website review videos on WebsiteWorks.tv.
Smart YouTube by Vladimir Prelovac – A very simple way to stick YouTube videos into your posts. All you do is paste in the URL of your YouTube video, and change http:// to httpv://. There are other options in the settings page so you can set default sizes etc. Simple but effective.
WP-prettyPhoto by Pier-Luc Petitclerc – It’s a general lightbox plugin, but it supports more than just images, and I find it especially useful for showing youtube videos in a lightbox when you don’t have space to embed them directly onto the page.
Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi – Building your own contact form can be pretty complex, but Contact Form 7 makes it really easy. You build your form in the back end by selecting various options, and then you stick it on a page using a shortcode. You can have multiple contact forms too.
Optincrusher by Daniel Watrous – A great way to boost your newsletter subscription. You can see it at the bottom of this site (unless you’ve already subscribed to our newsletter). The design can be customised, and it works perfectly with popular mailing list services such as AWeber.
I hope you find those useful. Leave a comment if there are any other great plugins that we need to know about.