7 Must-Have Plugins

I run at least 5 WordPress powered websites, and every time I add a new site to that list, I have a checklist of plugins that I absolutely HAVE to get installed ASAP! Some of them are simply aesthetic plugins, making the dashboard look pretty or more functional, and others are workhorse plugins, absolutely necessary for the site to run smoothly.

I generally don’t recommend plugins, but everybody has to use them sooner or later. So I wanted to share with you the 7 plugins that I install every time I begin or upgrade a WordPress installation.

1. Akismet

It should go without saying that if you use comments on your WordPress site, you MUST activate the Akismet plugin. Without it, I would have spent countless hours deleting spam comments, time that could have been spent much more efficiently. Darren Rowse says Akismet has saved him 46 days of work!

2. Subscribe to Comments

I remember the days before this plugin. If you commented on a blog, there was no way of knowing when someone replied to you, outside of hitting refresh all day or subscribing to the comment RSS feed. But when Subscribe to Comments was released, all of that changed. Now visitors could continue the conversation for days, no problem. I even have comment threads months old that are still somewhat active, all because of this plugin.

3. Google Sitemap Generator

I won’t go into too much detail on this post (I have a WordPress and SEO series planned for the near future), but suffice it to say that this plugin gets your site indexed by Google in no time. And you definitely want to be indexed by Google.

4. Absolute Comments

Lorelle made a great point about how unnecessarily difficult it is for the blog author to respond to comments, in her session at WordCamp Dallas, and she is right on the money. Absolute Comments lets you reply to comments from the Comment Management screen in the WordPress Admin panel. It’s a time saving Godsend! (now 2.5 compatible)

5. Admin Drop-Down Menu

If you hate, like I do, the fact that you had to click on a top-level link to get its sublinks in the WordPress Admin, then this plugin will be your best friend. It uses simple suckerfish dropdowns to display subnav links in the Admin UI for WordPress. It’s hard to explain, but believe me, it is worth your while to download and install this plugin. (now 2.5 compatible)

6. Feedburner Feedsmith

If you care anything about stats, you’ll want to be using Feedburner to track your feed subscription numbers. But in order to get an accurate count, you need to be forwarding all of your feeds to your feedburner account. Feedsmith does this for you. If anyone visits your site and finds their way to your WordPress generated feed url, it will automatically be forwarded to your Feedburner address. Genious!

7. cforms II

THE MOST FLEXIBLE contact form plugin available. I don’t much like the included styles, but the features make up for that 5 times over. Add fields, delete fields, multiple forms, too many features to name. This is the only contact form plugin you’ll ever need.
(if cforms II is too complicated for you, the Secure and Accessible PHP Contact Form is a nice, more simple alternative).

With these 7 plugins, my blogs are optimized just the way I want them. Do you have any plugins that you can’t live without? Do you have a list of plugins you install every time you create a new WordPress site? Let me know which plugins you think are indispensable in the comments below!

(feature photo)

Reader Interactions


  1. Hi Nathan,

    Have you seen the Formbuilder plugin yet? ( http://truthmedia.com/wordpress/formbuilder )

    For me, this contact form generator blew everything else away. I’m using it on 14 sites right now, and the different configurations possible have made it the only contact form I use now.

    (And I’m not connected with the plugin other than being an absolutely happy user)

  2. @Paul:
    No, I haven’t seen that one yet, but it certainly looks like it does everything, if not more, cforms II does. I’ll have to check it out and see if it’s any better.

    All in One SEO Pack is unnecessary, IMO. The only thing that it does that cannot be replicated by theme tweaking is the per page/post tweaking of the SEO information (something they don’t really recommend you do anyway). In the coming weeks, I’ll do an SEO series that will give step by step instructions on how to optimize your page/post titles, making page/post excerpts your meta description, making your tags the meta keywords, noindexing and nofollowing archives and other things that would create duplicate content, using title, h1, h2, and h3 tags correctly, and other SEO things that WordPress can do natively just by tweaking your theme.

    After the series is over, I’ll release a theme that includes all the methods I outlined in the series. It will be the ultimate SEO theme!

  3. I’m down to 3 plugins that are my must-have: Akismet, Admin Drop Down Menu and Absolute Comments
    (No, I’m not someone who only installs plugins beginning by letter A by the way :)
    I run a number of others of course, but none would be critical if missing.

    As for SEO… this is a theme issue damn it!

  4. @Ozh:
    You’re so right. In fact, if you check out the source of this post, you’ll see that I’ve got meta keywords and meta description being pulled from my tags and excerpt … all without the need for a plugin. Also, if you check out my archives for categories, tags, date, etc., you’ll also notice a noindex,nofollow.


  5. @Remkus:
    From the AIOSP website:
    “One the post/page editing there is a collapsed area named after the plugin. Open it and you can tweak title, keywords and descriptions. In most cases this is not the recommended way.”

    One reason I can foresee for not doing this is the problem of overt SEO. By feeding a different description and title to the search engines, the content may not match the SEO (this was a major reason the meta description stopped being used for keyword rankings).

  6. Good list. I don’t run the subscribe to comments plug-in becuase I’ve seen numerous warnings of injection-type exploits … am I too cautious?

    I will tkae alook at the Admin Dropdown Menu one as it sounds like a time saver.

    I am also off to install Absolute Coments … this is something i have yearned for for along time. The crew at WordPress must have looked at each other while Lorelle was presenting … “oh you mean people actually use this creation of ours”? The numbe rone thing that WordPress culd do to improve the product is to hire a blogger … someone who actually blogs on a regular basis, as opposed to yet another coding guru.

    I’ll be very interested in the SEO theme, Nathan, like you I have grown very disolusioned with All in One and I do beleive most everything All in One claims to do should be done within the theme … better, faster, cheaper as they say.

  7. Akismet is good but it flags spam comments for moderation. I was beginning to think I would have to do a challenge for the commenters, like a math question.

    Then I found wp-spamfree, which uses cookies and java to determine if a comment was from a real person or a bot.


    Since it’s installation, not a single piece of spam has hit my comments.

  8. What about BackUpWordPress, Dagon Design Sitemap Generator and DoFollow? I think these are pretty useful, too.

    I don’t agree with Admin Drop Down, but I’m using All In One SEO.

  9. Webmasters began to notice their favorite PR tools were inoperative and/or returning erroneous results. Initially, there was some speculation that Google would be unleashing another round of penalties against link sellers. Others believed they were running yet another toolbar export. Everyone appears to be wrong.

  10. Hi Nathan,

    re the all-in-one comment – isn’t the point of plugins to be able to avoid theme hacking were someone to switch themes?

  11. b2b,
    A good point … however, I’m arguing that the issue of SEO should be handled by a theme, rather than a plugin. If a theme isn’t SEOd, then I personally wouldn’t use it.

    Everything that the AIOSEO plugin does well can be accomplished using a well SEOd theme. And I’m just a big advocate of not using plugins unnecessarily.

  12. Askimet, Google Sitemap and Cforms are certainly must have plugins. Haven’t seen the Admin drop-down menu plugin before so will give it a go.

  13. I have wasted countless amount of times deleting blog comments that were left on pages that were finally getting some traffic from search engines… to this day I believe a cocktail of approaches will work and not just one. They always will come up with different ways to slip through.

  14. I must have wasted a lot of time weeding out all the junk from my personal blogs. I believe a cocktail of approaches will work but not fool proof as new ways to beat the system always come up.

  15. I agree some of these are useful, but it depends on what your blog is about and the way you use it.

    Biggest problem I have with WordPress is searching for GOOD plugins that are compatible with 2.7. So many of this type of article I have tried to look at a plugin and it’s not yet compatible. I’d love to have a version filter.

  16. Maxblogpress ping optimizer goes on all my blogs because I invariably find errors after I press publish. It keeps you from pinging too often.

  17. Nathan-

    I feel extremely lucky to have come across your wordpress blog as well as your personal belief blog. I needed a brake from work and explored some of your thoughts many in which I enjoyed (I was a bible major) so I enjoy eye brawl razing questions/ideas.

    Always, I know I’m about to sound completely ignorant so bare with me web design is a high learning curve. Which is why I decided to buy an I Themes Flexx template. Im confused as when I should download a plug and what the Flexx Theme should already have included. I bought the I Themes package because what I gathered from bloggers was it was a user friendly program for the average Jo. I have all the files and dl soft ware such as a FTP and sight map but nothing is happing. I am extremely frustrated because I’m still learning blog lango and do not know how to articulate my problem.

    Do I need to add in all 7 must have plugs before I will be able to work in my Flexx Theme or are they already included? And if I’m having this many issues already should I out source the structure of my sight? I do want to design it but I don’t understand what I’m doing so terribly wrong that I have not gotten to that point yet. You also said you do free lance work is it possible I can hired you to do a conference call so I can better learn these programs!

    Frustrated but Faithful-

  18. Top idea! This is a great way to engage with the users
    1. Akismet
    2. Subscribe to Comments
    3. Google Sitemap Generator
    4. Absolute Comments
    5. Admin Drop-Down Menu
    6. Feedburner Feedsmith
    7. cforms II
    this plugins ar damn good and flexible……… :)
    Extra Special Work! may be done here!

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