1. Pods CMS
Just as the name suggests, Pods CMS is a content Management plugin for WordPress. Gone are the days of people using WordPress for your blog alone. It’s fast becoming one of the industry’s standard CMSs, and if you’re thinking about using it for this purpose, then this plugin is possibly the most powerful of all.
Pods lets you add and display your own content types, but unlike WP custom post types, each bit of content gets its own table. You can:
- Create Pods (tables)
- Create conventional CMS input forms within WP Admin
- Add custom menu items to WP Admin
- Easily loop though data
- Create detail pages
- Use custom code to query database
I use Pods on 90% of WP builds. It’s brilliant.
If, for example, you need a manageable page on your website which includes a list of team members with a photo and name, then there’s no choice other than to manage the page via a CMS. Features like this are standard in most CMSs, but getting a basic WordPress installation to do this right out of the box is no simple task. This is where Pods CMS comes into its element. Functions like this are so much more simple – you can even customise the WP admin menu and add quick links to your pods.
The level of support is excellent considering this plugin is completely free! Pods is well documented in the user guide and there are a number of tutorials by Jonathan Christopher. The Pods team also run and manage a Q&A forum.
If you currently use Pods, please help the team by making a donation: http://podsfoundation.org/donate/
2. Gravity Forms
Every websites needs a form. Well, almost. This might be a contact form, sign-up form, registration form, payment form – the list is endless. Gravity forms does it all, quickly and easily, and you don’t need to code a thing!
The range of features is amazing:
- You can quickly and easily create a form by dragging and dropping fields
- Use default styling or custom CSS
- Data stored in a database
- Email data – customise email content and format
- Segregate and export data
- Add-ons : Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, Paypal etc (Push data to other services)
It isn’t free, but if you’re familiar with building forms then you’ll know that it can be a time consuming process. Gravity Forms does all the hard work for you, and with so many extra features the personal package is a bargain at $39 (£25).
However, if you just want a simple form then make sure you check out Contact Form 7. A free, more basic plugin for your WP site: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/contact-form-7/
3. WordPress SEO by Yoast
As it says on the tin, WordPress SEO is our recommend plugin for optimising and customising SEO on your website. Of course, to begin with you need to always make sure your site is structured and built correctly, but then you can use a plugin such as WordPress SEO to make sure all your posts and page titles are correct and meta descriptions are optimised.
- Post titles and meta descriptions
- Robots Meta configuration
- Permalink clean up
- XML Sitemaps
- RSS enhancements
- Edit your robots.txt and .htaccess
- Clean up head section
4. Google XML Sitemaps
A simple but very effective plugin, Google XML sitemaps will generate an XML sitemap to help search engines to index your website or blog more effectively.
Sitemaps are useful for one simple reason: They make it much easier for a crawler (such as Google) to see the complete structure of your site, and in turn, allows them to find as much of the content as possible in order to rank your website fairly.
5. Google Analytics for WordPress
Tracking visits to your site can be extremely useful. Who wouldn’t want to know which sections are the most popular, how long visitors spend on your site, where they come from and what devices they are using? l’m sure I don’t need to detail out why you should have Google Analytics on your WP site, but if you’re still unsure, check out the video above to find out more on all the great features. Convinced? Well what are you waiting for? Install this plugin to quickly and easily manage Google Analytics from your admin panel.
6. WP Super Cache
The speed of your website is very important but unfortunately it’s often something that’s overlooked, especially by the less experienced developers. Many people don’t realise that your Google ranking is actually effected by the speed of your site, so if that sends alarm bells ringing, then you can use this tool from Google to check how your website is currently doing: http://pagespeed.googlelabs.com/
WP super cache works by creating static html versions of your dynamic pages. These are then served instead of more heaver (larger file size) and processor intensive files. These files will be served to users the majority of the time, increasing the speed of your WordPress site and improving the user experience.
The plugin is very simple to use; you simply install it and turn it on. This is great for the less technically minded, however you also have the option of editing the ‘advanced’ options to take full advantage of all the settings and features that WP Super Cache has on offer.
7. WP Minify
This plugin also focuses around speeding up your website. It is recommend by WP Super Cache to work in tandem, but it can also be used on its own.
To be completely honest, this may not drastically improve the speed of your site for one single user, however if you have a more popular site it will certaintly improve the performance when delivering your pages to 100s of users at once.
Disqus is a comment system that’s been designed and developed to improve and replace standard WordPress comments. It has a wide range of features – two of my favourites being threaded comments and the option to login with your Twitter or Facebook account.
More features include:
- Threaded comments and replies
- Notifications and reply by email
- Subscribe and RSS options
- Aggregated comments and social mentions
- Powerful moderation and admin tools
- Full spam filtering, blacklists and whitelists
- Support for Disqus community widgets
- Connected with a large discussion community
- Increased exposure and readership
Disqus is used by a wide range of websites, Mashable being one of the most famous.
Note: If you use any other comment plugins they will automatically be disabled if you use Disqu.
9. Custom Post Type UI
Custom post types and taxonomies can be extremely useful if you have areas on your site where you want to be very specific with the types of data that you’re publishing. This plugin allows you to easily create and manage these areas though a simple UI which gives you options to label custom posts and add tabs to the sidebar based on the post type. If you’re still a little unsure and need a bit more info then check out this video which walks you through an example:
Alternatively, read this tutorial which details how to use Custom Post Type UI:
BBpress is forum / bulletin board software from WordPress that can be installed as a standalone application or as a plugin. It’s designed to be simple, light, and solid, and can also be extended with plugins just like the standard WordPress package.
Forums and discussion boards can be a great way to drive traffic to your website and increase return visits from users. If you want lots of features and tools you may need to install a number of plugins, however if you want a simple clean forum adding to your existising WordPress site then this is the perfect option.
We hope you’ve found some useful hints and tips here, but if there’s anything that you think we’ve missed off please leave your suggestions and comments below.
By Chris Kemm