WordPress plugins I use on my blog

Over the time I’ve installed and uninstalled a zillion WordPress plugins on my blog. There are a few plugins which managed to stay. I actually do not use too many plugin to try and keep the site fast. I am just not very patient with slow website and hate it when my blog takes forever to load.

Here is a short list of those plugins I’m currently using:

Akismet

This one is installed by default when you get WordPress. In the beginning, I didn’t activate it as I didn’t know it and just thought it must be a useless plugin which needs to be shipped with WordPress so that anybody installs it at all. I couldn’t be more wrong. Over time I saw always more Spam comments on my site. Since I’m moderating them, I needed to check them on a daily basis.

My first thought was to install a plugin to protect the blog from spambots by requesting the answer to a simple arithmetic question (think I used a plugin called Block Spam By Math Reloaded). But first, I hate having to answer such questions and second there are enough people manually entering Spam comments out there to actually make this solution not 100% spam-proof…

And some day I finally understood what Akismet is about. It automatically sorts comments in Spam (bad) and Ham (good). You can then still review the Spam comments before deleting it (I’m not doing it anymore since I get more than 30 such comments per day).

The accuracy of Akismet is just great. From about 1000 spam comments, it missed 4 of them and had 1 false positive (I guess the false positive was actually spam but since the comment didn’t look as stupid as the rest of the spam comments I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt).

Here’s how the Akismet stats look like:
Akismet Statistics

I tend to always write the name of this plugin wrong: Askimet, Aksimet… Great plugin but another name might have been better…

Crayon Syntax Highlighter

This plugin provides a syntax highlighter. It’s appearance is fully customizable. It supports many different languages and can be extended with regular expressions.

You will mostly use this plugin if like me you regularly have post containing source code. The rendered source code looks nice. Here is an example:

<body itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Product">
  <h1 itemprop="name">Shiny Trinket</h1>
  <img itemprop="image" src="{image-url}" />
  <p itemprop="description">Shiny trinkets are shiny.</p>
</body>

W3 Total Cache

This plugin improves the site performance by caching pretty much everything. The other major options for the job are WP Super Cache and Quick Cache.
I have never used Quick Cache. It looks like it’s the easiest to use alternative. Since I don’t mind tweaking my plugins to get them to do what I need, I wasn’t really attracted to it.

I found that the performance was better with W3 Total Cache than with WP Super Cache on my blog. But I’ve seen reports that WP Super Cache delivers good performance for large site. Since my site is pretty small, I cannot really comment on it.

When using W3 Total Cache with many other plugins, you might run into compatibility issues. Since I’ve greatly reduced the number of used plugins lately, I do not have such problems.

W3 Total Cache seems to be able to better reduce the CPU use when delivering pages.

It also is one of the most comprehensive alternatives. But it tends to be resource hungry. If you have a hosting provider giving you a low powered server, this might be an issue.

When using W3 Total Cache you have to keep in mind that you have to empty the cache when updating you theme or activating/deactivating plugins. Otherwise you will see a cached version of the page without your changes.

When it comes to caching plugins, you need to just give a few of them a try until you find the one which works best for you.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

In order to reduce the bounce rate, you need to provide your visitors with links to other posts which might be interesting. This is the purpose of Yet Another Related Post Plugin (YARPP). It shows something like this:

Yet Another Related Post Plugin

The numbers you see there are the scores showing the relevance of the related post (the higher, the more relevant).

You can configure how many related posts are shown and which HTML tags are present before/after the list and before/after each entry.

WordPress SEO

Although WordPress by itself allows you pretty much tweak you site for SEO, there are a number of SEO plugins out there which can make SEO even better and easier. I’m using WordPress SEO by Yoast. I’ve previously used All in One SEO Pack but liked WordPress SEO better. Actually last time I used All in One SEO Pack, it kind of messed my site up (this might have been a mistake on my side but I didn’t have time to figure it out and moved on).

As with caching plugins, you should just give a few of them a try and decide for yourself.

Google XML Sitemaps

This plugin generates a special XML sitemap which will help search engines to better index your site. It will also ping Google and Bing on site changes. You can configure quite a few things regarding how the sitemaps are generated although the defaults are probably good for most of us.

AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget

This is a plugin to display icons so that visitors can share your posts with the world. There are many plugins out there doing the same thing.

I started using Ding Ding. The functionality was great. I liked the UI (actually of all such plugins I’ve used, it probably had the best UI). It supported many social networks. Unfortunately, I had twice problems with the widget not being displayed after and update and moved to another plugin.

I then used Sociable. Unfortunately the skyscraper view messed up the UI on mobile displays and it slowed down my whole site: even though you can make sure that the site contents are loaded before the widget, when the widget was loaded and displayed I always had the feeling that everything was slowing down for a while.

So I ended up using AddThis. It supports all social networks I’m interested in. I wish it was possible to have the bar with the buttons be larger and display more buttons but otherwise I’m happy with it. The performance impact seems to be relatively low.

WordPress Popular Posts

This plugin displays a list of the most read posts (i.e. most popular posts). I also use it in order to reduce the bounce rate by showing visitors popular articles. Actually I think it’s much more important to display a list of related posts than this. So I’m not too sure I’ll keep this one forever. But I kind of like seeing the list of post with the number of views…

Category Icons

This plugin allows you to associate icons with categories and have them displayed in all places where posts are shown. This is definitely not a must-have plugin but I do find it nice.

I do use a few other plugins. Some of them because I migrate a part of this site from Blogger. I’m also using WP-Touch. I used it a while ago but switching between the mobile and desktop themes was not working so great so I removed it. Now I’ve installed it again yesterday. But it needs more testing…

One thought on “WordPress plugins I use on my blog

  1. Hi Henri, Thanks for your posting about removing the Yet Another Related Post score. I too thought of it as useless information for the reader but didn’t realize that it only shows up if you are logged in. The reason I’m commenting on this posting is because I clicked on the ‘related posts’, so it is doing its job at reducing the bounce rate ;-).

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