WordPress is an open source Content Management System and probably the most popular blogging platform today, with one of six websites using it. It's simplicity, user friendly backend and the endless amount of plugins and support make it the obvious choice for any blog.
The basic WP installation can be mounted with any of the thousands of existing plugins, that provide all the possible advance features a website or blog would require (no, there's still no plugin which fetches the coffee for you).
Its easy to get lost while “plugin shopping” and install too many (which ultimately will slow your site's loading and response time). Its also common to install plugins that look and sound good, but no really needed. Therefore we constructed here a list of the essential plugins and a few optional ones to get your blog running in the most optimized and SE friendly manner. We divided the plugins into categories:
WordPress SEO by Yoast
Control over the meta tags of each post allows better optimization by use of well picked keywords and an attractive text, resulting in higher traffic and better SE rankings. This plugin allows to overwrite the default title, meta description and meta keywords created by the WordPress system. It comes with an xml site map option and can save using another plugin for that purpose.
Editorial Assistant by Zemanta
Zemanta uses its semantic search engine technology to help find contextually related posts that you can link to, and in addition to every outbound link increasing the chance of generating an inbound link. This supports SEO efforts in two ways: 1) Thoughtful outbound links can increase your creditability (Hinted by Google) and 2) This can expose you to other bloggers who in return will link back to you increasing your traffic and rankings.
W3 Total Cache
A frequently updated WP blog, loaded with pictures and many times quite a few plugins tends to become slower. A slow blog / site loses traffic and SE authority. W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your site by improving your server performance, caching every aspect of your site and reducing the download times.
Html Site Map Generator
Html site maps not only help users navigate through content but apparently they are also liked by search engines. Its not bad to have one. This plugin is a little outdated but its simple and works on all WP versions.
Google XML Sitemaps
XML site maps are a must have on every site. They crawl and map your site and make it known to search engines. They automatically ping SE's whenever you load new content so it can indexed quickly. Note that if you're using Yoast's SEO plugin (mentioned above) there's no need for an additional xml site map plugin.
Social Author Bio
Recently Google introduced its “Author Ranking” as one of the more influencing factors on ranking results. This plugin features an author box at the bottom of the post which has fully integrated Google Plus Authorship.
P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
Since having many plugins on your WP blog may slow it down, inferring SEO efforts its important to monitor them and remove poorly written ones. This is a simple plugin that does exactly that – alerts you of those slow plugins.
Ultimate Google Analytics
With this plugin the Google Analytics code can be added to the blog so visitors' statistics can be gathered. This plugin has not been updated in a while but it simple and works perfectly. There are more advanced and feature rich Analytics plugins available but we recommend sticking to simplicity.
With a little knowledge of WordPress the Google Analytics code can be added manually to the footer.php file and save the use of this plugin.
WP Complete Backup
The worst thing that can happen to a blog is that all its posts get deleted (by mistake, by hack or even by server failure). In frequently updated blogs it's recommended to have a regular scheduled backup. WP Complete Backup is an easy to use, complete backup solution for WordPress. The plugin offers the ability to backup the database as well as make a complete file system backup.
Really Simple Facebook Twitter Share Button
The more a blog post is to be shared and viewed the more it generates traffic to your site, builds authority and supports your marketing efforts. You want to help your readers easily share any post they liked with their friends and social circles. This simple plugin places buttons by FB, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn and other popular networks above or below your post for one click sharing.
Tweet Old Posts
If you have a lot of blog posts in your archives that you want to expose to your Twitter followers, re-engaging them and gaining additional traffic (and conversion) to the site you can retweet these posts. Tweet Old Post automatically and randomly tweet out blog posts at certain time intervals. It has options to add hash tags and leading text to it.
A great way to have your traffic better engage your site, spend more time and find out what they would like to read about is by running polls. This plugin allows you to run more than one poll (in the sidebar, widgets area), gather user stats and also run image polls.
This many-in-one plugin offers a diverse set of features such automatic posting of your content to social media (as you load new content), allows visitors to comment using their FB and twitter accounts, many sharing options on social media and through rRSS feeds, allows visitors to subscribe to your site and receive updates, implements an easy to manage contact form and many more.
For frequently updated blogs or for easily scheduling a any number of posts in advance. This plugin uses a calendar display and gives you an overview of your blog and when each post will be published. You can drag and drop to move posts, edit posts right in the calendar, and manage your entire blog.
Showing related posts on your site helps reduce bounce rates and retains visitors so you can turn them into subscribers and customers. This plugin displays the related posts' thumbnails in an elegant way.
A few more plugins that show related posts:
More than ever search engines put weight on content relevance, both to the rest of your site and to hot topics out there (in your niche). Scribe helps conduct in-depth research to quickly identify content marketing opportunities for search and social media traffic and leads. Once you have performed your research, Scribe’s Content Analysis provides a fast yet intuitive way to check the alignment of your writing to the content on your site, perform onpage optimization and even find other bloggers and site owners that share the same topics as you.
In case the blog is regularly read by mobile users and its important to provide them with a small screen version of it. WPtouch automatically transforms a WordPress website for mobile devices, complete with ajax loading articles and smooth effects when viewed from popular mobile web browsing devices.
You have a blog and you have traffic. Now what? Monetizing can be done through placing ads. Ad rotate is an efficient ad manager. You can add and manage the ads from the dashboard and show a random banner, or multiple, on your site. The plugin supports unlimited groups for banners allowing to tie certain banners to different areas of the website.
The top bar of your site has high real estate value. If you have a specific call for action you want to use or guide your traffic somewhere, this plugin is a good solution. The Hello Bar for WordPress plugin allows you to copy and paste your Hello Bar code snippet from http://HelloBar.com, straight to your WordPress admin interface.