Five great plugins for WordPress

WordPress is now one of the most popular Content Management Platforms in use on the web, mostly down to its ease of use, flexibility and open-source status.

In support of the CMS hundreds and thousands of developers from across the globe are actively involved in producing themes and plugins for the platform, many of them free of charge.

Here are five excellent plugins that are all free of charge to use. We have selected each plugin because it achieves a specific aim by being installed on your CMS.

1. Better WP Security

This plugin is an essential, but be warned, DO NOT install and run this plugin on an existing install without first making a complete web file and database backup. The reason for this is that the plugin is designed to be used on a fresh install of WordPress and if you don’t configure it correctly it can and will break links and do all sorts of nasty things to your installation.

As we said, it is perfect for a fresh installation of WordPress. We recommend that it is the first thing you do when you have logged in for the first time.

It will beef up the security of your installation by doing the following:

  • Enforce strong passwords
  • Remove as much info as possible from the WordPress header
  • Hide update notifications from non-administrators
  • Remove the Admin user
  • Remove User ID 1
  • Change your table prefix
  • Schedule regular backups
  • Restrict your admin area to set times of day
  • Block known bad hosts
  • Protect your login area from brute force attacks
  • Hide the Admin area
  • Secure your .htaccess file
  • Actively block attackers scanning the site for vulnerabilities
  • Actively look for changed files
  • Stops long URL strings
  • Blocks the editing of theme and plugin files when not needed
  • Stops writing to wp-config and .htaccess files when not required
  • Obscures version information to all non-admin users
  • Renames the wp-content directory of your site
  • Allows for requiring a secure connection for logins to the admin area

You don’t need to use all of these features, and can even choose a “Secure my site from basic threats” which just uses the key actions.

Whether you choose to run the plugin in its entirety or customize to your own requirements this is still a plugin that you MUST use. It’s a no-brainer!

2. Disqus Comment System

The Disqus comment system replaces your WordPress comment system with your comments hosted and powered by Disqus. It’s free to sign up to Disqus but allows you to manage all your incoming and outgoing comments from one simple dashboard which can be accessed either via your admin area or directly on the Disqus website.

Its quick and easy to sign up and install the plugin and get it all configured, and due to the massive support that the Disqus community has this plugin is also brilliant for building your website traffic and interactions.

3. Contact Form 7

This is a brilliant plugin that allows you to build your own customizable online submission forms. Most commonly used to create contact forms you can also use it to do things like create online surveys and let your clients update their business details.

It includes its own admin area that will let you create new forms, modify and/or delete existing ones. And, once a form has been built you can continue to modify it as required, including how the output of the form is displayed when it is emailed to you.

The use of simple short codes for each form means that it is quick and easy to integrate your forms with your posts, pages and widgets.

4. Google XML Sitemap

Most WordPress themes come complete with a Sitemap Page Template that allows your visitors a visual way of navigating the layout of your website, but these templates aren’t brilliant for use with search engines.

This plugin will automatically generate your sites XML format Sitemap file that is used by search engines to thoroughly index your website. You can also configure the sitemap to include and exclude specific files and directories.

The plugin can also be configured to automatically update (re-build) your sitemap whenever changes to the site structure are made.

This is a brilliant way of creating a standards compliant sitemap without any effort on your part.

5. Google Analyticator

This plugin adds the necessary JavaScript code to enable Google Analytics on your installation. After enabling the plugin you need to authenticate the installation directly with Google, then select your domain. Once done you are all set to go.

You can track your analytics through the Google Analytics site or you can see basic information directly within the admin area of your WordPress Installation.

Do you have a favorite WordPress Plugin?? If so please feel free to share it below using the comments area.

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