I'm often get asked what are the best wordpress plugins to use on a new site or for any site for that matter. I can't give an exact list of plugins to use because obviously every website different. Some may just be a blog, some may be a blog with pages, some may be a ecommerce site, or a forum. There are so many different functionality that I can't give a clear list.
But there are a few plugins that can be used on any site and will give the same results.
Below is a list of plugins which I've used in the past and do a really good job, they are all free and can be downloaded from the wordpress pluin directory.
Akismet - Spam Filter
This is one of the most popular span filters on wordpress, it works so well that actually comes as default with wordpress. This is one of the biggest problems with wordpress...SPAM! If you install a wordpress blog you will consistently be hit with spam comments and spam trackbacks.
As a website owner this can be very annoying not just because of the spam on your site, but when these get submitted you receive an email that someone has commented on your site. So you then go to open your email see there is a comment, login to your site and you see it was a spam comment so you have to delete it. All this takes up time out your important schedule, when this happens 100s of times a day it can get very annoying.
But with the help of Akismet it makes this job so much easier. Akismet will process all comments and trackbacks to your blog and will do a check to see if they are spam. If it is spam then Akismet will move this into a spam filter but will not permanently delete the comment so you can override it later and approve the comment as not spam.
All In One SEO Pack
Out of the box SEO for your wordpress blog, can change title tags, meta keywords and meta descriptions. This will take care of all your one page SEO optimization.
In each post you can specify the title tag to use, the wordpress default is to use the blog post title but the SEO all in one pack will override the default title tag. It will also do the same for the meta description field and the meta keywords tag. The meta description tag is the default text that the search engines will use in the search results.
Google XML Sitemaps
Automatically take your wordpress posts and pages and create an XML sitemap with the correct priority for each post. This plugin will also automatically ping the main search engines about your new XML so the links can be indexed by the search engines. The generated format is supported by all the major search engines including Google, Yahoo, Ask.com and Bing.
On large sites this can be filled with many links so the file size can be massive, so this plugin allows you to make a zip version of the sitemap.
W3 Total Cache
This is a fully customizable caching management system for your wordpress blog. Caching is important because it will speed up the rendering of you post and reduce page loading times. This will make sure that the visitor will see your page and not go else where.
Caching also helps with SEO as Google now takes into account the page loading times on there decision for SERP(Search Engine Ranking Position).
When generating your wordpress post it will need to access the backend database to get the data for the post title and post content along with the other plugin information.
But if a page is cached then you will not need to go to the database to get this information as it is already saved in another location. So wordpress can just go to this caching location to get the page and display this to the user, therefore speeding up the page loading times.
AddToAny: Subscribe Button
Reach out to more visitors with a add to any social media network with this add to any subscriber button. This has over 150 social media sites which your visitors can add your pages to.
You can pick the style you want to use and can include this in your sidebar as a widget or in all your posts before the content or after the content.
When a visitors comments on your blog this plugin will allow them to include a snippet of their blog which should encourage people to submit comments on your posts.
Contact Form 7
When running a blog you need to make it easy for your visitors to contact you. The Contact Form 7 plugin will give you the best free wordpress contact form. It gives you a basic template which you can easily change. You can choose the email address which the contact form will send to. If this plugin doesn't give you the required functionality then there are many premium alternatives.
The wordpress default will add a rel="nofollow" on links from commenters, but this plugin will remove the no follow from these links. The benefit to this is that it will allow search engines to follow through these links. If you commenters know this then it may convince more people to comment on your blog.
Removes the no follow on your visitors comments.
FD Feedburner for WordPress
Feedburner is a Google product which allows you to keep track of your subscribers information on how many there are, what they view and the most popular content. When running a blog it is important to get as many subscribers as possible, this is because subscribers are people who enjoy your content and want to return to read your other posts.
FD Feedburner for WordPress will redirect your default wordpress RSS links to your feedburner account making it easy for your visitors to subscribe to your feedburner RSS so you can keep stats on your subscribers.
Most Commented Widget
This plugin will display a list of posts which have the most comments on them. It will show it in order of the posts with the highest comments and allow you to display this in the sidebar of blog.
Normally the posts with the most comments are going to be your most popular posts so it allows visitors quick access to your most popular posts.
This will add a set of links at the bottom of your post with a nice animation on the hover event to show the full image. It has a large number of links to multiple social media sites so your visitors can easily add your content to multiple social networks.
Syntax Highlighter For WordPress
The syntax highlight is a nice way to display code within your wordpress posts. It will search your content and looks for text that is placed within the code tags.
All you have to do is when adding content to your page that you want to display as html you just add a [ html ] tags and then end with a [ /html ] and it will display here.
Preview Of HTML Code.
Preview Of PHP Code
Allows you to display the breadcrumbs of you wordpress post anywhere on the page. It will display all the parent categories making it easy for search engines and visitors to navigate to other areas of interest. The links to the posts will all take you to relevant content to the post which is all better for SEO.
WordPress Database Backup
Provides you with on demand wordpress database backups. It adds a new menu item to your tools menu called backup. It allows you to pick which tables you want to backup. You have the option to save the backup to your server or download the backup file or send yourself an email with the backup.
Storing it on the server will allow you to setup automatic database backups on your wordpress blog.
WP To Twitter
Posts your wordpress posts to twitter automatically on publishing and updating. You can include your post URL in the twitter update using your chosen URL shortening service including google or bit.ly.
These are all of the main plugins which I will use on a new WordPress blog and allows me to get the most out of my content and get indexed quickly by search engines. All I have to do after these are setup is write the content!