There are so many WordPress widgets to choose from that it can be quite bewildering as to which ones you should be using or need. The answer to the question which WordPress Widgets or Plugins do I need very much depends on what you are trying to achieve. But there are some that are, as a general rule of thumb, ‘must have plugins’.
But before going any further it is probably a good idea to clarify what the difference is between a WordPress Widget and a Plugin. In truth they are both software accessories for your blog that add functionality. But the widgets tend to be limited to use in the sidebars of your blog. In fact, to make things even more confusing, some widgets start life as Plugin’s i.e. you can download them as a plugin, but then when they are activated you access them through the widget panel because they are used in a sidebar. Plugins that perform other functions, like adding a share option to a post for example are not restricted to the sidebar and they may in fact be performing back office functions that are not visible to your visitors. A good example of this might be a sitemap generator that creates a sitemap and submits it to search engines. This type is never publicly visible but it does add functionality that isn’t included as standard. Clear as mud isn’t it, the main thing to hold onto is that widgets and plugins offer additional functionality, they just deliver that functionality in different ways.
Below is a list of plugins/widgets with a description of what they do, that pretty much any serious blogger should have installed on their blog:
- Akismet – to take care of comment spam. Filters all recognized spam comments into your spam box
- Broken Link Checker – checks all the links in your blog, on pages and posts, and warns you when the link no longer works
- cbnet Ping Optimizer – controls the number of times you ping the ping services as you create, edit or publish your posts and pages. Stops you being wrongly identified as a ping spammer
- Google XML Sitemaps – creates a site map of your blog and submits it to Google, other search engines will also find it and will be able to spider your blog more easily
- Platinum SEO Pack – Used with care can help you optimize your pages and posts for search engines
- SABRE – prevents bots registering themselves on your blog to get a free link to undesirable websites
- SEO Auto Links & Related Posts – automatically links posts in your blog to other related posts and generates a list of related topics at the bottom of your blog post
- ShareThis – allows visitors to your blog to easily share your posts and pages on their favorite social bookmarking site
- Simple Tags – a quick and easy way to generate tags for your blog post, for the person under pressure. But doesn’t replace proper keyword research.
- Subscribe to Comments Reloaded – allows commenters on your blog posts to subscribe to the comments on a post so they get informed of new comments automatically
There are of course loads more you could use but these should serve you well no matter what the topic of your blog is or what you are trying to achieve with your blog. It is worth examining the parameters of the widgets to make sure they operate the way you want them to and in line with your requirements. Every WordPress plugin that has configurable settings should be set up properly and not just used with the default settings. Otherwise you may end up with functionality you did not want, so make sure you check the options and use them carefully.
If you have a favorite WordPress Widget, of course I mean Plugin, that you would like to share, then please add it to the comments with a brief explanation of what it does. Sharing is good for the soul 🙂