10 Essential WordPress Plugins

10 Essential WordPress Plugins

In my opinion, WordPress is the best blogging software that exists currently. This is because of the sheer number of Plugins that are available for it that help customize the software to each individual blogger’s exact needs. WordPress themselves have recognized the need for the functionality of many plugins and have added that funcionality into Jetpack. This includes old plugins such as “Stats,” “Shares,” and “Spelling and Grammar.”

But there is still a huge amount of critical functionality that any WordPress blogger should take advantage of.

10 Essential WordPress Plugins

WordPress SEO by Yoast

If you have to limit your self to only two plugins from this list, this one is the first one. SEO or Search Engine Optimization is how bloggers get traffic. By optimizing SEO for each of the three big search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo,) you can increase traffic to your site.

Yoast’s plugin is the king of SEO for WordPress. The biggest downside is that it does so much that it has a bit of a learning curve. The good news is that the developer has an extensive collection of blog articles aimed to get the most of out this plugin. But anyone who implements this plugin will find their website will increase in search rankings.

10 Essential WordPress Plugins


Akismet is the second most important plugin any WordPress blog must have installed. It helps to block spam comments from software bots. Before implementing this I saw 100+ spam comments a day. After doing so I see one or two a week. It does require sign up on the Akismet Website to get an API key. After entering the key into the settings, this plugin automatically takes over.

10 Essential WordPress Plugins

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP)

Probably one of the single most useful plugins to help readers really explore blogs. Using an advanced algorithm that considers post content, tags, categories and post titles it displays a customizable number of “related” or similar posts to the currently displayed one. This gives readers a chance to see other posts that maybe interesting to them.

Adsense Optimizer

Despite not having been updated for over two years, Adsense Optimizer is one of the best plugins for integrating Google Adsense into a WordPress page that I have ever found. It has the ability to be used as a Widget, or fine grain control to load at the top of a post, in the middle of a post, at the bottom of the post, and even between posts on archive pages.

Quick Cache (Speed Without Compromise)

Until recently WP-Super Cache was “the” WordPress Caching software. Quick Cache blows it away. It is just as simple to setup initially and has the added feature of a “Clear Cache” button in the tool bar, allowing the author to quickly see updates to posts that have already been posted. The difference in speed between this Plugin and Super Cache is the same between Super Cache and the default WordPress Cache Plugin.

DB Cache Reloaded Fix

DB Cache Reloaded caches database queries. A major portion of WordPress’ slowness comes from repeated Database queries. By implementing this plugin these queries are cached, increasing speed of pages even more. It works seamlessly with Quick Cache above.

WordPress Hashcash Extended

WordPress Hashcash Extended works in conjunction with Akismet to stop robot generated spam comments on blogs. It works by causing visitors to “use obfuscated javascript to submit a proof-of-work that indicates they opened your website in a web browser.” While this sounds complicated – it is actually invisible to visitors and administrators. Comments caught for spam will have an admin visible “Hashcash not matched” message at the bottom. The downside to this is that it also sometimes catches ping backs, but most people at least glance at every spam comment to double check them anyways so this is not a huge problem.

Better WordPress reCAPTCHA

Just in case WordPress Hashcash and Akismet aren’t working, Better WordPress reCAPTCHA helps stop spam robots. it uses the famous anti-spam reCAPTCHA program that forces commenters to type in two separate words. Unlike earlier reCAPTCHA plugins, this one installs itself in the comments section exactly where it needs to. The configuration options are simple to understand, AND it works in conjuction with Akismet to be sure to capture even more comments. A big plug is that one of the configuration modes disables the reCAPTCHA for repeat commenters who have successfully commented before. With the implementation of all three anti-spam plugins listed above, I get maybe one spam comment a month now.

Udinra All Image Sitemap

Udinra automatically creates site maps of images. This is great for image heavy blogs that would otherwise have very little SEO on them due to a lack of content. The key is to make sure the Description and ALT tags on images are filled in, otherwise this plugin doesn’t have much to work with.

List category posts

This is another administrator useful plugin. By building upon WordPress’ built in Category shortcode functionality, admins have a powerful way to list all posts in a specific category. One of the best features is that the number of posts can be limited. Another very powerful feature is that posts from multiple categories can be included, or posts that meet two (or more) categories.

There are thousands of good, even great, WordPress Plugins. The above ten are the first ones I install on any WordPress website I create, but I am always looking for more and better functionality. What are some “must have” WordPress plugins you use? Please comment below!

How To: Budget Network Attached Raid 5 Fileserver, Part 3

The server is up and running, the drives are formatted and now serving just under 750gb of Raid5 goodness. Since I have a mixed network of machines, Windows and Mac I need to make it will work with each of those. So we’re going to setup SMB. I could also setup NFS as it’s slightly faster and would add compatibility to Linux machines but it’s not needed in this case. And SMB is actually a more common need since most people run Windows.

Again, counter intuitively I found it was best to setup users first before trying to setup the actual shares. There are two ways to do this. The easy way, or the secure way. If the NAS server is on a local home network, guest access may be the way to go. But I always suggest even in such cases to at least have basic security.Go to Access then Users and Groups. Type in the name of the first user and a password. Leave the User ID to default, it will increment automatically for every new user created. The next option, Primary Group has a drop down list of the standard Unix groups.      

Users and Groups   

The first user should be added to the admin group. Other groups can be staff and wheel. This will give the user maximum permissions to read and write files. Again for home use this is sufficient. Of course FreeNAS also has access to add LDAP and Active Directory authentication. Both of these are simple setups for any System Administrator.Since it’s first on the list, and there are more Windows users around, we’ll explore setting up SMB before NFS. Under Services go to CIFS/SMB. Click on the Shares Tab, then the Plus to add a new share. I simply called the name raid and put in a comment to note which raid it was. (In this case, raid because it’s the only one.) On the path option click on button with three dots. This brings up a filebrowser window, chose the raid directory that we’ve already setup and hit ok.  

File Browser  

 As can be seen below the it automatically puts in /mnt/raid which is what we setup back in Part 2.  


Before clicking the OK button notice two options for increased security. Host Deny and Host Allow. Adding in specific IP addresses to the allow box and ALL for deny will greatly increase security for connections. Keep in mind if the IP address of the computer changes, for instance DHCP on the DSL/Cable router is reset this could cause connection problems later on. At this point, the server is ready to test. Mac OS X 10.5(Leopard) actually sees these connections automatically, even if sharing across SMB (under file sharing) is turned off. Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) will need to connect to the drive via the Connect to Server option. Windows can now be connected just like any other server. Vista Directions are here, and Windows XP is here

FreeNAS is an incredibly powerful program. Even though it’s still only in Beta it seems like a very solid product and does RAID NAS very well. I’ve really enjoyed playing with it and want to give a big congratulations to the development team for a job well done.

How To: Budget Network Attached Raid 5 Fileserver, Part 2

How To: Budget Network Attached Raid 5 Fileserver, Part 2

In Part One I talked about selecting the hardware and my thoughts behind the choices I made. It’s all been put together and the next step is to install an OS. For various reasons I decided to install FreeNAS which is based off of FreeBSD. It can be grabbed from here.

After a few minutes of looking at FreeNAS I was really quite impressed with it. They’ve taken a quite hard and convoluted process, added menus and made quite easy to setup. Like FreeBSD in general it can feel picky about hardware. If you’re using some off the shelf no-name SATA RAID controller, the odds are it’s not going be supported. But a lot of the more popular and better quality models are supported. The FreeNAS website (and also the FreeBSD website,) are both a tiny bit hard to find information and support when first using it. Counter intuitively you need to click on the Wiki link first, then knowledge base, not the Support link to find Installation and Configuration documentation. Luckily the menus within FreeNAS are fairly self explanatory.

The first step is of course to download the image. In my case I grabbed the live CD so that I could simple have the machine boot off of it and was good to go. Another option is to use a USB thumb drive to boot off of. I’m personally disinclined to use one as they stick out and get broken easily.A UNIX installer screen will come up and start probing and self configuring hardware in the machine. A FreeNAS graphic screen may come up, and eventually it’ll beep when ready. Hit the escape key and choose option 2 to get an IP address via DHCP. Make sure to hit “Yes” when it wants to choose a IPv6 address. That step messed me up the first time I saw it, but it’ll simply fail as most likely there is not an IPv6 server around. Most home routers have a DHCP server built in, but there may be some configuration needed so check the router’s documentation.

Once the IP address has been discovered, type the address it gives you into a web browser to open up the FreeNAS configuration page. The default user name and password is admin:freenas, it’s highly suggest you change the password ASAP. Once everything is fully configured we’ll go ahead and change this. At this point the instructions proved useful.

Step One is to add the physical disks. Under Disks Click on Management, then the + sign. This brings up the disk management screen:

As can be seen the available disks are at the top. In this case ad0 is the 40gb IDE drive I’m going to eventually use as a boot disk. Per the instructions change the “Preformatted file system” option to “Software raid” (the other options in that article may not be available). In this case I have four SATA drives so each needs to be added individually. Hit the apply button and each drive is added.

The next step is to create the raid partition. Go to Disks, Software RAID, then choose RAID5. Choose a RAID name it doesn’t matter what. For simplicity I used “server” put a check next to all the disks that are going to be part of the RAID then another on the “Format and Initialize” box. Hit OK, then once again “Apply”. Now sit back and wait. On this screen very little is going on. But on the RAID server itself messages will start popping up. Even better, they’re helpful!GEOM_RAD5: server: all(-1): re-sync in progress: 0.01% p:x ETA:232min (cause: store verify progess). After 232 minutes of waiting we then got this screen:

As can be seen my four 250gb SATA drives have been built into a 715gb RAID5 Partition. It now needs to be formatted which is done in Disk, Format. Choose the RAID array, give it a name again, no hurt in using the same name again. We’ll format it out to UFS+ with GPT and Softupdates as the as the filesystem. The other options may work, but are not recommended by the FreeNAS team. Hit the format button and thirty seconds later the drive is ready to mount.

The mounting screen is sort of confusing at this point. After all we’ve already created and formatted the RAID drive so it should be ready. But this physically mounts it so that it can actually be accessed.

Under Disks, click on Mount Point. Pick the disk. Then choose “EFI GPT” under the partition menu. This menu was a bit confusing for me at first, and once again FreeNAS’s documentation left this step out. Reading it at first it seems option 1 was wanted as we’d setup UFS before. The filesystem stays UFS though, and the name can be what ever. I choose the simple “raid” moniker for simplicity. The last option could be a real life saver if the power ever goes out. “Enable foreground/background file system consistency check during boot process,” would run fsck and other filesystem utilities when the machine was powered back on. It might take longer to get the RAID back up, but could save problems in the long run.At this point we’re ready to start mounting the RAID and writing data to it. I’ll talk about doing that in the next article in this series, including troubleshooting and setting up Time Machine to back up to the RAID automatically.

Part Three