Review of Popular WordPress Plugins: Akismet

The only true plugin that comes standard with WordPress software is Akismet. And for good reason. The developers of WordPress wanted to keep the basic blogging platform as lean as possible while allowing for extension of that software into as many directions as possible.

Plugins are bits of software that modify the out-of-the-box functionality of the basic WordPress blog.

What does Akismet do? The Akismet plugin catches comment and trackback spam.

We all need a way to deal with spam left in comments or we’d spend waaaay too much time reading and deleting the hundreds and thousands of machine-generated comments.

Akismet proudly keeps track of the number of spam comments it has arrested from your blog. One of mine has been saved from over 32,000 spammy comments, so far!

One of the great things about Akismet is that once you set it, you can forget it. At first I checked to see what comments were being caught as spam, but I got over it real fast. Once in a while a spam comment slips through, but not very often. Just mark it as spam and poof! – it’s a goner.

In order to run the Akismet plugin you will need to get a API key. All you have to do is sign up for a WordPress account. Part of that process is to check your email for details.

After you have your key – it’s listed on your profile page – enter it on the Akismet Configuration page that you can reach via the plugins tab of your WordPress Dashboard.

Stay tuned for more WordPress Plugin reviews.

WordPress Plugins Winning Popularity Contest

When it comes to people I’m not one for popularity contests. I couldn’t care less who is more popular or who’s the brightest star in Hollywood or Bollywood. Right now, USA has the every-four-years-popularity-contest in running for President and a host of smaller public office positions. Good luck, Mr. Obama! Not that you really need it now.

Start talking about popular features of any practical device and it interests me a little more. Popular with respect to people means glitz and glamour, but popular with respect to machines means useful and practical. I’m more of a granola girl, so the practical stuff is waaaay more interesting than the glitzy fluff.

WordPress has already claimed the winning votes to become the best blogging platform anywhere. But what about all those different ways that we can extend the basic blogging software?

What are the most popular, er..useful, plugins for WordPress blogs?

Looking at the WordPress Plugin Directory, the top 6 plugins listed as the most popular include:

  • Akismet
  • All in One SEO Pack
  • WP Super Cache
  • cforms II – contact form
  • NextGEN Gallery
  • Google XML Sitemaps

These popular plugins are all rated 4/5 stars or better by the people that use them and each has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. Sounds good to me!

I’ll be reviewing a number of WP plugins in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!

WordPress Plugins By Default

Different WordPress blogs will take advantage of different plugins depending on the needs of each blog, but can we find a core group of plugins that “should” be used on all WordPress blogs?

I’m sure the answer to that question is a big fat NO. And that’s because each blog is unique!

I looked through my blogs, including blogs that I write for fun and ones that I maintain for clients, to see which plugins are common to all. The list is a short one.

  • Akismet – best spam catcher of them all
  • FeedBurner FeedSmith – best way to manage your blog feeds
  • MaxBlogPress Ping Optimizer – best way to ping your blog

Akismet comes along with WordPress by default, which makes it the de facto standard way of managing spam comments and trackbacks left on your blog. Piece of cake. Get your API Key so you can set up Akismet now.

Register your blog with FeedBurner via the FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin and you’ll be able to see how many people subscribe to your blog feed and other crazy statistics about your site visitors. FeedBurner makes it easy to analyze your site traffic.

MaxBlogPress offers several plugins worth checking out, especially the MaxBlogPress Ping Optimizer. Pinging your blog lets the world know that you have something new on your site, which is a great way to get your message out there. Trouble can arise when you edit blog posts, or post-date your blog entries, as each time you publish your content or save edited content the ping service gets hit again. Multiple pings in a row may look like blog spam and you really don’t want your blog properties to be associated with spam in any way, shape or form. Use MaxBlogPress Ping Optimizer to take control of pinging your blog.

WordPress Themes and Plugins

One of the great things about WordPress blogs is that each one is like the individual who writes the posts – unique! The WordPress blogging platform starts with a basic shell that can be modified in two main ways.

Firstly, the appearance of the blog can be modified by installing and activating a new “theme”. WordPress themes consist of a collection of code that governs how the blog looks, what colors and fonts are used, where everything is located on the page, whether there are two or three columns, and so on.

WordPress themes are available for download from many sites. The best place to get a look at new themes is the theme depository at WordPress, where there are hundreds of themes waiting for your review.

Secondly, the functionality of WordPress blogs can be extended with plugins. Plugins are useful bits of code that give added functionality to your blog. Plugins are available to help you deal with comments, feeds, media, searching, backing up your blog, and a host of other topics.

Over 3000 plugins are listed in the WordPress Plugin directory and that’s way too many to personally review – even for someone who has extra time on their hands! That wouldn’t include me, but I’ve tried a number of plugins and found some real gems. Others have been tested and then deleted, and for many reasons.

Take a look at the WordPress Plugins Directory. You might want to start with the most popular plugins as they are practically guaranteed to work as intended.