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10 of the most popular (and useful) WordPress plugins

WordPress has risen to be a powerhouse on the Internet that now dominates the blogosphere. It was started by the (now) 25-year-old Matt Mullenweg. Last week he was on This Week in Startups with Jason Calacanis. On the show Matt revealed that WordPress has such a strong presence on the Internet that at least one in three Americans online have visited a WordPress blog in the last month.
According to Alexa, the WordPress.com blogging service is the 19th busiest site in the world. Add to that the millions of self-hosted WordPress blogs out there based on the open source WordPress.org blogging software.
A huge benefit of using a self-hosted WordPress blog instead of the free WordPress.com service is that a self-hosted WordPress blog lets you use the thousands of powerful plugins that complement and extend the platform in a variety of ways.
I have scoured the WordPress Plugin Directory to find the very best plugins to share with you in this post. Enjoy!

1. WordPress Database Backup

Downloads: 378,168
WP-DB-Backup allows you easily to backup your core WordPress database tables. The plugin offers three backup option:

  1. Save to server
  2. Download to your computer
  3. Email backup to:

Personally I prefer to email the backup to myself, but it’s nice to have choices.

2. Sexy Bookmarks

Downloads: 131,032
SexyBookmarks is simply the best-looking and working sharing plugin I have come across. Before SexyBookmarks was released I used another plugin called Sociable, which featured smaller, less effective icons, and I doubt that they led to much social sharing at all. SexyBookmarks not only increases sharing but also enhances the look and UI of my blogs.

This plugin offers syndication to 57 different portals, including email and RSS, and does this in a way that does not eat up a lot of page space. It shows one row of icons and by hovering over the icons another row of icons appear. The social sites featured are fully customizable and you can view this plugin in action at the bottom of any interawesome.com post.

3. Contact Form 7

Downloads: 1,162,403
Contact form 7 has over 1,162,403 total downloads for the simple fact that it is an easy and flexible way to add a generic or custom contact form to a WordPress page or post.

4. WP Polls

Downloads: 364,911
I have not yet implemented WP-Polls, but I have researched and installed it on one of my blogs and usage seems quite straightforward. If you want to use this plugin you will probably find the readme quite helpful, according to which: “WP-Polls is extremely customizable via templates and css styles and there are tons of options for you to choose…WP-Polls supports multiple selections of answers.”

5. WP Super Cache

Downloads: 858,631
Do you want to optimize your site so that it will load faster? WP Super Cache is a plugin that will do just that by generating static html files for use instead of dynamically generated PHP. No advanced skill is necessary to install this plugin. By using WP Super Cache you will speed up your WordPress blog significantly. After HTML files are generated your web server will serve those file instead of processing the comparatively heavier PHP and database requests.
This plugin will be especially helpful if your blog receives a large influx of traffic from a social site like Twitter or Digg (which can even crash sites).

6. NextGEN Gallery

Downloads: 1,363,926
NextGEN Gallery is a full integrated image gallery plugin for WordPress with a Flash slideshow option. I have installed NextGEN for my personal website portfolio and I am very happy with the effect it gives to the images. This is a far more professional way of displaying images than any alternative I have found, which partially explains the excessive download count.

NextGEN Gallery adds an additional icon to the WordPress word processor so that galleries can easily be inserted into a post or page. Keep in mind that there is an entirely different image upload needed for this process, which can be accessed at the bottom of the sidebar on the left side of the dashboard.

7. Quick Adsense

Downloads: Less than 10,000 (new Plugin)
I recently installed some discreet Adsense ads on my blog facebookflow.com and for this I first tried the most downloaded Adsense plugin, Adsense manager. Although Adsense Manager has 228,859 downloads, I quickly grew dissatisfied with it and tried Quick Adsense instead.
I found Quick Adsense much more powerful and easy to use despite the fact that it has less downloads overall. I suspect that Quick Adsense will soon become the dominant Adsense plugin. It was only released on September 20th 2009, and last week it was downloaded over 500 more times than Adsense Manager.

8. Google Analyticator

Downloads: 592,384
Google Analyticator adds the necessary JavaScript code to enable Google Analytics logging on any WordPress blog. I use Google Analyticator for the backend widget it adds to my dashboard, but it also provides optional front end widgets for those who want to show off their stats.

9. Cumulus Tag Cloud (WP-Cumulus)

Downloads: 367,794
WP-Cumulus is a customizable 3D tag cloud for your blog. Installing this plugin allows you to adjust the size of the cloud, the color of the words, and the speed at which they rotate. You can also specify parameters of the tags if you so choose. Although the effect is quite cool I have found that this plugin does not noticeably slow down my blog. You can see it in action at Gar1n.com.

10. Add to Any

Downloads: 644,149
There are two Add to Any buttons.
With 644,149 downloads the Share/Save button is the more popular of the two as it allows those who click it to: “share, save, bookmark, and email your posts and pages using any service, such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious, and over 100 more social bookmarking and sharing sites.”

With 115,325 downloads the other Add to Any button syndicates your blog to any feed reader so that readers can easily subscribe.

Bonus plugin: Tweet This

Downloads: 56,729
Tweet This adds a “Tweet This Post” link to every post and page and shortens URLs for you. It also offers the capability to automatically tweet new blog posts when they are published.

If you found any of the plugins above helpful make sure you tweet this post on Twitter, and to stay tuned for other great posts please give a follow to @Gar1n and @pingdom.
About the author:
Garin Kilpatrick is a community manager for the writing website for students, eduify.com. Check out his personal blog at Gar1n.com.

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