WordPress is a great platform for creating your own self hosted blog, but it is far from perfect. Branding Arc.com is powered by WordPress and since our blog is a big part of our website, we also use WordPress to host many of our websites static pages. When your blog is small, you don’t think much about all of the data that you are creating each time you write a new post. Eventually all of those documents, pictures, videos and other materials start to add up and you realize you need better solutions.

Luckily, WordPress allows for external plugins to be installed that add layers of functionality to the site. Plugins can be used for anything from design elements to SPAM management or anything else that will make your blog run faster and make your content more widely distributed.

Below are some of my favorite WordPress plugins. If you are using a WordPress site, you should at least consider some of these options:

1. Akismet (Comment SPAM Management)

Although it was not a big problem early on, as the Branding Arc blog began to grow in popularity the number of SPAM comments we were receiving daily was astronomical. It is never fun to receive a SPAM message, and we were receiving hundreds per day. After installing Akismet (and finally deciding to pay their $5/month subscription fee) I was skeptical at first. Within a week I had seen a severe decrease in the SPAM comments that were getting through. Overall I have been very happy with the results and feel the $5/month is worth it.

Download Akismet for WordPress or Learn More.

2. Jetpack – SEO & Performance Improvements

Jetpack by WordPress.com seems so native to the WordPress platform I am surprised it is a plug-in at all and not just part of the system itself. Jetpack allows self-hosted users to take advantage of features previously only available on sites hosted at WordPress.org. Through Jetpack authors can increase their distribution, improve design elements, and active other powerful site features not available in the bare-bones version of WordPress. Jetpack is available for free, so there is no reason not to explore this resource for yourself.

Download Jetpack for WordPress.

3. Google XML Site Maps

The Google XML Site Maps plug-in is an important tool for blogs that want to be indexed properly on Google search engines. Webmasters can submit XML site maps to Google outlining each page within their website and how each page links to all the others. The Google XML Site Map plug-in creates these special maps and automatically submits them to Google and Bing periodically (based on your settings) to make sure the major  search engines can find the content you worked so hard to write.

Download Google XML Site Map for WordPress.

4. WordPress SEO by Yoast

The WordPress SEO by Yoast is a great plug-in for improving your sites search engine performance. Yoast provides specialized SEO tools to improve your title, meta description and keyword density including page evaluations showing you how you can improve each post and page on your site.  The Yoast plugin enables you to customize the social descriptions on Facebook and Google+ that will appear each time the post is shared socially. Since starting to use WordPress SEO by Yoast, my traffic has increased and our engagement has improved.

Download WordPress SEO by Yoast or Learn More.

5. Broken Link Checker

The Broken Link Checker WordPress Plugin does exactly what the name says it does. This tool will review all of the internal and external links on your site and alert you when links are broken. If another site you link to starts displaying a 404 error the tool will let you know that the link is bad and help you to remove the link or redirect to the correct page.

Download Broken Link Checker.