I will fully admit that I have cribbed the following plugin and optimisation recommendations from the brilliant Labnol site:
This is a great site which is one of my ‘daily visits’, it regularly has superb how-to guides and it coincidentally had these WordPress articles at just the right time I needed them. Both the ‘Optimisatons’ and ‘Must Have Plugins’ articles are rather lengthy and I only needed a handful of the options mentioned. I have only listed the ones here which I actually use so you should click on the link and check out Labnol’s entire list. This may seem like I’m just ‘stealing’ Labnol’s content (and I’ll remove it if Labnol wants me to) but I have only copied a portion of it and only because I am worried about a future date when I need to make reference to these sections of the articles and they have been deleted.
Redirection – If the URL of an existing post has changed or if an external site is linking to a non-existent page on my site, I can create redirection rules and automatically forward all the incoming traffic to the right pages. Simple 301 is also a good alternative.
Yoast SEO – This is probably the only SEO plugin you need for your WordPress blog. It helps you create better titles, you can block duplicate pages (like archive pages) from search bots, and it also adds the necessary meta tags required for more search-friendly Google snippets. The new releases also integrate Twitter Title Tags and Facebook Open Graph tags.
404 Email Notifier – This sends you an email notification as soon as a visitor lands on a 404 page on your WordPress website. The email messages have details about the visitor’s IP address, what browser they are using and the referral URL that led him to that broken link.
Smart YouTube – This lets you embed YouTube videos in blog posts using standing video URLs and the embedded player can be customized. It adds a thumbnail of the embedded video in the RSS feed and the same plug-in can also be used to embed videos from Facebook and Vimeo.
YARRP – The related posts plug-in adds links to old stories that may be contextually related to the content of the current article. It also helps expose your archived content to search bots.
Adminer – This will help you manage your MySQL databases from the WordPress dashboard itself. You can run SQL queries, browse tables or perform database optimization. Less complicated than phpMyAdmin. I usually leave deactivated until I need it just in case it has a CPU/RAM overhead.
Debug Queries – Is your blog slow? Use the Debug Queries plugin plugin to determine which MySQL queries are taking more time to execute and thus slowing down the blog. Debug Bar is another related plugin org that shows PHP warnings, queries and other helpful debugging information in the WordPress admin bar.
P3 Profiler – Use the profiler plugin to figure out which WordPress plugins are slowing down your website. It generates a pie chart detailing the time it takes to run each plugin while loading the various pages of your site. I tend to leave deactivated until I need to do a scan when the site feels slow.
Google XML Sitemaps – Since you want Google and other search engines to know about each and every page of your WordPress website, you need an XML sitemap and this plug-in lets you generate one in a click.
Date in a Nice Tone – This plugin offers an alternate way to display dates in your blog posts. It displays the amount of time – like “a few days ago,” or “in the last month,” or “over a year ago” – that has passed since a post or page was published.
SyntaxHighlighter – If you regularly embed code snippets in your WordPress blog posts, this plugin will help you highlight the syntax of the source code in different colors for more comfortable reading. Supports all popular programming languages. There are two ‘branches’ of this available as plugins which have used the SyntaxHighlighter (http://alexgorbatchev.com/SyntaxHighlighter/) codebase.
You have ‘SyntaxHighlighter Evolved’ (https://wordpress.org/plugins/syntaxhighlighter/) and also ‘Crayon SyntaxHighlighter’ (https://wordpress.org/plugins/crayon-syntax-highlighter/faq/). I prefer Crayon SH, as it is a bit more colourful and a bit more configurable on a post-by-post basis.
Pubsubhubbub – This will help you beat content scrapers using Fat Pings. When you publish a blog post, it will instantly ping Google and that is a strong signal to the search engine that you are the original author.
Bing 404 – If someone lands on a 404 page for which redirection is not yet enabled, this plug-in will display links to relevant article on the error page. For example, a 404 page like labnol.org/googledocs will have links to my Google Docs articles.
Options Optimizer – As you install plugins, new entries are added to the wp_options table. When plugins are uninstalled they are supposed to clean up their options but some may skip that part eating memory. The Optimizer plugin will help you get rid of these orphaned entries.
CodePress Admin – The Posts screen inside your WordPress dashboard display the post name, category, tags but with CodePress, you can add new columns to the view displaying meta data associated with the posts. For instance, you may show featured images next to the post title or even the value of a particular custom field.
Site Monitoring with Google Docs – This isn’t a WordPress plugin but should be a part of your WordPress arsenal. When the site goes down, you will get an instant email notification and an SMS alert through Google Docs.
Advanced Excerpt – The post excerpts in WordPress are fixed at 55 words and often displayed with […] ellipsis at the end. This plugin lets you to specify a custom length of excerpts, you can get rid of the ellipsis and the excerpts can be configured to have full sentences so that there are no weird cuts.
Nice Search – The WordPress default search function is not the best so use this as a replacement. Ideally you’ll want to set up a Google Custom Site Search which I’ll document in a later post. Nice Search creates neat permalinks for your WordPress search pages. For instance, /?s=wordpress%20plugins will be redirected to /search/wordpress+plugins.
WP-DBManager – It is important that you have some kind of backup solution for your site. This plugin will help you backup your WordPress database manually or you can set up a scheduled job for automatic backup and the database files will be sent to your email address at set intervals. You will also want a mechanism to backup your site content – I’ll be addressing this in a later post. Advanced users can use WP-DBManager to run SQL queries against their WordPress database without the phpMyAdmin tool. There are other plugins that can save backups to Amazon S3 and Dropbox.
WP-Associatizer – This plug-in will automatically rewrite any Amazon URLs in your posts to use your Amazon Associates ID (if you have one).
I usually list all the sources of an article at the end but on this occasion I have not kept track of them unfortunately. The primary source though is the brilliant Labnol site so please go have a look there for more how-to guides.