10 lesser-known free WordPress plugin stars (Put them on your radar. Stat.)

Posted on March 26, 2012

Photo by Kenta Arai via Flickr Creative Commons

I’m sure you’ve read lists like this a dozen times over: “10 Must-Have plugins”! They usually start with Google Analytics, include Akismet, W3 Total Cache and the All-In-One SEO pack somewhere along the list and finish with Google XML Sitemaps. Functional and worth knowing? Yes, totally. But also enough to make you want to click back to browsing Net-A-Poter? Indeed.

And if you’ve read a post like this written by (or for) a women’s lifestyle blogger, you’ll probably also see CommentLuv, Twitter Link Comments and WordPress Editorial Calendar. Also highly useful… but not exactly going to make you cancel dinner and spend the night on your blog.

So with almost 19,000 free plugins listed on the WordPress site, it’s time to pull a few out from the back of the closet, dust them off and give them the recognition they deserve. With that in mind, here are 10 not-as-popular plugin stars – no credit card required. (Just be sure to back up before trying anything new on your blog, mkay?)

1. Login Lockdown

Along with crazy-good features, WordPress comes with the not-so-awesome bonus of requiring users act a little more responsible when it comes to security. Login Lockdown is one way to make the move in that direction, essentially locking unwelcome visitors out  temporarily should there be three failed password attempts.

2. Hotfix

Recently added to my radar, Hotfix‘s description probably isn’t going to make you do a happy dance (Provides unofficial fixes for selected WordPress bugs, so you don’t have to wait for the next WordPress core release), but it came to me highly recommended by a WordPress guru who really knows his stuff. I promptly invited it to live on my blog.

3. WP Affiliate Links Manager

If you’ve ever placed affiliate links on your blog, you know how time-consuming it can be to go back and change them should you need to. WordPress Affiliate Links Manager has become my faithful old reliable friend, creating quick and easy “cloaked” links. It’s definitely not like the friend who’ll take you out for a wild night on the town a la the premium Ninja Affiliate Links plugin, but it is the comforting friend who helps you with life’s little time-saving, free short-cuts.

4. AdRotate

AdRotate has taken my plugin discoveries happiness factor to a whole new level of late… Yes, as the name implies it’s a plugin that’ll help you place ads on your blog and rotate them accordingly. And while I’m listing its intended uses, I should mention schedules ads, groups them and tracks page views and clicks!  But the thing that’s made me feel a little smug is discovering a little hack… use it to schedule content (i.e., not ads) to appear in widgets! Gasp! I know. I thought I was smart working that one out too.

5. Smart 404

Recommended by a blogging super-star friend of mine, it took me approximately 0.23 seconds to Google and add it to my must-have list. This baby will rid your site of those unhelpful 404 errors (Pinterest, are you listening?) and take a guess as to what your visitor is actually after, performing a search of your posts, pages, tags and categories, using keywords from the requested URL. Smart 404 is cle-vah!

6. Search and Replace

Pardon me while I step on my soap box to shout this at you before I go any further: WARNING: Use very, very, very, very (got  it?) carefully and at your own risk! And You. Must. Backup. First. OK, with that out of the road, the description: Search and Replace will search your database for a string and replace it (but really, its name gave that away, didn’t it?). Probably best left to more experienced users.

7. MailChimp Comment Optin

Your audience takes the time to fill out their details to leave a comment, right? Well use this moment to build your newsletter database at the same time! MailChimp Comment Optin will provide a checkbox commenters can tick to subscribe to your newsletter and leave a comment. It’s simple and easy to boot, but before we move on, I must state the obvious: You need to use MailChimp to use this.

8. Lazy Load

It might not have the sexiest sounding name, but for any blogger who has loads of images, this will help speed up your page load times by only loading images as you scroll. Check out Lazy Load if your posts are chocker-block full of pretty pictures.

9. Fast Secure Contact Form

I’m a Gravity Forms convert, but this one will always hang around like a fave LBD or pair of skinny jeans. Reliable, faithful and gets the job done. As its name implies, Fast Secure Contact Form is a contact form, but with a crazy-stupid (in a good way) number of customization options. And the thing I love about it the most is its unintended uses, such as using it to capture competition entries if you don’t want readers leaving them in post comments, or using it for a DIY survey. It’s all about thinking outside the plugin square, people.

10.  CubePoints

My friend Kate from Drop Dead Gorgeous Daily uses this one, and being one of the most stylish geeks I know, I listen when she speaks! Taken straight from the plugin page, CubePoints is described as a “Point management system designed for WordPress blogs. Users can earn points by posting comments, creating posts, or even by logging in on your site. Encourage your users to comment on your posts by offering them points which could be used to purchase items / upgrades / etc. Users will be awarded a certain number of points for each comment they make.” Well that sounds like a whole lot of fun, right?

What’s your fave lesser-known WordPress plugin? Share below!

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