Plugins are one of the reasons WordPress is so popular as a blog platform.? Plugins add functionality to your site and allow it to do almost anything you can imagine.? WordPress itself was built to be very “lean” and simple?and plugins exist so that each user can tailor their site exactly the way that they would like.? They can be installed easily too–right from within the dashboard of your blog.

There are over 9000 plugins, but here are a few “non-negotiable” ones I feel that every WordPress user should add:

Akismet: (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/akismet) This is a filter that catches spam comments for your review.

Google XML Sitemaps:? (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-sitemap-generator) Sitemaps are an XML file that include all of the pages of a website in order for the search engines to index and reference them.? It is thought that using them helps search engines find your content quicker, therefore allowing your site to enter the rankings sooner.

All in One SEO Pack: (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack) What this plugin does is allow you to easily control and edit the Title, Meta description, and meta tags for each post you write and your entire blog.? Translation? This plugin helps optimize your site so that it ranks higher in the search engine results when someone searches for what you offer.

As I mentioned, there are a ton of plugins available out there to enhance your WordPress blog.? The few I just went over are what I consider the minimum to have to get started.? The most important thing to focus on once you have those installed is getting content onto your blog and getting traffic to it.? However, for future reference, here are some of the other plugins I use and find helpful that you may want to add down the line:

WordPress Gravatars: (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-gravatar) This uses the emails of people who comment on your blog to display their Gravatar.?? What’s a Gravatar?? It’s a small photo that accompanies your comments or posts on blogs around the web.? Be sure to sign up for yours free here: http://en.gravatar.com

What Would Seth Godin Do:? (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/what-would-seth-godin-do) It has a funny name, but this is a pretty clever and useful plugin. I use this so that new visitors to my blog see a small box above each post that says “If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my blog posts or request my free E-course. Thanks for visiting!” After 5 visits the message goes away?it’s great for encouraging new readers to subscribe.

Subscribe to Comments: (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/subscribe-to-comments) This allows the readers of your blog to be notified by email when new comments are posted to an entry.? This is usually used when someone wants to see the follow-up comments on a post that they themselves have commented on.

As you can probably tell from this small sampling, with the help of plugins, there’s no limit to what your WordPress blog can do.? If you want to see just how big a selection of choices you have, check out http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/? and start exploring for yourself.

Christine Gallagher, MLS, MSIS, founder of CommunicateValue.com, teaches small business owners and professionals how to conquer the overwhelming aspects of online and social media marketing to increase business and maximize profits. For FREE tips on how to build profitable relationships, leverage technology and create your own successful online business, visit http://CommunicateValue.com

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