Posted: 12 Apr 2011 06:35 AM PDT
With WordPress releasing it’s third (3rd) major iteration to the open source platform, we’ve seen more developers joining the crowd to release plugins en mass. Although the free options for plugins may seem endless there are software firms offering concrete premium plugins at very affordable prices. These generally contain never-before-seen features and offer help documentation for those less tech-savvy.
But where is the market heading? Can we really expect to see any growth in this corner of the web over the next few months? Below we’ll examine the nature of premium WP plugins and hopefully answer a few of these questions.
I’ve also included a small gallery towards the end of this post. Included in the showcase you’ll find some of the most popular and well to-do plugins from our generation. These are mostly very cheap and only require a few steps for installation.
Premium vs. Free Options
When breaking the ecliptic ring of premium and free WordPress themes, there are a few barriers to cross. Many of the popular free options today fit well for some of the most basic solutions. These may include SEO, custom post options, or even in-page widgets.
Premium options step this up a notch with some fantastic additions. SEO has become one of the most important aspects in development. Well written articles and tags will only get you so far with blogging. Some of the most sophisticated plugins can develop a blog sitemap, ping RSS engines and web crawlers automatically. Others can work building meta tags and further behind the scenes techniques for a strong Search Engine presence.
There may be a slew of plugins which can replicate these tasks. But operating at that amount plugins can become tiresome. Generally, premium plugins will come included with forum support and documentation for those willing to spend some time researching. Although a bit convoluted at first, once you understand how to harness the power of premium WordPress plugins, your blogging experience may never be the same again!
The Shrinking Market
I’ve discussed many times whether the market for WordPress is currently shrinking. With the vast improvement of open source technologies it seems plugins are being developed quicker and with less resistance.
So as the digital markets adapting, there are still these two sides waging a war. Many developers fight for an open and free Internet where sharing is based upon the common good of everybody. Towards the other end of our spectrum, small development firms are releasing powerful WordPress plugins for dirt cheap price – many of which can turn a small profit given enough time.
It’s still much too early for predictions towards this market as a whole. If you’ve got strong ideas and notice a gap where nobody else has filled I encourage active development in these areas. Or even better, scour the web for an already-made solution. Premium or free, you may be pleasantly surprised with how active and thorough WordPress’ development community can be.
Along with plugins many development firms will offer great premium themes, too. WordPress’ theming engine is extremely powerful and demonstrates just what is possible behind a PHP/MySQL stack. Check out our small premium themes gallery if you’re interested in delving further here. Often times you’ll run into custom plugins pre-packaged with larger theme collections (a very nice added bonus!)
Exploring the Possibilities
WordPress is not any sort of magical content management system, although it does provide a slew of possibilities in the right hands. I will not recommend installing massive quantities of plugins just to ramp up your site. The effect will actually simulate quite the opposite – bogged down user experience with a cluttered administration panel.
Consider perusing some of the many popular options of plugins mentioned in blogs and forum discussions. Not only the individual collections, but even larger categories such as admin widgets, sidebar panels, user management, e-commerce solutions… you get the idea!
The quality of premium plugins will stand for themselves. I find many of the best plugins on the market today will be offered at similarly low rates. You’ll certainly be paying less than custom template work.
These top-quality plugins will often include online demos and screenshots to get a taste of the software before you buy. As a webmaster, use your best judgement to gauge which functionality you really need to push your blog into the next level.
25 Premium Plugins Worth Knowing
Below is a small showcase of popular premium WordPress plugins. These range from a wide variety and could be found useful in almost any blogging situation. Even when installing WordPress as a community or static webpage, this collection is invaluable to those wishing to harness true power out of the CMS.
Scribe exist for one simple reason – to make search engine optimization easy for all your blog posts. It analyzes your natural, reader-focused content, and tells you how to gently tweak it to spoon feed search engines based on 15 SEO best practices.
Vaultpress is premium backup service for WordPress, brought to you by Autommatic, creator of WordPress. Vaultpress backups your blog’s database, theme files and plugins, keeping multiple revisions (real time) so you can always revert back to any prefered copy.
Events Calendar Pro is a great plugin for developing a system of event-style posts. Once installed WordPress will create a custom Events post type for your new calendar system! Each scheduled object can connect into a location through Google Maps and offers support for multinational time zones and languages.
This premium plugin, onced installed, allows you to include more than 100 different design elements (buttons, text highlighting, image sliders, page formatting, etc) to your blog post on the fly with their ready-made shortcodes. For those of you who wants nice user interface but lack of design and coding experience, this is a pluign you might want to take a look at.
The process of backing up your WordPress installation can be a pain. The default options are clunky at best and require a lot of attention to detail. With BackupBuddy you’re able to backup and restore features in the blink of an eye. Additionally there are menus for migrating your current theme and blog posts/pages from one database into an entirely new server environment! The software can also backup through FTP/SFTP and will run in the background while you work.
WordPress SEO is an amazing plugin for those just getting started with WordPress. The features are very user-friendly and open to beginners. Among the features included are Robots meta information and details, .htaccess editing, RSS enhancement, XML sitemap generation, breadcrumbs, and so much more!
PluginBuddy Mobile is a very straightforward plugin with an install-and-drop attitude. You are able to generate a brand new mobile template within just a few minutes of customizing settings. There are admin options for customization of mobile stylesheets and custom headers. Android devices, iPhones and iPads are just a few of the numerous supported devices.
OIO Publisher is possible the most complete ad manager for WordPress CMS. Whether you are running static pages of information or dynamic blog posts/videos OIO is easily customizable among many templates. You are given complete control for your ad space and can maneuver almost any style into your pages. Additionally there are a few specialized ad networks which tie in such as Google AdSense.
The name may not catch you, but the simple implementation of Billboard + Rotating Images would show just how powerful WordPress can be. This is a two-for-one plugin which you can use to dynamically generate in-page slideshows and image galleries. These could be set up specialized on your home or about page, or alternatively placed within a blog post template. You may also implement a gallery in your sidebar as a customizable widget.
With new-age web designers growing in numbers, I’d argue Twitter is one busy social network. With the premium Twitter plugin for WordPress you’re able to link multiple Twitter accounts to display your latest tweets, favorites, or retweets. Additionally the plugin will display user avatars and links for hashtags if you so choose! A powerful caching system is running behind-the-scenes to reduce calls into Twitter’s databases.
With WP Affiliate Pro it’s a simple process to track your internal affiliate links. There are plenty of ways to make money online and with WordPress it’s never been easier. Unfortunately it’s often difficult to find a closed analytics plugin which can report on everything you may need – pageviews, CTR %, ranking keywords, and much more.
Google Analytics is the beloved child in Google’s family amongst all web developers. Their free tools and graphs representing traffic data have revolutionized the webmaster’s job. With Extended Analytics you’re given Dashboard stats for key page events and traffic data. Additionally if you run an AdSense account it’s possible to tie in your earnings ID targeting keywords for ad links.
eBay is still a great way to earn some extra affiliate income. Although the system has bogged down in recent years, the amount of visitors has been steadily growing with the company selling items in the hundreds of thousands daily. phpBay Pro will quickly add targeted advertising for products being sold in eBay stores. Based on your in-page keywords phpBay Pro can automatically derive useful product links with your affiliate ID attached! Talk about some serious convenience.
From the release of Foursquare the geo tagging craze has been set ablaze. We can find fans across the globe who are hooked on these checkin services – and now you may implement these in your blog! WP Geo Tagger supports integration with Google Maps and will create a Master Map for your blog’s tagged locations. They also offer full support on their personal webpage.
Ever considered creating your own newsletter or e-mail publication? With tools such as Feedburner this has never been easier! WordPress Newsletter is a powerful plugin with options almost building into a new CMS. Within the Admin panel you’re able to create and save custom newsletter templates for your members. The plugin comes out-of-the-box with support for multiple mailing lists and may even tie into Google Mail’s SMTP servers.
Embedding video to posts has been a huge pain in recent years. With WordPress’ 3.0+ release we see the increase in custom post types which have tremendously helped move things forward. VidEmbed is a powerful 3rd party plugin with support for almost any video format. These include FLV, MP4 or similar mobile standards, YouTube, Vimeo, and even Amazon S3 hosted content. The player is fully open source and customizable to match your blog theme.
Now this isn’t a plugin for everybody, but those who need it will be praising some form of God. The weather plugin for WordPress will display up to date weather conditions from any part of the world, on any page you wish! The weather data is pulled from Google’s weather API with dynamic updates based on your choosing (hourly, daily, etc).
By default after the installation of WordPress is complete your home page will display all recent posts in chronological order. This is great for most scenarios, but if you’re looking for a bit of customization I’d highly recommend this plugin. You are able to customize not just your home page but any dedicated URL to display filtered posts and pages. This can be done with specific categories, tags, or even a combination of many attributes.
How many countless times I’ve hated finding a brand new e-mail inbox full of spam. This is all too common with today’s web as mailto links are frequently crawled through with bot software. With GWT E-mail Encrypter all your posts and page content will be parsed for e-mail addresses and switched up accordingly. You may choose to remove the @ symbol or implement spaces between lettering. The plugin is dynamic and will apply to all content past and future.
If you are not HTML/CSS savvy I would highly recommend Gravity Forms for your WordPress install. Through their system you are able to generate dynamic forms on-the-fly with no web development experience required! The admin system is very elegant and doesn’t require much work to implement. Their community is fantastic on support and FAQs, along with forum discussions on the most popular questions and topics.
Review blogs are the hottest craze today. Google rankings are powerfully geared towards some of the hottest and content-rich brands available. With WP Review Engine it’s a simple task to get your blog running with the latest reviews on movies, TV shows, video games, books, or anything you can think of! This is a truly dynamic plugin which creates a new post type and offers image uploads for in-post graphics.
Dynamic Step Process Panels for WordPress is one of the more confusing plugins. It’s premium-themed base costs only $25 and allows you to generate dynamic AJAX content in tabbed form. This may include bulleted content, photos, videos, product descriptions, or anything else. It is truly a multipurpose plugin with resources available to those who understand WordPress’ systems.
With WordPress eMember you can turn your blog or digital magazine into a membership service within an hour. The plugin comes integrated with PayPal support for the simplest of digital monetary transitions. You can limit user views based on Free, Basic, Premium, or Ultimate categories. Similarly you are able to restrict pages and post content from members with insufficient privileges on their account.
WHOIS support can be found all over the web. Generally these scripts are few and far between since they aren’t exactly required for many to get work done. If you are a webmaster running tens or possibly hundreds of domains, this tool may come in handy in the strangest times. WordPress WHOIS allows you to check details on any domain registrant and even manipulate page templates and stylesheets.
Have we missed out any? Let us know in comments!
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