Whenever I set up a WordPress site for a client, I go through a number of plugins that really should be installed on every WordPress site. The ones I list here are my top choices that enhance functionality and add new necessary general functionality to WordPress. Let’s get started with the list which is in no particular order.
I have tried a number of free contact form plugins but none is as good and advanced as Gravity Forms. You cannot only create the simple contact us forms but create advanced multi-page forms with conditional logic enabled. You can also create order forms with pricing fields and options that integrate with PayPal. Additionally, the forms can insert data direct to a number of mailing list services as well as Freshbooks. Gravity Forms is available from $39.
The Akismet plugin comes with WordPress but it is deactivated by default. Please, activate it. All it requires to set up is obtaining an API key from the akismet website. It is free for personal use and costs just a little bit for businesses. Seriously, this will get rid of most of the spam your blog will ever get hit by.
The WordPress SEO plugin is one of the most advanced ones that I have found. While I have enjoyed using both All in One SEO and SEO Ultimate, I like this one the most because its easy configurability and ease of use for each post. Each site that I have installed this on has done well in SEO in terms of posts.
Additional features include breadcrumbs, robots.txt, head section cleanup, RSS enhancements, XML sitemaps and a lot more. Basically, it has what you need to set up a good SEO structure on your site.
Indeed you can just copy the tracking code into your theme but by using this plugin (which is well supported and coded) you get some additional options with custom variables that are tougher to set up in your normal tracking code. Basically the plugin gives you extra tracking options that are useful to be able to follow up on. What I find useful is the easy integration with the WP e-Commerce and Shopp plugins for tracking e-commerce sales in Google Analytics which is very useful.