If you're part of the 18% using WordPress for your blog or website, you've probably noticed the little plugin icon in your dashboard. Plugins are great tools for adding additional functionality to your WordPress theme. But which plugins should you use for your site? Where do you even begin? These were questions I asked when I incorporated WordPress into my personal website.

There are literally thousands of plugins developed for WordPress users. With this many options, it can be difficult to find a quality solution to your website needs. Below is a list of 8 essential plugins that will add spice and functionality to your site or blog.

1. Jetpack by WordPress.com

Jetpack by WordPress.com plugin
Jetpack by WordPress.com is a suite of features for your WordPress theme. To activate you will need to create a WordPress.com account to link your site to. Once you're set up, Jetpack has multiple features such as:

  • Social networking enabled comment system.
  • Likes, allowing your readers to show their appreciation of your posts.
  • Simple, Akismet-backed contact forms.
  • The WP.me URL shortener.
  • Easily embedded media from popular sites like YouTube, Digg, and Vimeo.
  • The ability to post to your blog from any email client.
  • Integration with and automatic posting to your favorite social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Path, and LinkedIn.
  • And more.

The best part is that you can select which features to enable and which ones to leave disabled.

2. WP Custom Gallery Links

WP Custom Gallery Links plugin
Wish there was a simpler way to add a link to an image without knowing HTML coding? WP Custom Gallery Links allows you to add a link to your image from your "add media" dashboard. Now when you click to insert media, you will have the option to set a custom URL, in addition to the media gallery URL.

3. Akismet

Akismet plugin
Akismet filters out spam comments that are posted to your blog. That's right folks, not all comments submitted to your blog post are legit. Akismet helps filter out the spam comments from your genuine audience.

4. WordPress SEO by Yoast

WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin
Content is key in search engine ranking. WordPress SEO by Yoast checks your content and provides solutions for better SEO optimization.

5. WP Google Fonts

WP Google Fonts plugin
If your theme doesn't come with access to Google Fonts, WP Google Fonts is the perfect solution. With dozens of web friendly fonts to choose from, you can easily add some pizzazz to your blog or site.

6. Sublime Video Player

Sublime Video Player plugin
Sublime Video Player is an HTML5 compliant player that allows you to play videos on your site or blog without the need for Adobe Flash. While WordPress will allow you to embed smaller sized videos, Sublime Video Player allows you to insert larger/longer videos, such as in-depth demos or overviews.

7. Soliloquy Lite

Soliloquy Lite plugin
Having tested a few slider plugins, I found that Soliloquy Lite is hands down the best. It's easy to use and responsive ready. The paid version offers additional features, but I found that the free version (and a little front-end developer knowledge) is just as effective.

8. Raw HTML

Raw HTML plugin
When I started using WordPress, I would get frustrated when the system would ignore my HTML programming within posts and pages. Or, even more aggravating, is when the system would add additional "p" tags within my content. Thankfully Raw HTML allows you to remove the WordPress formatting around content within pages and posts. Just use the short code [raw] around the content that you want to render out as HTML. Poof, problem solved.

These are just a few plugins that you can use to give additional functionality to your site. What plugin have you found that has solved a problem or enhanced your site's features?