It's no wonder that WordPress powers everything from the humblest blog to giant corporations' online efforts.

It's fast, flexible, free and enormously expandable.

These hand-picked plug-ins will make WordPress even better, making your life - and your visitors' lives - much easier.

Read on to discover the tools that help you defeat spam, help your visitors share your content on social networking sites, make it easier for search engines to find and index your content, and much more...

1. The spammer spanker
Akismet
Comment spam is every blogger's pet hate, so hurrah for the excellent Akismet. It checks every comment posted to your blog and quarantines the ones it thinks are from spammers - and it almost always gets it right.

2. The spambot stopper
Peter's Custom Anti-Spam
This is another firm favourite, which defeats spambots by asking commenters to retype the word they see on screen. You can specify whether registered users have to prove they're people too, and you can choose which words are displayed - which amuses us immensely.

3. The all-seeing eye
WordPress.com Stats
Want to know what disturbing search terms people use to find your blog? Ready to discover that the posts you spent days crafting are 99 per cent less popular than something stupid you posted from the pub? Then WordPress.com Stats is the plug-in for you.

4. The Engine Optimiser
All In One SEO Pack
What's the point of having a blog if nobody comes to see it? This excellent add-on brings the dark arts of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to any blog, automatically creating engine-friendly titles and adding META data. It's completely customisable, too.

5. The Google boogie
Google XML Sitemaps
With almost everybody using Google to search, the more Google power you can harness, the more popular your blog is likely to be. This plug-in automatically generates a spider-friendly sitemap every time you update your blog, making your site easier to index not just by Google, but by Ask, Yahoo! and Live Search, too.

6. The comment encourager
Get Recent Comments
The best way to encourage commenters - short of bribery - is to show them all the hilarious and/or interesting things other people have been saying. Get Recent Comments does just that.

7. The automator
WordPress Automatic Upgrade
Upgrading your WordPress installation is essential, because if you don't then security holes can remain un-patched. This plug-in automates the whole thing, enabling you to upgrade your entire blog with a couple of clicks.

8. The Digg-er
AddToAny
Encourage people to Digg, bookmark, email, post or subscribe to your posts with these easy to install buttons. The plug-in uses visitors' browsing history to put their favourite services at the top, so keen Diggers would see Digg at the top of the list.

9. The serious sharer
Sociable
Like the idea of AddToAny but don't like that particular approach? Sociable makes it easy for visitors to save or share your posts to any website you can imagine - and in the unlikely event you can think of a site that Sociable doesn't already know about, you can add it in seconds.

10. The form builder
Cforms II
If you want visitors to contact you but don't fancy putting your email address up for the entire internet to see, forms are the answer - especially if your blog is there to sell stuff. CForms is a doddle to use and produces great results.

11. The image expert
NextGEN Gallery
This superb image handling plug-in makes it easy to create single or multiple galleries, and you can even use it to rotate images in your blog header. Photographers will love the optional automatic watermarking, which stops people from nicking your pics.

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