When you’re building your first website with WordPress, you’ll have a lot of decisions to make.

You’ll need to select a host, choose an attractive theme that will help conversions, and develop a backup strategy … just in case. And yes, of course, you’ll need to load the site with lots of unique, sticky content that appeals to visitors in your niche.

But one of the most important, and puzzling, challenges you’ll face is selecting the right mix of plugins. WordPress plugins are flexible, cheap (they’re often free), and easy to install. And they’re plentiful.

And too much of a good thing can present a challenge. The WordPress plugin directory has more than 13,000 plugins. Of all of these plugins, which ones are the most important for your site? Which plugins will provide the functionality that allows you to create great content while ensuring your content gets picked up by the search engines?

This list of five plugins provides essential features you’ll need when you’re starting your site and working to generate traffic. However, it’s not meant to be an exhaustive list of everything you’ll want to install. (In fact, most WordPress sites use more than five plugins.)

Google Analyticator

Google Analyticator makes it easy to install Google’s JavaScript code in the HTML of your WordPress blog. With this plugin installed, you can easily insert your analytics code through a panel in the WordPress dashboard. This eliminates the need to manually edit your site’s WordPress theme, which will make it easier to upgrade your site’ theme in the future.

In addition to installing your code, Google Analyticator includes several handy widgets for displaying Analytics data in your WordPress admin dashboard. This makes it easy for you to keep up on your site’s traffic metrics.

Google XML Sitemaps

If you’re not using an XML sitemap for your website, you should be. An XML sitemap helps search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo do a better job of indexing your website and finding your new content.

This plugin creates an XML file that lists the entire structure of your site and notifies the search engines when you create new content. The search engines use this information to retrieve your content more efficiently. It supports WordPress posts and pages, and even supports custom SEO-friendly URL structures.

All in One SEO Pack

Like the name says, All in One SEO Pack automatically optimizes your WordPress site for search engines. It supports all kinds of posts and pages, and makes it easy to set keyword-rich titles as well as custom titles and META descriptions that are specific to each page.

For instance, you can set your categories to automatically appear in each post’s title tag. This is a great way to reinforce your keywords without going overboard with keyword stuffing your content.

FD Feedburner Plugin

RSS feeds are a great way to deliver your content to users without asking them to go to your website ever day. Google’s Feedburner aggregates thousands of RSS feeds and helps users browse and subscribe to feeds that meet their interests.  And the FD Feedburner plugin makes it easy to redirect your RSS feed to Feedburner, which can help grow the audience for your website.

This plugin allows you to redirect your RSS feed without needing to edit any code, changing an .htaccess file, or asking users to manually switch to a new feed. For established sites, it will take your existing feed and transfer all of that information to Feedburner. For new sites, joining a content network with thousands of other publishers is a great way to get readers interested in your content.

All existing feeds simply become Feedburner feeds seamlessly and transparently for all users. Just tell the plugin what your Feedburner feed URL is and you’re done.

AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget

AddThis is a popular social bookmarking services that helps you promote your content to hundreds of the most popular social networking and bookmarking sites such as Facebook, My Space, Twitter, Digg and Stumble Upon. This plugin creates a small widget that appears at the bottom, or top, of each of your pages and blog posts, prompting users to share your content using their social accounts.

The primary advantage of using AddThis over other social sharing tools is the ability ( when you set up an AddThis account) to monitor how your visitors are sharing your content. You’ll know which services they’re sharing your content on and which content is most frequently shared. This information will help you make better decisions about your content — what is most popular, and how that popularity is driving your visitors’ conversation about your site.

If you’re just getting started with WordPress, install these five plugins to give your affiliate marketing efforts a great kick start. In the near future, we’ll explore more plugins and give you some specific instructions on how to configure each plugin for maximum results.

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