Welcome to the 5th post in my WordPress Tutorial Series. Now that you have acquired your domain name and hosting, you have found the perfect theme and have learned your way around your WordPress dashboard it is time to learn more about what plugins are, how to find them, how to download them and also a few recommendations on which ones will help improve the functionality of your website.
What are Plugins?
I want you to think of plugins as the building blocks of your website. Each plugin will perform a specific function on your website, and this could include anything from:
- Improve functionality
- Increase security
- Boost SEO
- Increase the speed of your page load times
- Add social media icons or sharing buttons
- Track site statistics
There is such an abundance of plugins that you can use on your website that it can be quite overwhelming. A quick little research on WordPress.org that I did showed that there are almost 49,000 WordPress plugins. This means that no matter what you need your website to do, there is probably a plugin out there to do just that!
Most plugins are free, but you will find some that require you to purchase them in order to use them. Or some may have a basic plugin feature, but to gain more features within that particular plugin you will need to purchase the pro version.
What Plugins to Install
There are some plugins that I would recommend for certain things, such as for SEO (Yoast SEO), caching (W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache), image optimization (WP Smush), and spam filtering (Askimet). You can also refer back to a past post that I wrote on WordPress Plugins to Improve Your Website. Each website will be different so just because they are on this list, does not mean that you should or need to install them on your own site.
I am sure that you have heard, read, or been told at one point that the more plugins that you have installed the slower your website will be. This is not necessarily the truth. It’s not so much the number of plugins that you have, but the quality of the plugins. Sometimes a single plugin can make all the difference in your website’s load time because it loads too many scripts or hits the database with a ton of requests and it will slow your website load time dramatically. So when you are trying to find a plugin, be sure that it is well developed and you are not installing a bunch of random ones just because they say they will do what you need them to do.
How to Install Plugins
To download a new WordPress plugin, visit your WordPress Dashboard > Plugins > Add New and search for the plugin. When you find the plugin of your choice select Install Now > Activate and adjust the settings to your discretion.
If you find a plugin outside of your WordPress dashboard, you’ll first have to download the plugin to your computer as a ZIP file. Then head over to your dashboard > Plugins > Add New. You will need to locate the plugin ZIP file on your computer and upload it. Once it is uploaded, press the “Activate” button, and adjust the settings to your discretion. If needed you can find more information regarding the specific plugin by visiting the homepage for your plugin and read up on the FAQ and Support sections.
Once you have installed the plugins that you want to use on your website, all you have to do is leave them to work their magic! I would recommend that you go into your WordPress dashboard at least once a week to make sure that they are all up-to-date. This will ensure that are working properly and keep your website secure.
Updating your plugins is quite simple. If you do receive a notice that one or more of your plugins needs be updated all you need to do is click the “Update” button. Also, be sure that you have a current backup of your website when you update anything – whether it’s plugins or the latest version of WordPress. I have yet to have a website crash on me when I make any updates to my own website or some of the ones that I may be working on or that I manage, but I would hate to not have a current backup and lose everything.
The next post, and the final post, on this WordPress tutorial series will cover web design! But in the meantime, if you have any questions or need any suggestions feel free to comment below or send me an email and I’ll be more than happy to help you out however I can! Stay tuned and I’ll see you soon!