The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Plugins for Beginners

The great thing about WordPress is its flexibility in terms of customising the look and feel of your site. With more than 40,000 plugins in its repository, WordPress users are definitely spoilt for choice for just about anything they want done on their site.

The downside though with having  too many choices is that you don’t know which is the right one to install. Since WordPress is open source, chances are that some of them are not optimised for performance and security so taking extra caution when choosing one is expected.

We wrote this article aimed at beginners who are looking to educate themselves about WordPress plugins before installing one. Here goes.

Why WordPress Plugins?

If you still have doubts about installing plugins, these reasons should convince you otherwise:

  • Simple and painless to set up – It’s so easy to set up that you can do it in just a few seconds and we’ll guide you in the later part of this article.
  • Jazz up your site with just about any features you like – The key here is that you have several options for almost any types of features or purpose.

 

Plugins and Themes: Are they the Same?

Short answer is NO, they’re not. If you’re new to anything WordPress (or any CMS for that matter), they seem to come across as similar. But, you can easily pinpoint their differences as you work with them along the way. Here’s how to tell them apart:

  • Plugins – these are add-ons or extensions used to supplement or tweak the features and functionality of a website
  • Themes – it’s the primary design template that controls the visual appearance of website. It’s a software that allow you to change and control the layout, design, tone, fonts, color, etcs.

As an example, since WordPress by itself does not have a its own functionality to add visitors  to your email list, you need to add a custom code for that. Plugins like Mailchimp can do this function easily without coding on your part.  

Themes unify all the visual aspect of your site and manages how they are presented to your visitors. You probably have seen these already: logo, headers, footers, widgets, sidebars and others. They form part of what a theme is.

This is not to say, that plugins and themes may not cross over. Sometimes, there are plugins that can modify the appearance of a site while there are themes that can manipulate the functionality.

 

Types of Plugins

Again, there’s one for just about any purpose. Here’s a short list of WordPress plugins you might want to add to boost your site’s look and performance.

Speed

Google search results is fraught with blogs and articles preaching you the importance of speeding up your site. Why is that? According to Crazy Egg, every second delay in page load time translates to 11% fewer page views, 7% conversion loss and 16% reduction in customer satisfaction.

If you’re serious about creating a passive income with your website, you need to optimise it for speed. We recommend these two plugins to enhance the speed and performance:

Backup

It’s hard for us to say this but we have clients who often contact us because their website was breached and they don’t have a backup copy in place. Losing your entire website is a nightmare we don’t want you to experience which is why it’s important to save a full website backup regularly.

Make sure to choose a full website backup instead of just a database backup because the latter won’t allow you to restore everything. One of the best options to perform a backup is through a plugin and these are the top WordPress plugins we recommend:

Security

Website security should not be considered as an afterthought. As soon as you set up your website,  go straight ahead and install security plugins to ensure your peace of mind against malwares, viruses, and brute force attacks. Check out these two most-downloaded security plugins:

Spam Block

Spams are everywhere and they’re not about to go away anytime soon. While it’s easy to filter all spam comments and delete them in one go, such task is time-consuming especially when dealing with comments by the thousands.

So, to save your energy for more productive causes, these spam block plugins will help you filter out and moderate common spams before they can even reach your site:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

To bring more traffic for your website on search engines, you need to optimise it through organic SEO strategies.

You can optimise your branded keywords on meta data, image alt attributes and tag web pages as “noindex” if you don’t want search engines to index them. Just add any of these two SEO plugins to ensure that your web pages are always SEO-optimised.  

Social Engagement

Adding a social sharing plugin makes it effortless for readers to share your content to their friends on their social media accounts. Most of these social plugins already comes with free analytics so you track the performance and social media marketing efforts.

Email Subscribers

Marketing tools may come and go but one thing that never goes out of style is – emails. Millions of people still rely on traditional emails to communicate and get updates from their favorite brands.

If you want to diversify your marketing strategies and attract your target audience, we strongly recommend you set up and grow your email list. Try any of these email list building plugins so you can easily capture email addresses and turn casual visitors to loyal customers.

 

Where to Find WordPress Plugins  

You can either go to any of these options to find the right plugins for your site:

  • WordPress Dashboard

Go to your main menu on the left side, hover over “Plugins” submenu, click “Add New”. On top right, enter the plugin name or any search keyword.

             

           Same thing, just enter the name or keyword for the plugins on the search field.

            

  • Independent Plugins Developer

Most of the plugins on WordPress are typically free to download but you have option to buy from an independent source. Make sure that you do a thorough research and verify if these plugin developers are endorsed by WordPress before installing them.

 

Screening Plugins

When screening WordPress plugins, it’s a must to check every detail you can gather from them. A poor quality plugin can cause some serious damage to your site.

  • Version – see if the plugin author/developer updated it to its current version.
  • Author – name of the author, their social media profiles and website.
  • Last Updated – the date it was last updated. Do not download a plugin that was updated years ago as this could have been abandoned by the author.
  • No. of Active Installs (or downloads) – the more users downloading it, the better.
  • Compatibility – informs you if this plugin is compatible with your WordPress version or not.
  • Average Ratings – users can leave their star-rating, from one to five stars.
  • Reviews – read reviews objectively as some might be helpful and others might come from troll accounts.

Installing Plugins  

Before installing any plugins, it’s important to do have a full website backup. Generally, plugins don’t impair websites after installation or software updates. However, just to be on the safe side, keep a backup copy in case some features might get disabled after installing or updating any plugin.

Related Post: Why You Need a Backup for your Website?

 

To install a plugin, you can either install through the WordPress Plugins directory or via zip file.  

  • WordPress Plugins Directory  
  1. Go to ‘Plugins’ submenu on WordPress dashboard.
  2. click ‘Add New’.
  3. enter plugin name or keyword.
  4. Click ‘Install Now’ button.
  5. After installing, click on ‘Activate’.
  6. Go back to ‘Plugins’ submenu, click ‘Installed Plugins’ and check if it was successfully installed.
  • Zip File – this method is available if you purchase your plugins outside of WordPress.
  1. Go to the download age.
  2. Download plugin in a .zip format.
  3. After a complete download, save and move the file to your computer folder.
  4. Go to WordPress Dashboard, hover to ‘Plugins’.
  5. Click ‘Add New’, then ‘Upload Plugin’ button on top and ‘Choose File’ button.
  6. Choose the .zip plugin file, then download.
  7. Click ‘Install Now’ button and ‘Activate’ to complete the installation.

 

Viewing and Managing Plugins

You can view all your installed plugins by going to the ‘Installed Plugin’ menu. It lists down all your plugins including active and inactive plugins.

  • Settings – this is where you modify plugin settings.
  • Deactivate – choose this if you want to remove plugins from the list permanently.
  • View details – a window will pop up and shows you a complete summary about the plugin.
  • Publisher Name – click this if you want to know more about who created this plugin.

 

Fixing a Broken Plugin

A drawback to free plugins is that it doesn’t come with customer support. So, if you experience errors or you need assistance when using it, you’re basically on your own. Premium plugins, however, already comes with customer support as part of the package.

When a plugin ceases to function or disables other features on WordPress, then it’s time to investigate to see what could be done. Try to deactivate plugins (not delete), then activate your WordPress theme.

If that won’t work, here’s what you can do:

  1. Go to WordPress.org.
  2. On the search field, enter the plugin name in question.
  3. Click on ‘Support’ tab.
  4. Check if there’s an existing thread about your issue. If there’s none, create a new one.
  5. Wait for a reply from the author or WordPress users.

Keep in mind, there’s no assurance that your thread will be answered because: a) the plugin developer could be busy, b) if it’s a free plugin, then they’re not really obligated to assist you.

However, anyone in the WordPress may help you in any way they can so please be patient and wait for someone to answer.

 

Final Note

When it comes to seamless customisation, WordPress reigns supreme as it features a wide selection of themes and plugins. We hope you find this article very helpful when installing and managing your WordPress plugins.For any questions about plugins on your website, feel free to contact our award-winning customer support specialist.

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