Today’s topic is WordPress Plugins. Plugins are like apps for your WordPress blog. There are a million plugins, literally. You can take your WordPress to higher levels, increase your site’s functionality, save yourself time and protect your WordPress site with plugins.

Before you start installing plugins, here are few important things to know:

WordPress Plugins 101 What you need to know about using plugins, how they work and how to install and remove plugins– The fewer plugins the better. Each plugin adds scripts to your site, which can cause it to load slower. Think about how your smart phone becomes slow and freezes up when you have too many apps on it. The same thing can happen to your WordPress site.  There is controversy on the maximum # of plugins you should have installed, but less is more. I try to keep my plugins to around 10-12. Most techs recommend having no more than 20 plugins on a site.

– If you can use HTML or coding instead of a plugin then by all means do!  It is not difficult to add the email subscription code or social media icons to a Text/HTML widget instead of using plugins.  Add your Google Analytics tracking code manually instead of using a plugin for that. You can also add your own images / sponsor buttons, code for Adsense and similar ads with some simple HTML in a widget or your theme’s custom setting area.

– Check out the extra built in options & add ons your theme offers before installing more plugins for something you might already have access to.  If you are on a premium theme like Thrivethemes which is what I use & recommend or Genesis by StudioPress (or Thesis, Headway or Pagelines), your premium theme has extra options & bonus widgets built right in that you can use without adding more plugins.

– SEO Plugins might not be necessary. If you are using a premium theme like Genesis, it comes with great, built-in SEO. You do not need to use another SEO plugin. The boxes to fill in for SEO are right there in your post and page editor and your theme options.  Take a little time to learn SEO and you can do it yourself without the help of extra plugins.

– Check out the reviews for plugins and look at the FAQ information. How old or new is the plugin? How often is it updated? Does the developer offer a support forum, detailed FAQ’s, free updates? What do others have to say about this plugin?  If it is an older plugin, with few reviews and no detailed information or support, that could be a clue that this plugin is not so hot.

– Remember that sometimes not all plugins play nicely with each other or with the theme you may be using. If you are having problems with something on your site, check your plugins first. Google Analytics plugin did not want to play nicely with a Pinterest plugin I used one time.  Sharebar, last time I used it, did not work with Rafflecopter. Some out of date plugins cause the visual editor to not work in WordPress. There are many other examples of plugins causing issues on sites.

A few other things:

– Once you have your plugins installed, be sure to keep them updated. Most plugins will tell you when there is an update in your WordPress dashboard. These updates are important as they often help decrease the vulnerability of people being able to hack into your WordPress.  It is always good to ask others first before you update a plugin though, just in case it is not compatible with your theme.  Ask your designer or other friends if it is okay to do the update.

*Genesis users tip – if a Genesis plugin (like Genesis Simple Hooks, Simple Sidebars, Slider, etc…) says it has an update available, be SURE your version of Genesis Framework is up to date first. If you update a Genesis plugin before you update the Genesis framework, you will crash your site, guaranteed. (see below on how to easily fix your site if this happens to you.)

– If you choose to not use a plugin anymore, do not just deactivate it and leave it sitting. Delete it and clear your site’s cache. Leaving old plugins installed can make your site easier to hack.  The same rule goes for themes, if you have old themes, free themes you used in the past, remove them, don’t leave them on your server.

How do you install a Plugin?

– Easy Method – go to your WordPress Dashboard and click on Plugins. Then click on Add New, then just type in the name of the plugin and click on Search. Find the plugin and click on Install. Once it is installed you will see “Plugin Successfully Installed”, then you can click to Activate it.  Easy, peasy, right?

– Upload Method – if you have a premium plugin you will receive it via a Zip file (.zip format).  Save the .zip file to your computer.  Go to Plugins in your dashboard and click on Upload, then click on Search and find the plugin .zip file on your computer, click ok and then upload.  Once it is installed you will see “Plugin Successfully Installed”, then you can click to Activate it.

– FTP or File Manager Method – you can also add Plugins via your FTP client (like Filezilla) or your File Manager in your hosting control panel. You will need to unzip the file first before uploading it to FTP. Just drag and drop the folder into your plugins folder via FTP. Then come back to WP to activate it.

– Once your plugin is installed, there may be some options you need to select or configure in the plugin’s settings. Some plugins require API codes to activate them, some require a login (username/password to the plugin’s site) and some will have options you will need to configure to make them work. Just go to your dashboard and look for the plugin either directly in the dashboard (it will be at the bottom left) or look in the Settings and see if you find the plugin name/ options there.

How do you remove a Plugin?

– Easy Method – in your dashboard go to Plugins, find the plugin click on Deactivate. Once it is inactive, click on delete. That’s it.

– FTP / File Manager Method. This method comes in handy if you ever have a plugin break or crash your site. If this happens you will get a strange error message that says something to the effect of “Warning http://longurlhere.com file parameter missing or invalid call function on line 81 genesissimplehooks.php ”  The plugin name will be listed in there somewhere.  This will not be a server or 404 error, so you can know that it was a plugin pretty easily.  If this ever happens, just log in to your site via FTP (I use Filezilla) or your File Manager in your hosting control panel.  Go to the WWW folder, then go to for the WP-Content Folder. Then click on the Plugins folder.  Find the plugin that caused your site to crash, click on the folder for that plugin, then click delete. Once the folder / file is deleted, you should be able to access your site again.

 

Here are my personal “must have” plugins that I have on most all of my sites (in no particular order):

-Thrive Architect (Formerly Thrive Content Builder )- this plugin rocks my socks! It makes WordPress work the way I have always DREAMED of it working. It allows you to add an editor option to your WordPress Posts & Pages that give you complete what you see is what you get control. It also offers the ability to create custom landing and sales pages, email optin pages and pop ups on your site using pre-made templates you can customize or you can make from scratch with an easy drag & drop, click & customize feature.   It is way more affordable than Lead Pages or Optimize Press.  Even if you don’t need sales & landing pages, the ability to super customize your WordPress pages and posts like this without having to create custom php page layouts and templates is amazing.  I am using it on all of my sites now and really cannot rave about it enough!  If you also use a Thrive theme you get even more options with this plugin.  However it will work with ANY WordPress theme.

-Yoast SEO – this plugin helps you make sure all your pages and posts are SEO friendly and allows you to customize your meta tags and description. It also gives you ideas to improve your SEO and lets you know how SEO friendly each post/page is. There is a free version that is great for the basics.  The premium version offers even more SEO help.

Widget Context – allows you to choose what widgets show up where. You can customize your sidebars and footer widgets for each page or only have widgets show on the homepage or all pages and not the homepage or only on certain categories. This is really helpful if you are targeting ads or content on specific pages.

Sucuri– this plugin helps keep your WordPress site safe and secure. There is a FREE plugin version that helps monitor your site. I have their paid service now after 4 of my WP sites got hacked and I spent 3 days trying to get the sites back up. They had me all fixed within 24 hours and now monitor so I do not have to worry about it.

Pretty Links Lite– this plugin allows you to create custom links for your affiliate links to mask your affiliate links. Let’s say you are an affiliate for XYZ company, instead of putting your super long shareasale.com/refaffl123455789=afftrack…  url, you can use Pretty Link Lite to create a link that looks like  yoursitenamehere.com/xyzcompany   Or if you have a blog post with a long title for SEO purposes but you want to create a shorter one to use for marketing like  ceoof.me/how-to-do-something-awesome-for-your-business I could use Pretty links to create a shorter url like ceoof.me/beawesome  and have it forward to the longer one

-Akismet Anti-Spam.  This helps cut down on spam comments. I believe this plugin is now automatically included with all WordPress Installs so be sure to set up your account & activate it.

-Shareaholic Social Sharing Buttons – many themes comes with social sharing buttons (like the ones I use with Thrive themes) but if your theme doesn’t, Shareaholic is a good free social sharing plugin to add.

 

Wowthat was a LOT of information wasn’t it?

Do you feel like a Plugin Pro now? Be sure to keep it simple when it comes to plugins and follow the suggestions that I listed above to keep your WordPress site running smooth, fast and safe!  What about you – do you use any of these plugins? What are your must have plugins?  Feel free to join the conversation and comment below!

 

About the author 

Misty Kearns

  • These are great tips! I guess I’m on the right track since I’ve used most of these plugins myself 🙂 I like how you explained plugins as being like apps and the more apps the slower your blog. That was a really good analogy. I knew that is what plugins were/did but couldn’t explain it.

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  • thanks for the article – think I might look into CommentLuv Premium (I have the free version on my site) –
    (psst…i also just copied the “scripture” widget – i’m going to put it on my page as well…. :D)

  • hi misty,

    i was just looking for a list of useful plugins. I have installed some of these in my blog. I think the redirection plugin is also useful in case a post gets deleted and you want to redirect it to another page.

    thanks!

  • Excellent tutorial for beginners. You have collected some of the best plugins. Anyway, I would add WordPress SEO by Yoast as the best SEO plugin. Yoast’s plugin is fantastic for on-site SEO.

    And I agree with you that WP Super Cache is better than W3 Total Cache.

    • Thanks Robert, I agree Yoast SEO is good. I personally prefer the one that is included with the Genesis themes but for someone with little SEO knowledge, a plugin like SEO by Yoast is a great option!

  • You have compiled Great Plugins.
    I would like to recommend one more plugin, and it is Trash Duplicate and 301 Redirect.
    It is a great plugin to remove the duplicate post from your website and redirect to old link to the new link. It is also a great plugin to improve your website SEO.

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