WordPress Plugins allows you to easily modify, customize, and enhance a WordPress site. Instead of changing the core program code of WordPress, you can add functionality with WordPress Plugins.
If you’re new to WordPress, you might find yourself wondering, “what is a WordPress plugin?”. It’s a fairly common question to ask because, in addition to being one of the many new terms that WordPress will introduce to your vocabulary, plugins are also an essential building block of every single WordPress site. Here is a basic definition.
A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites.
WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. In the WordPress community, there is a saying that goes around: “there’s a plugin for that”. They make it easier for users to add features to their website without knowing a single line of code.
There are thousands of WordPress plugins available for free at the official WordPress plugin directory. Aside from free plugins, there are tons of amazing commercial ones available from third-party companies and developers.
As a site administrator, you can install/uninstall plugins from the admin area. You can also download and manually install them using an FTP client.
Because the vast majority of plugins are free, it is important to note that they usually do not come with tech support. For this reason, it is important to be careful when choosing which ones you want to install on your site.
Although there are plugins that can do the task you want them to do, some are much higher quality than others. In order to choose the right ones, you should ask yourself a couple of questions.
How long has it been since it was updated? Is it compatible with the latest version of WordPress? Are people getting answers to their support questions? What type of rating does it have?
There is a myth that WordPress plugins slow your site down. It is not true. Only the number of bad ones will slow down your site.
How to Install a WordPress Plugin – Step by Step for Beginners
After installing WordPress, the first thing every beginner needs to learn is how to install a WordPress plugin. Plugins allow you to add new features to WordPress such as add a gallery, slideshow, etc. There are thousands of free and paid plugins available for WordPress. But before you start, if you are using WordPress.com, then you cannot install plugins. WordPress.com has its limitations. You cannot install plugins on WordPress.com unless you upgrade to their business plan. On the other hand, you can install any plugin you want on your self-hosted WordPress.org website right out of the box.
Installing a WordPress plugin involves three methods:
- Installing a WordPress plugin using search
- Uploading a WordPress plugin
- Manually installing a WordPress plugin using FTP
Install a Plugin using WordPress Plugin Search
The easiest way of installing a WordPress plugin is to use the plugin search. The only downside of this option is that a plugin must be in the WordPress plugin directory which is limited to only free plugins.
First thing you need to do is go to your WordPress admin area and click on Plugins » Add New.
You will see a screen like the one in the screenshot above. Find the plugin by typing the plugin name or the functionality you are looking for like we did. After that, you will see a bunch of listings like the example below:
You can pick the plugin that is best for you. Since in our search, we were looking for Floating Social Bar which happens to be the first plugin, we will click the ‘Install Now’ button. WordPress will now download and install the plugin for you. After this, you will see the success message with a link to activate the plugin or return to plugin installer.
A WordPress plugin can be installed on your site, but it will not work unless you activate it. So go ahead and click on the activate plugin link to activate the plugin on your WordPress site. That’s all; you have successfully installed your first WordPress plugin.
The next step is to configure the plugin settings. These settings will vary for each plugin, therefore, it cannot be discussed in general.
Install a Plugin using the WordPress Admin Plugin Upload
Paid WordPress plugins are not listed in the WordPress plugin directory. These plugins cannot be installed using the first method.
That’s why WordPress has the Upload method to install such plugins. We will explore how to install WordPress plugins using the upload option in the admin area.
First, you need to download the plugin from the source (which will be a zip file). Next, you need to go to the WordPress admin area and visit Plugins » Add New page.
After that, click on the Upload Plugin button on top of the page.
This will bring you to the plugin upload page. Here you need to click on the choose file button and select the plugin file you downloaded earlier to your computer.
After you have selected the file, you need to click on the install now button.
WordPress will now upload the plugin file from your computer and install it for you. You will see a success message like this after the installation is finished.
Once installed, you need to click on the Activate Plugin link to start using the plugin.
You would have to configure the settings to fit your needs. These settings will vary for each plugin, therefore, it cannot be discussed in general terms.
Manually Install a WordPress Plugin using FTP
In some cases, your WordPress hosting provider may have file restrictions that could limit your ability to install a plugin from the admin area.
In this situation, your best bet is to install the plugin manually using FTP. The FTP manager method is the least friendly for beginners.
First, you will need to download the plugin’s source file (it will be a zip file). Next, you need to extract the zip file on your computer.
Extracting the plugin zip file will create a new folder with the same name. This is the folder that you need to manually upload to your website using an FTP client.
You would need to access your host through the FTP manager. If you do not have your FTP username and password, then contact your WordPress hosting provider and ask them.
Open the FTP client on your computer and connect to your website using the login credentials provided by your web host. Once connected, you need to access the path /wp-content/plugins/
Next, upload the folder you extracted from the zip file to the /wp-content/plugins/ folder on your web server.
After uploading the files, you need to visit the WordPress admin area and click on the Plugins link in the admin menu. You will see your plugin successfully installed on the plugins page.
You need to click on the Activate link below the plugin. Upon activating, you may need to configure the plugin settings. WordPress plugins come with their own settings which differ from one plugin to another.
Best WordPress Plugins for Your Site
Having the right set of WordPress plugins and tools can help you grow your online business. There are all-star plugins that can help with content strategy, SEO, site security and even Facebook Messenger marketing.
There are over 54,000+ WordPress plugins that you can choose from. This makes it extremely overwhelming for new users to find the right plugin for their website.
Here we have the list of 10 best WordPress plugins to add to your website:
- MobileMonkey’s WP-Chatbot
Want to connect your business with the 1.3 billion+ users on Facebook Messenger?
Then power your site with MobileMonkey’s WP-Chatbot.
It’s just like a traditional website chat where users can chat with a support team or get answers to questions, but with the added benefit of getting information on every single one of those users.
When a user chats with a MobileMonkey-powered site chat, the conversation they’re having is being facilitated through Facebook Messenger.
That’s means every chat bubble conversation will have a history.
More importantly, you can add forms where users can automatically add their information, making it simple for you to gather data on your customers and follow up with them.
- Yoast SEO
This is one of the best on-page SEO plugins for WordPress sites. Yoast SEO shows how SEO-friendly your post is and gives recommendations for how to improve it. Among other things, it will analyze your keyword use, your metadata, and the readability of your content.
It’s the all-in-one features package for every WordPress site, made by the WordPress team. Jetpack is a must-have plugin, giving WordPress users numerous powerful features.
It takes care of website security, performance, traffic growth, image optimization, design, etc.
- Akismet Anti-Spam
This plugin tends to be automatically installed along with WordPress. Akismet is your main safeguard against spam comments on your WordPress site.
It filters out comments that are spammy with illicit links, inappropriate messages, and such. You can also see a status history for each comment, so you can know where they come from. If you need more powerful features for a commercial website, there’s a premium option.
If you’re looking to build an online store, then this is the WordPress plugin you should install. WooCommerce is the No. 1 plugin for e-commerce in WordPress.
You can install it and easily set it up to add product listings and shopping cart in your website. It has features for providing customers with multiple options in shipping, payment methods, etc. There is also an online community of WooCommerce users worldwide you can interact with.
- Wordfence Security
Website security is something most people take for granted -; until they get hacked. This WordPress plugin guard against hacking with real-time monitoring and protection.
It also has firewall protection, malware scan, blocking, login security, and many other features. Wordfence also logs real-time activities on your website, so you can always keep an eye on things.
- Google XML Sitemaps
Setting up Google XML sitemaps and getting them just right can be tedious. This plugin creates your XML sitemap for you and ensures your website will be indexed by all the major search engines.
Save time and effort in your website’s SEO initial setup with this plugin.
If you need to add forms in posts and pages, nothing comes close to WPForms. It’s the most beginner-friendly plugin for building forms in WordPress. WPForms has a drag-and-drop interface that lets you create a contact form easily.
This plugin has a lite version you can try out and keep using for free if it satisfies your needs. If you want more features, then you can go for the pro version. That paid version lets you collect payments, conduct surveys, take job applications, and so on.
This plugin makes your Google Analytics visible through your WordPress dashboard. It’s quick and easy to connect Google Analytics, and once it’s set up, it’s so convenient to see your data within WordPress.
There’s a 100% free lite version (woot!), as well as a pro version with more robust metrics for publisher and e-commerce sites.
There may be times you have to change the permalinks of your posts or pages. But every now and then, you forget to redirect them since that can get pretty tedious.
This aptly-named plugin lets you manage all the 301 redirects and 404 errors in your site. You can then redirect all those faulty URLs and have full logs of all the redirects. This plugin is especially useful when you make big changes to your WordPress site.
Plugins are the add-ons that enable you to expand your site’s functionality and make it do just about anything you’d like. You can find plugins that help you build and optimize your site, maintain it over time, and add new features such as contact forms and storefronts.