What is a plugin?
Think of a plugin like an app that allows you to add a new feature on to your website. Wikipedia states that a Plugin derives from a word plug-in (or plugin, add-in, addin, add-on, or addon) which basically means a software component that adds a specific feature to an existing computer program. Plugins play an important role in the WordPress ecosystem, and they are key in building and customising WordPress websites.
Why are plugins important?
Anyone who uses or has a WordPress website needs to learn how to install a WordPress plugin. Plugins allow you to add a new layer or feature to your site such as Gallery, Slideshow, Forms, Security and so forth. There are thousands and thousands of free and paid plugins available in the Plugin directory on your WordPress site and it can feel rather overwhelming on how and where to start.
We have spent many years working and honing in on the best plugins for a WordPress site so here are a few key plugins (but in no way all of them) that we use in all of our Start Smart WordPress Themes that will hopefully get you started:
1. You want your site to be Search Engine Friendly
Being able to optimise your website using SEO and Google Analytics plugins is key.
Yoast Plugin: Understanding more about Search Engine Optimisation is key to a successful website and Yoast is the top WordPress Search Engine Optimisation plugin to help you to rank higher in search engines such as Google. The basic plugin is free and has everything you need to help optimise your site, however you can upgrade if you like. If you are looking for ways to improve your onsite SEO then Yoast is definitely a must have plugin for you!
Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights: This is THE plugin to have for Google Analytics as it allows Google to track your website visitor activities. The Monsterinsights plugin also makes it super easy to connect your website to your Google Analytics account. This way you can see how your visitors are behaving when they come to your site, how they found your site, where your visitors are located globally and so much more. This, in turn, means that you can then analyse activities and adjust your webpages if needed. We set this plugin up for you and create a Google Analytics (and Google Console) account for you so all you have to do is login and watch the magic!
2. Keeping your website safe
Updraft Plus Plugin: A couple of our previous blogs have discussed the importance of keeping your website safe as we feel this is such an important topic for people starting out in the world of websites and so often forgotten. One way is to ensure that you have an SSL certificate and another way is to regularly back up your website. For this, we use the plugin Updraft Plus. Updraft Plus is a simple plugin to install and ensures that you can backup your website. You can set this to backup automatically or before you make any major changes to your site. This is a key activity to be doing regularly just in case you are hacked. This way, should anything go wrong, you have a backup that you can install.
3. Don’t let images slow down you website speed
Smush Plugin: Have you ever been to a website where it took an age to load? Most of us give up and end up moving to a different site. This is something you do not want your visitors to do when they come to your website. There can several reasons of this, one could be that your page load time is being slowed down by the images you have on your site. Smush strips unused data, and will compress all your images without losing the quality so is a great little plugin to have on your website.
These are only a few examples but you can always visit wordpress.org for more information and plugin ideas. Don’t forget you can easily deactivate and activate plugins whenever you want.
A little note about WordPress
You can only install plugins using wordpress.org versus wordpress.com. If you aren’t quite sure which is which, BlueHost talk through the differences that is easy to understand so worth a read. WordPress.com has its limitations and you won’t be able to see a plugin directory in your dashboard.
How to Install a WordPress Plugin
- First, you will need to login to your WordPress site.
- On your Dashboard, click Plugins
- Click on Add New.
- Find the plugin by typing the plugin name or the functionality you are looking for. In this example, I searched for “Google Analytics”
- You will then see a list beginning something similar to the below with over 1,400 plugins to choose from (you can see Monsterinsights is Activate on our website)
- Once you’ve found and chosen the right plugin, click Install Now now on the top right of the plugin.
- An Activate Button will appear afterwards. Click activate and it will redirect to the list of plugins installed when it is successful.
And there you have it, you have just installed your first plugin!
We are not pretending that this is necessarily the easiest part of a website for beginners and that is why our WordPress Website Designs come with a pre-loaded plugin suite. However, we do hope you find this useful and if you do have any questions please do feel free to ask, we are more than happy to help.