There is a lot of information that comes with adding WordPress Plugins to your new blog, the thing is, not a lot of bloggers figure this out until after plugins have been installed.
Find out that information here in the Starter Guide for Beginners!
Table of Contents
What is a WordPress Plugin?
A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that is plugged into your site and it will help your site do things that it couldn’t do without it.
And depending on what the plugin was developed for, it will add different types of functions to your blog and make it a whole easier to manage.
But if you want the technical definition for a WordPress plugin, you can check out my go-to site WPBeginner and it will explain in more detail.
Are WordPress Plugins Necessary?
WordPress Plugins are very important and necessary to your site.
They help you take care of your site, build your site, protect your site and do so much more.
And not only that, they will make a better user experience, and Google loves that.
Back in the day, when people used to build their sites, you either had to know code, how to write code or you hired someone.
And then came plugins, now there are over 60,000 of them and even though you might need to add code one time or another to your site, plugins make it so much easier with the click of a few buttons.
Are Plugins Free?
Yes, they are.
But, there are also premium WordPress plugins, but you can do a lot with the free WordPress plugins that are available.
Premium plugins have extra features, add-ons, and advanced features.
Paid WordPress plugins are not available in the plugin directory, these paid plugins would need to be downloaded and then uploaded in a zip file to your WordPress site.
How to Install a WordPress Plugin?
When you need a plugin, you’ll head to your WordPress dashboard:
- Scroll down in the left side dashboard and find PLUGINS, click on it
- When you click on Plugins in the side bar, the menu will appear and Installed Plugins and Add New will show up, you can click Add New from here and the plugins page will load or
- Click on Plugins and the page will load, in the top of the page an Add New button will show, click it, either way you will be taken to the WordPress Plugin Directory
- Enter the name of the plugin or a main keyword, for example Sucuri or Security
- The page will populate plugins with the main name or keyword
- Click the Install Now button
- Then Activate
- Configure (set it up) if necessary
After you have installed a plugin, it must be Activated to do its job.
For more information visit WPBeginner’s step-by-step guide to installing WordPress plugins
Is There More to Plugins?
Yes, sometimes a whole lot more.
After you get a plugin, it may need to be configured, which means doing more than adding it and going on your merry way.
It will need to be set up properly.
If you have a plugin with the word “settings”, it most likely needs to be configured.
When this happens, you will need to do your research for the harder ones but most are pretty easy.
Check online to see if the developer of the plugin has tutorials or a blog with instructions and check for YouTube videos, there are tons of how-to’s out there.
I suggest that you read and watch videos first before attempting to set it up.
I’ve come to find out that some tutorials and videos may leave out some information and another one may include the information, so look out for a few, don’t just rely on one post or video.
How Many WordPress Plugins Should You Install?
Great question, because I’m sure you’ve heard or read that having too many plugins will slow your site, mess up your site, affect your performance and possibly get you hacked.
- Bad plugins can do all that
- Low-quality plugins do that
- Plugins that are not updated
- A poorly developed plugin
- Plugins that shouldn’t be used with other plugins
- A plugin that is heavy/bloated
- Plugins that use a lot of resources
- Adding plugins to an already slow theme or hosting provider
But not too many plugins, there are sites out there with hundreds of plugins and they run super-fast.
Just get what you need and use what you get.
During my research, I came across some sites that suggested, you should only have five plugins.
A few other sites suggested that however many years you’ve been blogging, is how many plugins you should have; like 1-5 years, 5 plugins, 6-10 years; 10 plugins, and so on.
But think about this, if you start out with 5: Security, Forms, SEO, Analytics, and a Page Builder.
How are you going to do without a Cache, Social Media, Membership, Cookies, Optimization for Photos, Backup, Spam, and so on?
Seriously, think about it!
You need what you need, period!! Whether it’s 5 or 25 or more.
My favorite site, WPBeginner, runs on 62 active plugins and you can read here about how many plugins you should install
And another from Wp Engine with an interview with Easy Digital Downloads that uses 80 plugins and talks about not the number but the quality of plugins.
And a quote from Wpastra: “The short answer is to use as many plugins as you need to provide the user experience and functions you want”.
But no matter how many you use, the best practice is; don’t get it till you need it, and if you’re not using it delete it. There’s no need to have a plugin installed and activated if you’re not using it.
Use what you need for your site and every few months do a plugin cleanup and get rid of what you’re not using.
Deactivating and Deleting Plugins
If you’re no longer using a plugin and it’s just sitting there, delete it.
While it won’t harm your site, it is still executable, which means it’s able to be run by a computer.
And if someone or something tries to hack your site, these deactivated plugins can get infected or be used to install malware.
If you have a deactivated plugin, already set with settings, that you turn on and off regularly, you can keep it, but only if you plan to use it soon.
If not, you should just get rid of it and install it again when you need it.
Problems Plugins Can Cause
Anything can happen with a plugin, especially a bad low-quality plugin, a heavy plugin, or plugins that load too many unnecessary scripts to your site.
This can affect your site speed and even crash your site and this could also happen with a good plugin not updated.
Also keep in mind that not all plugins are compatible, meaning they don’t work well together and every time you add a plugin to your site, this is a risk you take.
Any time you add more resources to your site, there could be a number of reasons that something happens to it.
You could have the best site ever; speed, security, performance, everything, and one single plugin could harm it for a number of reasons.
But don’t be afraid to use the plugins that you need, again make sure your plugins are updated and are high quality.
How Do You Choose a Plugin?
Do your research!
Look at the:
- star rating
- how many installations
- when it was last updated
- and read the negative reviews, you can learn a lot
And understand what your plugin is for.
Why Should You Know What Your Plugins Do?
For example, take a plugin like Jetpack (security, lazy loading, marketing, performance, social share buttons, CDN, and more) it’s a multi-use plugin, meaning you can do a lot with this one plugin.
And having this plugin that does so much, would mean that there are a lot of other plugins you don’t need.
If you don’t know what all this plugin does and you have or put other plugins on your site that did the same stuff Jetpack did, it could cause trouble for your site.
Keep in mind that with a plugin like Jetpack, it is bloated, meaning it has a lot of code and that can slow your site and some of the things that the plugin does, you may not even need or won’t ever use.
So know what your plugins do!
For the record, I do not use Jetpack, I just used it as an example of a multi-use plugin.
There are thousands of plugins to choose from, but you only need one plugin to do one thing, you do not want duplicate plugins, that may and will cause issues for your site.
Having plugins that do the same exact thing, means that these plugins can and will work against each other.
For example: Say you have an anti-spam plugin, you do not need an anti-spam plugin with security. You need only to choose one because both do the same thing, one just has an extra feature.
And if your security plugin does what the security for the anti-spam plugin does, you don’t need anti-spam security.
Know what your plugins do!
When you pick a plugin in WordPress, click on the name.
It will open a page that will tell you what the plugin does.
Need more clarification about the plugin? Research it!!
Some developers have blogs with more info, look into it.
WordPress Plugin Compatibility
What if you find a plugin that says “it has not been tested with your version of WordPress”, do you still use it?
I use one of those plugins on my site and I have never had a problem with it.
My go-to site will explain plugin capability, why it’s okay to install these plugins, and how you can help other bloggers that are thinking about using them.
How Do You Know Which Plugins to Use?
There are hundreds and hundreds of posts out there about plugins and everyone will have something different to say.
Do your own research!!
Find reputable sites that will have valuable useful information, this is the only way we will learn, doing our own research and having trial and error.
Now with that being said, you also need to keep in mind that even sites that know about plugins will still have something to say.
You might read one site that says how wonderful a plugin is and then read about how bad that same plugin is on a different site.
Use what is best for your site and if you have a problem with a plugin that can’t be fixed, delete it and try a different one, just make sure you use good quality plugins.
I was chatting with someone that used the same GDPR plugin that I use, but he said it slowed down his site, but my site speed is fine.
All sites are not the same and we all have different plugins, hosts, and themes and experience different issues.
So, we can’t base our decisions on what works for others.
It could have been a number of things that caused his site to slow down when he added that one plugin.
If it works for you and it’s a necessary plugin you need, use it.
Starter Guide to WordPress Plugins Conclusion
· Make sure your plugins are updated
· If you don’t need it now, don’t install it
· Do house cleaning every few months and get rid of the plugins you’re not using
· If you use a plugin that uses a lot of resources and it’s affecting your site speed, find a replacement that’s lightweight
Troubleshooting Tips for WordPress Plugins
- If you have installed a new plugin and all of a sudden you’re having issues, it’s 99% that plugin, uninstall it and find a new one to take its place
- If you install a new one and it still causes problems, then it could be another plugin not playing well with the others
- Sometimes it is necessary to delete all your plugins and then upload them and activate them one by one to find out which one is causing the issues
- It is best to try your plugins in your staging environment first, WPBeginner has a list of hosts with directions on how to create a staging site
- Keep your plugins updated and check if they need to be configured
- Sometimes an issue with a plugin will lock you out of your site, and you may not even know if it really is a plugin that caused it, but here are some solutions: what to do when your locked out, and when you know it’s a plugin and can’t access your WordPress Admin
- Remember there are plenty of good websites out there for solving issues and getting information, use them
Now that you’ve got some important information about plugins, head over to 18 WordPress Plugins that you can add to your site today.
Have a question about WordPress Plugins? Let me know below.