Using Plugins on Your WordPress Site
If you’ve built a site with WordPress you can add extra functionality via plugins; these are essentially pieces of code specifically built for use with the WordPress CMS, allowing your site to do more things. And there’s even better news: most of the 37,000+ plugins are free (with some premium paid- versions available), and can be easily installed with a few mouse clicks.
It will be up to you which plugins you need for your site and the audience you are attracting. For example, an e-commerce site selling physical products should have a shopping cart plugin such as WooCommerce, whereas a blog or publishing site may choose to use “Seriously Simple Podcasting” (https://wordpress.org/plugins/seriously-simple-podcasting/) as a plugin to enable audio podcasts and sharing through multiple audio channels.
How to Download Plugins?
Head to your WordPress dashboard, and then to Plugins -> Add New. At the top right hand side of this page you can Search Plugins, and when you’ve found the right one for you, press the Install Now button on that plugin. Then go to Plugins -> Installed Plugins and find the plugin that you have just installed, and click on Activate. Voila! Your plugin is now live on your site.
Which Plugins are Essential?
That is a good question, and you will want to be somewhat selective in installing plugins, as the more you have the slower your site performance will be, until you upgrade your hosting plan of course (costing you more money). Here is a list of some of the essential plugins to install on your site:
Having a plugin that reminds you at every step to focus on SEO is a great way to build your search rankings and develop good SEO habits. Try Yoast WordPress SEO (https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/) to give your pages the best chance of being found by search engines and your new customers.
Connect your social media channels to your site and watch your traffic increase. Jetpack is a great starting point and usually comes ready to install on a each new WordPress site; it can help you post automatically to your social media pages, and enable things like social logins when your readers want to comment and interact with your pages. Other plugins like “Simplified Social Sharing” can help you add social buttons to each of your pages, so your readers can share your products, pages, and content to their friends on social media.
If you want to sell physical products, a shopping cart is necessary to track inventory, process orders, and facilitate this process online. The most popular plugin is currently WooCommerce, which can be installed quickly and be up-and- running within an hour or so; setting up your preferences, invoicing, and other functionality is simple and requires a little initial input.
Keep in mind that WooCommerce may not be compatible with all themes, so check this before getting too far along the installation process. A good second option is WP eCommerce, however we would suggest going with the leading plugin here (WooCommerce) as there are more users, forums, and support options available to you.
Start tracking your visitors from day one and know what is working for your business! We discuss using Google Analytics in detail here, but having a good plugin to enable this is key. Try https://wordpress.org/plugins/googleanalytics/, which simply allows you to add Google Analytics’ code to each of your pages automatically as they are created.
Subscriber Sign-Up Forms
If you’re not catching your visitor information, you are missing out on a great opportunity for email marketing and return traffic. Give your customers a chance to stay in touch and build a database by installing a simple sign up box on your web pages with a plugin like Mailmunch (https://connect.mailchimp.com/integrations/mailmunch- email-list-builder). Note: this plugin is specifically for use with Mailchimp; if you are using AWeber or another mail server you will need to search for that particular plugin.
How to Choose a Plugin?
When you are looking for a specific plugin to suit your website’s needs, you’ll want to do some research on each plugin, specifically looking for the following:
- How many people are using it?
- What is the plugin’s star rating?
- When was the last update developed?
- Is the plugin compatible with your version of WordPress?
These four pieces of information are all available on each plugin’s page and should tell you quickly if they are leading the market or not in their particular plugin functionality.
If you’re not sure about any of these points, keep searching and check the forums; WordPress has a very large community of users and chances are what you are looking for has been discussed in detail in the forums already. Good luck!