In simple terms, plugins are pieces of code that can expand the functionality of a certain piece of software. In this case the software is WordPress itself.
They can serve a variety of functions. From improving or monitoring the SEO of your site, to removing smiley faces from certain websites, a specific plugin can be coded to do the task.
In fact there are now close to 20,000 different WordPress plugins available!
The way WordPress plugins work is very simple. When installed, a plugin is added to – and encoded – into a specific site. They can be downloaded through WordPress, and once downloaded the PHP coding becomes part of the site. This allows the website, and the website owner, to perform specific tasks that are generally outside the scope of the WordPress Software.
Three of the most popular plugins are these:
- All In One SEO Pack: This one allows you to easily assess and update all SEO aspects of your site. No more wondering if your site will be found by the search engines. It gives your website the best fighting chance of being noticed on the Internet.
- AKISMET: This plugin reviews all of your blog comments and helps to assess whether they are spam related or not. It’s a good one to have.
- Jetpack: This is relatively new but is proving to be very popular. It serves to provide more features to a self hosted blog and helps to integrate with social networks. It also integrates subscribe and commenting into your site as well. If you are trying to streamline your promotion and link your sites with social media then this Plugin will help.
How To Find The One You Want
Finding plugins is easy.
When you are in your WordPress Dashboard, simply click on the plugin tab located on the left hand menu. You can look at the ones you already have installed, or you can click on “Add New”. Once in the Add New section, you will have the option to look at the most popular, the newest, or do a search based on keywords.
I generally go for a keyword search because I’m specifically hunting for something. Mike may browse through the new and the popular, just to see what’s going on. You’ll quickly find a plugin that will help you.
While you are sorting through the list, check the number of rating stars each has. The more stars the better. When you click on the Details link, you can see how many people have given ratings. If we have a choice between two 5-star rated plugins, we usually go with the one that has the most people reviewing it. Five stars by 10 reviewers are less impressive than 5 stars by 273 people.
Also check to see what version number is. The higher the number, the more revisions it has had and the longer it has been around. We prefer those that have been around a while and have a lot of people rating them.
As an alternative, you can do a Google search. Simply type in a search for “WordPress Plugins that….” and add what it is that you want the plugin to do. This has the potential to save you a lot of time and frustration as the WordPress menu only picks up on very specific keywords.
Install a Plugin
Installing a plugin is also very easy. Simply choose the one you want and click on the Install Button. Then you’ll have to click on Activate if you want to have it on task immediately. You will then be taken back to the Dashboard and the Installed Plugin list where, if needed, you can generally find instructions on how to start using your new plugin. You may need to click on another place on your Dashboard to utilize all of the features. You may need to click on an offsite link to find detailed instructions.
You will also receive update request on the top left hand side of your Dashboard when a new version of the plugin is released. Simply click on the icon and it will be updated.
Oh, Oh! Something Went Wrong With My Website
Plugins are wonderful but not all 20,000 of them mesh seamlessly together. For example, while doing the screen captures for this article, I updated three plugins. When I checked three of our pages I got 404 codes or a blank page with the things-are-really-wrong code at the top.
If this happens to you, don’t panic. Deactivate the plugin(s) you just updated, then reactivate them, one by one, checking after each to see how your pages are doing. That is generally all it takes – deactivation and reactivation. Then your pages will probably be back up and normal.
Not Only The Best Things In Life Are Free
While many of the WordPress plugins are free or request only a small donation, there are also a large number that you need to pay for.
Many of the paid plugins relate specifically to increase exposure through social media, or increasing efficiency through automating processes.
Two of these premium plugins that we have on our site are BackupBuddy and MaxBlogPress Subscribers Magnet. Many of these offer great value, but it is up to you, the website owner, to decide whether the cost is worth the benefit.
There are currently almost 20,000 WordPress plugins available that deal with a variety of different tasks. They are just simply pieces of code that allow for the expansion of the functionality of WordPress. And how much more simple and dull our blogs would be without them.
Now here is a question for you. What are your favorites? Which is the most fun? The most unusual?