Plugin 101; What are WordPress Plugins?

WordPress is extremely flexible; it can be an ecommerce store, a portfolio site, a brochure site, a site selling services, or (as originally intended) a blog. This is one of the reasons it’s the most popular content management system in the world and millions of websites use it.

Even better, many of the features can be added or changed without you needing to touch, or even know, any code. This means that you can usually manage your website yourself, even if you don’t have web design skills. (Although of course if you prefer you can hand it over to a web designer or virtual assistant to help you.)

To add features to your site you’ll need to get familiar with WordPress plugins. Plugins are small pieces of code that you can add to your site to perform a wide range of functions, from adding features like social media sharing buttons and contact forms, to more technical stuff like security or search engine optimization. You name it, there’s a plugin for it!

Some plugins are free and others you will need to pay for. You can browse through a list of plugins in the WordPress plugin directory. As WordPress has an open source license, anyone can develop and sell a plugin and you’ll find many available to buy to meet almost any need. Before you download or buy a plugin, check the reviews it has and the date of its most recent update. Old and poor quality plugins can create problems with your site, so these are best avoided. You can read reviews in the WordPress plugin directory or just search online using the keywords ‘[plugin name] review’.

So which plugins are you likely to need on your new WordPress site? Here are some suggestions:

– Managing your site

Jetpack is a very popular plugin for traffic information, contact forms, social media buttons and more. Akismet is the best-known plugin for managing spam comments, which are very common on blogs.

– Backup and security

The worst can sometimes happen, so it’s best to be prepared. Plugins such as BackupBuddy will back up your website automatically on a schedule defined by you. Securi is a plugin which will protect your site from hackers and more.

– Search Engine Optimization

Want to optimize your content for search engines before you publish? Then check out All In One SEO Pack or Yoast SEO.

– Forms and landing pages

You can get a basic contact form from Jetpack, as mentioned above, but you may also need more sophisticated forms such as Gravity Forms that encourage visitors to opt-in to your mailing list. Landing pages are web pages that can be used offer visitors a free gift in return for their email address, or act as the entry point to your website. Thrive Leads is an example of a landing page plugin.

There is an amazing choice of plugins available, so decide what you need your website to do and you’re sure to find a plugin that fits. If you haven’t already, make sure you check out our post on Themes to fully customize your WordPress site.

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