In this article, I review the top ten popular WordPress plug-ins. But first, I discuss what plugins are and where you can get paid and free WordPress plugins.
What are plugins in WordPress?
WordPress plugins add additional functionality to your WordPress website that doesn’t come with the standard WordPress install. From a technical standpoint, they are additional sets of code or programs that you add to your WordPress website code.
Once a plugin is installed and activated, you will have additional features to enhance your website. These enhancements may change the appearance of your website or give more functionality to your visitors.
Or they may provide better security or ease-of-use on your admin panel on the WordPress backend.
The great thing about plugins is that you can mix and match them so that your WordPress website has all the features you need for your business or blog.
Later, I review some of the popular plugins for WordPress for both businesses and for blogs.
Free WordPress Plugins vs. Paid WordPress Plugins
You can find free WordPress plugins on the WordPress.org site in the WordPress Plugin Directory. You will need to download a file to install the plugin if you select one there.
However, you don’t have to leave your own WordPress site to get free WordPress plugins.
In the “How to install a WordPress Plugin” section below I show you how to find the plugins on your WordPress site and how to add them to your website.
Now you are probably wondering why would anyone pay for a WordPress plugin when there are so many popular WordPress plugins that are free.
You should pay for WordPress plugins when you
- Can’t find a free plugin that has the functionality you need, OR
- Want to upgrade to a “Pro/Premium” version from a free plug-in. In this case, there are premium features you need that aren’t in the free version.
What plugins should I use for WordPress?
There are many popular WordPress plugins to choose from. Here is a list of the most popular plugins for WordPress at the time of the writing of this article that I find useful:
- Contact Form 7. This is a great free plugin that allows you to capture information from the visitors to your site. You can create more than one contact form and put them on different pages on your blog or website.
- Yoast SEO. This popular plugin is the best WordPress SEO Plugin. Yoast helps with Search Engine Optimization on your website. This plugin is usually one of the first plugins I install on a new WordPress site. It makes it easier to write blog posts that will rank on Google. There is a premium version of the plugin but you don’t need it when you are first starting out.
- Akismet Anti-Spam. This plugin protects you from spammy comments. Whenever someone adds a comment to your blog post, this plug-in checks to see if it is spam. It then marks the comment as spam. The comment doesn’t appear on your site unless you mark it as not spam.
- Jetpack by WordPress.com. This plugin has a lot of features rolled into one plugin. It has security, backup, SEO, marketing, and more built in.
- WooCommerce. This plugin is the number one WordPress eCommerce plugin. It offers everything you need to build an online store. You can upgrade to premium features by purchasing extensions.
- Wordfence Security – Firewall & Malware Scan. This plugin blocks malicious traffic from your website. It protects through its security checkers.
- Google XML Sitemaps. If you are not using an SEO plugin like Yoast or All in One SEO, you can use this plugin to let Google know about the content on your website.
- Duplicate Post. This is one of my favorite plugins. It allows copying your posts so that you don’t have to retype them or use cut and paste.
- Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin. This plugin integrates your Google Analytics into your WordPress Admin so you can see where your visitors are coming from.
- WP Super Cache. This plugin is designed to speed up your WordPress website.
How to install a WordPress Plugin
Installing a WordPress plugin is easy and is similar to Installing WordPress Themes. In most cases, you don’t have to manually install a WordPress plugin by uploading it to your hosting file system. This usually requires the experience of a WordPress developer.
Instead, WordPress has an easy to admin page for installing and activating plugins.
Steps to install a WordPress Plug
- Log into your WordPress account
- From the Admin Menu, select Plugins. This takes you to a listing of the plugin that is already installed on your WordPress website
- Click “Add New” button next to the title “Plugins” at the top of the page. Here you will have two options for adding a plugin. The first is by searching the WordPress Plugin Directory and the second is uploading a plugin file.
Install A Plugin From the WordPress Plugin Directory
As I discussed above, you can install free WordPress plugins. Most of these are available by searching the WordPress Plugin Directory on the plugin page in the WordPress Admin.
There are links to Featured, Popular, Recommended, and Favorites. Browse through the plugins on each of these to see what is available. Each has a star rating and the number of active installations.
Once you find one, follow these steps for installing a free WordPress plugin
- Click the “Install Now” button on the listing for the plugin
- Once the install is complete, the button text will change to “Activate”. Click the “Activate” button to turn on the plugin.
Upload Plugin And Install
The second way you can install a WordPress plugin is by uploading a file. This is typically done with paid plugins since they don’t usually have a listing in the WordPress Plugin Directory. You will have to download a file to your computer to continue.
Follow these steps for uploading a plugin
- Click the “Upload Plugin” next to the “Add Plugin” title at the top of the page. The page will expand to display a new section.
- Click the “Choose File” button and select the file you have downloaded
- Click the “Install Now” button. The file will be uploaded to your WordPress site.
- Click the “Activate Plugin” button.
WordPress Plugin Advice and Caution
One of the mistakes beginning WordPress users often make is installing too many plugins. This can cause performance problems on your website and can make pages load slower.
The reason this happens is that for each plugin you install, more code is added to the WordPress codebase. WordPress then has to process through or run the code which takes time.
So, to avoid WordPress plugin blot, only install those plugins that you really need.
Another tip for installing plugins is to install one plugin at a time and then go to your home page. Verify that your site is still running correctly and that your pages aren’t taking to long to load.
You can uninstall the plugin by going to the Plugins page. Click “Deactivate” under the name of the plugin. And then select “Delete”.
Want to know more about WordPress? You can find out more in our Learn WordPress: Getting Started With The WordPress CMS.
Want to get up and running quickly with your WordPress blog without the hassle of picking a hosting company and installing WordPress and essential features?
Website Buoy offers plans that include WordPress hosting, WordPress installation, WordPress Themes customizations, essential features, and support so that you can start blogging right away.
Check out our WordPress Design Services.