A plugin is a piece of software that enhances the capabilities of what something can do.
Some hosting companies (that’s where your website files are located) offer a variety of plugins such as adding WordPress to your site in 1 or 2 easy steps. I did a 15-minute video on how to set up a WordPress site here. Since then, I’ve moved all my sites to SiteGround, which has better customer service than the company I mention in the video but does things in pretty much the same way. You can view the video here.
Themes are another example of plugins for your website. A theme decides the look and style of your website. This could include where your logo shows up, the colors, type of font, etc. Look on the left side of your screen for free themes, OR read about the companies we recommend here.
Regarding this tip, I’m going to talk about adding functions and features to your WordPress site. For example:
- Most of my clients host or speak at events. You can add a calendar of events to your site.
- All my clients need important security functions. You can add security functions to your site.
- Most of my clients want their work to be found by others. You can add SEO (search engine features) to your site.
- I’m a horrible speller, so I added an editing function to my site.
Once a year I volunteer at an event called GiveCamp. There, over the course of a weekend, we design or redesign websites for nonprofits. This year (2019) I was the lead tech person, but most years I’m called the “Plugin Fixer”. Any group ready to add plugins to their WordPress site sit with me and tell me what functions or features they want, and then I find the best plugin for their use. — CoachMaria
How Much Do Plugins Cost?
- Thousands of free plugins are available and located in one place on your WP dashboard.
- There are upgrades to many free plugins which include even more functionality or features.
- There is also a ton of amazing commercial plugins available from companies and software developers that are not available for free.
How Do I Find Plugins?
Free plugins can be accessed in 3 ways:
a) They are bundled (come with) the theme you purchased. Look for the theme in your dashboard and then you’ll see the plugins they provide and recommend.
b) The best and easiest way to find new plugins is by clicking on PLUGINS on the left side of your dashboard (see image 1 and 2). It’s easy because once you find what you’re looking for, you click on add and the system adds it for you. Then you activate it and do any necessary setup.
c) Free plugins are also available by going directly to the WP site. When you find one you like, you download it to your computer. Next, go to the plugin area of your website, upload it, activate it, and do any necessary setup.
Note: Because they are free, there is most likely no support for them. But write to the companies for support anyway, you may be surprised.
Chances are that you’ll know every time a plugin has an upgrade available from a developer or commercial entity. You’ll see a little box on the top of your dashboard letting you know that a premium version is available.
But the other way you can learn about upgrades is to go into the list of plugins you have and click on the name of the company. You’ll be taken to their website (Image 2).
- Commercial Availability
When I can’t find something for free or an upgrade, I search this site (I am an affiliate) for what I need. So, when a financial advisor wanted a professional looking plugin that would create a pop-up box for their free report, this is the website I went to. Or you can search for the phrase of the feature you’re looking for and put “plugin” at the beginning or end of your search.
Will Plugins Slow Down My Site?
In the 2000s, yes, most did. Today, there are three situations that may slow things down:
- When you have two plugins activated that do the same thing.
- If the plugin you’ve chosen has not been updated in at least 2 years and/or is not compatible with the current version of WP. Before you add a free plugin, read about that plugin’s dates on the graphic on the “add plugin” page.
- When it has crappy ratings from users. To learn this, click on the graphic on the “add plugin” page and read what other users have been saying about it.
A good article on how many plugins you should install can be found at this link.
If you’re having problem installing a WP plugin, here’s a more detailed tutorial:
Image 1: Where to find the plugin button on your dashboard
Image 2: What you will see when you click on the plugin area of Image 2 and do a search for Event Calendars. This is also where you’ll find the name of the company who developed the plugin, ratings, and number of downloads (circled items).
Which Plugs Do I Consider “Must Haves”?
Now that you know more about plugins, which are Coach Maria’s recommended plugins?
First and foremost, you need security. Even the free versions of these two programs are worth having, and I have both on my system: Wordfence and iThemes Security. Find the “add new plugin” area of your dashboard. Search for them and review what they do to see if you want them on your site (see Image 1 and 2).
Another area of security involves bots. These are bad people who set up programs to go into your website and cause havoc. I use Blackhole for Bad Bots to help me with this issue.
Finally, for security reasons, you must make sure to update any installed plugins (and WordPress itself) when new updates are made available. Yes, those updates may contain new features. But more importantly, they contain fixes for coding errors that may make your entire website vulnerable to the jerks who spend their time trying to destroy websites (hackers). Wordfence alerts you to the plugins that need updates by email. Your hosting service MAY tell you about the need to update WordPress. SiteGround has an automatic WordPress update feature, but leaves updating plugins to you. And if you go into your dashboard, you’ll see a circle and number near the word “plugin” alerting you to update.
Any hosting company worth their prices will offer you some sort of backup system for WP, be it monthly (most common on low-priced hosting), weekly or daily.
Even though I have daily backups through my hosting service, I still prefer to have more protection. Let’s say that a plugin has been updated and my dashboard tells me to update it, and that after the update my site is experiencing problems.
Isn’t a free or paid backup system worth it? I use Updraft. When I click on the link to update my plugins or theme, it automatically backs my WP site up, and then allows the update. Peace of mind, for sure.
Website Performance (Cache)
Sometimes, like with SiteGround, hosting companies developed their own cache and performance enhancement plugin for WordPress. Or your hosting company may offer a list of security plugins they recommend. Use what they recommend.
Often, sites run too slow without a cache and performance plugin. If you are on your own in choosing a cache plugin, I recommend WP Super Cache by Automattic, I used it for 10 years. Go into the plugin area of WordPress, and do a search for WP Cache to find it.
Unsure of what cache is? Learn more here.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
I recommend and use the free version of Yoast SEO. I especially like that it has many free video tutorials.
This plugin is well worth $5 per month for your business. Akismet is the easiest plugin to prevent spam. You’ll need an Akismet.com API key, which you can get from their site.
Coach Maria Also Recommends These Good To Have Basic Tools
Share Button (For Marketing)
When I viewed share button options again last year, I liked HUPSO, however in the past I’ve used Easy Social Share or Simple Share Buttons Adder. I only use this on my blog, not the rest of my website.
Analytics (For Measuring)
Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights. is the way to go. It’s called the “beginner friendly google analytics plugin”.
Contact 7 comes highly recommended and free, but I’ve never used it. Ninja Forms is free and I might be moving all my forms over to Gravity Forms next year. Sarah from Fiverr creates my forms that have been on Jotform.com for many, many years.
This is not really a must for everyone, but if you speak, run classes, have a podcast, etc., it’s a good idea to compare these two calendar programs: the All in One Event Calendar by Timely or the Events Calendar by Modern Tribe. They both have free plugins and paid enhanced versions.
This is where I get the editor added to my websites blog posts and pages. Jetpack has many security plugins as well.
Another plugin they have that I like is added to your blog and allows people to get updates to your blog when you post them here. There are a few steps to the process, but it’s well worth it, especially if you don’t have a newsletter as it becomes your newsletter. The free version is AOK in my book.
(c) 2019 Elevating Your Business, Coach Maria
What are your favorite business plugins and why? Is there a feature you’re looking for? Comment below and I’ll reply with my recommendations.