Plugins are like apps that enhance your site. They add features and functionality to your website without you having to learn to write code yourself. If you think of your website like an office then WordPress would be your desks and computers, plugins are your pens and paper. They’re very handy but they can also slow down your site or cause problems.
Don’t worry, though, there are a few tips to be smart about installing plugins:
- Make sure it’s been tested with your current version of WordPress (it will tell you in the info box) OR it’s been updated within the last 3-6 months (again in the info box). If you just updated WordPress two days ago they may not have had time to test it yet.
- If it hasn’t been updated in years, the developer isn’t supporting it any longer. It may not work as expected or be secure. And if you have problems you probably won’t get any help.
- Unless you know the developer. Not personally but you may find a person or company whose software you really like so you use their plugins or themes more often. For instance, I discovered Ashley at Nose Graze through book blogging. She juggles books and code like nobody’s business so I ended up reading a lot of her coding posts also. I discovered that she’s smart, writes clean, efficient, simple code and offers GREAT support. Since I’m familiar with her and her work, I’ll install anything she creates even if it doesn’t fit the prior two criteria (though it probably will because she’s diligent and responsible like that).
Most of these plugins will have you go through a few settings to get setup (especially iThemes and Google Analyticator). You’ve already installed WordPress, though, so these will be simple for you.
WordPress has two plugins out of the gate: Akismet (reduce/eliminate comment spam) and Hello Dolly. Delete Hello Dolly. Get an API key for Askimet (link is in the plugin instructions). Then click “Add New” on the Plugins page and have fun installing (I almost said plugins again – plugins, plugins, plugins!).
- iThemes Security – provides security to prevent hackers and malicious code from damaging or destroying your site. iThemes can also send a backup of your database to your email. It’s important to backup regularly with a method outside your web host. In case everything goes horribly wrong. iThemes won’t back up images (another good reason to use OneDrive or a similar option to store those). If you don’t want to rely on iThemes for your backup, install a different plugin to handle it.
- Google Analyticator – connects to your Google Analytics to display quick information on your dashboard. If you’re interested in creating content your audience is most interested in, it’s important to know which pages they view most and how they find your site. Google Analytics is the key to that information.
- Cloudflare improves how quickly your site loads. And it adds another layer of defense against threats. In addition to the plugin, you’ll need a Cloudflare account (which is free). You’ll also need to update your nameservers at Google Domains. While you can set up CloudFlare through BlueHost, don’t. It’s results in a partial setup which decreases CloudFlare’s ability to improve your site’s performance. It requires a tiny bit of technical work but it is better to go directly through CloudFlare and Google Domains.
- WP Super Cache – helps your site load quickly. Don’t activate this one yet. If you’re caching your site, you won’t see changes to layout, theme, plugins, and other modifications right away. Get your site the way you want it to look first, then activate it.
- WP Optimize – keeps your database lean to help it load quickly.
- WP Ajaxify Comments – another tool to help your site load faster. If readers have to wait for your site, they’re less likely to visit more than one page or to wait very long to find the information they’re looking for.
- Yoast SEO – improve SEO with their red light/green light system and easy bullet points that evaluate your posts to improve Search Engine Optimization (ranking high in search engines). Especially if you’re new to SEO, Yoast is a great tool to learn how to shape your posts.
- Simple Comment Notification – email people when you reply to their comment so it’s actually something of a conversation.
- Email Address Encoder – encodes email addresses so you can type out your email address and not be flooded by spam. It’s a small thing but it keeps your information secure and presents a nice professional option for readers.
- Naked Social Share – is a simple, easy way to display social sharing buttons on your posts and pages. It’s much simpler and leaner than SumoMe and can be easily customized to match your branding.
- WordPress Editorial Calendar – makes it SUPER easy to schedule posts ahead of time and plan out your posting strategy.
Those plugins will secure your site and get it ready for visitors. Depending on the focus of your site, check out our Resources page for more plugins you might find useful (and fun!).
If you’re not sure where to go next, head over to the tutorial page to see all eight steps to create a blog you’ll love!