Remedial Blogging: Plug It In, Plug It In
Welcome back to class. Today, we’re talking about the mighty plugin. Plugins are like little apps for your WordPress site. There are many to chose from that can do anything from controlling spam, to automatically posting to social media, to adding contact forms, to creating little displays on the side of your site. There are crazy amounts of plugins available either through your admin panel on WordPress or through third party sites.
There are three main problems with plugins:
1. They don’t always play nicely together. Some plugins use the same functions or files in WordPress and that can cause a conflict between them. Generally, the plugin area of your WordPress admin panel will alert you to a conflict, though sometimes you just figure it out because the plugin isn’t working or worse, your site isn’t working.
2. Security flaws. A plugin is only as good as the person who made it. Make sure you only ever download plugins that are from creators you trust and in a reputable marketplace. Always read the reviews and know what you’re getting. And after you’ve installed, check constantly for updates and install them as soon as they’re available. Even with that, you won’t be immune. It’s one of the risks that you take with WordPress: there tend to be lots of security holes that pop up.
3. Site slow down. The final problem with plugins is site slow down. Think of sites you’ve gone to that take forever to load because there are tons of components. Your own site can be like that. Generally, each plugin you install will add at least a little bit of time for visitors loading your site. It doesn’t matter if the plugin is visible or not, it adds that time. If you weigh down your site with 50 plugins, expect your site to run less than optimally. This makes an impression on people and tends to discourage them from coming back. Try to keep your plugins lean and mean, with only the things you really need. Remember when looking through plugins, just because you can add them all doesn’t mean that you should.
Now, for the nitty gritty: finding and adding plugins. The easiest way to add plugins is to open your WordPress admin panel, click “Plugins” on the left hand side. A little sub menu will open up where you click “add new”. This will take you to the WordPress marketplace. There, you can look through top plugins or do a search for a plugin that does something specific. Read the reviews and look at the screenshots before you download. Once you decide that you want to add the plugin, simply click the “Install Now” button and follow the prompts. Some plugins install quickly on their own, others have to be downloaded to your computer and then manually added to the site. For the ones that are manually added, you’ll just go back to that “Add New” section on “Plugins” and click the tiny words at the very top that say “Upload Plugin”. Follow the prompts from there. When your plugins are installed, check the plugin page in your admin panel to make sure they are activated and check any additional settings they may have.
Okay, the fun part: Here is a list of some of my favorite plugins.
CoSchedule by TodayMade: I held off on this one for a long time because you do have to pay a monthly subscription fee, but now that I have it, I love it. I can’t see blogging without it. It creates a calendar where you can plot out all of your blog posts and social media in advance. It lets you see your month at a glance and fill in any holes. It also posts your social media content for you. It’s completely fabulous.
Anti-Spam by WebVitaly: I forget what I used to use for spam control, but I had to turn it off because it was blocking out everyone. So then I started getting hundreds of spam messages every day that had to be deleted. Yuck. I added the Anti-Spam plugin which somehow checks for bots without using any kind of registration process or captcha. I’ve had it for a few months now and it seems to be working out well.
jQuery Pin It Button For Images by Marcin Skrzpiec: This is the plugin that adds the “Pin It” button that pops up when you hover over one of my images. It also highlights the image to give it that little bit of pop. It was super easy to install and makes the site Pinterest friendly.
LinkWithin by LinkWithin: This is what shows the “You Might Also Like” images at the bottom that link to other posts on the site.
MailChimp for WordPress Lite by Ibericode: This allows people to sign up for your MailChimp newsletters (I use mine for standard RSS feeds).
Share Buttons by AddToAny: This is what shows off all the cool social sharing buttons over there <———–. It’s super customizable and works great.
WordFence Security by WordFence: This plugin monitors your site for strange activity and attempted log ins. It also emails me every time any of my apps needs updating. It’s a great plugin to help protect your site.
WordPress SEO by Team Yoast: This is a great tool for helping your posts show up in search engines. You get to control the title shown, the keywords and the description. It can also analyze your page and let you know if your keywords are a good match for the article.
What are some of your favorite plugins? I’d love to know what other bloggers are using.