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What are WordPress Plugins?
A WordPress plugin is a piece of software (like an app) that adds a function or provides a service to your website.
You can install WordPress plugins to perform a number of different functions such as adding a booking feature to your website or adding a review table, or you can install a plugin to help you improve speed and SEO.
This can limit the customisation and functionality of your website as it grows.
The changes that WordPress plugins make can be as small as making small visual tweaks or as large as completely overworking the site’s design, adding SEO features or letting your users make posts on a custom forum.
WordPress plugins for SEO
Search engine optimisation is, in many ways at the core of online marketing. WordPress plugins in this category work to optimise your placement in search results through a variety of means. These plugins offer numerous automatic improvements to your site, like managing canonical URLs and adding meta tags to your pages. They can even speed up how quickly your site loads by manipulating the way WordPress loads its internal data.
WordPress plugins for marketing & Sales
These WordPress plugins help make planning and running email marketing campaigns more efficient. This usually includes email builders which provide pre-made themes and assets, as well as analytics tools to let you see which of your emails have the highest click-through rates or conversion metrics. Many businesses want to be able to sell things on their website. Plugins can integrate with payment processors to make payments fast and easy.
WordPress design plugins
WordPress plugins for calendars
One of the most common things plugins do is add new objects and widgets to your site. Calendars are one of the most common examples of this, because they’re useful for so many businesses. The best calendar plugins let users not only see upcoming events, but also sync that to their own personal calendars in different software tools, like Google Calendar.
Improve your website, sales and service.
What can WordPress Plugins do?
There are thousands of WordPress plugins available. Each provides a new function, feature or performance improvement to your website.
Here are some of the most popular uses for WordPress plugins.
To quickly and easily find a plugin for your website, use our free comparison tool.
Find & Compare
We compare dozens of different WordPress Plugins to help you make the right choice for your website.
WordPress Plugins FAQs
Here’s some simple, jargon-free answers.
You can’t use plugins on a free WordPress site.
To lay things out more explicitly, there’s two things that could be meant by a ‘WordPress site’.
If you’ve made a site on WordPress.com, they’re essentially hosting a website with a limited version of the WordPress software for you.
One of the limitations of this model is that they don’t let you use plugins or customise other aspects of your site.
If you want to use plugins, you’ll have to shell out some serious cash for their business plan – about $299 a year (£225).
At that point, it’s usually a better choice to move your site from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.
That means you’ll need to handle the hosting yourself, but you’ll be able to use plugins for free.
WordPress plugins come in two flavours: free and premium.
As the name suggests, anyone can download a free plugin at any time and slot it into their website.
Premium ones cost either a one-off fee or a monthly charge before you can use them.
The benefits of free options is pretty obvious – you can get new features without having to pay a penny, and if you don’t like something, you’ve lost nothing by trying it out.
What premium WordPress plugins offer is stability, quality and support, which are often the most important things for a business website.
Premium plugins are usually created by a full-time team of developers who work very hard on ensuring it’s secure and is compatible with the other plugins you might have running on your site.
Free ones don’t have this luxury, meaning it’s more likely they won’t work as well or have less features than their paid counterparts.
In addition, when you buy a plugin, you’re generally paying for access to a support staff who can help you when things go wrong.
This is particularly important if you’re not particularly good with technology yourself.
With free plugins, you have to either delve into the code yourself or try searching through user posts to find fixes for your problems.
WordPress is created in such a way so that website developers can add their own code into it. Developers are able to add new, or modify existing WordPress functionality.
WordPress plugins can use WordPress content types, taxonomies, and custom fields which enable users to store different types of content not just pages or posts.
Each WordPress plugin you install is registered in your WordPress database.
You can activate and deactivate them a plugin at any time.
When you visit the site, WordPress connects to your database, loads the software, and then loads your active plugins.
The code is processed on your server and then sent to visitors browser.
Installing plugins is pretty painless, even if you’re not an advanced computer user.
There’s a manual and an automated way to do it, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll focus on the latter option.
You need to head to your WordPress site’s ‘Plugins’ menu, which you can find in the main dashboard.
Once there, you’ll see a list of all the plugins you already have installed, as well as a label that says ‘Add new’.
Once you do that, you’ll see a page which offers lists of available plugins, plus a search bar which you can use to find specific ones you’re interested in.
When you’re on the right page for your plugin, click ‘Install new’ to have WordPress download and install it.
There’s just one more step: WordPress won’t actually activate your plugin until you click the ‘Activate’ button that’s now appeared on its page, so if it doesn’t seem to be working, make sure you’ve done this.
There are over 55,000+ WordPress plugins.
That’s a lot to read through, and even if you only look at the most popular or highly-rated ones, it won’t give you an idea of all the things these tools can do.
Let’s step through some of the most common kinds of plugins to examine how they can be useful for your site.
Here’s some examples of what WordPress plugins do:
- Social Media Posting
- Create Galleries
- Add contact forms
- Add a booking
- Analyse traffic and activity
- Improve SEO
- Compress images
- Increase website speed
When you first learn about plugins, it’s easy to go wild and add as many as your site can handle.
But that child-in-a-candy-shop approach isn’t always the best idea.
For one thing, you might be slowing your site down with features your customers don’t really need or care about.
Secondly, adding in dozens of different plugins makes it more likely that some of them will conflict with each other, which can be a headache to fix.
Finally, some features offered by plugins already come with your website’s theme or WordPress’ default software, such as being able to install scripts in the website’s header or footer.
WordPress plugins are incredibly useful tools, but you should judge each one on its own merits before installing it.
You should install a plugin in one of these situations:
- You want functionality WordPress doesn’t offer by default
- You want a feature that would be time-consuming to make by yourself
Let’s consider the benefits of using plugins in some more detail, and also think about when it’s not the best idea to use one.
WordPress plugins save you time
Installing plugins usually takes only a few seconds, and can replace what would otherwise be long, laborious hours spent trying to code a calendar or SEO tool. That’s time you can instead spend on improving your site and reaching customers.
They prevent mistakes
Even if you’re pretty familiar with computers, messing around with the inner workings of a WordPress site when you don’t have to is a recipe for disaster. It’s far too easy to accidentally change a single line of code that everything else relies on.
Plugins handle that dirty work for you, and because of their modular nature, it’s very hard to break your site with them. Even if one doesn’t work, simply uninstall it to get back to the state you were in before you slotted it in.
In case you need a refresher, WordPress is one of the most popular solutions out there for creating websites of any kind.
They offer a service for hosting websites, on WordPress.com, and also highly-customisable software that you can use to build your own site on WordPress.org.
Make the right choice for your business
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Top 5 WordPress Plugins
One of the best SEO WordPress plugins.
- Powerful features
- Analysis may seem over-engineered
- May slow your site very slightly
Best conversion rate optimization plugin.
- Free version
- Great for converting visitors
- Designs aren’t updated that often
OptinMonster helps you to convert abandoning visitors into email subscribers and customers. Create opt-in forms and campaign templates with a drag-and-drop builder.
Best Google analytics plugin for WordPress.
- Excellent dashboard for statistics
- Free version
- Need to upgrade to paid version for Google Search Console integration
Best WordPress plugin for security.
- Excellent security features
- Free plan available
- Great support
- Some plans are expensive
Securi ensures your website is protected from DDoS, malware, XSS attacks, and others. It also provides you with a DNS level firewall.
Best caching WordPress plugin.
- Developer friendly
- Paid plans only
- Be careful changing settings
WPRocket helps you to instantly speed-up your website speed.