(This post probably contains affiliate links. Our full disclosure policy is really boring, but you can find it here.)
What’s a plugin?
The first time I read about WordPress plugins, I had only one question.
A plugin. It’s sort of like an app, that you would get for your phone. It’s an extension that gives your website a functionality it wouldn’t otherwise have. Like social share buttons or pop ups that collect email addresses. (Maybe by now you’ve noticed that your theme doesn’t seem to have these, but all the other blogs in the world do?) Well, you can have ’em too… for FREE usually. Nifty eh?
Plugins are one of the MAJOR benefits of a self hosted WordPress site. You can’t get (most) plugins for the free platforms like blogger or even wordpress.com, thus limiting their functionality immensely.
Before you start installing plugins left right and center though –
WordPress plugins are awesome, but plugins have a dark side. (Just like too much sugar, or too much wine, unfortunately.)
They can slow your site down, making the pages take longer to load. You know when you click in to read a post (from Pinterest, or Facebook, or anywhere really) and it just sits there blank and slow for.ev.er? So then you leave?
Yep, too many plugins running on a website can do that. (So can other things, like images that are too large, or some ad networks, for example.) That’s bad. You absolutely don’t want people clicking in to your blog and then leaving before they have a chance to fall in love with you. Keep that in mind when you’re getting excited about new plugins. Sometimes it’s best to see if you can do without. And if you happen to install a plugin that you don’t use, don’t just deactivate it – delete it! You can always re-install it in the future if necessary.
Plugins can also come with bugs. You’ll want to use WordPress plugins that are well reviewed and regularly updated. Anyone can write the code for a plugin (well, anyone who knows how to code…so not me, actually). That means that some of them are poorly coded and can cause problems on your site. If you install a plugin and your site starts acting funny, try deleting it.
But don’t be afraid of all plugins now that you’ve read this! I use a few (very popular) plugins and I like the ones I use. You might wanna check them out too 🙂
My favorite (free) WordPress plugins
These are not affiliate links, because I am using the free versions of ALL of these plugins. I don’t believe that starting a profitable blog has to cost the same as purchasing a small car. I’ve put the links in out of interest even though they aren’t affiliates of mine… But honestly for easy installation I would use the plugin search tool in WordPress to find these WordPress plugins if you want to use them. (I’ll show you how below!)
1 – Akismet (spam blocker). You will get spam. I hardly get any spam, because Akismet does a really good job!
2 – Yoast SEO for WordPress Plugin. SEO means “search engine optimization” (you should defenitly read this post by Regina for all her amazing knowledge on SEO. If you are starting a blog, Regina is a lady you wanna know).
3 – jQuery Pin It Button for Images. I have actually found this one just a littttttle bit difficult to use, but I love it anyway. It gives you the ability to make your own pin it button (to show up on your images.)
4 – SumoMe. This is the thing responsible for those pop-ups that ask you if you wanna join our email newsletter. (If this is literally your second week of blogging, don’t worry about trying to figure out how to collect emails yet. Once you are promoting your blog on social media – THEN you need to be collecting.) The paid version of sumome is VERY expensive, but it would take away all the tedious-ness of copy and pasting subscribers over to your email list. The tedious-but-free version is totally effective though, so I use it and I copy and paste!
5 – Shareaholic. These guys make the fun little social sharing buttons that you see all over the internets (mine are purple). Social share buttons are really important because you WANT to make it easy for people to share your stuff!
How to find and install plugins in WordPress
→ Go to the “Plugins” tab on your WordPress dashboard, in the list on the left hand side, & click “add new”.
→ In the search box – on the right hand side at the top (# 1 below) – enter the name of the plugin you are looking for, and hit enter. Locate the plugin in the list it brings up, and click the install now button (# 2).
→ It will install, and you will see a screen like the one below. Click “active plugin”.
→ It will take you to your installed plugins list (you could also access this list by clicking “installed plugins” right above the “add new” that you used before). The plugin will already be activated, since you clicked activate plugin. Here you can access the settings, and set the plugin up (if necessary). I always at least look around in the settings and see if there’s something that needs to be done.
→ THAT’S ALL! Installing a plugin is NOT hard.
Depending on the plugin you’ve installed, it might add a tab right into your WordPress dashboard for you to access the plugin. Instructions for how to use most of the popular plugins will be available via google (everything is available via google).