Do you know the #1 reason I’m over-the-moon obsessed with self-hosted WordPress?
Plugins are what make WordPress websites so insanely customizable and functional. Anything you want your website to do – trust me, there’s a plugin for that!
So… What are Plugins?
I know plugins can seem a little complex when you’re new to WordPress, so I’m gonna try to break it down in simple terms.
First, I want you to visualize your WordPress website as being like a large chunk of code (CSS and HTML code, if we’re getting into specifics). The developers who created this code for your WordPress website have designed that code to be as lean and as minimal as possible.
This minimal design is really great in terms of page-load times. Because the smaller and less complex your website’s code, the faster your website will run!
However, lean coding means a limited number of built-in functions. Your new WordPress website will come with all the basics – like the ability to create new content, assign categories, add images, and so on – but not much else. For more advanced stuff, you’re turning to plugins.
Plugins are little extra bits of code that you add to the base code of your website. Essentially, plugins increase and extend the functionality of your website, beyond the basics that come built-in.
What Do Plugins Do?
Each individual plugin will perform a specific task on your website. This can be anything from:
+ social media sharing
+ boosting SEO (search engine optimization)
+ blocking spam comments and hackers
+ adding a hovering Pin It button to your images
+ and much, much more
Obviously, every blogger will have different needs for their website. Because everyone has different goals for their blog and their business, right? Lucky for us, there are literally tens of thousands of plugins to choose from. Seriously, the last time I checked there were nearly 30,000.
If you decide you want to open a shop on your website?
There’s a plugin for that.
If you want to speed up your page-load times by caching your images?
There’s a plugin for that.
if you want to automatically backup your website in case something goes wrong?
There’s a plugin for that, too!
Seriously, anything and everything you can think of – there’s a plugin for that. And you know what the very best thing about plugins is?
You don’t have to get your hands dirty and start fiddling with HTML/CSS code. Developers have done it all for you! With a few clicks of a button, you can install a new plugin and have it up and running on your site in 2 minutes flat.
Top 10 Plugins for WordPress Websites
Now, it’s important for you to know that some plugins will inherently be better than others. Outside developers create the majority of WordPress plugins, which means there’s always the potential for something to go wrong.
You’ll also find that some combinations of plugins won’t play nicely together. For whatever reason, their codes conflict with each other – which means things can get a bit funky on your website.
This is why you should always backup your website before installing a new plugin. Just in case!
To help you out, I’ve put together a list of my top 10 WordPress plugins for beginners. These little guys have stood the test of time, and each one has proven to be insanely valuable for the design and functionality of my website.
If you’re new to WordPress and you’re looking for plugins to help you customize your website, check out my top 10 plugins below. And if you want to install these plugins on your own site, click the heading for each plugin to visit its home page.
Oh and did I mention that all of these plugins are free?! ‘Cuz you know I’m all about that babe-on-a-budget lifestyle.
This is undoubtedly one of the most popular WordPress plugins of all-time. With over 1+ million active downloads, you know it’s gotta be good!
Yoast’s main goal is to help with your Search Engine Optimization (S.E.O).
In plain English, that means helping you and your content show up higher in search engine results. For example, on websites like Google and Bing.
When you install the Yoast plugin, you’ll have an extra “Yoast SEO” section show up just below the text boxes where you type up your new Posts and Pages.
In this Yoast section, you’ll first enter in a focus keyword you’ve chosen for that post or page. Yoast will then prompt you to include that keyword in a number of important places within your content (the headings, title, alt text, etc.)
Placing your keyword in these locations tells Google and other search engines what your post is about, but more importantly, it shows them that your content is valuable. And this means it’s going to boost your SEO ranking (woop woop!).
I love a nice branded Pin It button.
The JQuery plugin is great because it allows you to upload a custom Pin It button – instead of going with the typical red and white one. Using a branded Pin It button is important for creating the consistency and cohesiveness that will help you stand out and become memorable.
You can also choose where you want the Pin It button to show up on your images – For example, in the top-left corner, the center, the top-right, etc.
Another perk of this plugin is that you can configure the settings so the Pin It button won’t show up on images below a certain size. This is useful for small images you don’t want people pinning, like your profile picture, social media icons, or header image.
Unfortunately, this plugin doesn’t work perfectly on every single website. Chances are, it doesn’t play nice with certain Themes, and different combinations of plugins.
But if that’s the case for you – don’t worry! There are thousands of other plugins to choose from, so you’ll surely be able to find another Pin It Button plugin to suit your needs.
Where do I even start with Jetpack?
First off, the people over at WordPress were responsible for developing this nifty little plugin. Which means there’s almost a 0% chance of it not working properly on your website or doing something funky.
Jetpack comes with a whole host of built-in features. Some of my most-used ones are the images widget, social icons widget, social share buttons, and site statistics (which shows you your daily page views, top posts, and top searches).
For more details on all the different features that come with the Jetpack plugin, click here to check out the plugin’s homepage.
I’ve heard people say that Jetpack slows down their website, but luckily I haven’t had any issues with that. For all the features you get in return, it’s definitely worth giving this plugin a shot!
Akismet is another WordPress-recommended plugin, and it’s a good one. Akismet helps secure your website by blocking things like spam comments, hackers, and malware.
I’ve heard some bloggers say that they get hundreds of spam comments on their website every single week. Hundreds!
And I’ve honestly never had a single spam comment show up on my website. Ever. I guess I have Akismet to thank for that!
You’ll see that Akismet comes automatically installed on your new WordPress website. To activate it, you’ll need to go into your Plugins tab, hover over the Akismet title, and click “Activate”. For both Jetpack and Akismet, you’ll need a WordPress.com account (which is totally free, by the way!)
Even if you decide not to activate Akismet, I’d still suggest installing some sort of hacker/spam protection plugin. It’ll save you a ton of hassle down the road, trust me!
Everyone’s always looking for ways to reduce their website’s bounce rate, while boosting their average-time-spent-on-page.
I struggled in those two areas for a long time, but then I discovered this amazing little plugin called Related Posts by Zemanta.
Related Posts by Zemanta automatically adds a section of related content at the end of every one of your blog post. It pulls relevant posts from your blog archives, then displays them as an image and link, encouraging people to click over and have a read.
You can also choose to have this plugin display related content from other websites on the Internet. This is a great way to add relevant external links to your own site, which are good for boosting your SEO.
To see this plugin in action, scroll down to the end of this post and look for the section of little thumbnail images. If you click on any of those images, you’ll wind up at that specific blog post. Neat, hey?
What are your favorite plugins?
Have you tried any of these WordPress plugins? Do you have any must-haves? I’m always looking to test out new ones, so let me know your favorites in the comments below.
Be sure to head over and check out part 2 in this series here.