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How to Use WordPress Plugins: The Complete Guide

If you run a WordPress self-hosted website or blog, you’ll want to get the most out of it. One of the ways that you can do this is by installing plugins.

It’s entirely possible to have a WordPress website that uses no additional plugins. That said, the fact that many plugins are free or inexpensive makes them a great way to enhance your site.

Plugins allow for greater site customization. With over 50,000 different WordPress plugins to choose from, there really is no limit to your creativity and what you can do.

If you’re wondering how to use WordPress plugins, read on to learn everything you need to know.


What are WordPress Plugins?

Before we move on to discuss how to use WordPress plugins, we first need to talk about what plugins are, and where you can find them.

Plugins are an additional piece of code that you can add to your website to provide additional functionality.

A plugin may affect the look or the way that users are able to interact with a site. This might include plugins that allow for greater interaction.

Plugins can be used for adding major functions such as the ability to sell items and take payments. Examples of this type of plugin would include WooCommerce.

Many plugins will provide enhanced functionality to your backend. For example, there are numerous different plugins that will help with your site’s search engine optimization. Yoast is one very popular example of an SEO plugin for WordPress.

By using these SEO plugins in an effective manner, you’ll be able to push your site higher in the search engine results pages.

There are various different plugins that provide your website with more security. These should be considered as being essential to the running of your site and should never be overlooked.

Many plugins are free, while others work on a subscription basis.

Deciding What Type of Plugins You Need

Before you download plugins for your website, you should determine what type of functions you require.

There are certain plugins that you should consider essential. These include security plugins meant to enhance the existing basic security that you may be getting as part of your WordPress theme or through your WebHost.

Make a list of all of the features that are important to your website. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What will the website be used for? You may be creating a portfolio, a blog, or an eCommerce site. The purpose will dictate many of the plugins you require.
  • Will you be selling any items from your website? Even if you’re primary purpose isn’t eCommerce, you’ll still need the right plugins to carry out any transactions.
  • How will users interact with the site? You may need lots of web forms or questionnaires for client intakes and onboarding.
  • Do you need enhanced social media functions? If you’re trying to encourage social shares and are looking to build up a following from your site, you will need these functions.

Once you have a list of functions that you need from your plugins, you can start to look for suitable plugins. Find lists of the top plugins from sites like AliveBetter.

How to Use WordPress Plugins

The easiest way of finding and installing WordPress plugins is through the plugin search on the dashboard of your website.

The only drawback to finding your WordPress plugins in this way is that the plugin must be listed in the WordPress plugin directory.

Go to “plugin” on the left-hand bar of your dashboard, and then select “add new.”

You’ll be met with the plugin screen from which you can start to search for plugins. Use the search feature on the right side of the page to look for plugins. You can either search for the function of the plugin, or you could search by name.

Having found the plugin that you want to use, you will need to click “install.” WordPress will now download that plugin for you.

Once your plugin has downloaded, go to the plugin and click “activate.” This will ensure that the plugin is ready for you to use.

The activated plugin will then need to be configured within the plugin’s settings. Each plugin is different, and as you run through the setup, it should talk you through the steps. Otherwise, visit the developer’s website for more information.

Updating Your Plugins

From time-to-time, your plugins will need updating. This happens when the developers have improved a feature of the plugin.

As many plugin updates may include code to improve their security, it is essential that you carry out any updates. If you don’t do this, you may be leaving your website vulnerable to a cyberattack.

Even if you have plugins that have been deactivated, you should still ensure that these have been updated. If you’re not using a plugin, you should consider uninstalling it. Even if it’s not currently in use, it will cause a drain on your resources.

Deactivating and Uninstalling Plugins

There may come a time when you find a better plugin that does the same job as one that you already have installed and activated.

Install and activate your new plugin and enjoy the benefits that it brings. But be sure to deactivate and uninstall your old plugin so that there are no conflicts on your page. This will also make your site less cluttered and smoother to load.

Keep Developing Your Site

Now that you know how to use WordPress plugins, you should keep an eye out for useful plugins that will add extra value to your site.

Your site should never stop developing. The more often you add content, the better as this will keep your site feeling fresh and current.

For more great tips on running your WordPress website, check out the rest of the blog.

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