I stated on the previous page that themes affect how a blog looks rather than how it works. Here, we’ll be discussing the tools that affect how your blog works — plugins.
Before now, the only way to create an online presence was to set up a “static” website with no real dynamic functionality. But now, you can make your blog do anything — thanks to plugins.
A plugin is an add-on code that provides additional functionality to your WordPress blog. There are plugins available for hundreds to thousands of additional functions and features that do not come with WordPress by default.
For example, you can turn your blog into the following with the help of plugins:
- A paid membership site
- An e-commerce store
- A community forum
- An interactive Q&A site
- An online application
Here, however, we’ll be sticking with keeping your blog for what it is — a blog. Even at that, there’s plenty you can do with plugins on your blog that you’re likely to find impressive. For example, there are special plugins that can provide your blog with the following features:
- Comments spam protection
- Search engine optimization
- Social sharing features
- A contact form
- And lots more
Now, let’s get into the details.
Finding WordPress plugins
I stated in the previous part that there is a WordPress.org Theme Directory where you can download and install thousands of themes for your blog. Now, it shouldn’t really surprise you to know that there is also a WordPress.org Plugin Directory, which operates just like the theme directory.
As with themes, I strongly advise that you download free plugins only from the WordPress.org Plugin Directory, as free plugins from other sources can really disrupt your blog.
The WordPress plugin directory contains over 30,000 free plugins, which is an awful lot to choose from, considering that you need only few of them. But you don’t have to worry about that; I’ve shortlisted a few essential plugins you need — at least for now:
- All-in-One SEO pack: allows you to easily optimize your blog, posts, and pages for keyword phrases — SEO
- Akismet (preinstalled): helps you block spam comments on your blog
- Growmap Anti-spam Plugin: blocks spambot comments by placing a checkbox under your comment box that can only be checked by human commenters
- Contact Form 7: allows you to easily insert contact forms on any part of your blog
- Digg Digg/ Floating Social Bar: either plugin helps you add a social media sharing buttons in many different ways across your blog — to encourage users to share your content.
- Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP): adds a list of related posts to the bottom of your blog posts — to keep readers engaged with your content.
- Comment Reply Notification: sends an email notification to a commenter whenever you or another visitor to your blog replies their comments.
- WordPress Popular Posts: lists the most popular posts on your blog based on either the number of comments or the number of views.
I have deliberately restricted the list to these few plugins because I think that’s most likely all you need for now. Besides, I don’t want to overwhelm you with a big list.
How to Install a WordPress Plugin
The easiest way to install a WordPress plugin is to use the Install Plugins page. Follow the steps below:
Log in to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Plugins > Add New. You will be taken to the Install Plugins page where you can search the WordPress Plugin Directory for any plugin you want to install.
As you can see, there are many links on the page, but you don’t need to bother about them. All you need is the search box. Just enter the name of the plugin you want to install (Floating Social Bar in our example).
You will see a list containing that plugin and others with related names or functions. (Sometimes, your search will return only the plugin you’re searching for.)
Find your desired plugin in the results list (Floating Social Bar in our example), and click “Install Now”. A confirmation box would appear on your screen, asking if you’re sure you really want to install the plugin. Click “OK” to confirm the installation.
Once the installation is complete, you’ll see a confirmation page, with the option to activate the plugin. Click “Activate Plugin” link to start using the plugin on your blog.
You’ll then be taken to the Plugins page showing a “Plugin activated” notice at the top. On this page, you will see that the plugin you installed is in the list of plugins on the page.
You will need to adjust how the plugin works on your blog by clicking the “Settings” link under the plugin’s name. You can also do that by navigating to Settings and then clicking on the name of the plugin.
However, some plugins will not appear under the settings menu, but will rather show as a stand-alone menu in the sidebar.
You just learned how to install plugins to your WordPress blog. The process is the same for any plugin you want to install. So, go through the list of necessary plugins above and install them.
If you would like to learn how to install a WordPress blog by uploading, click here.