Almost 35 percent of the top 1 million websites on the internet are running on WordPress. Nearly 30 million sites use it in total. You might think that a lot of those sites would look similar, but you’d be surprised at how different a lot of them are—especially those 350,000 top sites.
Part of the reason WordPress is so popular is its extendability. There are a ton of themes to make your site look unique and several plugins that let you add new features to WordPress without having to be a WordPress expert or know a thing about coding. Plugins are one of the most misunderstood parts of WordPress, though. Let’s look at 9 WordPress tips for getting the most out of your plugins.
1. Don’t Go Overboard
A lot of people who build their websites using WordPress have a tendency to install a lot of unnecessary plugins. Part of it is the curiosity to see how they work or what they’ll do for their site. The other part of it is the sheer number of plugins available—almost 55,000 from the WordPress plugin directory alone.
Plugins add new features to WordPress, but to do that, they’re also adding more code. The more plugins you install, the more code WordPress has to process every time someone lands on one of the pages on your site. This can slow down your site and if it’s too slow, you’ll lose visitors (which could damage your rankings in Google). Only install what you need and delete any plugins you’re not using.
2. Keep Your Plugins Up-To-Date
WordPress is like any other software—it gets updated regularly to fix security flaws and add new features. The same can be said of the plugins.
Your WordPress dashboard has an Updates section that shows you anything that has an update available, including your plugins. You can update them to the latest version from your dashboard without having to download or install anything yourself.
In most cases, the updates will happen in a few seconds, so it won’t affect your site for long. It’s still a good idea to run the updates at an off-peak time, though, when your traffic is typically at its lowest.
3. Free vs. Commercial Plugins
You’ll find plenty of free plugins to add almost any function you can think of to WordPress. You’ll also find plenty of commercial plugins that you’ll have to pay for. Neither is “better” than the other. There are plenty of free plugins that are every bit as capable as paid alternatives. The best way to approach this choice is to find the best plugin for your needs.
If it happens to be a commercial plugin that has a cost attached, don’t let that scare you away from using it. One advantage that paid plugins do tend to offer is that they’re more actively developed—since the developer isn’t going to be able to sell many copies if they let it stagnate.
4. Keep Your Site’s Overhead Low
You may have plugins that you only use occasionally, such as a plugin that lets you export your WordPress content to save as a backup, for example. If you use them now and then, it doesn’t make sense to delete them after each use to reduce the overhead on your WordPress installation. Instead of deleting them, you can deactivate them. When they’re deactivated, plugins don’t add any extra code to WordPress—they sit idle on your server until they’re turned back on. Reactivate them when you need to use them, do what you need to do, and deactivate them again.
5. Install These Must-Have Plugins
There are three types of plugins that every WordPress site should use:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
Keeping your WordPress site secure shouldn’t need any explanation. Use a security plugin such as WordFence that will block hackers from logging into your site, get rid of spam blog comments, re-map your login page, and other things that will harden your site’s security.
SEO is critical if you want your site to rank well in Google. Yoast SEO will help you optimize your content by rating it and making suggestions for ways to improve it.
WordPress delivers content to your visitors by building each page every time someone visits it. This is pretty inefficient if you get a lot of traffic and your pages rarely change. A caching plugin like WP Supercache will save “snapshots” of your pages and deliver those to your visitors, only rebuilding the page when something changes.
6. Integrate Other Services with WordPress
You can get plugins to integrate various other services into WordPress, including:
- Google Analytics
- Google Adsense
- Email services like MailChimp and Convertkit
- Cloudflare and other CDN services
These plugins make it easy to connect your site to those services, without having to do any custom coding.
7. Look Beyond the WordPress Plugin Directory
There are nearly 55,000 plugins listed in the WordPress plugin directory, but it’s not the only source of plugins. In some cases, you’ll find them exclusively on the developer’s website or other directories like CodeCanyon as well. There are probably as many or more available outside the official WordPress directory as there are in it.
8. Double-Check Your Plugin Compatibility
When there’s a major update available for WordPress that jumps to a whole new version number, such as version 4 to 5, it means there have been significant changes and new features added. Sometimes existing plugins aren’t compatible with the changes and need to be updated before they’ll work properly. Before you install any major updates for WordPress, check your most important plugins to see if they’re compatible.
9. Troubleshooting WordPress Problems
No computer software is immune to problems—WordPress is no different. Every now and then, you’ll run into strange issues with your site or a feature that’s not working as expected and have to learn more about troubleshooting the problem.
The first step to take in that situation is to disable all your plugins and see if the problem goes away. If so, reactivate them one at a time, checking after each one. This will help you pinpoint which plugin triggers the problem.
Don’t Neglect These WordPress Tips. There is lots of WordPress help for beginners available on the web, but these WordPress tips for plugins will take you a long way to getting your site running smoothly. Pick two or three to focus on first and get started today.
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