Learning to find, evaluate, and install plugins is a skill you need to master if you work with WordPress. Here’s the good news. Essential WordPress plugin management can be learned in a few minutes. In this article, we cover all the basics, from costs to WordPress plugin installation.
Why you need plugins
WordPress - after a fresh install - gives you a barebones website. It's like a blank canvas waiting for an artist to paint something magical. You are the artist and plugins are your paint.
Plugins, packages of PHP code, let you customize the WordPress site with the design, features, and functions you want to deliver to your audience.
Here's a shortlist of what you can do after you learn about WordPress plugin installation.
Are WordPress plugins free?
Some are and some aren’t.
There's a bedazzling array of free WordPress plugins to choose from. Many of them provide essential services that you’ll want to add to your sites as soon as you install WordPress.
Google XML Sitemaps is an example. With over two million active installations, it’s uber-popular. And for good reason. It creates an XML sitemap for your site that can be read by crawlers like Google and Bing. If SEO is important to you, a sitemap builder like this one should be part of your toolkit.
Free is nice to have, but let’s get real. It’s not a sustainable business model for developers who spend hundreds of hours - or more - bringing a product to market. Then there are the costs associated with updates and support.
That’s why a good number of serious plugin developers in the WordPress ecosystem operate on the freemium model. Freemium, a portmanteau, is a mashup of the words free and premium.
The idea is simple. Distribute a product that delivers exceptional value and then upsell additional features. Often, but not always, you pay for these additional features by purchasing a license that needs to be renewed annually - thereby providing the creator with recurring income.
Akismet Spam Protection is one example. It automatically filters out spam so you don't waste time reading messages in the comments section from a bank manager in Cambodia who needs your help. It's free for the website hobbyist. The paid version provides more services for commercial sites and networks.
Where can I find WordPress plugins?
You could Google the string: best WordPress plugins. In addition, there are two main search options.
Most WordPress plugins are cataloged on WordPress.org and are available freely for download.
- Click Plugins on the main menu.
- Enter a term in the search bar or scroll down the page to see featured plugins.
The second option is to run a search from the Admin panel on your own WordPress site. This search option has one downside: it's limited to free plugins. The search tool won't display results for commercial plugins even though they might deliver outstanding value.
- Go to the Admin dashboard of your WordPress site.
- Find the Plugins heading and click Add New.
- Enter a search term and scroll through the results.
WordPress Plugin Installation Methods
There are three ways to install a plugin.
The quickest and easiest method is to install a plugin from the Admin panel on your website.
- Locate the plugin you want to add and click the Install Now button.
- Click the Activate button.
The new plugin is now live, but it might need to be customized for your site.
On the Plugins page, locate the plugin and click the Settings button. Every Settings dashboard is different, so you'll need to experiment with the customizations.
The second WordPress plugin installation option is to use the Add New tool on your website.
Use this tool to install plugins that you purchased (paid plugins are not listed in the WordPress plugin directory).
- Download the purchased plugin file (usually a zip folder) and save it on your computer.
- Go to your website's Admin page and click Plugins on the left menu.
- On the Plugins page, click the Add New button.
- On the next page, click Upload Plugin.
- Click the Choose File button and upload the zip file from your computer.
- Click the Install Now button, which is next to the file name.
- Click the Activate Plugin button.
The plugin is now live and appears on the Plugins list.
Occasionally, you'll encounter a plugin that can only be installed via FTP. Most WordPress novices won't need this option, but it's good to have this skillset in your WordPress plugin management toolkit.
Before you start, make sure you have an FTP client connected to your hosting service. At the time of writing, FileZilla (a popular FTP app) was infected with a worm, so we suggest that you use a different tool, such as WinSCP or Cyberduck.
- Download the plugin and extract the zip file on your computer. A new folder appears.
- Open the FTP client and connect to your website. Once connected, go to the /wp-content/plugins/ folder on the server.
- Select the plugin folder you want to upload and then click the Upload button.
- When the upload finishes, the folder appears in the /wp-content/plugins/ folder.
- Go to your website's Admin dashboard and click Plugins. The new plugin appears on the list.
- Click the Activate button.
WordPress plugin management: selection factors
Not all plugins deliver what they promise. Some are out of date and others are coded badly. Occasionally, the code of one plugin conflicts with another, and the results ain't pretty: worst-case scenario, your site crashes, and you're locked out.
To avoid potential plugin disasters, be sure to look for these four indicators of a trustworthy plugin.
- Reviews and ratings. If other people like the plugin, chances are you will have a positive experience, too.
- The number of active installations. If heaps of people use it, we can guess that it works well.
- If you search for plugins via your website's dashboard, you'll know right away if the plugin is compatible with your current WordPress installation.
- Last updated. Look for plugins that are kept up to date to avoid conflicts and security issues.
Managing multiple WordPress installations
If you have more than one site, you know time management is important. Your priorities are generating content, tweaking your SEO campaign, and building an audience. Who has time to manage WordPress plugins on every individual site?
That's why savvy entrepreneurs use a plugin management tool like WPBlazer. It helps you manage plugins on multiple sites. You can install, update, and delete plugins on all of your sites from a single dashboard.
Last thoughts about WordPress plugin installation
Plugins are an amazing part of the WordPress ecosystem. These easy to install apps help you add features and functions with no coding experience at all. If you're new to plugins, this article covers the basics, from WordPress plugin installation to best practices that help you pick the winners. Now it's your turn to explore the world of plugins.