Step #8: Install a Couple Essential Plugins
Plugins are the things that really make WordPress special.
Basically, a plugin is a third party tool that you can upload to your site and add a lot more functionality.
Head to the left hand menu again, and click Plugins then Add New.
You’ll be brought to the Plugins page where you can install a plugin you’ve already downloaded, search for a particular plugin, or browse some of the most popular plugins used by WordPress bloggers.
You can see the box for each plugin gives you some useful information, like the name and a description, the last date it was updated, if it’s compatible with the version of WordPress you have installed, and the number of reviews.
If you click, More Details, a pop up will open that shows you some screenshots of the plugin, more details about the plugin, some FAQs, and in depth reviews.
Your installed plugins can all be found by clicking Plugin and then Installed Plugin from the left side menu. Here you can see what’s active, what needs an update and can access the settings for many of the plugins.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast: This is the go-to SEO plugin out there, it makes it super easy to get your posts and pages SEO ready to they can be found more easily online.
- JetPack by WordPress: This plugin allows you to manage your WordPress site with all a ton of special features, including an easy way to track your site statistics.
- Google XML Sitemaps: It’s not sexy, but this plugin makes your site easier for search engines to index.
- Askimet: Pretty much every WordPress blog comes with this plugin, use it to help reduce spam on your site.
- Contact form: Remember when we said you need to have a contact box on your site, use Contact Form to do it. It lets you create a simple box that’s super easy to use.
- Security plugin: You want to protect your site from hackers. Even if you don’t think anyone can find it (yet), they are out there. So, use this plugin to block hackers and bots that are trying to access your information.
- Image smusher: Having lots of images is awesome for a niche site, but it also has the potential to slow it down a lot. This plugin smushes your images down to a fraction of the size, so your page will load faster.
- Social media: Make sure you have the ability to have your content be shared on your site. This plugin lets you do that easily. You can decide if and where you want content to be shared (i.e. posts vs. pages).
Once you’ve got the basic plugins set, then you can start adding more features to your site.
The bottom line is that if there is some kind of functionality you’d like to add to your site, there’s a 95% chance there’s already a plugin out there that will help you do it.
So search for different plugins from the “Add new” plugin menu, or just search Google for what you need.
Step #9: Activate Widgets
Most website themes will come with specific spaces where you can put special menus. Usually, you can find these spaces at the header and footer of your site, plus on the sidebars.
See these smaller boxes on the right side of my site Breaking Eighty?
Those are widgets.Now, you can do a ton of stuff with your widgets, but most people keep it pretty basic, including things like a search bar, email sign up form, Facebook like box, or recent comments, just to name a few.
You control what goes where and what you want to show with widgets.
So head to the left hand side bar again and click Appearance and then Widgets.
As you can see, there are lots of widgets available: This is the widget menu, here is where you’ll see all the widgets you have available on your site.
Now, on the right hand side of the page, you’ll see the places in my particular theme where I can put widgets.You’ll see a couple of spots in the header, and then four footers. Your theme might have more spots available.
You can play around with your widgets to see what you like where. You can also use “text” widgets as places to add in any special coding that can create a new widget for you.
If you don’t want a certain widget to be active any longer, simply drag it back over to the available widgets section and it will be removed.
Additional Reading: Not sure what widget/pages/plugins etc. to include on your site? Check out: The 60 Minute Blog Audit to get some direction.
Now, after you have unzipped any plugins, all you have to do is drag the unzipped folder from your computer into this plugin folder. Done!
Now, from here you go into your WordPress and under the “Plugins” header, select “installed.” Here you can activate or deactivate any installed plugins.
Most Important Plugins for Your Site
- Akismet: This is the only plugin that comes with every installation of wordpress. Once you activate it, it basically acts as a spam comment blocker. Believe me, you will want to use this, as within weeks of starting your blog you will get hundreds of spam comments. Luckily, with Akismet, you will never have to see most of them!
- Google Analytics by Yoast: I mentioned this briefly earlier, and this is probably the plugin that I use most on a day-to-day basis. This plugin, while not as in depth as Google Analytics, tracks the basics of your site, all in real time. So, very quickly, you can see what pages people are visiting, how they got to your site, and what links they are clicking on.
- All in One SEO: When it comes to ensuring every post you write is completely optimized for all the major search engines, I have yet to find anything that beats this plugin. All you have to do is fill out a few key details regarding each post you write and this takes care of the rest!
- Google XML Sitemaps: If you followed previous instructions regarding the 10 things to do immediately after installing WordPress, then you have already read about the benefits of this one.
There are thousands of other plugins, and you’ll find ones that work great for specific purposes that will come up as you start building your site. These are just a few that I’ve found to be extremely helpful, no matter who you are.
Next, we’ll take a look at setting up menus.