Building an Author Website Step Eight: Playing with Plugins

PluginsOne of the most rewarding things about Self-Hosting with WordPress.org is the ability to install powerful plugins to extend your website’s functionality. Compare it to accessorizing your home with all the latest gadgets and fashions to make it uniquely your own.

Plugins are little programs that interact with your WordPress software in all kinds of fun and useful ways. There are thousands of plugins to choose from, they’re easy to use, and, best of all, most are free.

Before I list the plugins I believe every website should include, let’s check out the Manage Plugins page in your Administration panel.

Managing Your Plugins

From the Dashboard, scroll down to the Plugins menu and click “Installed Plugins.”

This is the page where you manage all the plugins installed in your site.

Currently, three plugins come pre-packaged with your WordPress installation file: Hello Dolly, Akismet, and Jetpack.

Hello Dolly is a fun but not necessary plugin. Basically, it adds a random lyric from the song “Hello, Dolly!” in the upper right of your administration screen each time you log into your site.

Akismet is one of the most important plugins you’ll ever need. It’s a real headache saver in that it helps eliminate comment and trackback spam.

Jetpack adds powerful features previously only available to WordPress.com users including customization, traffic, mobile, content, and performance tools.

Of the three plugins above, Askimet is definitely a keeper. Hello Dolly, not so.

Activating and Deactivating Your Plugins

Just for practice, click on “Deactivate” below Hello Dolly and the plugin becomes inactive. Regrets? Simply click “Activate,” and you’re back in business. Or to uninstall the plugin altogether, place a checkmark in the box to the left of the plugin name, select “Delete,” and click “Apply.” A “Delete Plugins” page opens asking you to confirm. Click “Yes.” Again, if you have regrets, you can always reinstall Hello Dolly later.

As I mentioned above, Akismet usually comes prepackaged with your WordPress file. However, in order to activate it, you’ll be asked for a Akismet API key. Follow the activation instructions given on your plugin page or click HERE and follow steps 4-6.

I’m going to skip the activation of Jetpack, something you can do on your own later if you decide to keep it.

Must Have Plugins

Here’s a list of plugins I highly recommend that you immediately install in your site.

  1. Wordfence Security: secures your site against known attackers and makes it up to 50 times faster.
  2. WP Maintenance Mode: adds a splash page to your site that lets visitors know your site is down for maintenance. 
  3. Updraft Plus Backup and Restoration: backs up and restores your site.
  4. Official StatCounter: gives quick and reliable analytics of visitors to your blog.
  5. Contact Form 7: manages multiple contact forms.
  6. WordPress SEO: helps you write better content, by forcing you to choose a focus keyword when writing you articles for your blog.
  7. Shareaholic: makes it a snap for any website to engage and grow its traffic, market its content, and monetize its traffic.

Plugins 1-4 will be useful right away, while plugins 5-7 will become important when you start your blog.

Installing Your Plugins

Let’s follow the steps for installing the plugin¬†Wordfence Security.

  • Go to your Plugin menu and click “Add New.”
  • In the “Search Plugins” box on the upper right, type the title of the plugin you’re looking for, in this case, Wordfence Security.
  • Many choices will pop up, but the plugin you want comes first.
  • Check out the rating and number of downloads for the plugin. Also check if it’s compatible with your version of WordPress.
  • Click the install box and confirm that you want to install the plugin.
  • Now all you have to do is activate it.

You’ll find many other useful plugins as you become more familiar with your website’s needs. In later posts I’ll share some of my favorites.

Take a little time now to do some plugin research. You’ll be amazed at the possibilities.

Here are three sites to get you started.