Step 6: Installing Plugins


Free WordPress Plugins

WordPress has an army of volunteer coders and designers who build plugins that increase the functionality of your website. Most of the plugins are completely free, and you can install them just by poking a button. How cool is that?

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of different plugins, and if you choose the right ones you can make your website do almost anything you can imagine.

However, since I’m going to assume that you’re following these lessons because this is the first website you’ve ever built, I think it’s a good idea to keep things simple – I’ll show you the plugins I use on every site I build, and then I’ll show you how to find other plugins you might want to use.

First, let’s look at the screen that lets you find and add new plugins. Go to the Plugin tab on the left-hand column of your WordPress Dashboard. This will bring you to a screen that shows you the plugins that are already installed.

Ignore the Hello Dolly plugin.

Akismet

There are automatic programs used by comment spammers that can fill your entire site with junk, so you need to activate Akismet. This plugin recognizes common comment spam tactics, and whisks the spam into a folder where it dies a lingering death. No need for you to read through the junk.

Click on the Activate link under the plugin title. You’ll then see the message at the top of the plugin page that says you need to add your API key. Just follow the link on the message, or use the link to your Akismet Configuration screen that now shows under the Plugins tab on the sidebar.

You don’t have an API number yet, so you can follow the instructions on the configuration screen. The link to Akismet.com will take you to a page where you can buy an API key, or choose the link at the bottom of that page for a free one. If you don’t quality for their free number, you can sign up for an account at WordPress.com and they’ll give you an API number for free.

You can use the same number for all of your websites if you decide to build more than one. You can’t imagine how much grief this plugin will save you.

Install New Plugins

Now lets go find some new plugins to add. Under the Plugins tab on your Dashboard sidebar, you’ll see the Add New link. This will take you to the screen where you can search for plugins and start the installation process.

Search for WordPress Plugins Search for WordPress Plugins

Type in the name of the plugin, if you know it, choose the one you want from the search results, and hit “install.” After it’s installed, click on “activate.” For most plugins, that’s all there is to it.

Here’s the list of plugins that I use on almost all my sites. Most of them help the Search Engines find you – who wants to build a website if nobody comes? Read the description of their purpose that is shown in the search results on the Add Plugins screen.

  • SiteTree (for a site map people can read, and a Google sitemap too, if you want)
  • Google Sitemap (for a site map that Google can read, if you don’t want to use SiteTree for this page)
  • PC Robots.txt (because Google wants you to have a robots.txt file)
  • Social Media Feather (for social share and follow buttons)
  • All in One SEO Pack (lets you determine the title and description that shows up in your Google search listings)
  • Subscribe to Comments (So people come back to read the answers to their comments)
  • W3-Total-Cache or WP Super Cashe (to make your site load faster for readers).

The only plugins that need any input from you after hitting the Activate button are:

Social Media Feather – Once this plugin is activated, you can choose which buttons to show, and if a widget will show up on the Widgets screen so you can add the buttons to your sidebar. It will also put share buttons above or below your posts, if you want.

SiteTree – This plugin automatically puts a link to every new page and post on a Site Map page, so your readers can see everything you’ve written – all in one convenient place. If you don’t have a lot of posts and pages, you don’t need this plugin, because all the links to your posts will show up in your sidebar or menu bar.

All in One SEO Pack – requires you to activate it, and then go into the settings screen and enable it. Then you’ll have some extra text boxes below your Post where you can write your own description that shows up on Google.

W3-Total-Cache or WP Super Cashe – the settings for these plugins (you only use one, not both) are rather complicated. Do a Google search using the plugin name for instructions from web designer geeks.

Optional Plugins

Once you start adding pages and posts to your website, you may decide that you need more help from free plugins. Since there are thousands to choose from, I can’t go through them all. If you’re building a simple site for a local business, you probably won’t need any plugins other than the ones I recommended above.

OK – enough of this poking of buttons and choosing plugins. It’s time to write some pages so you have something to show for all this work!

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{ 10 comments }

Kelly-Product Reviewer May 6, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Jonni,

Thanks for your advice . I deleted the contact form 7 plugin from all pgs except the contact page and put the comment box back on and miraculously, most pgs have the Name, E-mail and Website where you can post comments! Except for 1 post, the comment section is missing, Shoot! I thought this drama was over. Any ideas?

Peace.

Jonni May 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Is it possible that you told that one post that you didn’t want it to allow people to post? You said that you found the area that lets you do that – maybe you could go back and take another look.

Good job on getting this all worked out. I’m in the middle of learning how to use BuddyPress to turn a Wordpress site into a social networking site. Lots of little celebrations when I get things right, a few moments of irritation when I have to go back and do something over. But the learning process is fun, isn’t it?

Kelly-Product Reviewer May 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I’ll go back and take a look.
Thanks for the encouragement and advice. And I have to admit I do start dancing around when I figure something out!

Liz May 21, 2011 at 10:04 am

Hi Jonni, thank you for all the helpful information. I am working on getting more traffic to my sites (which are all WordPress sites) and have found that since I am using free .com sites that I am not hosting myself, I do not have the option for plugins. I wouldn’t even know how to go about self-hosting my own site….any suggestions?

Thanks,
Liz
http://www.toutesuite.wordpress.com
http://www.yourdesignerlooks.wordpress.com
http://www.elizabethbridalboutique.com

Jonni May 21, 2011 at 10:31 am

All the instructions you need begin with the first build-a-website tutorial on this site.

Jonni May 21, 2011 at 10:39 am

By the way – when I mentioned that you can use your URL in blog comments, I actually should have said that you can put your URL in comment text box labeled “website.” If you just list your websites at the bottom of a comment, almost every blog owner out there will simply delete the comment – and they may add you to their spam filter. I’m somewhat liberal on this blog because helping people get traffic, (after they build their website, of course) is what this site is all about. However, most bloggers won’t let you get away with a comment that includes a list of links to your own sites.

The recommended technique, then, is to use a keyword in the name field, but in a way that the blogger won’t object to. This could be something like “Liz, a Bridal Boutique Fanatic” or, better yet, something of a bit more subtle. In the Website box you put one URL. If you put more than one comment on any site, be sure you don’t repeat the same comment – that’s a red flag for bloggers, and they’ll add you to their spam list. Just read through the previous comments and add some good advice, if at all possible. Enter into the conversation, and add value to the page.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

Kelly@product reviews May 21, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Jonni,

I just started using CommentLuv and KeywordLuv plug-ins on my blog in the hope it will assist in building dialog and steady traffic. I sure don’t want to turn anyone off by putting keywords or links where they don’t belong, so thanks for stressing that.

Jonni May 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I’ve heard of those plugins, but I’m not sure what they do. Can you tell us why you chose to use them? Do you think I should add them to the list of recommended plugins on this site?

Kelly|product reviews May 21, 2011 at 4:03 pm

I just started using those 2 plug-ins to help build traffic and backlinks about 3 days ago, so I’ll let you know about the results when I get them.

Glen@Create a website July 13, 2011 at 11:20 pm

These are great tools to use when using Wordpress, and I’d say, the SeO all in one pack is the best among these plugins.

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