This article is part of the Mastering WordPress series:
- How to Start a WordPress Blog
- Customizing Your WordPress Blog: Installing Themes
- Customizing Your WordPress Blog: Installing Plugins
- Customizing Your WordPress Blog: Adding Content
- WordPress User Roles Explained
- How to Create Custom WordPress User Roles
Now that you have your hosting set up, WordPress blog installed and preferred theme applied, it’s time to start adding some additional features and functionality to your blog. In this section of the series we’ll go over installing plugins.
Refresher: By default, the menu on the WordPress dashboard is collapsed, but you can expand it by clicking on the little arrow at the bottom. Even though scrolling over each icon will display all of its contained submenus, it may help to keep the menu expanded while you’re learning your way around.
Installing Plugins on WordPress
Installing plugins is even more time-consuming than finding a theme because it will take a lot of testing and trial and error on your end. Just searching for one type of plugin (e.g. social media share buttons) will often bring up five to ten (or more) plugins that do the same thing, and you’ll have to try out several to see which one you prefer.
Luckily, you can also find many blogs (via Google) that have done the work for you and provide handy lists of the best plugins for different tasks (e.g. backing up your blog, keeping out spam, etc.). Here at Make Tech Easier we’re constantly bringing you new WordPress plugin lists along with other great WordPress tips and tricks.
Searching for and Finding New WordPress Plugins
Click on the “Plugins” menu or hover over it, and click on “Installed Plugins.” You’ll already see a few plugins installed and activated like Akismet (great for reducing spam), Jetpack (adds a ton of useful features), and MOJO Marketplace (Bluehost‘s own source for themes, plugins, and more).
To add more plugins you can search through WordPress’ Plugin Directory by clicking on “Add new” at the top of the page or in the WordPress menu under “Plugins.” You can then search by keyword, author, or tag.
Just like WordPress themes, there are many other sources for plugins (including Bluehost’s marketplace), and it can often take weeks or even months to get the perfect set of plugins for your site. It’s also very easy to mess up your site with just one bad plugin, so it’s a good idea to create regular backups of your WordPress blog in case something goes haywire.
Installing WordPress Plugins
I highly suggest you start with our own article, 16 of the Best Free WordPress Plugins You Must Use in 2016 to find some useful plugins that you may want to use. Going from that list, let’s install W3 Total Cache to help optimize your WordPress blog and improve page loading times.
Search for “W3 Total Cache,” and it should be the first result on the list. Then, click on “Install Now.”
Again, like with WordPress themes, the “Install Now” button changes to “Activate.” Click on it to enable the plugin on your site. You’ll be taken to the “Installed Plugins” page and will see it listed. Click on “Settings” to set it up.
Customizing WordPress Plugin Settings
Most WordPress plugins come with their own Settings page. Some will have a “Settings” link underneath it on the “Installed Plugins” page that will take you to a single page. Others will add their own menu to the WordPress dashboard along with submenus. Some have both (like W3 Total Cache). You just have to play it by ear since each plugin is different.
While you can access W3 Total Cache’s settings from “Installed Plugins,” it also adds a new “Performance” menu and seventeen submenus to the dashboard. Since this plugin is pretty complex (yet very necessary) for beginners, you should consult a thorough guide such as this one on WPDean.
Coming Up Next
If you’re ready to start adding content to your blog, stick around for the next section. Feel free to leave a comment below with any questions you may have about WordPress plugins.
I’d also love to know some of your favorite plugins! Are there any plugins you tried out but just didn’t like or couldn’t figure out?