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Introduction to WordPress Plugins

What is a plugin?

If you have a WordPress website, you likely have plugins installed. Upon WordPress installation, you may have noticed that you have ‘Akismet’ and ‘Hello Dolly’ in your plugins list. If your website is already up and running, you may have a little more. But many still wonder what a plugin really is.

Some have a tendency to be confused about the difference between a theme and a plugin. A theme is what gives the website its appearance. It often gets confused with plugins, because they both can be ‘plugged in’. This means that you can upload them and activate them separately. A plugin will give a certain functionality to your website without having add code to your actual theme. This way, when you update or replace your theme with a new one, you get to keep the plugin functionality since it resides in a different folder.

Plugins are created using the WordPress installation’s programming functions. All WordPress installations have functions that enable web developers to create plugins, as they create an entryway to other WordPress functions and the WordPress database. Many WordPress plugin programmers submit their plugins to the WordPress open source project. Anyone can upload these plugins through the administrator interface of any WordPress website. These plugins are free of charge, and there are 1000’s of them. Although they are usually adequate for most needs, there are more specialized versions that can be bought on external sites.

But for our purposes, I will name a few of the most popular plugins available, and they are all free!


This plugin is included with your WordPress installation by default. If you do not have this activated, and you have comments enabled on your website, you have probably noticed that you get quite a few span comments. For many websites, whether they get many visitors or not, most comments will be spam comments. These comments are automatically submitted by comment robots that scour the internet for blogs that do not use captcha. Aksimet is used in these situations in order to filter out the spam. No need to sift through numerous spam comment submissions.

Google XML Sitemaps

Anyone who wants to get their website indexed by Google properly should use this plugin. It will create a sitemap of your website, which will allow Google to crawl all of your website pages. You can then submit your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools. This is an effective way for Google to know you are online and if you have made any changes to your website, Google will know and reconsider your website accordingly.

All in One SEO Pack

Also to help you rank well with Google, this plugin will give you the option to add descriptions and tags to each of your blog posts and pages. When you add a description to a page, when that page gets displayed in the Google search results, the description appears below the title instead of the default. This also makes it easier for Google to tell what your page or post is about.

Contact Form 7

This is quite possibly the most popular contact form plugin available, and one of the best. Once activated, you will have access to a interface by which you can customize your form by adding textboxes, radio buttons, and drop-down menus. This way, when a user submits their question or comment, you will be receive the values of these selections along with the message in your email. Also, because the form is so simple, you can easily add styling with CSS in order to make it blend with the rest of your website.

NextGEN Gallery

This plugin has many useful features that allow you to manage your photos. It includes a Flash slide show, sortable albums, and customizable templates. It adds a new dimension to the WordPress media library and gallery, and allows visitors to interact with your image collection. You can use this for product features, or to simply organize your photo albums. Stats

Think of this as a supplement to your Google Analytics account. With this plugin, you can view your visitors statistics and track views to specific pages and posts. To use Stats, you must enter an API key, which you can obtain from the website after signing up.

Installing Plugins via the Dashboard

1. Login to your WordPress dashboard.

2. Choose Plugins➪Add New. On the Install Plugins page are a number of selections, including a search box. Type a term in this box and click ‘Search Plugins’. At the top of the Install Plugins page, you find links for the following options:

Search: The page where you can search for plugins within the directory.
Upload: This page provides you with a means to upload a plugin directly into WordPress.
Featured: This page displays a selection of plugins featured by WordPress as great plugins you may want to try out.
Popular: This page shows the most popular plugins based on criteria selected by WordPress.
Newest: This page shows the most recently added plugins within the repository.
Recently Updated: This page shows the plugins most recently updated by their developer.
At the bottom of the Install Plugins page, you will find the most commonly searched keywords. When you click a keyword, WordPress displays all the plugins tagged with the keyword. For example, clicking gallery shows all plugins tagged with that keyword, such as NextGen Gallery, a very popular plugin.

3. After you find a plugin you like, click the ‘details’ link under the name. You will then see a Plugin Information window.

4. If you choose to install this plugin, click ‘Install Now’. 5. When you have completed the installation, go to your plugins list, and click ‘Activate’.

Upgrading Plugins

From time to time, plugin developers will release new versions of their plugins. These new versions may be released to fix problems with the plugin, add new functionality, or make use of new features in the latest version of WordPress. On the Dashboard, a new WordPress Updates page shows all available updates and includes an Update Plugins button for upgrading plugins with one click.

Custom WordPress Plugins

There seems to be a plugin for almost any popular purpose. Contact forms, social media, SEO, the list goes on. But, there may come a time in a successful website’s life when you need a something a little more customized. If you would like to get a quote, or are simply curious about what a plugin can do for your needs, please don’t hesitate to submit a support ticket at WordPressHelpLive. We have very fast turnaround and we will never charge you more than the original quote.

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