What we’re going to cover
After this lesson you’ll been fully equipped and loaded for your pursuit in dominating your online arena.
1. How plugins can turbo charge your site
As we’ve briefly touched on, plugins are like mini add ons for your site that perform a vast array on functions. They allow your site to do much more with much less effort.
This gives you more time to focus on the important things.
They can ensure your site is perfectly suited to search engines taste, can allow you to take payments, create exclusive member only sections, create backups and on and on we go.
The best way to get a feel for plugins is to understand the ones you can’t live without.
Keeping in mind, there are often many great plugins that perform similar functions. So I’m going to be going over the ones that, from my experience, have been essential and amazingly useful.
Feel free to take my recommendations as a starting point for your own research : )
How much do plugins cost?
Much like themes, plugins come in both free and premium offerings.
But, unlike free themes, there are countless free plugins that simply have no rivals, whether paid or not.
There are also countless exceptional premium plugins that are worth every penny.
We are mainly going to focus on the top free plugins.
2. How to install plugins
There are two different ways plugins are installed
- Through the WordPress backend
- As a zip file
How to install a plugin via the WordPress backend
Pretty much every free WordPress plugin you’ll ever need is available for download without even leaving your WordPress backend.
(For the example we’ll install my first “Must have” plugin, “WordPress SEO by Yoast”.)
- First, hover over “Plugins” on the sidebar and select “Add new”
- Type in the name of the plugin you want to look for, or alternatively a type of plugin you’d like to research e.g. “Social media buttons”
- Locate your desired plugin and “Install Now”
- Select “Ok” on the prompt
- Then “Activate Plugin”
- You may occasionally receive prompts regarding tracking after activation. Only select ok for the plugin developers you trust (like Yoast). If in doubt, select no.
- You’ll then be directed to the plugin page where you can confirm that your plugin has been successfully installed!
- We’ll continue setting up the Yoast plugin in the next section
How to install a plugin from a zip file
This method is very similar to above, with two main differences.
- You’ll need to find and download your plugin from another site e.g. www.CodeCanyon.net
- You’ll then need to upload a zip file to install your plugin
- First, hover over “Plugins” on the sidebar and select “Add new”
- Select “Upload”
- Select “Choose File” to locate your zip file and then “Install now”
- The next steps are identical to installing a plugin via the WordPress backend, as already covered above
So that’s the bread and butter of installing plugins.
For each of my “must have” plugins i’ll let you know whether the plugin is available from the WordPress backend or elsewhere. I’ll assume you’ll take care of the installation.
I’ll then jump back in for the fine tuning of the plugins settings.
3. What plugins come standard with WordPress
WordPress comes with a few plugins out the box. If you use a one click install via your host, like we did with GoDaddy, you may also have a few other random plugins.
There are only two that I ever bother using:
- Akismet – essential for preventing comment spam
- Jetpack – a really handy set of widgets such as email signup forms
You can remove any unwanted plugins by selecting “Delete” on the plugin page. (A plugin must be “Deactivated” before it can be deleted)
4. My “must have” plugins
1. WordPress SEO by Yoast
SEO, in a nutshell, (search engine optimization) is how search engines determine the relevance of your websites pages to what people search.
It’s broken down into onsite and offsite.
Onsite relates to aspects that you control directly on your website, while offsite activities are carried out, surprise, surprise, on other websites. (We’ll go into more detail in a later lesson).
WordPress SEO by Yoast is the penultimate for onsite SEO.
Whenever you create a new page or post Yoast runs a scan to tell you exactly what aspects you need to alter/improve. When you play by Yoast’s rules, Google becomes your biggest fan.
If I could have just one single plugin, it would be WordPress SEO by Yoast.
Where to get it?
Grab WordPress SEO by Yoast from the WordPress backend. Search for “wordpress seo yoast”
Once installed, all settings can be accessed via “SEO” on the sidebar.
Under “Dashboard” there is a tour of the plugin – worthwhile for first time users.
Lets continue with setting up the main sections:
Titles & Metas
- General: Under “Title settings” check “Force rewrite titles”. This will ensure Yoast does it’s thing uninterrupted
- Home: We’ll come back here in a later lesson
- Post Types: Under “Media” check “Meta Robots: noindex, follow” and “WordPress SEO Meta Box: Hide”. This helps prevent Google picking up duplicate content
- Taxonomies: Under both “Tags” and “Format” check “Meta Robots: noindex, follow” and “WordPress SEO Meta Box: Hide”. Same deal, preventing duplicate content.
- Other: If you plan on having a single author on your site then select “Meta Robots: no index, follow” and “Disable the author archives” for “Author Archives” and “Date Archives”
A site map is a search engine friendly outline of your pages/content. Later on we’ll be manually submitting your sitemap to Google.
For now, under “General Settings” check “Ping Yahoo!” and “Ping Ask.com”.
Under “Exclude Taxonomies” check both “Tags” and “Format”
So that’s it for the backend settings. In the upcoming lesson on SEO we’ll start using the awesome features.
2. Google Analytics for WordPress by Yoast
In lesson two we went through creating a Google Analytics account.
Now it’s time to link your Google Analytics account with your WordPress site.
Where to get it?
Grab “Google Analytics for WordPress” from the WordPress backend. Search for “Google Analytics for WordPress”.
Connecting Google Analytics to your site
- Hover over “Settings” in the sidebar and select “Google Analytics”
- Select “Click here to authenticate with Google”
- Grant access
- Select your relevant profile
- Select “Update Google Analytics settings”
You should only have one. If you’re not sure which profile, head back to Google Analytics and verify the last few digits of your code starting with “UA”
Can’t find your tracking ID? Read this post, “how to find your Google Analytics tracking ID”. (Opens in a new tab)
How to verify that your Tracking ID is installed properly
- Head back over to your Google Analytics account and select “Real-Time” then “Overview”
- In another tab, navigate to your new website
- Head back to Analytics and you should see a visitor pop up (may take 30 seconds or so)
- If not, give it a few minutes and try again
- Still no luck? Head over to Google support HERE to troubleshoot your problem
If things did work, congratulations!
You’re now set to track and conquer!
3. Contact Form 7
This easy to use plugin creates contact forms. And it does it very well.
It’s essential to give your visitors an easy way to share their thoughts with you.
It won’t always be roses and showers of compliments – but the critical feedback is often the most valuable!
Having a contact form also helps prevents evil spammers getting a hold of emails that you may have otherwise displayed on your site.
Where to get it?
Grab Contact Form 7 from the WordPress backend. Search “contact form 7″ when adding a new plugin.
- Once installed, select “Contact” on the sidebar
- Select the pre-made “Contact form 1″. The default form generally has most of what you’ll need
- Under “Form” you’ll see the fields that will be included in your form. If this is all you need, you’re pretty much done.
- Lets add a “drop-down menu” as an example of adding fields. Select “Generate Tag” on the righthand side then “Drop-down menu”
- Then add each drop down item on a separate line under “Choices”
- Select the checkbox for “Insert a blank item…”. This will ensure that people actively select an option, rather than you getting answers by default
- Copy the code under “Copy this code…” and paste it in the “Form” section where you’d like it to be displayed
- We’ll now need to create a title for the drop-down. This requires some basic html. (Just copy my example). Start with <p> and then place a </p> after your drop-down code. You may sometimes need to add </br> to push an element down a line
- Now copy the code in the green box (shown in the image just above) listed under “And, put this code into the mail fields below”. This will ensure you get emailed the result your visitor selects/enters
- While you’re down here, ensure that your correct email is listed on the lefthand side under “Mail”
- Scroll back up the top and select “Save”. Make sure to always save when making changes
- Then copy the code listed under ” Copy this code and paste it…”
- Hover over “Pages” in the sidebar then select “All Pages”
- Select the “Contact Us” page we previously created. If you don’t have a contact page, create a new page and call it “Contact Us”
- Paste your contact form code into the main body of the page then update the page
- Select “View Page” up the top
- Wham bam! You’ve got an awesome looking contact form
- Add in some fake details (like John kindly did below) and submit to ensure it’s working fine
Now we’re going to add the code onto a page to create the form
Congratulations, you’re now ready to receive truckloads of fan mail.
4. BackUpBuddy (Premium)
There is nothing worse that spending tireless hours/weeks/years creating something amazing to have it RIPPED from your hands.
In the past i’ve lost months of work in a matter of seconds thanks to viruses and…of course, my own errors.
In more horrendous cases i’ve known of companies to loose entire websites overnight from server crashes! They lost absolutely everything, so brutal.
The reality is sh*t happens.
The only thing to do is safe guard yourself against all possibilities.
BackUpBuddy is the unrivalled champion of backing up WordPress sites.
BackUpBuddy makes scheduled backups of your entire website and stores the backups on another server, meaning if your server crashes you can revert to a back up – you’ll be back up and running within a matter of minutes.
The service does come at a cost though. But it’s honestly worth every single cent, yen, peso or however you’re paying.
I previously said that if I could take only one plugin that it would be Yoast SEO, I herby announce a tie between BackUpBuddy and Yoast SEO.
Pricing for 2 websites is $80, 10 websites is $100, while a Developer license gives you unlimited sites for $150. (These prices are per year)
I know even $80 may be a stretch for some but safeguarding against the risk of loosing your site is worth tens of thousands!
If spending the $80 is really just not an option, check out these commonly used alternatives:
- BackUpWordress – a solid plugin that operates within WordPress but stores the backup on your server. Meaning if your server dies, your backup dies. Can still come in very handy.
- WordPress Backup to Dropbox – as the name implies this plugin backs your site up to your Dropbox account. The backup is not on your server so that’s a great start, but restoring your site is much more involved. There have also been cases of the scheduled backups failing…
How to install BackUpBuddy
The BackUpBuddy website has excellent and detailed documentation for installation. You’re best off heading there to get things going.
5. JetPack by WordPress
JetPack is the swiss army knife plugin for widgets. It’s packed full of handy add ons that range from social media buttons to email signup forms.
It’s also built by WordPress, so you know it’s good.
I often find that Jetpack is useful in filling the holes until you find other plugins that do a more specific job later on down the track.
Certainly worth installing in the beginning.
How to install JetPack
JetPack should have come installed as standard, but it will be unactivated.
- Head over to the plugins page
- If you see the JetPack plugin, “Activate” it. If you don’t search for it using “JetPack” and install it
- You’ll then see a prompt asking you to “Connect to WordPress”, click the magic button
- You’ll need to quickly create a WordPress.com account (this is different from your website login). You’ll only need one WordPress.com login regardless of how many WordPress sites you end up building.
- Follow the prompts to create an account. You’ll then receive an email confirmation, click that link
- Authorize JetPack
- If you see the page below, the authorization is complete!
Time for liftoff – lets get JetPack into gear!
- Hover over “Appearance” in the sidebar and select “Widgets”
- Lets add a Facebook widget. Drag and drop “Facebook Like Box (JetPack)” onto the sidebar
- You can add an optional title (I’m going to use everyones favourite friend…Justin Bieber as an example)
- Add in your full facebook url. You can grab this by going to your Facebook page and copying the full url from the address bar
- Select the other options as you wish
- Now view your site to see your new cool Facebook widget. Check out all those Beliebers!
You’ll notice a ton more widgets since last time we visited. That’s JetPack ready for action.
There are a ton of other nifty things that JetPack can do. Head over to the JetPack website to get all the info.
Akismet is the ultimate line of defence against comment spam.
Many dodgy SEO companies/spammers blast out comments with certain keywords in order to try and get a link. An easy way to spot comment spam is when a URL or company name is used instead of a persons name as the commenter.
The amount of spam you’ll receive is literally mind blowing. To illustrate this, I launched a site, it was live for just a few months with hardly any traffic yet the spam still starting pouring in.
This is a tiny snippet of the type of spam Akismet prevented:
How to get Akismet up and running
- Head over to your plugins page and activate Akismet. If you don’t have Akismet, install it from the WordPress backend by searching for “Akismet”
- You’ll now need to grab an Akismet key, head to www.akismet.com/wordpress/
- Click “Get an Akismet API Key”
- Select “I already have a WordPress account”
- Login using the same details as when authorizing JetPack
- Select “Authorize”
- Select “Personal” (If you plan on having a massive site you can always upgrade later)
- Add in your name and decide whether you want it free or not then “Continue”. (You’ll get the exact same product regardless of what you pay)
- Once you see the screen below, copy your key then head back to the “Plugins” page on your site
- Select Akismet “Settings”
- Add in your Akismet key. I also like to check the “Auto delete spam…” option. Then “Update Options”
That’s it! Akismet will now do its magic completely behind the scenes.
For Ecommerce specific sites:
Ecommerce sites have traditionally been the hardest and most expensive type of site to set up.
We’ve seen some huge advancements over the last 3-4 years in terms of quality and cost.
WooCommerce is a plugin that turns your WordPress site into a fully functioning Ecommerce site. And it’s free.
Even better, the team at WooCommerce continually pore more and more features into the plugin which you get for free.
There are a number of solid Ecommerce options out there such as Big Commerce, Shopify, Magento. They all have the advantages and disadvantages.
What I love most about WooCommerce is that you get to benefit from all the amazing advantages of using WordPress, such as using all the plugins we have just covered.
Most carts also come with a monthly fee based on your sales and/or traffic. WooCommerce charges you nothing.
Grab WooCommerce from the WordPress backend. Search for “woocommerce” when adding a new plugin.
How to install WooCommerce
WooCommerce provide detailed documentation for setting up this plugin here.
You can find another really useful installation guide on Nettuts (the cousin of ThemeForest): Getting started with WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is more involved that the other plugins so will require some self learning and exploring.
That was quite a monster sized lesson. Nice work for getting through it!
By now your site will be nicely set up and jacked up with some great plugins.
Up next we’re finally going to start adding some content to your website.
I’m going to show you some nifty tricks for drastically speeding things up.