Which Plugins are Essential?
You’ll have many choices on which plugins to use (14,746 at WordPress.org alone, at time of writing) — but there are a core few that are essential to any blog or WordPress website… and a few more that are essential if you are planning to make money from your blogs.
We’re going to cover many of the top plugins in these four guides — but before we get into specifics, we’re going to take a look at the basic “how-to” of finding and installing any plugin through your WordPress Dashboard.
We’ll also take a look at how to manually install plugins (handy for when you’ve bought a commercial plugin not included in WordPress.org’s free plugin Directory). Finally, we’re going to address problems that occasionally arise.
How to Find and Install Any Plugin
When you’re in your Dashboard, you’ll see a vertical menu bar on the left-hand side, containing tabs such as “Posts”, “Media”, “Links”, etc.
Clicking on any of these tabs will release a drop-down menu for that tab.
To access these, select the “Plugins” tab and click on the little arrow that will appear on the right as you hover over it.
1. From the drop-down menu that appears, select “Add New”:
2. Enter the name of the plugin into the Textarea Search box that will appear:
3. Locate the correct plugin in the similar-sounding selections WordPress.org serves you (yours will usually — but not always — be the top one on the page) and select “Install Now”. Click on “Ok” to confirm in the popup that will appear.
4. You’ll (usually) receive notification that your plugin has installed successfully. Click on the “Activate” link:
5. You’ll be taken to the plugins page, where you’ll see your new plug in nestled among your others. Check carefully — both at the top of the page and within the plugin description — to see whether or not there are extra settings or configuration options you’ll need to edit.
If there are, you will find these usually in one of three places:
- A link you can click on, right within the description
- In your main “Plugins” drop-down menu (left-hand, vertical Dashboard navigation menu)
- In your main Settings drop-down menu (left-hand, vertical Dashboard navigation menu)
Often configuration consists simply of clicking a radio button to enable configuration, but this will
usually be followed by other options you can customize.
The best rule of thumb? When in doubt, click “Enabled” and leave the rest of the settings in their default positions.
What to Do if Your Plugin Fails to Install
Plugins you download from WordPress.org have usually been tested many times, and there’s rarely a problem: However, occasionally you may have one fail to install correctly, either getting “hung up” or giving you warnings and/or error messages.
If this happens, don’t panic!
Rule # 1: Check your WordPress Version. Very often incompatibilities are caused by failing to upgrade your WordPress version. See if a new version is available.
(Also get into the habit of checking which versions plugins have been tested up to, when reading the descriptions in the WordPress.org directory. If you notice a plug in stopped being tested several versions back or you are getting a message that the current version is unsupported, proceed with caution.)
Rule # 2: Delete and re-try. In 99% of all cases, your plug in will install perfectly the second time.
(Whatever you do, never, ever leave the damaged plugin in place and “hope” it will work anyway — a damaged plugin can cause a host of problems, especially with your RSS feeds!)
If these two simple fixes don’t do the trick, find the plugin again in the WordPress.org directory or go directly to its site via the link in its description in your installed plugins page.
Check the Detail page at WordPress.org or scan through the author’s site to see if your problem has been mentioned or reported. (If it has, there’s most likely instructions on how to fix it.)
How to Install a WordPress Plugin Manually
One other option, when automatic installation fails: Install your desired plugin manually. (You will have to do this anyway, if you are installing a commercial, paid plugin.)
You can upload it manually via WordPress… or via FTP. Uploading Manually via WordPress:
Here’s how to upload via WordPress…
- In your “Plugins” tab drop-down menu, select “Add New”
- Instead of entering your Plugin name in the Textarea Search box, go to the top of the page and select “Upload”:
Find the .zipfile of your plugin in its appropriate directory and select (“Choose File”):
When you’ve located and chosen it, click the “Install Now” button.
That’s it! It should now appear among all the plugins on your installed page.
All you should have to do is “Activate” it — WordPress will take care of the Unzipping.
Uploading via FTP: If you are comfortable uploading via FTP, you can do this instead.
- Download the plugin folder from the developer’s site to your computer
- Locate and unzip your new plugin
- Connect with and open your site’s server, via your favorite FTP program
- Find the folder containing your blog in the left-hand side of your FTP program (N.B.: In some FTP programs, your computer/server windows may be top to bottom, rather than side to side). Make sure it’s ready to drag over to your server.
- Go back to your server window: Select “public_html” and double-click on it.
- Locate your blog folder. Double-click on it. When it opens, you should see three folders:
- Double-click on “wp-content”.
- When this folder opens up, double-click on the “plugins” folder”. Within, you’ll see a list of plugins that are already installed — that’s how you know you’re in the correct section.
- Drag the folder containing your new plugin (the one you downloaded) over from the left-hand side of your split-pane screen (your computer) to the right-hand one, containing all your plugin files (your server)
- Close your FTP program
- Going back to your blog Dashboard, open your “Plugins” tab.
- You should now see your plugin listed.
- Click “Activate” within your new Plugin description.
Debugging Faulty Manual Installations
Occasionally this manual upload process via FTP won’t work. There are two things you can do to fix it…
- Open your FTP program again to make sure it’s actually in the right folder (wp-content/plugins). If it’s not there (it does happen!) upload it again.
- If it is there, delete right from the server, and upload again
If it still doesn’t work, check out your unzipped plugin folder very thoroughly: Is there a second folder within the folder (“double wrapping”)? If so, delete the unsuccessful upload and start again, this time using the folder within the folder only.
To Zip or Unzip?
Remember, if you’re manually uploading via WordPress, keep your plugin folder zipped. If you’re uploading via FTP, unzip first (unless the plugin developer states otherwise!)
Remember to click “Activate”, once your plugin appears in your installed plugins page! And that’s all there is to uploading and activating plugins. In our next guide, we’ll install the three most important plugins, step by step…
Hope you found this tutorial do leave a comment and let me know how you get on with it. Untill next I send you best wishes with your wordpress website or blog