The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Plugins: 17 Examples & How They Work

by Faiz | 4 Jun 2020

 

From blogs to complex portals and enterprise websites, millions of sites are powered by WordPress. In fact, over 500 new sites are built on the open-source content management system (CMS) every day.

Driving the platform’s popularity is its combined ease of use and flexibility. WordPress provides standard functionality to allow any user to get a site up and running in no time.

You can create posts and pages, manage and schedule content, book appointments, assign user roles, upload and insert images and other media, and moderate comments right out-of-the-box.

Let’s say you do all that and want to continue building your site by customizing your login page or adding social proof to your posts and pages, for example. Since WordPress is open-source, you could extend or modify the source code to create nearly any functionality your site needs. Such flexibility is a huge appeal for developers.

But what if you’re not a developer and don’t have much experience coding? In that case, you can use a plugin.

 

Grow Your Business With HubSpot's Tools for WordPress Websites

WordPress plugins are like apps on your phone. You can download or purchase them to add or enhance the functionality of your WordPress site.

Plugins allow WordPress users to create powerful sites without touching a single line of code. As content management systems continue to democratize web design and abate the dependency on web developers and designers, plugins are an increasingly integral part of how we create and consume content on the internet.

This post will give you an overview of what WordPress plugins are, how they work, and some popular examples.

  1. What is a WordPress plugin?

     

  2. How do WordPress plugins work?

     

  3. Must-Have WordPress Plugins

     

  4. Best WordPress Plugins

     

  5. Free WordPress Plugins

     

 

 

 

What is a WordPress plugin?

A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that “plugs into” your WordPress site. Plugins can add new functionality or extend existing functionality on your site, allowing you to create virtually any kind of website, from ecommerce stores to portfolios to directory sites.

Plugins can make small tweaks on your site or massive changes, depending on their features. For example, you could use a plugin to add a WhatsApp share button to your site or to create a fully multilingual site. Or, if you run an ecommerce business, you might add a plugin to assist with payment gateways.

While many make changes to the front end of your site, some plugins make changes on the back end so maintenance is easier for your team. These plugins might allow you to scan your site for broken links or run A/B tests, for example.

As mentioned, there are plugins that have the power to assist with almost anything you could think of on your site. There are plugins that enhance your contact forms, make beautiful sliders, backup your site in case of data failure, and make email opt-in easy — plus much more.

To get started with these plugins, you have to add them to your WordPress site. There are multiple ways to add and update WordPress plugins both manually and automatically. For example, you can do so from your dashboard, from the official WordPress plugin directory, or from third-party sites. Plugins from the official directory can be automatically installed in one click, while some premium plugins have to be manually installed via FTP.

Once you’ve found a plugin that’s right for your site, you can follow this step-by-step tutorial to install a plugin.

Now that we have a better understanding of what plugins are, let’s take a closer look at how they work.

 

 

How do WordPress plugins work?

Plugins allow you to add or extend the functionality of your WordPress site without changing core WordPress files. Plugins use access points, formally known as filter and action hooks, provided by the WordPress Plugin API to “hook into” the source code. These access points and methods will call the functions of the plugin at specific times and modify the default behavior of WordPress.

A plugin developer who wants to use the WordPress Plugin API to create a plugin will start by creating a PHP function to, say, delete comments with profanity from their site. Then they’ll hook the function to a specific event, such as saving comments to the WordPress database or publishing a post, by using the add_filter() function or add_action() function.

Let’s say this developer wants to create a plugin that adds a line of text that says “Thank you for reading!” below every post on a WordPress site. In that case, the function of the plugin would be adding “Thank you for reading!” to a post and the event that triggers the function would be publishing a post. So their plugin file would look something like the following:

<?php

/**

* Plugin Name: Thank You Plugin

* Plugin URI: http://www.mywebsite.com/thank-you-plugin

* Description: The very first plugin that I have ever created.

* Version: 1.0

* Author: Your Name

* Author URI: http://www.mywebsite.com

*/

add_action( ‘the_content’, ‘my_thank_you_text’ );

 

function my_thank_you_text ( $content ) {

return $content .= ‘<p>Thank you for reading!</p>’;

?>

Now let’s say you’re a site owner who wants to add this functionality to your site. If this plugin is not available in the official WordPress directory, then you would download the plugin as a zip file and save it in the wp-content/plugins folder of your directory. This would automatically install the plugin to your WordPress site.

You’d then navigate to Plugins in your admin dashboard. Once you located the newly uploaded plugin from the list of installed plugins on your site, you’d just click the plugin’s “Activate” link and be all set! From then on, every time you published a post, the line “Thanks for reading!” would be automatically added to the bottom of the post.

If this sounds like a lot of work, then you might be wondering why people use plugins instead of editing core WordPress files to add functionality to their site. That’s because, when updating to a new version of WordPress, all the core files — and any edits made to them — are overwritten. To add that same functionality on your updated site, you’d have to go back in and edit the core files again.

However, if you install plugins to add functionality to your site, then you just need to worry about keeping the plugins updated.

Now that we understand what plugins are and how they work, let’s look at some plugins that can add essential features to your WordPress site.

 

Must-Have WordPress Plugins

WordPress offers essential standard functionality to get you publishing visual content as soon as possible to attract your target audience. However, it’s missing some key features to help you engage and delight these visitors. The must-have WordPress plugins below can help optimize your content, enhance your site or landing pages, advance your conversion strategy, and keep your visitors coming back.

HubSpot WordPress Plugin

HubSpot’s WordPress plugin offers an array of sales, marketing, and CRM features. The plugin allows you to engage visitors with live chat and chatbots and then convert them into leads with forms and popups. You can nurture leads by building responsive email drip campaigns and marketing automation campaigns. You can then use HubSpot’s built-in analytics to evaluate the impact of each of these sales and marketing actions.

This plugin not only connects your WordPress site to HubSpot’s marketing, service, and sales tools — it also connects your site to the HubSpot CRM. That means you can easily manage your contacts, segment them into lists, and see every interaction they’ve had with your website, from page views to live chat conversations.

The best part? You can do all this without leaving your WordPress dashboard.

HubSpot WordPress plugin is one of the must-have pluginsSource

This plugin is free but you can upgrade to paid plans, starting at $50 per month. As your business grows, you may need to build more custom reports or increase your ad spending, for example. In that case, you can check out HubSpot’s upgrade options.

Yoast SEO

Merely creating and publishing quality content isn’t enough — you have to optimize it for search engines to rank and attract new visitors. The Yoast SEO plugin is specifically designed to help you improve your on-page SEO to drive more organic traffic to your site.

Whether you want to create a catchy title, optimize your featured snippets, or rank for specific keywords, Yoast’s robust range of functionality, including a snippet preview, internal linking tool, and readability and SEO analysis, automates and simplifies the optimization process for you.

There’s a free and premium version of this plugin. The premium version unlocks even more features, including a redirect manager and automatic internal linking suggestions. With over 135 million downloads, it’s the most downloaded SEO plugin.

Yoast SEO must-have WordPress plugin

Source

Wordfence Security

Wordfence is one of the most comprehensive WordPress security solutions available. It includes a malware scanner that quickly alerts you about security issues and an endpoint firewall to prevent attacks on your site. It also provides real-time visibility into traffic and hack attempts on your website and two-factor authentication, among a suite of additional features, to protect your site.

There’s a free and premium version. The premium version includes more features, including real-time firewall rule and malware signature updates and IP blacklists. With over 3 million active installations, Wordfence Security is the most popular WordPress firewall and security scanner.

Wordfence Security must-have WordPress plugin

Source

Elementor

If you’re a non-coder, you can still create the WordPress site of your dreams by using a page builder plugin like Elementor.

Elementor is a visual drag-and-drop page builder with advanced design capabilities. With this page builder, you can choose from hundreds of templates and then customize them with Elementor’s mobile editing to create beautiful and responsive pages. Elementor comes with dozens of widgets so that you can easily add buttons, images, carousels, and headlines, among other elements, to your pages.

It’s free but you can upgrade to the premium plan for more templates, widgets, animation effects, and more.

Elementor must-have WordPress plugin

Source

UpdraftPlus

With UpdraftPlus, you’ll never have to worry about manual back-ups again. You can use this tool to back-up your files directly to Dropbox or Google Drive, among other cloud platforms, and restore them with a single click. That means if the day comes when your site gets hacked, your server crashes, or something goes wrong with an update, you know your website — plus all its related files and databases — are safe.

There’s a free and premium version available. UpdraftPlus Premium unlocks even more cloud storage options, including OneDrive and Azure, and comes with more features, including incremental backups and database encryption. With over two million active installs, it is the most popular scheduled backup plugin.

UpdraftPlus must-have WordPress plugins

Source

WP Rocket

WP Rocket is a powerful caching plugin that offers a robust range of features, including cache preloading, GZIP compression, Google Fonts optimization, and DNS prefetching, to speed up your WordPress site. What sets WP Rocket apart from other speed optimization plugins is that it begins working right out of the box once installed and activated on your site.

WP Rocket is a premium plugin with plans starting at $49 per month.

WP Rocket must-have WordPress plugin

Source

If you only install these six plugins, you’ll be in good shape. These tools will help you improve your site’s lead generation, SEO, design, security, and speed.

However, if you have the time and resources to manage more plugins, then you can continue to extend the functionality of your site to better meet the needs of your visitors and back-end users. Let’s check out some of the most popular plugins below.

 

Best WordPress Plugins

Some WordPress users wonder if there’s such a thing as installing “too many” plugins on their site. The truth is that your site’s performance depends more on the quality than on the quantity of plugins on your site. If they don’t follow WordPress’s coding standards or aren’t regularly updated, then they can slow down or even break your site.

Rather than try to stay below some arbitrary number, just make sure every plugin you install adds a feature that enhances the visitor experience on your site and isn’t just cool.

Below we’ll look at some of the most downloaded and highly rated plugins in the market. From optimizing images to integrating advanced analytics, each can add valuable functionality to your site.

Jetpack plugin

If you want to install as few plugins as possible, start with Jetpack. Jetpack is a powerful all-in-one plugin that helps your site with traffic generation, SEO, security, site backups, content creation, and community building and engagement. With this tool, you can see your site stats at a glance, automatically share new posts to social media, protect your site from brute force attacks, and more.

Jetpack best WordPress plugin

Source

With over 53 million downloads, Jetpack is the second most popular plugin of all time. There’s a free version, but you can upgrade to a Personal, Professional or Premium membership.

Smush

Smush is WPMU DEV’s image optimization plugin for WordPress. You can optimize every image you’ve ever added to your site with one-click (as long as they’re 5MB or less in size). Since image files tend to be bloated with data that isn’t needed, optimizing and compressing your site’s images with Smush is an effective and easy way to speed up your site.

Smush is free to download from the WordPress directory. There is a pro version available for those looking to optimize an unlimited number of images up to 32MB. WP Smush Pro plans start at $7 per month.

WP Smush best wordpress plugin

Source

Akismet Anti-Spam

Akismet Anti-Spam offers excellent spam protection for your WordPress site. By checking comments and contact form submissions against a spam database, this tool prevents your website from publishing malicious content. That way, you’re only responding to your loyal readers and not spambots.

This plugin is free, though you can upgrade to premium plans starting at $5 per month for advanced stats and priority support. With more than 82 million downloads, Akismet is the most popular plugin of all time.

Askimet Anti-spam best WordPress plugin

Source

Monarch plugin

Monarch is a premium WordPress plugin that can help you increase your social shares and followers. With this tool, you can create a custom set of social media share buttons and follow buttons. In addition to letting you choose from dozens of social networks and profiles, it also offers many options for the placement and design of your buttons.

This plugin also provides an overview of your social media performance. In the Monarch dashboard, you’ll find your all-time stats (total number of shares, follows, and likes); your day, week, month, and year stats; your highest performing posts; and individual post stats.

Monarch best WordPress plugin

Source

To use Monarch as well as a suite of other tools by Elegant Themes, you’ll have to purchase a membership for $89 per year or lifetime access for one-time fee of $249.

Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin for WordPress

MonsterInsights created this plugin to make it easy to connect your WordPress site with Google Analytics. Before, you had to either hire a developer or learn to add Google Analytics code in various different areas of your WordPress theme to set up this integration. With the Google Analytics Dashboard plugin, you can set up Google Analytics right inside your WordPress dashboard without a developer or any code required.

This plugin is free, but you can upgrade to the premium version for all Google Analytics tracking features including events tracking, ecommerce tracking, custom dimensions tracking, popular post tracing, affiliate link tracking, and more. With over 2 million active installs, MonsterInsights is the most popular Google Analytics plugin for WordPress.

Google Analytics Dashboard best WordPress plugin

Source

LifterLMS

Let’s say you want to add or sell online courses on your WordPress site. In that case, you’d use a learning management system (LMS) plugin like LifterLMS.

LifterLMS lets you manage all aspects of your online courses — from administration to documentation to reporting — right within your WordPress dashboard. With this tool, you can create an unlimited number of courses, generate coupons, incorporate quizzes into your curriculum, and keep track of everything from refunds to membership orders.

LifterLMS best WordPress plugin

Source

The core plugin is free, but you can add more functionality by purchasing individual add-ons or bundles of add-ons.

ThirstyAffiliates

If you are looking to monetize your site with affiliate links while building trust with your audience, you’ll want to consider installing an affiliate link management plugin like ThirstyAffiliates. With ThirstyAffiliates, you can cloak your affiliate links with a few clicks of your mouse. You can also manage, categorize, and customize these links right in your WordPress dashboard.

ThirstyAffiliates best WordPress plugin

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ThirstyAffiliates has a free and pro version with more advanced features, including link scheduling and URL shortening. Paid plans start at $49 per month.

Envira Gallery

Envira Gallery helps you create responsive photo and video galleries for your WordPress site. You can organize your photos into albums, display your image thumbnails on multiple pages, and share your images on social media networks — all without any coding.

There’s a lite version of the plugin available for free in the WordPress directory. Premium plans start at $29 and include advanced features for creating dedicated gallery pages, importing images from a Dropbox account, and more.

Envira Gallery best WordPress plugin

Source

We’ve discussed many freemium and premium plugins. Now we’ll look at some free plugins you can download to meet specific needs on your site without spending more of your budget.

 

Free WordPress Plugins

Let’s say you’re just taking your business online and want to keep costs low. The good news is that there are over 55,000 free plugins that you can download from the WordPress directory to customize your site.

However, because free plugins do not come with warranties or guaranteed support, make sure that a plugin has been recently updated and has good reviews before installing it on your site. Below let’s look at a some highly-rated free plugins.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a flexible plugin that enables you to set up an ecommerce store in minutes. With this tool, you can easily create product, cart, and checkout pages. You can also accept a variety of payment methods and offer different shipping options, including free and flat rate shipping.

WooCommerce also comes with built-in sorting options and taxonomies so that customers can filter products by price, newness, popularity, ratings, categories, tags, and other attributes to find exactly what they’re looking for.

WooCommerce free WordPress plugin

Source

Google XML Sitemaps

Using a sitemap plugin will help ensure your posts get indexed faster by Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other major search engines.

Because Google XML Sitemaps supports all page types and custom URLs, you can use this plugin to create special XML sitemaps that help search engine crawlers understand the structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently. Google XML Sitemaps allows you to set specific pages for priority indexation and automatically informs search engines about new posts and pages.

With more than one million downloads, this is one of the most popular sitemap plugins for WordPress.

Google XML Sitemaps free WordPress plugin

Source

Redirection

If you run a WordPress site, you don’t want to risk losing visitors or damaging your site’s SEO because of broken links. Redirection is a free redirect plugin that can help you handle these errors without having to manually change them. With Redirection, you can easily create and manage 301 redirections and keep track of 404 errors.

With over one million active installations, Redirection is the most popular redirect manager for WordPress.

Redirection free WordPress plugin

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Enhance Your Site with Plugins

Whether you want to add forms and live chat to your site, automatically compress and reduce your images, or scan your traffic for malicious IP addresses, plugins can add or extend the functionality of your WordPress site. This can help you anticipate and meet the needs of your consumers today and in the future.

Use HubSpot tools on your WordPress website and connect the two platforms without dealing with code. Click here to learn more.

 

Use HubSpot tools on your WordPress website and connect the two platforms without dealing with code. Click here to learn more.

 

Originally published Mar 2, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated March 31 2020

Topics:

WordPress Plugins

 

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Content retrieved from: https://blog.hubspot.com/website/wordpress-plugins.

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