What Is A WordPress Plugin?

WordPress is the most popular open-source content management system in the world. In fact, over 40% of all websites online are built using it.

What Is A WordPress Plugin

From start-up projects and blogs to portals and professional websites, WordPress offers impressive services that make it easy to build a website and thrive online.

WordPress’s popularity is in many parts thanks to its amazing ease of use, second to none functionality, and a huge variety of tools that allow us to take a website to the next level in little time.

Aside from creating pages and posting content, WordPress lets us customize our business’s look and functionality, and we don’t even have to be a developer with coding experience to make it happen.

We have WordPress’s plugins to thank for that, which is why we will be taking a look at them in this post.

We will look at what WordPress plugins are, what they do, and the best ones you should use for your website.

If that sounds like something you’re interested in, make sure you stick around.

What Are WordPress Plugins?

WordPress plugins are pieces of software plugged into a WordPress website. They are similar to apps on your phone.

They are downloaded and purchased to enhance or give your website new functionality. 

Plugins are super useful because they allow users to produce powerful and efficient WordPress websites without having to touch a single bit of code.

Helping you create almost any type of website, from online portfolios to your very own eCommerce site, plugins make small and large changes to your site depending on its specific use and functionality.

For example, we can use a Facebook share plugin to place a Facebook sharing icon on every page of your website to connect your audience directly to your other social pages.

You could also use this plugin to let customers make bookings or contact you. 

You will also come across plugins that help you develop better contact forms, insert image sliders into your website, and also back up your website in the event of malfunctions. 

While a lot of plugins tweak the front of a website, others are capable of making changes to the backend too. This makes website maintenance a lot easier.

You could scan the site, check for bugs, and work on your site in maintenance mode. 

How Does A WordPress Plugin Work?

WordPress plugins improve website functionality without changing any core files. They use clever access points otherwise known as filters or action hooks to hook themselves into a website’s source code.

The action hooks are provided by WordPress’s Plugin API.

The access points call on each plugin’s functions at a specific time before modifying the default behavior of the WordPress site.

Developers can create their own plugins by first making a PHP function. An example of a PHP function could be someone telling a plugin to delete spam comments from their site.

The plugin will then use its hook to target an event and remove it. The PHP function could be designed to save comments to a database or to publish a post.

This can be done by making use of the add_action() function or add_filter() function.

How To Use A WordPress Plugin?

What Is A WordPress Plugin

Now you know what a WordPress plugin is and how they work, let’s look at how you add them to your website.

There are a number of ways in which you can add a WordPress plugin to a website. The most popular of these ways is to do it from the WordPress dashboard using WordPress’s official directory.

The beauty of using plugins directly from WordPress’s directory is that they can be installed automatically in just one click.

Other premium plugins can be installed via a third party or manually installed using a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client. 

Installing a plugin from WordPress’s directory is super easy. Simply log in to your WordPress dashboard and click on Plugins > Add New.

From here, search for a plugin you want to install by using the search bar. Once you’ve found the plugin you’re looking for, click Install and WordPress will start your download.

All you need to do then is click Activate and follow any instructions the plugin might need you to follow. 

To download a plugin that isn’t in the WordPress directory, you first need to download the chosen plugin as a zip file. From here you should save it in a folder called wp-content/plugins.

You will have to do this via FTP. This will then automatically install your chosen plugin on your website. 

When that’s done, head to the Plugins admin section on the dashboard. From here, search for the plugin and click on the Activate link. This will set the plugin up for you.

Plugins You Should Have On Your WordPress Website

WordPress has an enormous range of plugins to choose from, all of which will improve and enhance the functionality of your website and attract a much bigger audience.

With almost 60,000 plugins to choose from, finding the best ones can be tricky. To help you out, we’ve listed the must-have WordPress plugins below.

All of these plugins will massively improve your WordPress website.

Yoast SEO

Creating content quickly and throwing it online isn’t enough if you want to attract visitors and appear higher in Google’s search engines.

You need to optimize every page. Yoast SEO helps you do just that.

Yoast SEO has been designed to improve the SEO on your pages, helping you drive traffic to your site and make clever improvements.

Identifying keywords, writing good titles, identifying link issues, and improving your readability are just some things the plugin can do.

Wordfence Security

Wordfence Security is an important plugin to have on your WordPress website because it offers comprehensive security solutions.

It will help protect your WordPress website from any scams, hacking attempts, and malware viruses.

It will also quickly alert you to any issues your website currently faces such as an out-of-date plugin, hacking attempt, or broken links.

UpdraftPlus

By having UpdraftPlus installed on your WordPress you’ll never need to worry about backing up your site again.

UpdraftPlus is a tool used to automatically back up your website, sending every backup directly to your Google Drive or Dropbox.

This offers you amazing protection and gives you the opportunity to restore your website in one click should anything happen.

WP Rocket

This plugin is a powerful caching tool that gives its users a wide range of robust features. These features include Google Font optimization, cache preloading, DNS prefetching, and GZIP compression.

The best thing about WP Rocket is that it starts working straight away once activated.

Google XML Sitemaps

Sitemap plugins are excellent because they help your content get indexed quicker on Google as well as other research engines.

Google XML Sitemaps is one of, if not, the best of the sitemap plugins because it supports every type of page as well as custom URLs. 

You can use the plugin to design special XML sitemaps that search engines will use to crawl and understand the structure of your website. They will then retrieve data a lot easier.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking to build your own website on WordPress or simply came here looking to learn more about the tools you already use, you should now have a much better understanding of what WordPress plugins are, how they work, and the best ones to install. 

WordPress plugins are neat pieces of software that help us enhance and improve the functionality of our WordPress websites.

While there are plenty of plugins that improve the performance of our website and prevent any cyber-attacks, there are also plenty of options that also make our website look better or connect our audience to other places online.

Now you know more about WordPress plugins, why not take some time to see which plugins will benefit your website most.

Matthew Jacobs
Latest posts by Matthew Jacobs (see all)