Your website magic begins with WordPress. Then the theme does a little abracadabra and dresses it up.
Plugins, though, are where the real alohomora happens. Plugins extend the functionality of your WordPress site, making it do almost anything.
Years ago, from 2001-2004, I ran an e-commerce site for a local retailer. We paid a developer thousands of dollars to develop the part of the site that showed the catalog and facilitated the purchase.
Today you can get a complex and sophisticated e-commerce site by installing a free plugin. (I happen to like Woo Commerce, but there are lots of good ones to choose from.)
We’ve talked before about editorial calendars. When I started blogging, I kept my calendar on an Excel spreadsheet. Today I use CoSchedule, which lets me keep track of what I plan to write and when, and also makes it easy to schedule social media posts and coordinate with a team.
Have a business that requires customers or clients to schedule appointments? Get a plugin.
Need to keep track of hours worked, generate invoices, or other bookkeeping needs? Install a plugin.
There are thousands of free plugins, available through the WordPress repository. You can find plugins to handle almost anything. Just a few examples:
- Spam prevention
- Contact forms
- Custom fields
- Social follow
- Social sharing
- Image editing
- Events Calendar
- Scheduling Calendar
- Health data
- And the list just goes on and on and on…
Then there are the freemium and premium plugins. CoSchedule, mentioned above, is a freemium plugin. You get a 14-day trial, then if you want to keep using it, you pay a monthly fee.
The social sharing plugin I’ve recently added to the site, Social Warfare, [aff] offers a free version, as well as a paid, premium version.
Need to improve SEO? Yoast SEO is the Cadillac of free SEO plugins.
For over a year I spent lots of time working with a team to develop a WordPress plugin. It’s called SBI! for WordPress, and it provides a ton of keyword and other research tools, as well as information and tools to help you build your online business.
Bottom line — if there’s something you wish your WordPress site could do, see if there’s a plugin for it.
Now, there is one downside to all these plugins. Some of them are great, but some are not. To figure out whether a plugin is worth installing on your site, check these articles:
How to Choose the Right WordPress Plugin
How to Identify Good WordPress Plugins in Four Easy Steps
And one last caveat: while it may be tempting to install dozens of plugins, resist. Plugins should be used sparingly as they have the potential to cause conflicts. Only use the plugins you really need.
Got a question about plugins? Ask in the form below and I’ll do my best to answer.