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WordPress - Plugins Overview

Guide to Plugins and Publishing

You have found the perfect WordPress theme, added content, and are now ready to show the world your new website! You may be asking yourself, "What are the steps I need to launch my site?" This article will address the following:

The following information and articles are for reference only. Please note that HostGator cannot offer direct support for the information provided below regarding 3rd party plugins.

Optimizing Your Website

Regardless of the traffic your website might generate, you must optimize your WordPress site to run as efficiently as possible. There are a few plugins that HostGator strongly recommends that every WordPress user install. These plugins actively improve the efficiency and health of WordPress sites.

In addition to the recommended plugins, some general housekeeping rules with WordPress is that you deactivate and delete any plugins that you are not actively using on the site. The same goes for themes, but you will want to keep at least 2 themes installed. One is the active theme, and another is the default theme. If something happens to your active theme, the default theme will be applied to your website. Removing unneeded plugins and themes will have an impact on your website's performance.

Another housekeeping rule is that you maintain and update the WordPress website to ensure that the core WordPress themes and plugins are current. New releases for these items tend to address bugs, vulnerabilities and provide improvements.

When optimizing your WordPress site, you can install plugins that help the loading speed, optimize the database, and stop spam. This all adds up to increasing the performance of your website.

  1. Install WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache. The installation of either of these plugins can be done from your WordPress Dashboard under Plugins. Only install one caching plugin. Having multiple caching plugins can be more detrimental to the website. Follow the links below for information on how to set up these plugins:
    • WP Super Cache (recommended)
      WP Super Cache is a simple and easy-to-manage caching plugin set up by default if you installed WordPress via our QuickInstall cPanel plugin.
    • W3 Total Cache
      W3 Total Cache is a more advanced and feature-rich caching plugin. It normally is overkill and can adversely affect performance if it is not set up correctly. If advanced caching features such as Minify or CDN integration are needed, you should use this plugin.
  2. Install a Database Optimization Plugin. Frequent updates and large databases can cause severe issues with CPU usage. The following plugin is highly rated for optimizing WordPress databases:
  3. Install Anti Spambot Plugins. Unlike caching plugins, you can have multiple plugins that prevent spam bots from abusing your site with large quantities of spam and attack.
    • Akismet (recommended)
      It is recommended to use Akismet to automatically filter and delete spam comments on posts of your WordPress site. This type of spam can dramatically increase your resource usage and inconvenience you with sifting through the numerous spam comments.

      Choose and install a CAPTCHA plugin. Many options for this are highly rated. A good CAPTCHA plugin will help prevent the spam in comments on posts from ever being initially created on your WordPress site.

Installing a Plugin

Use the following steps to guide you through installing the recommended plugins through your WordPress dashboard.

  1. Log in to your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Hover over Plugins in the left-hand menu and click on Add New in the submenu.

    WP Dashboard Add New Plugins

  3. On the right-hand side, use the Search plugins... text box to type in the keywords needed to search for a plugin.
    Note: You can use the dropdown to the left of the text area to specify how to search a plugin based on a keyword, author, or tag.

    WP Dashboard Search plugins box

  4. As you start to type in keywords to search the WordPress.org repository of plugins, the page will auto-update to show plugins that apply to your search criteria.
  5. From the list of plugins, narrow down the plugin that you wish to install on your WordPress site. Click the More Details link within the plugin's box to read additional information.

    WP Dashboard Plugins More Details

    Pro-tips When Selecting a Plugin 

    Compatible with your version of WordPress: Make sure to select a plugin that has been tested and is compatible with your version of WordPress. You will want to make sure that it plays nicely with your core WordPress files.

    Last Updated: Select a plugin that is being maintained and updated by the plugin’s developer. An outdated plugin may not work or function correctly with your updated WordPress version or theme.

    Active Installations: It is nice to see when a plugin is popular as it’s a great indication that others have found it useful and successful. Keep in mind that you might happen upon a new plugin that has yet to be discovered by other users.

    Star Rating: Look to see how many stars that plugin has been rated, along with how many people have rated it. 5 stars with only 1 review are different than 4.5 stars and 633 reviews.

  6. Now that you have located your desired plugin, click the Install Now button. After installing, it will change to Activate.
  7. Click the Activate button to enable the new plugin.

Plugin Settings

Many WordPress plugins will begin to work and perform their functions on their own once they are activated. However, some plugins will require further setup/customizations before they begin to work. To edit the plugin's settings, use the following steps:

  1. Log in to your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Hover over Plugins in the left-hand menu and click on Installed Plugins within the sub-menu

    WP Dashboard Installed Plugins

  3. The page will contain a list of all the plugins installed on the WordPress site.
  4. Underneath the plugin's title, you will see either Activate | Delete or Settings | Support | Deactivate.

    WP Dashboard Plugins Status

  5. Click the Settings link to edit the settings of the plugin. You may also select the Deactivate option to disable the plugin from operating.
    Note: Make sure to deactivate and delete plugins that you no longer plan to use.
  6. If you find that you need more information about a plugin, the Description column summarizes the plugin with additional links for the plugin developer and details page. Click the View details to display the plugin's informational page.

    WP Dashboard Plugins View Details

Review Your Existing Plugins

Any plugins that are not vital to your WordPress should be deleted. Please remember that any time you add additional plugins, each of these plugins can increase your resource usage. We recommend no more than 3 to 5 active plugins, not including your caching plugin.

If you're having difficulty with your site that may be caused by a plugin, you can disable all of your plugins to return your site to a functional state. At that time, you may reactivate them one at a time and observe their impact on your site before activating the next plugin. HostGator has this helpful article which includes information for how to monitor your site's resource usage to determine if it is impacted:

In addition to checking this manually, the following plugins are severely resource-intensive and could cause downtime, longer page load times, or larger process counts. It is advised that you avoid the use of these plugins:

Resource-Intensive Plugins:

  • Google Sitemap
  • StatPress and other WordPress statistics software plugins
  • Unique_articles
  • WP Post Views
  • WPRobot3 and other auto-poster plugins
  • Some SEO plugins
  • Some image galleries and media players are intensive, but this largely depends on how you use them.
  • All related posts plugins such as WordPress Related Posts or YARPP
  • All Backup plugins

Plugins are developed by third parties. If you're having difficulty with a plugin or have identified a plugin as being the source of your issue, you will need to contact the plugin's developer for support.

This video will walk you through recommended methods for contacting your plugin developer for support.

For more information on how WordPress plugins could negatively affect your site, please refer to the following articles:

Resource-Friendly Plugins

The following plugins are recommended by HostGator as they provide features for WordPress that are in high demand, such as SEO functions, without harming your site:

Publishing Your WordPress Site

After installing the recommended plugins to help your website run more efficiently, you approach the next milestone in your website hosting experience. You are ready to launch your website! Before you publish your website, review the following checklist:

  • After installing and activating additional plugins, review and proof your entire website to make sure the new plugins are working properly.
  • Test the contact and subscriptions forms if your website has them. Make sure that the correct email addresses are receiving the notifications from those forms.
  • Confirm that the contact information throughout the whole site is correct. A typo error can prevent someone from contacting you.
  • View your website on a mobile and tablet device. Many themes are already responsive and will automatically adjust the content to fit different devices.
  • Clean up your installed plugins. If you know that you no longer need a plugin, please deactivate and delete the plugin.
  • Clean up the installed themes. You want to keep at least 2-3 themes installed. One is the active theme.
  • If you have links on your website, make sure they work properly. If you direct someone off your website, have the link open in a new tab.
  • Make sure that your website is using an SSL. Install the Really Simple SSL plugin to quickly and easily force the site over an SSL.
  • On the home page, the purpose of your site must be clear to a visitor and direct them to their next step, be it calling you, viewing products, reading more, etc.

Before you publish your website, let us talk about one of the biggest issues users run into with their website -- making a backup of their content and database.

There are few things worse than losing all of your hard work when building a website due to an unforeseen event. Whether your cat ran across your keyboard and deleted all of your blog posts to your power going out when you haven’t saved any changes for hours, you name it, we have seen it happen. HostGator recommends two ways when making a backup of your content and database:

  • CodeGuard - HostGator offers a service called CodeGuard that generates backups of your site’s content and database automatically for you. CodeGuard will not only generate a backup for you every time a change is made on the website, but it also allows custom settings so you can choose how backups are made, how often backups are performed, and even what content you wish to restore from a backup. For more information on our CodeGuard backup service, please refer to our article What Is CodeGuard?
  • Manual Backups - HostGator also allows you to generate a backup of your content via the cPanel manually. If you wish to generate your own backup manually via the cPanel, please refer to our article How to Generate/Download a Full Backup.

After you have a backup of your content and database, we recommend that you apply any pending updates to your website, including the core WordPress, themes, and plugins. If any of the updates go awry, you will have a backup to restore the site.

Finally, you are now able to launch your website! If you haven't done so already, click the click here link at the top of your dashboard that states, Your site is currently displaying a "Coming Soon" page. Once you are ready to launch your site, click here.

WP Dashboard Coming Soon

Congratulations on launching your new WordPress website with HostGator!