You know plugins can make your life so much easier when it comes to running your business website. They can also be a dealbreaker if you don’t use them correctly. Before you start adding everything your friends are using, ask yourself ‘Do I even need all these plugins?’
What are they and what do they do? Many of you probably already know what plugins are and how to use them effectively. Basically, a it is software that you add to the backend of your website to make it perform a function that it either can’t do on its own or would require a ton of heavy coding to accomplish.
Some plugins are free, some are free with ‘pro’ versions, and some are paid.
What Are The Popular Plugins?
The ones used most often (and ones I add to nearly every website I build) include:
-Yoast SEO – helps you optimize your site for SEO
-Akismet – a spam filter for your blog comments
-Contact Form 7 – create forms for your ‘contact me’ page
-W3 Total Cache – Helps to improve your website speed
-WordFence – offers malware protection, firewall and log-in protection
-WooCommerce – for online stores
-MonsterInsights – a Google Analytics plugin
-WP Smush – image optimization
There are also plugins for your plugins. For example, if you add the WooCommerce plugin to your website to run an online store, you can add plugins specific for WooCommerce. These add ons would be used to streamline or enhance the customer experience.
Another great set of plugins are the ones for specific email service providers, i.e. MailerLite for WordPress, ConvertKit for WordPress, etc. This type of plugin makes it very efficient for adding sign up forms on any new blog posts or pages you add to your site.
Should I Update My Plugins?
The answer of course is yes. You should always keep your plugins updated. But, you need to follow a few guidelines. First, always make a backup of your site before updating. (Ideally, you have your site set to backup weekly already). When I do website maintenance for myself or my clients, I try to do it around the time of my weekly backups.
Once you know you are set with your backup, you can start updating your plugins. I recommend doing this one at a time. You will want to update the plugin, then check your site to make sure everything still looks normal. Then go to the next plugin and the next until you have all of them updated.
I Broke My Site!
If at anytime during this process your sites gets a little janky, you know exactly which plugin caused the problem. Some plugins offer the option of ‘rolling back’ to the previous version. This will usually fix any issue. I use Elementor builder on some of my sites. I’ve only had an issue with an update ‘breaking’ my site once. Fortunately, I was able to roll back to the previous version of Elementor and all was well.
If you have an issue with a plugin that you are not able to roll back, you can roll your site back to the previous backup (now you know why you do that first). The website hosting support can help with this if you are unsure how to do it.
What’s Wrong With My Website?
There are times when you will jump into your website to add a new blog post or update content and things are off. There are formatting issues or error messages. The first step to finding and fixing the problem is to go through your plugins and deactivate all of them. Next you want to reactivate each plugin one by one, checking your site after each addition. If the problem reappears you will know which plugin is causing the issue.
When I run into this issue I usually do a quick Google search to see if there are any known problems with that particular plugin. When lots of people are having the same issue with a widely used plugin, I will leave it deactivated for a couple of days and then reactivate once it has been updated.
How Many Is Too Many?
This depends on your hosting speed and what you need for your site. If you feel your website needs the functionality that the plugin offers, then add it to your site. Just make sure you have the basics like security, SEO, and spam filters covered. Always use plugins that have high user ratings.
Do you need additional help with plugins, optimizing your website speed or functionality? You can schedule a call here and we can talk about how a website audit can help you.