One of the best features of WordPress is that there are many plugins available from a central location. Yes. You can write your own custom plugins if you choose, but most bloggers are not interested in learning how to write a WordPress plugin for a common feature.
To install plugins for WordPress, you will need admin access to your WordPress blog. Once you log in using an admin account, go your dashboard. The dashboard menu has a Plugins link. Click it.
At the top of the Plugins page, you will find a “Add New” button. This takes you from the blog’s Plugin page to the WordPress Plugin Directory. You won’t leave your dashboard at this point, so if you want to browse back to the WordPress Plugins page, just click the dashboard’s “Plugins” link.
From the embedded WordPress Plugin Directory, you can search for plugins by keyword, or browse Featured, Popular, Recommended, and Favorite plugins. When searching, try multiple keywords individually, because sometimes the plugin you really want is associated with a keyword that is not at first obvious.
Many of the available plugins are free, or provided with the request that you donate to the creator. Many other popular plugins require a purchase or subscription to use.
Three things you should always consider before installing a new plugin to WordPress are the active install count, the last updated date, and the compatibility check. Active install count is a great way to see if other users like the plugin. A low install count or zero installs is sometimes a warning that the plugin should be avoided.
The plugin compatibility check is a nice feel-good stat. Some great plugins don’t get listed as compatible with current versions of WordPress, even though they are. Always check the “Last Updated” stat when you don’t see a successful compatibility check with a popular WordPress blog plugin. If a plugin is popular, but hasn’t been updated in years, then support for it might have been discontinued. I usually avoid those plugins.
Last of all, always check the user reviews for plugins. The more current the review, the better.
As with any major change to WordPress, always back up your WordPress blog or website before making the change. On very rare occasions, old or poorly written plugins can destroy your WordPress to the point that you cannot even log in.
I’ve had to restore from backup more than once because I installed a plugin that did something really bad to my website or WordPress. So obey the “Always Backup Before Making Changes” rule! That one is important.
As a note to bloggers using my blog hosting plans, your sites are backed up daily, but if you are concerned, or just want to make doubly sure that your you blog is backed up before installing a plugin, put in a support ticked requesting a explicit backup, just in case something goes horribly wrong. Then after the support ticket is answered, do the plugin installation. If something goes wrong at that point, the changes made after the backup can be reverted to the state of the server when the backup was made.