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      How to Pick the Right Plugins for Your WordPress Website (In 4 Steps)


      One of the advantages of WordPress is its customization potential. With an ever-growing number of plugins available, you have the opportunity to build the website of your dreams. However, having so many options to choose from can make it hard to pick your site’s best fit.

      Fortunately, there are ways to narrow down your decision. By prioritizing your specific needs and learning how to evaluate a tool’s quality, you can find solid plugins to optimize your site.

      In this article, we’ll introduce you to WordPress plugins. We’ll also take you through four easy steps to pick the perfect candidates for your page. Then we’ll wrap up by giving you some potential plugins to consider. Let’s get to it!

      An Introduction to WordPress Plugins

      A WordPress plugin is a third-party program that adds functionality to your site. While themes can adjust the look and feel of a page, plugins provide the actual features. They can thus have a sizable impact on the visitor’s experience.

      Given that plugins tend to be specialized, they enable you to curate a full-site experience with several different programs. For example, let’s say you want to set up a secure online store with ease. You might use the Jetpack plugin for security, WooCommerce for the store, and Elementor to build and customize the storefront.

      Plugins can also affect your back-end experience. For example, you may find that you prefer tools with a user-friendly focus. The sheer amount of software available means that you’re likely to find one that suits your needs.

      Nevertheless, you can have too much of a good thing. Using plugins in excess can slow your website down. As such, you’ll want to consider your choices carefully to help maximize performance while minimizing potential issues.

      A methodical approach can also help you find the highest-quality candidates, especially if you’re searching in a popular category and need to compare tools. Doing a small amount of research can make it easier for you to pick the right plugins on the first try.

      How to Pick the Right Plugins for Your WordPress Website (In 4 Steps)

      A little bit of structure can help expedite the selection process. Below are four easy steps that you can follow to pick the right plugins for your WordPress website.

      Step 1: Identify Your Plugin Requirements

      The first step is to decide what you need from a plugin. While this may seem obvious, assessing your exact needs can be surprisingly helpful. After you’ve created a list of features you’d like, you can also try prioritizing them. This can help you focus on finding a plugin that matches your primary requirements.

      Many plugins have multiple uses. These tools can be time-savers, especially if you have several related needs. However, you may want to consider mixing and matching plugins, as this flexible outlook can expand your options.

      It’s also important to understand that some plugins come at a cost. A premium plugin typically offers benefits such as extra features or priority support. Therefore, you may want to decide what functionality you’d be willing to pay for. If you’re on a tight budget, though, don’t stress. You’ll likely be able to find a free plugin (or a combination of similar plugins) that’ll help you achieve your goals even if you miss out on some of the premium features.

      If you’re unfamiliar with WordPress extensions as a whole, we recommend browsing a few popular WordPress plugins to get an idea of what’s available.

      The WordPress.org plugin directory displaying popular options.

      With so many options, it can be easy to get turned around. We recommend keeping your particular needs in mind throughout the process to help you focus on your key features and establish some structure for your search.

      Step 2: Search for a Plugin

      After you’ve laid out your must-have features, you can start the process of searching for a plugin. Many developers offer downloads from their official sites. However, if you’re looking for a more centralized marketplace, it’s hard to go wrong with the WordPress Plugin Directory.

      The WordPress Plugin Directory.

      The WordPress Plugin Directory is the official place to find WordPress-approved software. Staff members check each submission for quality and security, so you’re likely to find a wide variety of top-notch programs.

      As we mentioned earlier, some premium plugins require payment. However, you may also encounter tools that offer a free version alongside their premium options. Jetpack is an example of this “freemium” model.

      An excerpt of Jetpack’s plugin description.

      You might also come across free versions of premium plugins through unofficial channels. While these may seem appealing, we recommend avoiding them at all costs. They are often stolen versions that can put your site at risk for malware.

      To ensure that your search circumvents pirated material, you stick to reputable websites. You might also want to steer clear of any scenarios that seem “too good to be true,” as these are often illegitimate products designed to trick users.

      Once you’ve decided on a place to search for your plugin, you can start actively looking for a tool. Don’t be afraid to spend some time shopping around and exploring your options. After you’ve found a plugin that catches your eye, you can proceed to the next step.

      We Make WordPress Easier

      Our automatic updates and strong security defenses take server management off your hands so you can focus on what really matters: growing your website.

      Step 3: Review Information About the Plugin

      Next, you can focus on a single plugin. There are a variety of factors you’ll want to consider at this stage. In the WordPress Plugin Directory, most of the important information is accessible by scrolling down on the plugin’s page.

      The WooCommerce main page in the WordPress Plugin Directory.

      Using WooCommerce as an example, let’s start with ratings and reviews. You can find this section on the right-hand side.

      A portion of WooCommerce’s information page showing the “Ratings” section.

      WordPress ratings work on a star system, with one being the lowest and five being the highest. You can also access reviews by clicking on See all. These often include more specific information regarding the program. It’s important to peruse both positive and negative reviews for a balanced picture.

      Next up, consider a plugin’s active installations and update schedule. This section is located directly above the ratings.

      A close-up of WooCommerce’s installation statistics.

      Last updated displays the most recent update, a crucial part of site security for any program. A large number of Active installations can also indicate a high-quality plugin. You can even check to see if the plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress to avoid breaking your site.

      Let’s move on to the Support section, typically located under the ratings.

      The support section of the WooCommerce plugin.

      A high number of resolved issues is a positive sign, as it indicates that the developers are responsive. Reading through some support questions can also give you an idea of potential challenges you may face when using the software.

      Finally, there’s plenty of other information on this page that might be helpful. For instance, scrolling down to the section marked Screenshots can show you the User Interface (UI). You might also want to check the FAQ section to learn more about common issues.

      We recommend focusing on the factors that you find most important. Then you can use that personalized metric to easily compare different plugins. After you’ve narrowed your choice down to one tool, you can move on to the last step.

      Step 4: Download and Test the Plugin

      Finally, you can download the plugin and test it on your site. We encourage you to consult a plugin’s installation instructions before downloading it because they may contain important information to help you avoid software-specific issues.

      Once you’ve checked any instructions, you can navigate to your WordPress dashboard. Select Plugins > Add New from the right-hand menu. Next, enter the name of the plugin you want to install in the Search plugins box. Here’s the WooCommerce result as an example.

      The WooCommerce plugin as viewed from the dashboard.

      Click on the Install Now button to start the process. After it’s done, the button will change colors and read as Activate.

      The WooCommerce plugin button labeled “Activate.”

      You must activate the plugin to use it on your site. Click it as soon as you’re ready to move on. Similar to installation instructions, some tools may come with an introductory message or setup tips. You may want to read these over in case they contain useful information.

      After you’ve set up the plugin, you can start testing its performance. An important issue is how it impacts your site’s speed. To test this, we recommend using a tool such as GTmetrix.

      The GTmetrix test tool.

      Before you activate the plugin, we recommend testing your site’s baseline speed. You can write the results down and re-test once the plugin is up and running. If the plugin has a considerably negative effect on your speed, you may want to reconsider using it.

      There are other ways that you can test a plugin. For instance, you may want to send a basic question to support to see how responsive the developers are. Alternatively, you might use a staging site to determine usability and front-end functionality.

      WordPress Plugins to Consider for Your Site

      Armed with the above four steps, you’re ready to find the perfect plugin. However, perhaps you’re still unsure where to begin. If that’s the case, we’ve put together some recommendations for you to kickstart your search.

      If you’re setting up your first site, you may be seeking the essentials. It’s hard to go wrong with plugins that help you improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or site security. Even seasoned WordPress professionals make frequent use of such tools.

      Alternatively, maybe you’re a content creator. If you’re launching a podcast website, for example, you probably have different needs than the average blogger. In that scenario, it’s important to consider specialty plugins that are designed with your niche in mind.

      Finally, you might be curious about ways to improve your workflow. Plenty of developers have answered the call, providing plugins to help you work more efficiently and communicate without friction. This kind of technology can be especially helpful if you’re working with a team.

      There are countless quality plugins to explore. Applying our four-step method and prioritizing your needs can help you discover the ones that will fit your site the best. Our team has also put together several guides to help you find great add-ons for your WordPress site.

      Once you’ve found the right plugin, be sure to check out our WordPress plugin installation tutorial to learn how to set it up in your WordPress dashboard.

      Take Your WordPress Website to the Next Level

      Whether you need help selecting a caching plugin, adding a contact form, or installing a premium theme, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter so you never miss an article.

      The WordPress Plugin Directory Awaits

      WordPress’ flexibility is wonderful. However, too many options can overwhelm you and make deciding difficult. Fortunately, you can find a well-fitting plugin by approaching the search systematically and focusing on your site’s needs.

      In this article, we covered four steps to help you pick the right plugins for your WordPress website:

      1. Identify and prioritize what you need from a plugin.
      2. Search for your options in legitimate, quality marketplaces.
      3. Review the available information on each plugin’s page.
      4. Download the software and test it against your expectations.

      Even with the perfect plugins, putting together a website can be tough. Let us do the heavy lifting with our DreamPress managed WordPress hosting!



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      6 Reasons Why Your Small Business Needs a Website Now


      Expecting to lure in customers without having a digital presence is like moving to a deserted island and hoping all the neighbors pop over for a visit. If you don’t place your small business somewhere where people can easily find you — like the internet — they just aren’t going to.

      According to market research, a majority of respondents reported going online to find products and services from small businesses, and only 8.4% said they found new places to shop by walking into brick-and-mortar stores.

      It’s clear that the best way to show off your business to a potential customer is with a professional website. Still not convinced? Here are six important reasons why your small business needs a website.

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      1. Influence Customers While You Sleep

      When you don’t have a business website, you limit your influence to the physical location of your storefront. Consequently, this also places restrictions on the times when you can engage with and influence your customers.

      However, if you’ve got a stellar website up and running, loyal customers have access to your business 365 days a year  — whether you’re selling a product, running a blog, or promoting your personal brand.

      And imagine this: If you’ve utilized search engine optimization (SEO) best practices when building your site, people who have never even heard of your business will be able to find you via a search engine. Bringing in a steady flow of potential buyers is every business owner’s dream!

      2. Access a Global Audience

      Ninety-three percent of consumers are only willing to travel up to 20 miles to make routine purchases. And 87% said they won’t travel more than 15 minutes. This means if you only have a brick-and-mortar store, your customer base is limited to people who live within a 15–20-minute radius.

      The takeaway: if you want to spread your message far and wide, you’ll need a website.

      3. Harness the Power of Positive Reviews

      While most consumers head online to find a business, the second most powerful influencer in purchasing decisions is word of mouth. That can mean recommendations from family and friends, but it also extends to helpful reviews from strangers who have experience with a product or service. In fact, a cool 90% of customers say their buying decisions are affected by online reviews.

      So how can you harness social proof? Simple. Collect all those good reviews, testimonials, and accolades you’ve stacked up and publish them on your website to wow potential customers.

      In this case, it’s OK to brag.

      4. Become a Trusted Expert

      A storefront only goes so far when building a brand. But a custom-built website gives you access to the billions of people who are surfing the web every day.

      In addition to getting exposure, your online presence will help you establish yourself as an industry authority. By sharing credible blog content, expert insights and tips, helpful videos, and, of course, all those five-star reviews, you’ll be building a brand that customers trust and want to engage with online. And the good news: There are lots of social media tricks to help you make the most of your time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

      When you think of your brand, don’t limit it to your logo or your storefront. Instead, consider the possibilities you have for growth and scalability when you get online.

      Looking to Launch Your Web Presence?

      Whether you need help finding a target audience, choosing the right social media channels, or writing a blog post, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly digest so you never miss an article.

      5. Make Selling and Marketing Easier

      When you invest in a website, marketing and sales become a whole lot easier. For example, rather than asking your sales team to cold call, you can set up an online marketing campaign that captures leads from people who are actively searching for products and services like yours. This means your sales team can pitch and sell directly to people who want what you’ve got.

      Furthermore, digital marketing — whether it be paid search, SEO efforts, social media marketing, or content marketing — allows you to connect with consumers who are searching for you.

      Think about it this way: 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase. If you invest in creating great content for your website, you’re giving those savvy shoppers the facts they need to make a decision. And better still, you’re controlling the messaging.

      6. Attract Local Customers

      Earlier we talked about accessing a wide range of customers, but what if your business is looking to stay small and local? Do you still need an online presence?

      Yeah, you do!

      Why? Because 72% of consumers who did a local search ended up shopping at a store within five miles. This means that even if you are simply looking to attract a local audience, a website can do wonders for your business — even if it’s as simple as providing directions to your store and the hours of operation on an About Us page.

      TL;DR: A website is a vital tool for your small business. And with DreamHost’s easy-to-use WP Website Builder, you can build your own small business website in minutes — no coding required! So forget that empty island. Let DreamHost help you get your business online today.



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      How To Deploy a Static HTML Website with Ansible on Ubuntu 20.04 (Nginx)



      Part of the Series:
      How To Write Ansible Playbooks

      Ansible is a modern configuration management tool that doesn’t require the use of an agent software on remote nodes, using only SSH and Python to communicate and execute commands on managed servers. This series will walk you through the main Ansible features that you can use to write playbooks for server automation. At the end, we’ll see a practical example of how to create a playbook to automate setting up a remote Nginx web server and deploy a static HTML website to it.

      If you were following along with all parts of this series, at this point you should be familiar with installing system packages, applying templates, and using handlers in Ansible playbooks. In this part of the series, you’ll use what you’ve seen so far to create a playbook that automates setting up a remote Nginx server to host a static HTML website on Ubuntu 20.04.

      Start by creating a new directory on your Ansible control node where you’ll set up the Ansible files and a demo static HTML website to be deployed to your remote server. This could be in any location of your choice within your home folder. In this example we’ll use ~/ansible-nginx-demo.

      • mkdir ~/ansible-nginx-demo
      • cd ~/ansible-nginx-demo

      Next, copy your existing inventory file into the new directory. In this example, we’ll use the same inventory you set up at the beginning of this series:

      • cp ~/ansible-practice/inventory .

      This will copy a file named inventory from a folder named ansible-practice in your home directory, and save it to the current directory.

      Obtaining the Demo Website

      For this demonstration, we’ll use a static HTML website that is the subject of our How To Code in HTML series. Start by downloading the demo website files by running the following command:

      • curl -L https://github.com/do-community/html_demo_site/archive/refs/heads/main.zip -o html_demo.zip

      You’ll need unzip to unpack the contents of this download. To make sure you have this tool installed, run:

      Then, unpack the demo website files with:

      This will create a new directory called html_demo_site-main on your current working directory. You can check the contents of the directory with an ls -la command:

      • ls -la html_demo_site-main

      Output

      total 28 drwxrwxr-x 3 sammy sammy 4096 sep 18 2020 . drwxrwxr-x 5 sammy sammy 4096 mrt 25 15:03 .. -rw-rw-r-- 1 sammy sammy 1289 sep 18 2020 about.html drwxrwxr-x 2 sammy sammy 4096 sep 18 2020 images -rw-rw-r-- 1 sammy sammy 2455 sep 18 2020 index.html -rw-rw-r-- 1 sammy sammy 1079 sep 18 2020 LICENSE -rw-rw-r-- 1 sammy sammy 675 sep 18 2020 README.md

      Creating a Template for Nginx’s Configuration

      You’ll now set up the Nginx template that is necessary to configure the remote web server. Create a new folder within your ansible-demo directory to hold non-playbook files:

      Then, open a new file called nginx.conf.j2:

      This template file contains an Nginx server block configuration for a static HTML website. It uses three variables: document_root, app_root, and server_name. We’ll define these variables later on when creating the playbook. Copy the following content to your template file:

      ~/ansible-nginx-demo/files/nginx.conf.j2

      server {
        listen 80;
      
        root {{ document_root }}/{{ app_root }};
        index index.html index.htm;
      
        server_name {{ server_name }};
      
        location / {
         default_type "text/html";
         try_files $uri.html $uri $uri/ =404;
        }
      }
      

      Save and close the file when you’re done.

      Creating a New Ansible Playbook

      Next, we’ll create a new Ansible playbook and set up the variables that we’ve used in the previous section of this guide. Open a new file named playbook.yml:

      This playbook starts with the hosts definition set to all and a become directive that tells Ansible to run all tasks as the root user by default (the same as manually running commands with sudo). Within this playbook’s var section, we’ll create three variables: server_name, document_root, and app_root. These variables are used in the Nginx configuration template to set up the domain name or IP address that this web server will respond to, and the full path to where the website files are located on the server. For this demo, we’ll use the ansible_default_ipv4.address fact variable because it contains the remote server’s public IP address, but you can replace this value with your server’s hostname in case it has a domain name properly configured within a DNS service to point to this server:

      ~/ansible-nginx-demo/playbook.yml

      ---
      - hosts: all
        become: yes
        vars:
          server_name: "{{ ansible_default_ipv4.address }}"
          document_root: /var/www/html
          app_root: html_demo_site-main
        tasks:
      

      You can keep this file open for now. The next sections will walk you through all tasks that you’ll need to include in this playbook to make it fully functional.

      Installing Required Packages

      The following task will update the apt cache and then install the nginx package on remote nodes:

      ~/ansible-nginx-demo/playbook.yml

      . . .
          - name: Update apt cache and install Nginx
            apt:
              name: nginx
              state: latest
              update_cache: yes
      

      Uploading Website Files to Remote Nodes

      The next task will use the copy built-in module to upload the website files to the remote document root. We’ll use the document_root variable to set the destination on the server where the application folder should be created.

      ~/ansible-nginx-demo/playbook.yml

      . . .
          - name: Copy website files to the server's document root
            copy:
              src: "{{ app_root }}"
              dest: "{{ document_root }}"
              mode: preserve
      

      Applying and Enabling the Custom Nginx Configuration

      We’ll now apply the Nginx template that will configure the web server to host your static HTML file. After the configuration file is set at /etc/nginx/sites-available, we’ll create a symbolic link to that file inside /etc/nginx-sites-enabled and notify the Nginx service for a posterior restart. The entire process will require two separate tasks:

      ~/ansible-nginx-demo/playbook.yml

      . . .
          - name: Apply Nginx template
            template:
              src: files/nginx.conf.j2
              dest: /etc/nginx/sites-available/default
            notify: Restart Nginx
      
          - name: Enable new site
            file:
              src: /etc/nginx/sites-available/default
              dest: /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default
              state: link
            notify: Restart Nginx
      

      Allowing Port 80 on UFW

      Next, include the task that enables tcp access on port 80:

      ~/ansible-nginx-demo/playbook.yml

      . . .
          - name: Allow all access to tcp port 80
            ufw:
              rule: allow
              port: '80'
              proto: tcp
      . . .
      

      Creating a Handler for the Nginx Service

      To finish this playbook, the only thing left to do is to set up the Restart Nginx handler:

      ~/ansible-nginx-demo/playbook.yml

      . . .
        handlers:
          - name: Restart Nginx
            service:
              name: nginx
              state: restarted  
      

      Running the Finished Playbook

      Once you’re finished including all the required tasks in your playbook file, it will look like this:

      ~/ansible-nginx-demo/playbook.yml

      ---
      - hosts: all
        become: yes
        vars:
          server_name: "{{ ansible_default_ipv4.address }}"
          document_root: /var/www
          app_root: html_demo_site-main
        tasks:
          - name: Update apt cache and install Nginx
            apt:
              name: nginx
              state: latest
              update_cache: yes
      
          - name: Copy website files to the server's document root
            copy:
              src: "{{ app_root }}"
              dest: "{{ document_root }}"
              mode: preserve
      
          - name: Apply Nginx template
            template:
              src: files/nginx.conf.j2
              dest: /etc/nginx/sites-available/default
            notify: Restart Nginx
      
          - name: Enable new site
            file:
              src: /etc/nginx/sites-available/default
              dest: /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default
              state: link
            notify: Restart Nginx
      
          - name: Allow all access to tcp port 80
            ufw:
              rule: allow
              port: '80'
              proto: tcp
      
        handlers:
          - name: Restart Nginx
            service:
              name: nginx
              state: restarted
      

      To execute this playbook on the server(s) that you set up in your inventory file, run ansible-playbook with the same connection arguments you’ve used when running a connection test within the introduction of this series. Here, we’ll be using an inventory file named inventory and the sammy user to connect to the remote server. Because the playbook requires sudo to run, we’re also including the -K argument to provide the remote user’s sudo password when prompted by Ansible:

      • ansible-playbook -i inventory playbook.yml -u sammy -K

      You’ll see output like this:

      Output

      BECOME password: PLAY [all] ********************************************************************************************** TASK [Gathering Facts] ********************************************************************************** ok: [203.0.113.10] TASK [Update apt cache and install Nginx] *************************************************************** ok: [203.0.113.10] TASK [Copy website files to the server's document root] ************************************************* changed: [203.0.113.10] TASK [Apply Nginx template] ***************************************************************************** changed: [203.0.113.10] TASK [Enable new site] ********************************************************************************** ok: [203.0.113.10] TASK [Allow all access to tcp port 80] ****************************************************************** ok: [203.0.113.10] RUNNING HANDLER [Restart Nginx] ************************************************************************* changed: [203.0.113.10] PLAY RECAP ********************************************************************************************** 203.0.113.10 : ok=7 changed=3 unreachable=0 failed=0 skipped=0 rescued=0 ignored=0

      Once the playbook is finished, if you go to your browser and access your server’s hostname or IP address you should now see the following page:

      HTML Demo Site Deployed by Ansible

      Congratulations, you have successfully automated the deployment of a static HTML website to a remote Nginx server, using Ansible.

      If you make changes to any of the files in the demo website, you can run the playbook again and the copy task will make sure any file changes are reflected in the remote host. Because Ansible has an idempotent behavior, running the playbook multiple times will not trigger changes that were already made to the system.



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