When Plugins go nuts… #blogging

If you use WordPress as your blogging software (and why wouldn’t you ;)) you’ll know all about the extended functionality you can add to you blog as via Plugins.

Plugin Mania

One of the first things I get asked when I hand over the key to a new WordPress blog is “what plugins do I need?”, which always leads to the conversation about what you want to use the plugins for.

Sometimes you don’t need a plugin at all as the functionality is in the theme.

It can be a heady thing seeing the variety of plugins and knowing that there are free as well as premium plugins that will take your WordPress site beyond just blogging.

An example of this is “breadcrumb navigation”, if you use the Genesis framework this is a standard feature. If you use another theme (Thesis) it may not be a standard feature and you may have to code it in or use a plugin.

Coding VS Plugins?

Coding every single time…. if you can’t add some code to your child theme then talk to someone who can. There’s also the Genesis Extender Plugin if you have the Genesis theme which will add parts to your .php files and function files without you getting into a mess. Note – Don’t code directly into WordPress itself as you’ll lose that code when the next update comes through – always add the code to the child theme. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you need to get in someone who does.

If you have no budget you can attempt it yourself, but be prepared to have to get an expert in if you wreck your blog :), yup, when you own a blog it’s like owning a car; when you drive it off the forecourt its your responsibility, if you wrap it around a tree then you pay to get it fixed.

One of the ways you can tell a WordPress blogging expert from an amateur is how soon in the conversation they say “there’s a plugin for that” when you are talking about blogging functionality. If it’s too soon, ie when you say “can my blog do this…” and the reply is “there’s a plugin that does that”…you know you are being led up the garden path. Why? Firstly a plugin is NOT the answer to everything when it comes to functionality. Somethings are just not possible and if they are, they may not get on with your existing plugins… And that’s why plugins are second in the conversation, and the first part of it is WHY do you actually want to do something.

Talking of blog wrecking… what do you do when your plugins go nuts?

Well, one of the signs is the White Screen of Death.  You type in your URL, press enter and you get a white screen. This is almost always caused by a plugin. It could also be a plugin that uses up a lot of memory, a theme that is poorly coded and conflicting and in some cases it can be a hosting issue.  In my 8 years of blogging, every single time I’ve seen the WordPress White Screen of Death it’s been caused by plugins.

When does it happen? Sometimes (75% of the time) after the plugins or WordPress is upgraded you’ll get the White Screen. The cure? Go into your FTP / Cpanel and disable all of the plugins. Then check to see if your site is back? If it’s not, delete the current them and let it default back to the basic theme… still not working? Now is the time to get help.

When you know its the plugins / theme you can correct it and get your site back to normal.

In some rare cases you will need to increase your memory limit. That would be when you contact your host or you can try it yourself. In most cases for this, you’ll see that your site doesn’t actually display a white screen but an error code where it tells you that you’re at your memory limit.

Plugin conflicts.

Too much of anything can be dangerous, moderation is best, except for when it comes to chocolate ;) There are two things to keep in mind when installing plugins:

  • Too many plugins can slow down your site and eat up bandwidth.
  • Too many of the same plugin type can cause conflicts and clashes.

Even the best plugin can also let unexpected security risks slip through your “doors” — if they are not regularly updated.

Now, you can have 100 plugins on your WordPress website and it work perfectly because the plugins are coded perfectly by some great people. And then again you may have a plugin that hasn’t been updated for 2 years and it won’t play nice with all the others. It has to go. No whining about how much you loved it, it’s causing a problem and you have the option of paying someone to upgrade the plugin or code in the functionality.

How do you know that your WordPress plugin is nicely coded? When you look in the WordPress plugin repositary, you’ll see that the plugins are rated, tell you what version of WordPress its compatible with and how many times the plugin has been downloaded and what it needs to work… You need to look at this information before you install a plugin.

plugins go nuts
When purchasing a premium plugin you’ll need to do a little research prior to purchasing.
Again you’ll be looking for things like updates / downloads and compatibility, but that information isn’t always available.

Plugin developers provide new versions frequently.

They provide updates to address glitches and bugs, but often the reason there’s an upgrade is because someone has discovered a security leak, or leak potential etc in the plugin’s coding. So to help prevent plugin conflict you need to update your plugins often.

How to De-bug Faulty Manual Plugin Installations

One of the most frequent causes of plugin conflict can be through manually installing a plugin via your FTP.  Occasionally this manual upload process via FTP won’t work. There are two things you can do to fix it…

Make sure your plugin is there – Open your FTP program again to make sure it’s actually in the right folder (wp-content/plugins). If it’s not there (it does happen!) upload it again.

If it is there breathe a sigh of relief and delete right from the server, then upload again

If it still doesn’t work, check out your unzipped plugin folder very thoroughly: Is there a second folder within the folder (“double wrapping”)? If so, delete the unsuccessful upload and start again, this time using the folder within the folder only. I get caught by this all of the time.

Plugins: To Zip or Unzip?

Remember, if you’re manually uploading via WordPress, keep your plugin folder zipped.

If you’re uploading via FTP, unzip first (unless the plugin developer states otherwise). Remember to click “Activate”, once your plugin appears in your installed plugins page.

Read the instructions first when it comes to installing the plugins you want, it’s the difference between a perfect blog and a mess that you have to sort out over a day or so whilst you are trying to do other things.

Dealing with a plugin conflict

If you have a plugin conflict, deactivate the last plugin you installed and chill out for a moment. Is the plugin essential? Is it vital, will your whole world fall apart without it? If so then the next step is deactivate all of the plugins and then reactivate them one by one to see which one is causing the grief. 4Can you live without that plugin? If so, un-install it and delete it. As I recently found out even un-installing and deleting some plugins isn’t enough to get rid of them and the hassle they have caused! In which case you need to pick up the phone and call someone in as quite clearly it’s a plugin gone rogue.

Of course there can be other reasons why plugins go nuts

Too many of the same types of plugin  can cause problems. Do you really need 6 different versions of stats on your blog? Or 4 different SEO plugins? Chose one type and stick with it. When you change plugins for one thing often, you undo the work that you have already done. Some SEO related plugins take a little while to kick in and if you are not using them correctly then they may never deliver the results that you think they will. Installing another SEO plugin on top of that is not the cure :)

Incorrectly configured plugins may be a pain, again read the instructions, and dare I say it… do as you are advised.

Remember less is more when it comes to plugins :)

Share with us your tips for dealing with plugins that have gone nuts.




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Sarah Arrow

Blogging an issue for you? Social media not quite working how it should be?That's okay I understand. I started blogging back in 2006 and grew into a kick-ass blog coach as well as creator of Birds on the Blog (listed 3 times by Forbes as a top 100 website for women), I'm frequently listed as both a top content marketing expert and as an influential marketer.
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  1. I enjoyed reading your blog… This is very informative and help me understand what to do if ever my plug ins go nuts! Thank you…

    • Hi Angela, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Glad you found it useful.

  2. Informative and right on topic for the WordPress plugin nut. :-) One major problem for some is installing too many plugins at once before the site is backed up & tested to make sure everything is working the way it should, before installing another. It seem to be an afterthought for most until the plugin causes a major conflict with their WordPress blog.

    • Thanks LaVenus, I think i should add that in – your first plugin should be a back up plugina dn you should back up the site before adding anything else :)

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

  3. Moreover some plugin creaters just don’t care about security and robustness, and even for those who do, their ability to test on a variety of systems in a variety of situations is often quite limited. But there are a few things about plugins that are useful to understand. So I would like to hear your comments on how you feel about the benefits of some plugins that could improve the blog performance?

    • Hi Paul, thanks for dropping by and commenting. I have had a bucket load of grief with plugins that improve performance so I have a very biased view of them :)

      • hey Sarah thanks for reply and accepting my words on your blog. Your post is very useful for those who massively use plugins without any investigation. I have seen a lot incidents where blogs get hacked due to the unsecured plugins. Anyway, plugins like commentluv AND keywordluv doing very good job to make a good discussion alike forums.

  4. Hi Sarah
    Great look at plugins and a super example of how to turn a dry subject into a good read.

    Love your humour…
    “…moderation is best, except for when it comes to chocolate”
    Like that.

    I try and keep plugins down but I do use some.
    I use the usual ones plus a few security plugins.

    Just checking, what platform are we on here? Genesis.
    They are slowly taking over the world.

    • Hey Keith, still on Genesis but am very tempted to move to Headway. I see Danny B has done fab stuff with it and I love Judy Dunn’s look on Cat’s Eye Writer… I am tempted to take the plunge but I am holding back for now, and am not really sure why. Thanks for dropping by :)

  5. Great article, Leslie Morrisey and I were only talking yesterday about how easy to read and relevant your blogging tips are.

    I run workshops on creating and managing websites with WordPress and the plugin debate is as strong as ever, nice to see someone else agrees – spending time in researching to find the right plugins for what you need is a better use of time than installing everything that might be useful.

    • Thanks for dropping by and commenting Scott. I know when I had my first WordPress blog I had about 70 plugins… now I have 10 and my mantra is if I can code it, I’ll do that instead of a plugin :)

  6. I agree, less is more but there are so many plugins around that sometimes it’s really difficult to stick to what you have or decide what you really need.

    But when one goes wrong like it happened to me due to an update of a security plugin it’s really a pain.

    Very good post Sarah. ;)

    • Thanks Andrea, I struggle with some of my plugins they are vital for speed but I also want the pretty, distracting things as well…

  7. I’m certainly a novice – so it’s plugins for me, Sarah. But they can be quite addictive and you keep adding more each time you read another ‘must-have-plugin’ post! Thanks for the warning though – I must be careful not to crash my site!

  8. I’ve been having some ‘fun’ with plugins recently – nearly brought my site to a complete standstill. I’m like a kid in a candy store with plugins – always buying new shiny stuff that looks good and not thinking about how it will impact other plugins that are already there.
    The solution for me was to do a complete clear out of plugins (including all the stupid stuff I have bought) and start again – its amazing how few plugins you really need to have a great blog

  9. Sarah, I ‘m always so cautious installing new plugins. I had one once that almost took down my entire blog and another that messed with a lot of other plugins. Test, test, test, right? I also love reading reviews by others before using one.
    My favorite to date is Yoast. I love it with Twitter cards and for SEO.

  10. Hey Sarah,

    Girl, you’re after my own heart! I learned the hard way back toward the end of 2012 when I started having serious database issues that when you install a plugin on your blog and although you might not want to use it anymore that the plugin remains in your database. Four years of installing and uninstalling plugins almost took my entire account down.

    I learned the hard way that less is best but I know that some don’t cause problems. I just don’t want to run into that issue so I will code when possible. I use Thesis so it’s pretty easy to do although I’m not a coder. I’ve learned though but I have a friend that will help me if I totally mess up. LOL!!!

    I do find it annoying though when someone will say “there’s a plugin for that”. I know they’re an accident waiting to happen and my heart goes out to them but maybe that’s what it takes right!

    I’ve never had the white screen of death myself. Okay, maybe I have but it ended up being a hosting issue and luckily not my blog so I continue to knock on wood girl. I’ve had too many friends who have had major issues because they’re plugins weren’t playing nice.

    Great share and great advice. I hope everyone will understand that running a blog is more than just writing content. You’ve got to stay on top of this stuff or it can cause major issues.



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