How To Install a WordPress Plugin (Illustrated step-by-step)
I currently have 8 WordPress Plugins installed on this website. Though, I’m actually looking for ways to reduce this number. Yet, before go into that, let’s start off by answering the main question first:
How can I install a WordPress plugin?
- Hover over “Plugins” and click on “add new”
- Enter the plugin’s name into the search bar
- Click on the “Install” button
- Click on the “Activate” button
Sometimes the plugin you want to install, isn’t listed in the “WordPress Plugin Directory”. This is why there are multiple ways for installing WordPress plugins.
Installing WordPress plugins
Before we dive into the methods for installing a WordPress plugin, just a quick heads up. There’s a difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, and between free and paid plugins. Though if you’re already up to speed, feel free to click on one of the links below:
Search for a WordPress plugin using the WordPress back-end
Upload a WordPress plugin using the WordPress back-end
Upload a WordPress plugin using a File Manager or FTP client
Having trouble installing a plugin? This might be the problem
WordPress.com offers a free plan for creating websites hosted on a subdomain. Though you’ll need to upgrade to their business plan, before they’ll allow you to install plugins. At the time of writing this blog post, their business plan will cost you a whopping $25 per month.
WordPress.org is the website from which you can download the latest WordPress version for free. After downloading this file, you’ll be able to install* the WordPress Content Management System (CMS) on your webserver.
* Most web hosting service providers, provide a one-click install for installing the latest version of WordPress. So you don’t actually need to download it from WordPress.org.
In short: WordPress.com is a web hosting service provider, whilst WordPress.org allows you to download the WordPress installation file. If you use the free, personal or premium version of WordPress.com, you won’t be able to install plugins.
Free vs Paid WordPress Plugins
Plugins which have been added to the WordPress Plugin Directory, are free of charge. Though in most cases you’ll be able to upgrade to the “Pro-version”. When upgrading, most vendors provide you an additional plugin, which can’t be found in the Plugin Directory.
You’ll first have to download the plugin from the vendor’s website. Once downloaded you’ll have to upload this “.zip” file to your website, using the backend of WordPress. Alternatively you could use a File Manager or FTP client to upload the unzipped plugin.
When you’ve installed the plugin, just activate it and you can use the additional functionality. Some paid plugins have an additional level of security. This is why some plugins will also require a licence key to activate the plugin.
In the next section you’ll find the step-by-step instructions, including helpful illustrations, on how to use these methods*. Let’s start off by using the WordPress plugin search bar. To see if the plugin you want to install is available in the WordPress Plugin Directory.
* Using the WordPress Back-End, is actually the easiest way for installing WordPress plugins.
Installing a WordPress plugin (WordPress Back-end)
Use these step-by-step instructions for installing a free WordPress plugin. If you’ve bought a WordPress plugin, you’ll probably need to skip to the instructions for uploading a plugin. This one can only be used for plugins which are available in the WordPress Plugin Directory.
In order to use the steps below, you’ll have to be logged into the WordPress Back-End. To do so, open your browser and type in your website’s domain name trailing with “/wp-admin”. Then enter your login credentials and press enter or click on the “login” button.
[image Login Backend WordPress]
1. Hover over “Plugins” and click on “add new”
Now the “Add Plugins” page will load. In this case we’ll be using the plugin search bar, located on the right of the page. You can choose the search method, by selecting one of the options from the dropdown list. I recommend using the default method “Keyword” instead of “Author” or “Tag”.
Typing in the plugin’s full name, will give you the best chance of finding the plugin you’re looking for. In this case I’m looking for a plugin called “Elementor”.
2. Enter the plugin’s name into the search bar
[Image Screenshot 2]
WordPress displays the plugins it found based on your search query. The “Elementor Website Builder” is actually on the first spot. Though before you click on the install button, it’s always good practice to do some checks first.
Always check the plugin’s author, just to make you’re installing the correct one. If you aren’t familiar with the plugin, do some research before installing it. You can find more information by clicking on the name of the plugin.
[Image Screenshot plugin information]
This will trigger a popup window, where you’ll be able to read through all the plugin’s info. Be sure to read some of the 1 or 2 star reviews, just in case. Generally an overall rating of 4 to 5 stars and more than 10.000 installations, means it’s safe* to install.
* Disclaimer: You make your own choices! In other words: I’m not liable when you install a plugin which causes your website to crash. You do so at your own risk…
Once you’ve made sure, this is actually the plugin you want to install. All you have to is to click on the install button, and be patient
3. Click on the “Install” button
[Image Screenshot 3]
The time it takes to install the plugin depends on your web server’s speed. Once the plugin is successfully installed, the button will change an “Activate” Button. The last step is push that button to activate the plugin.
4. Click on the “Activate” button
[Image Screenshot 4]
Once you’ve activated the plugin, you’ll get access to the additional functionality in the WordPress back-end. The location of the plugin’s settings depends on the kind of plugin you’ve installed. Elementor is added to the main menu of the WordPress Back-end.
Manually installing a (paid) WordPress plugin
Use these step-by-step instructions if you want to upload a plugin using the back-end of WordPress. In most cases this only applies when you’ve bought a WordPress plugin. If you want to search for plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory, use this instruction.
1. Download the WordPress plugin from the vendor
We’ll be using Elementor again for this example. Though, the same process will apply for most plugins you purchase from a 3rd party vendor. The first step is to visit your vendor’s website and login to your account.
You’ll need to find the download page from which you can download the plugin. Just click on the download button and save it to your download folder. Some vendors also require using a licence key to activate the plugin, be sure to store your key somewhere safe.
Once you’ve downloaded the file and have the licence key available, you can go to step 2.
2. Login to the back-end of your WordPress website
Open your browser and type in your website’s domain name trailing with “/wp-admin”. Then enter your credentials and click on the “login” button or just hit enter.
[image Login Backend WordPress]
3. Hover over “Plugins” and click on “add new”
Hover over “Plugins”, located on the menu at the left and select the “add new” option, by clicking on it.
Now the “Add Plugins” page will load. Once loaded you’ll need to click on the “Upload Plugin” button, located at the top left of the WordPress back-end.
4. Click on the “Upload Plugin” button
Now the upload functionality will appear beneath the “Upload Plugin” button, just like the image below.
[Image step 3 and 4]
5. Click on the “Choose File” button
In most cases the zip file containing the plugin will be downloaded to the “Downloads” folder on your computer. Though if you’ve used an alternative folder, you should try to find it
Pro Tip: There’s a faster way to do achieve the same goal. Though in order to make this work, you’ll have use one browser window with to open tabs. One tab for your WordPress Back-end and the other one for downloading the file.
When downloading the file, it should appear at the bottom left corner of your browser. Once the file is downloaded, select the WordPress Back-end tab. Now left click on the file and hold. Then drag the file to the “Choose File” button, and voila.
5. Find the zip file, select it and press the “Open” button
[image step 5]
Once you’ve selected the zip file containing the plugin, you’re almost done.
6. Click on the “Install” button
[image step 6]
A new page will load which shows you the Installation’s progres. Normally this takes less than a minute, depending on your webserver’s speed. Once the installation is successful, you’ll be see something similar to the screen below
[image plugin successfully installed]
7. Click on the “Activate” button
Congratulations! You’ve just manually installed a plugin using the WordPress Back-End. Though in some cases you’ll first need to enter a licence key, before your plugin starts working.
8. (Optional) some plugins require a licence key
To get your licence key, just visit the plugin’s website and login to your account. There should be a section where you can copy the licence key from. Once you’ve copied the key, go back to the WordPress Back-End and try to find the plugin’s settings page.
Now paste the licence key, using CTRL+V (or CMD+V for Apple users) or by clicking on the licence key field with your right mouse button (select paste). Finish off by clicking on the Save Changes button
Uploading a WordPress plugin (File Manager, Plugin or FTP)
Alternatively you can install a plugin by manually uploading it to your web server. In order to use this method you’ll need to gain access to your website’s file structure. Most web hosting service providers allow you to use a file manager or FTP connection to achieve this.
There are actually 3 methods for gaining access to your website’s file structure, through:
- Web Hosting Control Panel (like Cpanel or Plesk)
- File Manager Plugin (like Filester or WP File Manager)
- FTP Client (like FileZilla or Cyberduck)
Web Hosting Control Panel
The easiest method for gaining access is through the web hosting control panel. As you won’t have to install a plugin on your website or a piece of software on your computer. And you don’t have to mess around with login credentials as well.
To find out if your web hosts provides this functionality, just login your account and try to find an application called “File Manager”. If you can’t find the application, have a look at their support page. Alternatively you could Google the name of your provider + “file manager”.
File Manager WordPress Plugin
If you don’t have access to web hosting control panel, you have two options left. The first one is installing a file manager plugin using your WordPress Back-End. My personal preference is using a plugin called “Filester”, use this instruction to install it on your website.
As additional plugins are known to slow down your website, you might want to reconsider this. Even Though installing a WordPress Plugin using an FTP client requires a bit more work, you’ll have one less plugin to worry about.
If you decide to install a file manager plugin, first install the plugin. Once installed you can skip to this section.
One of the most most popular FTP clients is called FileZilla. I personally prefer Cyberduck’s user interface, as it’s more user friendly. Both FTP clients are free to use, though Cyberduck will prompt you to make a donation. Donating will help the Cyberduck’s developer, but it’s not necessary in order to use their application.
The links below will open their download page in a new tab:
Installing FTP client on your computer
1. Download the installation file
When you’ve made up your mind on which FTP client you’re going to use, it’s time to download the installation file. On the download page you’ll find multiple installation files. Choose the right installation file for your Operating System (OS) and download it.
2. Install the FTP Client
Once downloaded, double click on the file to start the installation. Then just follow the Installation instructions and accept the terms of service.
3. Open the FTP Client
Once installed, open the FTP client in order to setup the connection to your webserver.
Setting up an FTP / SFTP connection
In order to establish the connection to your webserver you’ll need 4 pieces of information. Then Connection Type (FTP or SFTP), Username, Password and the Port number. You’ll be able to find this information on your account page for the web host you’re using.
1. Add a New Connection
If you’re using Cyberduck, you can add the website to your bookmarks instead. To do this, click on the bookmark section (2nd Icon from the left). Then right click in the bookmark area and select “New Bookmark”.
If you’re using FileZilla click on the site management icon located at the top left of the application. Then click on the “New Website” button located at the bottom left.
2. Give the connection a name
When using Cyberduck enter a descriptive name in the “screen name” field. When using FileZilla enter this name under the “My Sites” section.
3. Setup the connection
Now it’s time to enter the information you’ve found on your web host’s account page. Select the correct connection protocol, enter your username and password. Then check if the port number is correct. And finish off by hitting the “Ok” button.
Be sure to check if the connection is working. In Cyberduck you’ll be able to establish the connection by double clicking on the bookmark. When using FileZilla, click on the inverted triangle on the top left and select the connection you’ve just created.
Downloading and Uploading the WordPress Plugin
Once you’ve established a connection to your website’s file structure, it’s time for the next step. Downloading the WordPress plugin and uploading it to your website.
1. Download the WordPress plugin from the vendor
Just as an example, we’ll be using the Elementor Pro plugin. The same process will apply for most plugins you purchase from a 3rd party vendor. To download the Elementor Pro plugin you’ll first need to login to the Elementor website.
Once logged in, open the download page. Now click on the download button and save it to your download folder. Most paid plugins require a licence key for it to be activated, so be sure to store your key somewhere safe.
2. Unzip the plugin zip file in the same folder
Once you’ve downloaded the plugin you’ll first have to unzip it, before uploading it to your website. To decompress the file, right click on it and select “decompress” or “unzip”. Before you move on, make sure the unzipped file actually contains subfolders and other files.
3. Now establish a connection to your website’s file structure
As explained, you’ll be able to establish this connection through a file manager or FTP client. You can follow this instruction to establish this connection.
4. Go to the “public_html/wp-content/plugins” directory
Once the connection is established, Open the “public_html” folder, then open the “wp-content” folder and finally open the “plugins” folder. This is destination folder, where the plugin should be uploaded to.
5. Upload the plugin
Uploading the plugin will be slightly different, based on the connection method you’ve chosen. In most cases you’ll be able to find an “upload” button. Just click on this button and select the unzipped plugin’s folder. finish off by clicking on the “Ok” button.
Though if you’re using FileZilla, there won’t be an upload button. You’ll have find the unzipped plugin’s folder and right click on it. Then select “upload”, to upload it to your website’s file structure.
Once you’ve uploaded the plugin don’t forget to activate it, using the WordPress Back-End.
Activating the uploaded plugin
If you’ve uploaded a plugin using a File Manager or an FTP client, the plugin will be installed* on your website. Though you’ll still have to manually activate the plugin.
* Sometimes you’ll need to refresh the WordPress Back-End, before the new plugin becomes visible. You can refresh the page by simply hitting the F5 key on your keyboard.
1. Login to the back-end of your WordPress website
First open your browser and type in your website’s domain name trailing with “/wp-admin”. Then enter your login credentials and press the enter key or click on the “login” button.
2. Hover over “plugins” and select “Installed Plugins”
Once logged in, you’ll find “plugins” located in the menu on the left. Hover over this menu item and then select “Installed Plugins” to open the plugins page.
3. Click on the plugin’s activation link
Find the plugin you’ve just uploaded (and installed), and press the “activate” link. Now the plugin will be activated and you can use it. In some cases you’ll be required to enter your licence key.
The plugin’s vendor will have provided you this key. In most cases you’ll be able to find it in an email or the vendor’s website. Just visit the plugin’s website and login to your account. There should be a section where you can copy the licence key from.
Once you’ve copied the key, go back to the plugin’s settings page. Now paste the licence key, using CTRL+V (or CMD+V for Apple users) or by clicking on the licence key field with your right mouse button (select paste). Don’t forget to Save Changes!
Congratulations! You’ve just manually uploaded and activated a plugin.
How do I manually install a WordPress plugin?
Manually installing a WordPress plugin can either be done through using FTP or the Back-End of your WordPress Installation. If you’re looking for the short steps just click on one of the links.
How do I add a plugin to my WordPress site?
If you want to install a paid plugin, you’ll have download it the plugin’s vendor. And upload the plugin to your wordpress installation, either through the WordPress Back-End or FTP. If you want to install a free plugin, the easiest way is to use the plugin search bar.
If you can’t find this option, using WordPress.com could be the issue. As this website only allows you to install plugins when using their “business plan” paid tier.
Why can’t I install plugins on WordPress?
This could be because you’re using WordPress.com. As they only allow you to install plugins if you’re on their “business plan” paid tier. If you’re on their Free, Personal and Premium plan, you’ll have to upgrade.
Sometimes the plugin you want to install hasn’t been updated to be able to work with your current WordPress version. When this happens, you could try contact the vendor. Though in most cases, you’ll just have to be patient.
Do plugins slow down WordPress?
Yes, and no. Some WordPress plugins, mainly Cache plugins are designed to speed up your website. Though the more plugins you install the slower your website will get. This is because most plugins require additional loading time when someone visits your website.
The more files needed to be downloaded, the slower your website will be. This is why it’s always good practice to reduce the number of plugins installed on your WordPress website.