How to Install a WordPress Plugin: A Step-By-Step Guide for Those New to WordPress

How to install a WordPress plugin, featured image

If you want to add extra functionality to your WordPress website then installing a plugin is your best option. Luckily, there are thousands of free and premium WordPress plugins, so whatever function you would like your website to perform, it's a fairly safe bet that you will be able to find a plugin that caters for this need.

In this article, we discuss two different ways to install a WordPress plugin. We also consider other useful plugin-related topics for WordPress beginners, including where to find WordPress plugins, where to find support for plugins, and the importance of updating active plugins on your site. Let’s get started…

Where to Find WordPress Plugins

As WordPress is open-source software, anyone with the skills and the experience can create a plugin. Therefore, it is important when you choose a plugin that it comes from a trustworthy and reputable source. This will ensure that the plugin is well-coded, doesn’t slow down your website (too much), and doesn’t pose a security risk.

So let’s find out where you can find WordPress plugins…

Free WordPress Plugins

WordPress.org homepage

If you want to install a free WordPress plugin, the only place you should be looking is the WordPress.org repository. The WordPress.org repository has stringent standards that developers have to adhere to if they would like their plugin added to this collection. New plugins have to be submitted for approval, ensuring that all the plugins in the repository are well-coded and as secure as they can be.

To search WordPress.org for plugins, simply open the website and select Plugins from the menu at the top of the page.

WordPress.org plugin directory

Here, you will find over 55,000 plugins ready to be downloaded. If you have a particular plugin in mind, you can search the repository directly, otherwise, you can just have a browse!

Premium WordPress Plugins

Premium WordPress plugins

There is a wide assortment of plugin developers and online theme and plugin shops where you can purchase premium plugins. Again, make sure these are reliable and trustworthy companies, that have a long-term track record for quality plugins within the WordPress community.

As well as checking out the developers and sellers, it is also important to research the individual plugins before you make a purchase. Always scrutinize ratings and reviews, and make sure the plugin has been updated within the last six months. The biggest plugin marketplace is CodeCanyon where you can browse and buy over 7,000 premium WordPress plugins.

However, some of the best quality plugins are often available for sale directly on the developers' websites. For more information on top-quality plugins and where to find them, check out our article about the best WordPress plugins for 2019.

So, now we know where to find both free and premium WordPress plugins. Let’s next find out how to install a WordPress plugin…

How to Install a WordPress Plugin

Installing a WordPress plugin is a very quick and easy process. There are two ways to do it…

  1. Install a free WordPress plugin from WordPress.org (within your WordPress dashboard).
  2. Upload a free or premium plugin to your WordPress dashboard.

Let’s now have a look at both of these processes…

1. Install a Free WordPress Plugin from WordPress.org

If you are installing a free WordPress plugin from WordPress.org then the easiest option is to install it from within your WordPress dashboard.

To get started, open your WordPress dashboard and select Plugins > Add Plugin from the sidebar menu.

Add New Plugin

On the Add Plugins page, you will find that WordPress displays a couple of popular and recommended plugins. You will also see a Search function, where you can directly search the WordPress.org repository without leaving your WordPress dashboard.

Install a WordPress Plugin

In the Search bar, type in the name of the plugin you would like to install. Here, you will see we have chosen to install the free security plugin Wordfence

Find the plugin

Once WordPress has retrieved the plugin, check it is the right one, and then click on Install Now, and then Activate.

How to Install a WordPress Plugin - Wordfence

Your new plugin is now installed on your website and ready to set up (we will cover how to set up and customize a plugin's settings further on in this article).

If you want to install a premium plugin, or simply want to learn a different way to add a free plugin to your website, then check out these next instructions on how to upload a plugin to your WordPress dashboard…

2. Upload a Plugin to Your WordPress Dashboard

If you want to upload a plugin to your WordPress dashboard, you will first need to download the plugin from its source to your computer. This will differ slightly depending on the plugin and where you are downloading it from. Let's find out more…

Download a Free WordPress Plugin

For free plugins, open WordPress.org and select Plugins from the menu. Then in the Search function, type in the name of the plugin you want to download. Here we have searched for the free WordPress plugin WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache

Click on the appropriate plugin from the options displayed. You will then be taken to the plugin's page, where, if you are happy with your selection, you should click Download.

Download Plugin

Your free plugin will now be downloaded to your computer in a ZIP file.

Download a Premium Plugin

If you would like to install a premium plugin, go to the appropriate website and make a purchase. Here, we have bought the popular WPBakery Page Builder plugin…

WPBakery Page Builder

After your payment has been taken, again simply click on the Download button that will be displayed. Your new plugin will then be downloaded to your computer.

Upload a Free or Premium Plugin to Your WordPress Website

After downloading your free or premium plugin to your computer, you will then need to upload it to your WordPress website. To upload a plugin (free or premium), open your WordPress dashboard and from the menu, select Plugins > Add Plugin.

Add New Plugin

On the Add Plugins page, instead of searching for the plugin you want to install, click on the Upload Plugin button at the top of the page.

How to Install a WordPress plugin

Then, click on Choose File and select the zipped plugin file from your Downloads folder.

Downloads Folder

Next, select Install Now.

Install a WordPress Plugin - Install Now

Once the plugin has installed, select Activate Plugin.

Activate Plugin

The plugin is now installed on your WordPress website.

How to Alter a Plugin’s Settings

Many plugins will work straight out of the box, others will have to be set up, and some will just need a couple of tweaks to their settings. Once a plugin has been installed, you will find access to the plugin and its settings within your WordPress menu.

WordPress Menu Settings

Below, you can see the WP Super Cache Settings (a good example of a plugin's Settings page). This page provides a number of tabs where you can view and alter the settings, customizing the plugin to suit your site's needs. There is also an extremely useful help box, signposting where you can find support for WP Super Cache.

Plugin Settings

If you install a premium plugin, you may need to insert a username and API key before you can start using the plugin. This key will be provided by the plugin developer and needs to be entered within the plugin's settings.

API Key

Most plugins will provide support materials to help you with the setup process. Make sure you read this documentation so you understand how to customize the settings and make the plugin work for your website. Let's now find out more about plugin support…

Where to Find Plugin Support

Support will vary from plugin to plugin. Most plugins will come with setup documentation, so make sure you read this first to ensure a smooth setup process, and to help you access the full scope of the plugin’s functionality.

If you have installed a free plugin from WordPress.org, you will be able to access a wide assortment of support documentation directly on the website, as well as community forums. Importantly, for more plugin-specific problems, you can also contact the developers directly on the plugin’s page via a support forum.

Support

Premium plugins have no set support format. Most will come with documentation, and many will offer support forums or ticketed email support for any problems that may occur.

Premium Support

The general rule of thumb is, the more expensive the plugin the more support will be offered (although unfortunately, this isn’t always the case!). If you are someone who often needs a bit of help with WordPress-related tasks, then check out the support on offer before making a plugin purchase.

Don’t Forget to Keep Plugins Updated

Keeping the plugins that are installed on your website updated is important. When developers release new versions of the plugins, you will need to open the Installed Plugins page and select Update next to the appropriate plugins. This will ensure that your plugins don’t become a security risk, as well as run smoothly and efficiently.

Update Plugins

If you don’t open your WordPress dashboard very often, then using the free plugin Easy Updates Manager may be a good option for you. This lightweight but powerful plugin can enable automatic updates of all plugins and themes, as well as WordPress core, with just a click of a button. Using a plugin like this gives you peace of mind that your website is always fully updated and running at its optimal performance level.

Final Thoughts on How to Install a WordPress Plugin

As you can see, installing a WordPress plugin is a quick and easy business. Here are some key points to take away from this article to help with the plugin installation process…

  • Always install plugins from a reputable source.
  • Check out ratings and reviews before making a purchase.
  • Follow the above instructions to help with plugin installation.
  • Read the supporting materials or contact the plugin's support team if you have any questions or problems.
  • Don’t forget to keep all the plugins on your website updated.

So, now it’s time for you to install your first WordPress plugin — are you ready to get started?

Any questions on how to install a WordPress plugin? Feel free to ask away in the comments below…

Megan Jones

Megan is a freelance writer who loves all things WordPress. She currently lives in Brighton UK with her partner and two small children. When she isn't online she likes walking by the sea, coffee, and traveling anywhere and everywhere. She is available for hire so check out her site jonesblogs.com.

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