WordPress plugins are extensions that add functionality to your website. They are like apps on your phone. There are thousands of WordPress plugins that do different things like backup your website, make your website load faster, create contact forms, secure your website, and send out newsletters. There are 3 primary methods to add a WordPress plugin:

  1. Through the WordPress plugin directory on your WordPress admin dashboard
  2. Manually uploading a plugin zip file in WordPress admin
  3. Uploading the plugin folder with FTP

The above are in order from least to most technically challenging.

Side note on WordPress.org vs WordPress.com

Before you can install a plugin, you need to verify that your website is self hosted (WordPress.org) and not on WordPress.com which does not allow plugin installation. If you’re unsure which you’re on, visit https://wpisnotwp.com/ to learn the difference between the two.

Install A Plugin Through The WordPress Plugin Directory

The WordPress plugin directory/repository is a collection of thousands of WordPress plugins. To install a plugin start from the wp-admin menu. Go to Plugins > Add New

Screenshot of the Plugins > Add New menu item.

On the ‘Add Plugins’ page you’ll find:

  • An ‘Upload Plugin’ button which allows you to upload a plugin from your computer.
  • A group of tabs which show what selection of plugins are being displayed on the page. The default tab is ‘Featured’ other tabs are ‘Popular’, ‘Recommended’ and ‘Favorites’
  • A search field where you can enter the name of the plugin you want to install or enter a description to search for a plugin with the feature you want
  • Plugin information cards for each plugin displaying on the page. Each card contains:
    • The name of the plugin
    • An ‘Install Now’ button
    • A more details link to open a modal where you can learn more about the plugin
    • Link to the author of the plugin
    • A star rating and the number of users who submitted reviews
    • How long ago the plugin was last updated
    • The number of active installations
    • A compatibility message which is created when an author verifies compatibility with a WordPress version.
Screenshot of Add Plugins admin page
Screenshot of the Add Plugins page.

Choosing A Good Plugin

The plugin information cards provide valuable information to help choose good plugins. Usually the best plugins have a high star rating, were updated recently, and have a high number of active installations in the thousands or millions.

When you’ve found the plugin you want, select the ‘Install Now’ button next to the plugin name. The installation will take a few moments to complete. Once installation has completed, the ‘Install Now’ button will change to an ‘Activate’ button. Select it to activate the plugin. Once the plugin is activated you’ll be taken to the ‘Installed Plugins’ page which shows all the installed plugins. (Occasionally plugins may redirect you to a setup page instead of the ‘Installed Plugins’ page)

And that’s it, you’ve successfully added a WordPress Plugin! You may need to change the plugin settings but how to do that varies depending on the plugin and is beyond the current topic.

Manually Installing A WordPress Plugin

The WordPress plugin directory only has free plugins. You can download premium plugins from sources other than the WordPress repository. Plugin vendors usually provide the plugin as a zip file download. The following instructions describe how to upload a plugin zip file to WordPress.

In your WordPress admin menu go to Plugins > Add New. You’ll be taken to the ‘Add Plugins’ page which was introduced in the previous section. At the top of the ‘Add Plugins’ page is a button labeled ‘Upload Plugin’, select it. A file upload form will appear just below the ‘Upload Plugin’ button. Select the “Choose File” button and the file upload explorer will open. Navigate to and select the plugin zip file to upload. Next, select the ‘Install Now’ button. The plugin will upload and install and you’ll be taken to the plugin installation page. On the plugin installation page select the ‘Activate Plugin’ button. The plugin will activate and load the ‘Installed Plugins’ page. Congratulations, you’ve manually added a WordPress plugin!

Plugin Installation Page.

Adding A Plugin With FTP

We’ll cover the ftp upload method in a future post update. in the meantime you can checkout the WPBeginner tutorial on how to install a plugin, it includes the FTP method.

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