How to Install a WordPress Plugin (4 Different Ways)

install a wordpress plugin

Installing a WordPress plugin is one of the most basic functions you can perform on a newly created WordPress website. It’s also one of the most important things to learn.

In this post, we’re going to cover four different ways to install a WordPress plugin on your site:

  1. From WordPress.org
  2. Through the WordPress Admin
  3. In Your Host’s cPanel
  4. Via an FTP Client

Method #1: Install a WordPress Plugin from WordPress.org

Some plugins can be installed directly from the backend of your WordPress website, but only if they’re available in the plugin repository at WordPress.org, which has a growing collection of nearly 55,000 plugins.

wordpress.org plugin repository

Every plugin available on WordPress.org is free and must pass a rigorous screening process to be allowed in the repository. However, some plugins may require you to purchase a subscription or plan that connects to the plugin.

Step 1: Check Plugin Stats

The first thing you should do before installing a WordPress plugin on your site is check out it’s statistics.

Every WordPress plugin on WordPress.org has its own dedicated page in the repository. This page contains a few key stats and pieces of information you can use to determine the quality of each plugin. It will also let you know how well it’s maintained.

optin forms wordpress plugins stats

Here are the things you should focus on:

  • Last Updated: make sure the plugin has been updated within the last year to ensure it’s had recent security patches and bug fixes. Old plugins come with vulnerabilities that can wreak havoc on your website and cause compatibility issues.
  • WordPress Version: make sure the plugin works with your version of WordPress. Abandoned plugins will come with warning messages stating it hasn’t been tested with recent WordPress versions.
  • Ratings: it’s always a good idea to check out the star ratings and reviews of a plugin to see if people like it or not.
  • Support Forum: you can get an idea whether a plugin functions the way it’s supposed to by checking out the support forum. Sometimes plugins will have problems, and that’s normal. It’s how the plugin developer handles support issues that’s important.

As you can see with Optin Forms, it has been recently updated, it works with current WordPress versions, it comes with a solid 4.6 out of 5 stars, and the support forum is relatively active.

Step 2: Find, Install and Activate the Plugin in the WordPress Admin

Once you know which plugin you want to install, you can search for it from the backend of your WordPress website. If you still haven’t decided on a plugin to use, you can also use this section to discover new plugins.

To start, go to Plugins > Add New and enter the plugin’s name into the search bar.

search for optin forms wordpress plugin

Once you find it, click the Install Now button, wait for it to install, and then click the subsequent Activate button to activate the plugin on your site.

Your plugin is now ready to use on your WordPress website.

Method #2: Install a WordPress Plugin Through the WordPress Admin

Because many plugins you’ll likely be interested in will be premium, and not available at WordPress.org, you’ll need to know the most popular method used to install plugins on your site.

This is also the method you’ll need to use if you’re using a free plugin downloaded directly from a developer’s site.

Step 1: Download the Plugin’s ZIP Folder

No matter where you get your plugin from, you’ll be given a copy of it in ZIP format. This is the format themes and plugins must be available in when they’re uploaded through the backend of WordPress.

If there was no download link when you purchased the plugin, check your inbox to see if it was emailed to you. You should also be able to download it when you sign into your account on the website you purchased it from.

Step 2: Upload the Plugin to the WordPress Admin

Once you have a zipped copy of the plugin, navigate to Plugins > Add New once again, only this time click the Upload Plugin button.

From here, you either drag the plugin’s ZIP folder from your computer to the Choose File box or click Choose File and find it in your computer’s file system.

upload zip file of plugin

Step 3: Install and Activate the Plugin

Once you’ve added the zipped version of the plugin to the Choose File box, click Install Now. You’ll be redirected to a page that features a simple explanation of your plugin’s installation progress.

activate plugin

Click the Activate link on this page to activate the plugin. You can also go to Plugins > Installed Plugins and activate it from there.

Method #3: Install a WordPress Plugin in cPanel

If for some reason you can’t upload your plugin through the backend of WordPress, you can still install it by accessing your site’s file system and installing it there.

Your site is comprised of a few different components, a file system being one of them. In fact, all the plugins you install on your site are contained within a folder named “Plugins.”

This is the folder you need to access to install plugins manually on your site.

Step 1: Download the Plugin’s ZIP Folder

No matter where you get your plugin from, you’ll be given a copy of it in ZIP format. This is the format themes and plugins must be available in when they’re uploaded through the backend of WordPress.

If there was no download link when you purchased the plugin, check your inbox to see if it was emailed to you. You should also be able to download it when you sign into your account on the website you purchased it from.

Step 2: Access cPanel

Next, access cPanel if your WordPress web host uses it. cPanel is a hosting control panel that allows you to manage several aspects of your site with ease from your host’s dashboard.

Not all hosts support cPanel. Some offer their own control panels but still offer a way for you to access your file system. cPanel and these alternative control panels are most often used by shared hosts.

Other hosts, namely managed WordPress hosts like WP Engine, don’t give you a way to access your file system at all. If that’s the case, you cannot install a plugin on your website using this method.

One common WordPress host that uses cPanel is SiteGround. To access the cPanel, all you need to do is log into your hosting account, click on the My Accounts tab, and click the red Go to cPanel button.

siteground cpanel

Consult your host’s documentation if you aren’t able to find their access point for cPanel or their equivalent control panel.

Step 3: Open the File Manager App

Your version of cPanel may look different from the version shown throughout this tutorial, but don’t fret. They all still function more or less the same.

cPanel apps are organized into several different categories. Scroll down to the Files category, and click File Manager.

siteground file manager

A pop-up should appear when you attempt to open the app. Select Web Root (public_html/www).

file manager directory

Step 4: Upload the Plugin to the Plugins Folder

The files and folders you see in File Manager are part of your site’s file system. If you see folders named “wp-admin” and “wp-content,” you’re in the right place. Double-click the wp-content folder to open it, and do the same to the Plugins folder.

When you do this, you’ll see all the plugin files of WordPress plugins that already exist on your website.

plugin folder

Now it’s time to upload your new plugin.

File Manager’s uploader is only able to upload files, which is why you need the zipped version of it even though the file system itself uses extracted versions of plugins.

Click the Upload button located toward the top of File Manager, which should redirect you to a new screen.

Now it’s time to upload your new plugin. File Manager’s uploader is only able to upload files, which is why you need the zipped version of it even though the file system itself uses extracted versions of plugins. Click the Upload button located toward the top of File Manager, which should redirect you to a new screen. Click Browse and then Choose File on this new screen, and choose your plugin’s ZIP folder to upload it.

Click Browse and then Choose File on this new screen, and choose your plugin’s ZIP folder to upload it.

upload plugin files

The uploader will let you know when it’s finished thanks to the progress bar located in the bottom, right-hand corner of the screen.

When you see that it says Complete, click the Go Back link to return to your file system.

Step 5: Extract and Activate the Plugin

Your plugins folder needs the extracted version of your plugin in order for it to work properly.

To do this, select the zipped version of your plugin, and click the Extract button.

extract plugin files

Click Extract File(s) when the modal window appears, and refresh the page once the extraction process completes.

extract popup window

You can now safely delete the zipped version of the plugin from your Plugins folder.

To activate your newly uploaded and extracted plugin files, log into your WordPress website and go to Plugins > Installed Plugins.

In the list, you’ll see your newly added plugin. Click Activate so it will start working on your website.

activate plugin in wordpress

Method #4: Installing Plugins Manually via an FTP Server

If you can’t upload your plugin through the backend of WordPress and your host doesn’t offer a way for you to access your file system, you can always use an FTP client. This will allow you to access your site’s file system from your computer using an FTP server application.

For this tutorial, we’ll use the popular and free FTP client FileZilla.

Step 1: Extract the Plugin’s ZIP Folder

No matter where you get your plugin from, you’ll be given a copy of it in ZIP format. This is the format themes and plugins must be available in when they’re uploaded through the backend of WordPress.

If there was no download link when you purchased the plugin, check your inbox to see if it was emailed to you. You should also be able to download it when you sign into your account on the website you purchased it from.

Since FileZilla allows you to upload folders to your file system, you can extract your plugin files and save them on your desktop or external USB drive for the next steps.

Step 2: Install FileZilla

Next, you’ll need to install FileZilla on your computer. Head to the application’s homepage and click the gray Download FileZilla Client button.

download filezilla

This will redirect you to a new page that automatically detects which version you’ll need based on your operating system. Click the green Download FileZilla Client button after that to install the FTP client.

Step 3: Access Your Site’s Files Through FileZilla

When FileZilla is ready to go, you’ll need to enter your host’s FTP credentials to connect it to your site.

filezilla login

These are the same login credentials you use to access cPanel. If you’re not sure which credentials to use, be sure to consult your host’s documentation for help.

Here are some typical cPanel-friendly credentials for shared hosts:

  • Host: Domain name without “www”
  • Username: cPanel username
  • Password: cPanel password
  • Port: 21

Once you’ve entered your FTP credentials, click Quickconnect.

Step 4: Upload Your Plugin to the Plugins Folder

Once logged in, look at the bottom two panels in FileZilla.

Use the one on the left to find the extracted version of your plugin in your computer’s file system.

Use the one on the right to open your site’s Plugins folder (double click to open the folder up). When you do this, you’ll see the existing contents of your Plugin folder listed.

filezilla screen

Drag the extracted folder from the left panel over to your Plugins folder in the right panel.

Wait for the status box at the bottom to say the transfer is complete. Then, click the refresh button at the top of FileZilla.

To activate your newly uploaded plugin, log into your WordPress website and go to Plugins > Installed Plugins and click the Activate link.

In the list, you’ll see your newly added plugin. Click Activate so it will start working on your website.

activate plugin in wordpress

Final Thoughts

And there you have it! You now know four different ways to install a WordPress plugin.

Learning how to install a WordPress plugin may seem intimidating, but hopefully you now know it to be one of the easiest operations you can perform on your site.

In the end, it doesn’t matter which method you use to install a WordPress plugin on your website. Just use the strategy that you find the easiest and go from there.

If you’d like to continue your WordPress training, be sure to check out our tutorial on how to install a WordPress theme so you can continue customizing your WordPress site to stand out from the competition.

Which method do you prefer to use when you install a WordPress plugin on your website? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

Tags: ,
Editorial Team

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *