The one greatest aspect of WordPress is how flexible it is. You can mix things up on your website super-easily by adding some plugins. Plugins are utilities which can be integrated with your WordPress website to add some specific functionality to it. Like I always say, there is a WordPress plugin for almost anything; you may need one to integrate online shopping experience in your blog, to optimize SEO, to track your site’s performance, or maybe to refurbish the security of your website. Whatever the reason, you first need to know how to go about it, unless of course, you take the safe road of hiring an expert to install and manage plugins on your website. Let us discuss today how to install WordPress plugins.
Why You Shall Need WordPress Plugins
If you happen to be unaware, WordPress plugins are pre-written pieces of code, which can be integrated as-is into your WordPress site to add some handy features. Using WordPress as a standalone platform will render your site devoid of a lot of useful functionality. In some cases, WordPress may even seem pointless without its plugins, for instance, if you want an online shopping website. Be it landing page conversion, social media sharing, site migration, search engine optimization, or online shopping cart, you can achieve right about anything hassle-free, once you know how to install WordPress plugins for each job.
How to Be Careful
Your choice of plugins can make or break your site. Ill-developed plugins may render your site vulnerable to attacks. Plugins can also lack in performance, features, usability or support. Here are some ways to judge a WordPress plugin before you install it:
- Read reviews from past users
- See if the plugin is well-supported
- See if the plugin is kept up-to-date with WordPress versions
- Check with plugin security policies at your hosting company
- Hire paid experts with deep knowledge of the right plugins for any purpose
How to Install WordPress Plugins
We shall look into three methods for plugin installation in WordPress. Note that if you are using WordPress.com, you need to upgrade to the business plan to be able to install plugins. As for WordPress.org, on the other hand, you’re good to go.
How to Install WordPress Plugins from Admin Dashboard
This is the simplest and quickest method to get started with WordPress plugins. The sole setback if you install WordPress plugins this way is that it is valid for only the plugins present in the WordPress plugin directory, i.e. just the free plugins.
- On the left sidebar in your WordPress dashboard, click on Plugins to reveal its options.
- Click on Add New under Plugins to open the “Add Plugins” page.
- Now you can search for any plugin from the top-right search bar.
- You can also surf through categories such as Featured, Popular and Recommended.
- For any plugin, you can view elaborate details by clicking on More Details link for that plugin.
- For installing the plugin, simply click on Install Now, and then Activate.
And, that’s it! Once your plugin is installed and activated, it is ready to use. Some plugins, especially large ones, may introduce a new option in the left sidebar of your WordPress dashboard. This new link can now be used to access and manage the functionality of your freshly installed plugin.
How to Install WordPress Plugins through Admin Plugin Upload
As mentioned earlier, paid plugins will not be available if you follow the first method because they are not listed in the WordPress plugin directory. Well, worry not. WordPress offers an Upload Plugin feature for installing these plugins.
- Download the plugin from its source. This is a compressed folder (a .zip file).
- Open Plugins >> Add New from the sidebar in your WordPress admin dashboard.
- Now, click on the Upload Plugin button at the top of the page.
- An upload screen comes up. Click on Choose File and select the zip file which you downloaded from plugin source.
- Once the file is selected, click on Install Now.
- There you go! After uploading and installing the plugin, WordPress displays a success screen, and now you can click on Activate Plugin to start using it.
Install WordPress Plugins Manually using FTP
Some WordPress hosting providers pose file restrictions that disable you from installing plugins from the admin dashboard. In such cases, you can manually install the plugin using FTP. Beginners may not be fond of this method because it involves a little more technicality than clicking on Install and Activate buttons.
- Download the zip file from your plugin’s source.
- Extract the .zip file in your computer. You will end up with a new folder with the same name as the zipped file.
- Now, you need to access your hosting through an FTP manager. If you do not have the credentials to access this FTP manager, ask for them from your hosting provider.
- Once you have connected to the FTP manager, browse to the path /wp-content/plugins/.
- Here, you can upload the folder you extracted from your plugin’s zip file.
- Next, you log on to the WordPress admin dashboard and click on Plugins. You see your plugin listed among installed plugins.
- You need to activate this plugin by clicking on the Activate link next to it.
Whichever method you use, you may need to make some configuration changes in your plugin after you install it, based on the plugin that you installed.
Most of the security faults in WordPress websites are a result of careless mistakes occurring at the site-owners’ end. If you have read the article on improving WordPress security, you must know how important it is to be careful with plugins on WordPress. Some plugins built without keeping WordPress best practices in mind may bring your site to pieces by hampering its safety. Hacks, crashes, server attacks, there are uncountable ways in which hackers can tamper with the security of your WordPress site. Going through reviews posted by users, especially the negative ones, can help you identify how robust and reliable it is.
Not just this; some plugins may need updates from time to time to keep pace with security improvements in newer WordPress versions. It also helps, therefore, to check whether the plugin is compatible with the latest WordPress.
Keep WordPress Up-to-Date
WordPress frequently brings out new releases, and each new version comes with improvements in security and resolution of old bugs. 32 major versions of WordPress have been released since its inception, and yet, just 22% of all WordPress sites run on the latest version. When you use plugins, it becomes all the more important to keep WordPress updated. In a nutshell, there are 3 major reasons why you should keep WordPress up-to-date when you use plugins:
Compatibility with New Features
Plugins often introduce features and functionalities that may only be compatible with the newest WordPress release. So, if you do not want to lose out on some useful features in your plugin, update your WordPress.
Security of Website
With each new version, WordPress makes considerable security improvements in the code. Since the installation of some plugins may make your website vulnerable to attacks, it is always a good idea to let the latest security provisions in WordPress handle some of the dirt.
Each new version of WordPress obviously fixes some bugs. A few issues that you are facing with your plugin may occur due to minor bugs in WordPress itself. Thus, updating WordPress to the latest version will rid your website of these bugs.
How WordPress Hosting Helps in Installing and Managing Plugins
A hosting service can take care of all WordPress updates as soon as new releases are out. Also, managed WordPress hosting ensures timely update of all installed plugins. And, not just this; they test plugins for compatibility before installing updates. How great is that!
If you were thinking of installing a caching plugin for improving your website’s load time, you may not need one if you have a managed WordPress hosting. Fortunately, most of the hosting providers have caching enabled on their server, freeing you from the hassle of maintaining caching plugins.
Let’s wrap it up!
Hope I was of some help here as you figure out how to install WordPress plugins. Easier than you thought it would be, isn’t it? For more help with installing, maintaining, managing and updating plugins, you can always ask questions in the comments, or simply free yourself of the trouble by asking a professional to do the job. As always, I advise trying out the easier ways first when you install WordPress plugins. To sum up, if you are looking for a free plugin listed in the WordPress plugin directory, prefer installing it from the admin dashboard. In case, however, you have downloaded your plugin from a different source, you can use the simple plugin upload feature in WordPress. In other cases, you may be struggling and wondering how to install WordPress plugins not supported by the hosting server due to file restrictions; well, you now know the FTP method!