How to Install a WordPress Plugin? (Step-by-Step Guide 2021)

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How to Install WordPress Plugin (Step by Step)

Wondering how to install a WordPress plugin? Do you want to add a new plugin to your WordPress site? Or upload a plugin? Then, this article is the one for you.

After setting up WordPress, you may want to install plugins to add extra functionalities to your site. For example, you can add forms, e-commerce features, ticket support systems, backup, SEO, security, etc. with plugins.

But if you’re new to WordPress, then you may not know how to add plugins to your site.

So, we’re here with a complete guide on installing the WordPress plugin. We’ll show different methods to install and set up the WordPress plugin.

Why Do You Need to Install Plugin in WordPress?

A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that adds and extends your WordPress site’s features and functionality. It’s the same as apps you use on your smartphone. Similarly, the plugin helps to modify and improve WordPress functionality.

Plugins can make anything from small changes to a massive difference on your website. Moreover, the plugin quickly can extend the website features that make it a better place for you and your website visitors.

For example, WP Super Cache is a caching plugin that generates static HTML files from your dynamic site and boosts your site speed.

WP Super Cache Plugin
WP Super Cache Plugin

It’s now clear why you need to add plugins to your site. No doubt, WordPress is a powerful website creation software, but still, it doesn’t provide all features necessary for different types of websites by default. Hence, you should add such features by installing plugins.

Things to Consider Before Installing a WordPress Plugin

Installing a WordPress plugin on your site is not fun. Every plugin comes with a new feature and a unique quality itself. But there’s no guarantee every plugin will be good.

In fact, there’re many factors you need to consider before installing a WordPress plugin. Let’s check them out.

  • Examine your need: Every website has its own requirement and need. So before installing any plugin, check if the plugin is really useful for your website or not. Also, compare various alternative options and pick the best.
  • Check user reviews: A plugin review gives an idea of how high the plugin quality is. It provides a clear depth about the thoughts of the people regarding the plugin. The positive response or feedback from the audience indicates that the plugin is right for you.
  • Plugins rating: Every plugin has a rating indication. The higher rating star plugin indicates that a lot of people have used and liked the plugin. Lower the rating, less the plugin users.
  • Check for the last update: A plugin is updated to fix the bugs that arise within it. Plugins are usually updated after the WordPress core update or within a specific interval of months. So, when installing a plugin, choose the one that supports the latest WordPress version or the one updated within 1 or 2 months.

If you check these things, then you’ll most likely find the best plugins. For more details, check our article on how to choose the best WordPress plugins. Now, let’s check out how to install a plugin.

How to Install a WordPress Plugin? (3 Methods)

After choosing the right plugin for your WordPress site, now it’s time to install the plugin.  In this article, you’ll get a complete guide on installing both free and premium plugins for your website.

  • Installing Free Plugins from the Dashboard
  • Premium Plugin from Upload Method
  • Installing a Plugin Manually Via FTP

Let’s get started with the simplest method!

1. Installing Free WordPress Plugins from the Dashboard

Installing free plugins from the dashboard is the easiest method to get your plugin for the website. If you want to install free plugins available on the WordPress plugin directory, then it’s the method to use.

For this, you can follow the following steps:

Step 1. Login to the WordPress Dashboard 

First of all, you should access your WordPress admin dashboard. You can find your WordPress admin area by going to your website’s login URL.

WordPress login URL looks like this: https://example.com/wp-login.php. (Replace ‘example.com’ with your domain name.)

WordPress Login Page
WordPress Login Page

After logging on to your WordPress, you’ll get to see the WordPress dashboard. Your WordPress Dashboard looks something like this.

WordPress Dashboard
WordPress Dashboard

Once you’re on WordPress dashboard, you can start installing the plugins of your choice.

Note: If you don’t have a website online, then you can try it on the localhost. Don’t know how to set up WordPress locally? Here we have a complete guide on how to install WordPress locally using XAMPP.

 Step 2. Navigate to the ‘Plugins’ menu 

As you can see, the WordPress dashboard consists of different menus at the left-sidebar. The menus include Posts, Pages, Media, Comments, etc.

Just below the Appearance menu, there is a ‘Plugins‘ menu. This is the menu from where you’ll get to install the plugin.

Plugin Menu
Plugin Menu

Click on the ‘Plugins‘ menu. Next, you’ll see the plugins page. At the top of the plugins page, you’ll see an ‘Add New‘ option. Click on that.

Add New Menu
Add New Plugin Option

Alternatively, you can also move to the ‘Add New‘ option directly from the dashboard. If you hover your mouse pointer on the ‘Plugins‘ menu, then you’ll see 3 options: Installed Plugin, Add New, Plugin Editor.  You can directly click on the Add New button (Plugins>>Add New)

'Add New Plugin' Option in WordPress
Add New Plugin Option

Step 3. Search & Choose a Plugin to Install

After you click on the ‘Add New‘ option from any of the above methods, you’ll be directed to a new screen. There, you can see a few plugins on suggestion. You’ll get a ‘Search plugins’ box on the right side of the page where the plugin can be searched.

Search Plugin Button
Search Plugin Button

Go to the search box and type the plugin you want to install for your site. Here, we search for Yoast SEO, which is one of the best WordPress SEO plugins. Now, you’ll see the Yoast SEO plugin on the plugin list.

Yoast SEO plugin on Dashboard
Yoast SEO plugin on Dashboard

Also, you can see 2 options for the Yoast SEO plugin: Install Now, More Details.

Another way to search for a plugin is to simply type a keyword, like ‘seo’. After that, all the free SEO plugins on the WordPress.org repository will appear. 

Search Plugins by Keyword
Search Plugins by Keyword; example ‘seo’

You can review them by the ratings, number of active installations, last updated date, WordPress support, etc. After that, choose one which is more suitable for your website.

Step 4. Install and Activate the plugin

 After selecting the plugin, it’s time to install it and use it on your WordPress website. Now, you should click on the Install Now button. 

Click 'Install Now' Plugin WordPress
Click ‘Install Now’ Plugin WordPress

After that, your plugin is now in the installing phase. It requires a few seconds to get installed.

After the plugin is completely installed, you’ll need to activate the plugin. You can simply activate the plugin by clicking the Activate button that appears after the plugin is completely installed.

Click 'Activate' Plugin WordPress
Click ‘Activate’ Plugin WordPress

After a few seconds, you’ll see ‘Plugin activated’ message. Also, you’ll see the your just installed plugin on the ‘Installed Plugins’ page.

Plugin Activated Notification in WordPress
Plugin Activated Notification in WordPress

Finally, you’ve successfully installed the Yoast SEO plugin for your website. Some plugins start working automatically, while some plugins require a few setups.

For this Yoast SEO plugin, you need to configure the settings first. To start configuration, you can click on the ‘Settings‘ option below the plugin name on the ‘Installed Plugins’ page.

Plugin Settings (Example Yoast SEO plugin)
Plugin Settings (Example Yoast SEO plugin)

Or, click on the ‘SEO’ menu on the left panel. This menu is provided by the Yoast SEO plugin. It includes all the settings and features offered by the plugin.

 Likewise, you can now install any free plugin of your choice by following the above steps.

2. Installing Free/ Premium Plugins from Upload Method.

The second method for installing the plugin is slightly different from the first one. 

With the upload method, you can install both free and premium plugins on your site. It’s useful if you’ve already downloaded a plugin file on your computer.

It’ll be the case if you;

  • purchased a paid plugin from a plugin store like CodeCanyon, ElegantThemes.com, or any other plugin store. 
  • Or you’ve developed a custom plugin yourself or some agency created it for you.
  • Or you downloaded a free plugin from WordPress.org.

In a nutshell, upload method is useful if you want to install a plugin that you have on your local device.

Now, let’s see how to install WordPress plugins via upload method.

Step 1. Get Your WordPress Plugin File in ZIP format

As mentioned above, the first thing you need is the plugin file in ZIP format on your local computer.

If it’s paid plugin, then you should buy the plugin from its official store or from a marketplace like CodeCanyon. Once purchased, you can download it from your ‘Account’ area on the plugin store.

If you want to install a free plugin from WordPress.org, then you can download it from the respective plugin’s page (it’s an alternative to method 1 above).

When downloaded, most plugins are in the .zip format. If it’s not, then you should zip it.

For example, we purchased the Divi Builder plugin from ElegantThemes.com and downloaded the plugin file on our computer.

WordPress Plugin File in ZIP format (Example - Divi Builder)
WordPress Plugin File in ZIP format (Example – Divi Builder)

Now the plugin file is ready, you can upload it to your WordPress dashboard. 

Step 2. Login to Your WordPress Dashboard & Install the Plugin

As in method 1, you should first log in to your WordPress dashboard. Go to your website’s login URL in your web browser, enter your login details, and click the ‘Login’ button. 

After that, you’ll see your WordPress admin dashboard. Navigate to the WordPress dashboard from the left-sidebar menu, select the ‘Plugins‘ option. Click on the ‘Add New‘ option from the top of the page or from the left-sidebar menu.

'Add New Plugin' Option in WordPress
Add New Plugin Option

After clicking the ‘Add New‘ option, you’ll see the ‘Upload Plugin‘ option at the top of the page. Press on it.

Upload Plugin Option in WordPress
Upload Plugin Option in WordPress

One the next screen, you’ll see a plugin upload form. 

Plugin Upload Form
Plugin Upload Form

Now, you should click on the ‘Choose File‘ button. Then, select the plugin file in .zip format that you downloaded earlier and click the ‘Open’ button.

Select Plugin File in ZIP format to Upload to WordPress
Select Plugin File in ZIP format to Upload to WordPress

After uploadinh the plugin file, you’ll see the ‘Install Now‘ button. Click on the button to install the plugin.

'Install Now' Button for Uploaded WordPress Plugin
‘Install Now’ Button for Uploaded WordPress Plugin

Once you click the button, it’ll start installing the plugin. Upon successful installation, you’ll see an ‘Activate Plugin‘ button. 

'Activate Plugin' Option for Uploaded & Installed WordPress Plugin
‘Activate Plugin’ Option for Uploaded & Installed WordPress Plugin

Clicking this button will activate your plugin and make it work on your site.

After it’s activated, you’ll see the ‘Plugin activated’ message, the plugin menu added on the left panel, and the plugin appear in the list of installed plugins.

WordPress Plugin Activated (Divi Builder)
WordPress Plugin Activated (Divi Builder)

That’s it! You’ve successfully installed and activated premium Divi Builder plugin!

Step 3. Authenticate Your Account & Start Using Plugin

As mentioned earlier, some plugins require a few setups, whereas some don’t.

In the case of the Divi Builder plugin, you can use the visual page builder automatically.

But for additional features like pre-made templates and free updates, you should first authenticate your account. For that, you should enter your Elegant Themes account username and API key.

Divi Builder Options to Authenticate Your Account
Divi Builder Options to Authenticate Your Account

Input your username and API Key. The username is your account username that you use to log into your Elegant Themes account. And, API key is available in API page inside your account area.

Similarly, most paid plugins require you to enter a license key to verify that you’re a genuine user. You can find your license key in your account area on the plugin store.

After the authentication process, you can configure other settings and use the plugin features.

3. Installing a Plugin Manually Via FTP

 The other method for installing a plugin for your WordPress is using the FTP method. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol that transfers the files from one system to another over a network. 

FTP helps to connect directly to your website files and make changes. From the FTP method, you can edit, add and delete your website data without directly visiting the dashboard. 

FTP method can be a bit technical but it’s useful if the 2 methods above don’t work.

You can follow these steps to install a plugin via FTP.

Step 1. Download the Plugin ZIP File and Unzip it 

At first, you need to download the plugin you want to install. You’ll get the plugin file in .zip format. The plugin zip file can be downloaded from WordPress.org or any other third-parties directories like CodeCanyon, iThemes, etc.

Once you have downloaded the plugin zip file, extract the file. You can extract the plugin using different zip open tools. Most of the Windows, Mac have built-in zip open tools.

For example, we’ll use Elementor Pro plugin here.

Extract Zipped WordPress Plugin File (Example - Elementor Pro)
Extract Zipped WordPress Plugin File (Example – Elementor Pro)

The extracted plugin file will now create a new folder with the same name.

WordPress Plugin File Unzipped for FTP Upload (Elementor Pro)
WordPress Plugin File Unzipped for FTP Upload (Elementor Pro)

Step 2. Connect to Your Site Server Using FTP Client

To establish the FTP connection, you need to use an FTP client that is convenient to you (Total Commander, FileZilla), etc.

For example, we’ll use FileZilla software to create an FTP connection. You can also download it like any other computer application. Here’s how the FileZilla interface appears when you first open it.

FileZilla Interface
FileZilla Interface

However to use this application, you need an FTP account first.

To create an FTP account, log into your web hosting panel (commonly cPanel or admin panel). In your web hosting account area, go to FTP account section.

For example, here’s how FTP Accounts section looks in Bluehost cPanel.

FTP Accounts Option in Bluehost
FTP Accounts Option in Bluehost

Create an FTP account. If you have no idea how to do it, then you can contact your web host for help.

Once you have an FTP account details, go to FileZilla app and connect your server. Enter your host name, username, password, and click on the ‘Quick Connect‘ button.

Connecting cPanel with FileZilla
Connecting cPanel with FileZilla

Once connected, you’ll see all the files in your website on the right side of the interface, inside ‘Remote Site‘.

Server Connected with Local Computer
Server Connected with Local Computer

On the left of your FileZilla application, you can see files and folders on your local computer.

Now you can upload the plugin to your website by transferring the plugin file from the local computer to a remote site.

Step 3. Upload Plugin to Your Remote Site

Now that an FTP connection is created, you can easily upload files to your website from a local computer.

To upload a WordPress plugin, you must first locate the plugin file on your local site and plugin directory on the remote site.

For example, we have the plugin file in the ‘Downloads‘ folder on the local site. The plugin directory is the ‘Plugins‘ folder inside the ‘wp-content‘ on the remote site.

Locate Plugin File on Local Device and Plugin Directory on Remote Site
Locate Plugin File on Local Device and Plugin Directory on Remote Site

Below the folder section, you can see the ‘Filename’ section on both sides. On the left, you can see the files inside the download folder. On the right-hand side, you can see the already installed plugins on your website.

Files on Local  Site & Remote Site
Files on Local Site & Remote Site

Now, let’s upload the plugin from the local site to the remote site. Select the unzipped plugin file on the left screen and right-click with your mouse pointer. After that, click on the ‘Upload‘ option.

Upload Plugin from Local Device to Remote Site
Upload Plugin from Local Device to Remote Site

Or, you can drag the plugin folder from the local site to the remote site. It’ll take a few seconds to upload the plugin in the directory.

Uploading WordPress Plugin using FileZilla
Uploading WordPress Plugin using FileZilla

That’s all! Now, the Elementor Pro plugin is installed.

Step 4. Activate Your Plugin

Once the plugin is uploaded completely, go to your WordPress dashboard. On the left-hand sidebar of your dashboard, click on the ‘Plugins > Installed Plugins‘ option.

Now there you’ll see the plugin you just uploaded via FTP. Activate the plugin.

Activate Plugin Elementor Pro
Activate Plugin Elementor Pro

Once the plugin is activated successfully, it’s ready to perform the functionality on your site.

Keep Your WordPress Plugins Updated

So now you have finished installing the plugin on your website and thinking about what to do next?

Definitely, it’s keeping the plugin updated.  Every plugin update comes with new functionality and features. Also, it helps your website become secure and also fixes the bug of the previous versions.

The good thing is most of the plugins allow enabling automatic updates. Go to the ‘Plugins > Installed Plugins‘ page from your dashboard. You can see ‘Enable auto-updates’ option for some plugins. Simply click on that to get auto-audates.

Enable Auto-Updates Option for WordPress Plugins
Enable Auto-Updates Option for WordPress Plugins

But most of the premium plugins don’t have an automatic update feature. In this case, you’ll need to update the plugin manually. However, you can see the notice right on the plugins page, so don’t need to worry at all.


With this, it’s a wrap.

In this article, we discussed 3 different methods to install the plugin for WordPress. You can use any method that’s convenient for you.

Among the 3 methods, installing from the WordPress dashboard is the easiest method. Use this method if you want to install free plugins from WordPress.org plugin repository.

Next, you can go with the manual upload method for the premium plugin or the plugins that are not available in WordPress.org. The last method uploading plugin via FTP is an advanced method for developers ONLY!

Hopefully, this tutorial has shown you how to quickly and easily install a plugin for your WordPress site. If you find this guide useful, please share it with your friends.

You can also check another tutorial guide on how to speed up your website?

Also, if there are any queries, you can comment below. We’ll try to reach you as soon as possible. Follow our site on Facebook & Twitter for fresh and exciting content.

Written By SiteSaga Editorial
SiteSaga Editorial is a team of highly experienced writers, marketers, and web developers led by Sunita Rai. We're here to help beginners get online with their self-made websites or blogs and succeed.


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