How to Install a WordPress Plugin (Step by Step for Beginners)

by Montel Anthony

Welcome my friend! If you are reading this, you are likely a WordPress beginner looking to enhance your site with some cool new features. Well you have come to the right place!

Installing WordPress plugins is easier than you think. In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through the entire process, step-by-step.

Here are the key things you will learn:

  • What WordPress plugins are and why they are useful
  • The difference between free and premium plugins
  • How to find the right plugins for your needs
  • 3 different methods to install plugins
  • Activating and configuring your new plugins
  • Troubleshooting common plugin installation issues
  • Best practices for using plugins safely

Let’s get started on this fun journey together! I promise it will be easy breezy.

What Are WordPress Plugins?

In simple terms, WordPress plugins are like apps for your WordPress website. They allow you to extend the functionality of your site beyond what comes “out of the box”.

There are plugins for just about everything you can imagine – contact forms, slideshows, social media integration, SEO optimization, security enhancements, ecommerce, forums, membership sites, and lots more.

The best part is that the majority of plugins are completely free to install and use. There are also premium plugins available (typically $20 – $99) that provide advanced features and options.

No matter what you want to do, there is likely a plugin available to make it happen. WordPress plugins provide an easy way to add new features without having to code them yourself.

Why Use Plugins on Your WordPress Site?

Here are some of the top reasons to use plugins on your WordPress site:

  • Save time – Plugins allow you to quickly add new features that would take hours or days to code yourself. Install what you need and be up and running fast.
  • Add functionality – There are plugins for everything under the sun. Want a contact form or slideshow? Install a plugin!
  • Enhance security – Plugins provide extra security features like login alerts, firewalls, and malware scans.
  • Improve SEO – Optimization plugins make it easy to set titles, meta descriptions, tags and more to improve search performance.
  • Build your community – Add forums, social networks, mailing lists and more to engage visitors.
  • Make money – Plugins empower you to earn money from your site through subscriptions, online courses, advertising and affiliate programs.
  • Stand out – With plugins you can create unique experiences like quizzes, calculators and interactive content to captivate your audience.

The possibilities are endless. WordPress plugins open up a whole new world of potential for your website.

Free vs. Premium Plugins

As mentioned, there are both free and premium plugins available. Here’s an overview of each type:

Free Plugins

  • Listed in the official WordPress plugin directory
  • Installed directly within your WordPress admin dashboard
  • Tend to have basic features and options
  • Lack technical support and updates

Premium Plugins

  • Downloaded separately from third-party sellers
  • Offer advanced functionality and customization
  • Include technical support and ongoing updates
  • One-time purchase fee required (typically $20 – $99)

While free plugins are great, I generally recommend using premium plugins whenever possible. The additional features, support and ongoing maintenance is well worth the small investment.

However, there are still plenty of excellent free plugins to choose from.

How to Find the Best Plugins for Your Needs

With over 55,000+ free WordPress plugins alone, how do you find the best ones for your site?

Here are 5 tips for finding quality plugins that match your needs:

1. Search the WordPress plugin directory – Enter a keyword related to what you want to do (e.g. “contact form”) and browse the results. Sort by number of downloads or user rating.

2. Get recommendations – Ask other WordPress site owners which plugins they use and recommend. WordPress support forums are also great for finding suggestions.

3. Check review sites – There are sites like WPBeginner that share reviews and comparisons of the most popular plugins for different needs.

4. Look for certified plugins – For security, choose plugins labeled “ approved” which means they have been manually reviewed.

5. Google it – Search Google for your needs + “WordPress plugin” and you’ll get lots of plugin options to evaluate.

Also make sure to check the plugin details like number of downloads, user ratings and compatibility before installing. Now let’s go over how to actually install WordPress plugins.

How to Install WordPress Plugins (3 Methods)

There are three ways to install WordPress plugins:

1. Search & Install in WordPress Dashboard

2. Upload Plugin File in Dashboard

3. Manual Upload via FTP

I will cover each method in detail next.

Method #1: Install Plugins via WordPress Search

The easiest method is installing plugins directly within your WordPress dashboard. Here’s how:

  1. Log in to your WordPress dashboard.
  2. In the left menu, hover over “Plugins” and click “Add New”.
  3. On the Add Plugins screen, type a keyword related to what you want to do (e.g. “contact form”).
  4. You will see a list of search results. Find the plugin you want and click the “Install Now” button.
  5. After installation completes, click “Activate”.
  6. The plugin is now installed and activated! Most plugins will have a new menu item for configuring settings.

This search method allows you to easily browse and install from the official WordPress plugin directory. The only downside is the directory is limited to free plugins only.

For premium plugins, you’ll need to use the upload method next.

Method #2: Upload Plugin Zip File

If you purchase a premium plugin, it will be available as a .zip file that you need to manually upload and install.

Here is how to upload and install a WordPress plugin .zip file:

  1. Download the premium plugin .zip file to your computer from the seller’s website.
  2. In your WordPress dashboard, go to “Plugins” and “Add New” again.
  3. Click the “Upload Plugin” button at the top of the page.
  4. Select the .zip file you downloaded to your computer.
  5. Click “Install Now”. WordPress will upload and extract the plugin files.
  6. After installation, click “Activate”.

This allows you to install premium plugins purchased from third-party sellers that are not listed in the WordPress directory.

Uploading the .zip file installs and activates the plugin in one click. Simple!

Now let’s look at manually installing plugins via FTP as another option.

Method #3: Manual Plugin Upload via FTP

The third installation method is manually uploading the plugin files to your host using FTP.

This is an advanced method that you likely won’t need, but good to know just in case. Here’s how it works:

  1. Download the plugin .zip file and extract the files to your computer. This will create a new folder.
  2. Access your host server via an FTP client like FileZilla.
  3. Upload the plugin folder from your computer to the /wp-content/plugins/ folder on your web server.
  4. Go to your WordPress dashboard and click “Plugins” to see your new plugin installed.
  5. Click “Activate” to start using the plugin.

This method bypasses the dashboard and manually uploads files to the right location on your web server.

Only use FTP install if the other methods don’t work, as it requires familiarity with FTP clients.

Activating and Configuring Your New Plugins

Once installed, there are a couple final steps – activating the plugin and configuring settings.

To activate a plugin after installing:

  • Go to the Plugins page in your WP dashboard.
  • Find the plugin and click the “Activate” link below it.

Now the plugin is live on your site!

Most plugins include their own settings pages to customize options and behavior. Common plugin settings include:

  • Layouts and design
  • What content/features to enable
  • Connecting third party accounts like social networks
  • General configuration like labels, colors, sizes etc.

The settings page for a plugin is typically found under its own menu item in your WordPress sidebar. For example, a “Contact Form” plugin may add a “Contact” menu item for its settings.

It’s important to customize the plugin settings for your needs rather than using the defaults. Take the time to explore all of the configuration options available.

And that’s it! With those basics, you can install and activate any WordPress plugin like a pro.

Troubleshooting Common Plugin Install Problems

Sometimes you may run into issues getting a plugin installed and activated properly.

Here are some common plugin installation problems and how to fix them:

“Unknown Error Occurred”

This vague error usually means there was a communication error between your WordPress site and the plugin repository.

Fix: Try installing the plugin again after waiting a few minutes. Check that you don’t have plugin or file upload restrictions from your web host.

“Destination Folder Already Exists”

This error indicates the plugin folder is already on your server.

Fix: Delete the existing plugin folder from your /wp-content/plugins/ folder via FTP. Then try installing again.

Plugin Does Not Show Up

Sometimes a plugin can be uploaded but not appear in the Plugins list.

Fix: The plugin files were likely extracted from the .zip file prior to uploading. Re-download the .zip file and upload without extracting for best results.

File Permission Errors

You may see errors related to not being able to upload or extract plugin files due to folder permissions.

Fix: Use FTP or your hosting control panel to ensure you have write permissions on the /wp-content/plugins/ folder.

Max Upload Size Exceeded

This means the plugin file is too large for your server’s file size upload limits.

Fix: Contact your web host to increase PHP upload file size limits. Or install the plugin via FTP in smaller chunks.

Wrong WordPress Version

The error will state the plugin requires a newer version of WordPress than what your site is running.

Fix: Update your WordPress installation to the latest version to ensure plugin compatibility.

Hopefully covering these common issues will help you to troubleshoot any plugin installation problems. It’s usually something simple.

Now let’s go over some general best practices when using plugins.

General Best Practices When Using WordPress Plugins

To safely install, configure, and manage plugins on your WordPress site, follow these guidelines:

Limit plugins – Only install what you really need. Too many plugins can slow down your site.

Research first – Fully research a plugin, including reviews and ratings, before installing. Ensure it will work for your specific needs.

Check compatibility – Before installing, always check that the plugin version is compatible with your WordPress version.

Use featured plugins – Stick to popular plugins marked as “Featured” for better security and support.

Configure carefully – Take time to carefully configure plugin settings for your situation rather than accepting defaults.

Test thoroughly – Fully test plugins on a staging site before deploying to your live production site.

Keep updated – Check and update plugins periodically to get the latest features, security and compatibility.

Monitor closely – Keep a close eye on how plugins affect your site speed and performance. Deactivate or remove resource-heavy plugins.

Limit access – Only install plugins as an Administrator user. Never install as a lower privileged user.

Following these tips and best practices will help keep your site running smoothly and securely.


I hope this guide gave you a solid understanding of how to install and activate WordPress plugins.

Now you have the knowledge to confidently enhance your WordPress site with plugins!

The world of possibilities is open to you. With over 55,000+ free plugins, you can find just about any feature under the sun.

Start browsing the WordPress plugin directory and try installing a few plugins today. Just search for what you want to do, install a top plugin, activate it and configure the settings.

Before you know it, you’ll have all kinds of new functionality on your site! Have fun and let me know if you have any questions.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Adblock Detected

Please support us by disabling your AdBlocker extension from your browsers for our website.