If you’re new to WordPress, first of all, welcome!
Secondly, you’ll soon be introduced to the vast world of plugins (if you haven’t been yet), which is one of the easiest ways to change your WordPress website’s behavior or extend its functionality.
In this tutorial I’ll show you how to add a plugin to your WordPress website.
For the purpose of this post I’ve created a test website for adding a plugin.
I’ll be adding a plugin called SEOpress, a must-have plugin if you’re serious about SEO. I’m installing both the free and the paid version to showcase in detail the two methods of installing a plugin.
You can install a WordPress plugin in less than a minute from the dashboard, if your internet connection is fast enough.
Adding a plugin you’ve downloaded from a provider is also a quick and painless procedure.
Install from within
The first option is to install a plugin from within your WordPress website.
You must be logged into your WordPress website’s admin panel to install a new plugin from within.
Usually, your admin panel’s URL reads something like: https://yourwebsite.com/wp-admin. Perhaps you installed it elsewhere, but it’s standard practice to install WordPress in the root of your website.
If you visit that URL and you’re not logged in, the system will redirect you to https://yourwebsite.com/wp-login.php, from where you can log in using the form, after which you’ll be redirected to your the admin dashboard.
Once you’re logged in, click the menu called Plugins in the left hand sidebar.
Click Add New
Clicking that menu item opens a page that lists all the plugins you’ve got installed.
Once here, click on the Add New button at the top or on the Add New menu item in the left hand sidebar.
Since I know the name of the plugin I’d like to install, I’ll simply add the search word, seopress, into the search box at the top right hand side of the screen.
You don’t have to click a search button after you’ve typed in the search text. The moment you type something into the search box, WordPress automatically starts searching and updates the page with what they believe are relevant search results.
Just a note: WordPress’ plugin search function isn’t powerful. If you need a plugin you don’t know the name of, search for it on Google. WordPress’ dashboard plugin search is best suited for those times you know the plugin’s name.
Click Install Now
The SEOpress plugin shows up right at the top of the page for the search phrase, SEOpress.
Click the Install Now button.
Once the plugin is installed, the Install Now button turns a different color and its text changes to Activate.
Click the Activate button.
Download and install
The other way to install a plugin is to download it from the WordPress repository or from a website where you bought a Pro upgrade of a free WordPress plugin.
Let’s say you’ve decided to buy the SEOpress Pro upgrade.
You head over to their website, create an account and make payment. They give you access to their Pro upgrade, which is a downloadable file.
You download the file to your computer, which is now ready to be uploaded to your WordPress website. You’ll note it’s a zip file. Leave it in that format. There’s no need to unzip it.
For the purpose of this part of the tutorial I’ve downloaded the Pro version of SEOpress to my desktop.
Let’s install it.
NOTE: I work on a Windows 10 laptop. I don’t know how much different it’ll be in a Mac or Linux environment.
Inside your WordPress dashboard, click the Plugins menu item in the left hand sidebar.
Click Add New
Click on the Add New menu item in the sidebar or on the Add New button at the top.
Click Upload Plugin
Click the Upload Plugin button at the top.
Click Choose file
Click on the Choose file button that opened up.
Click on the zip file
Click on the downloaded zip file.
As mentioned before, I download my files to desktop, but your file might be in a different location, like a Downloads folder. Doesn’t really matter, as long as you can locate it.
Click the Open button at the bottom right.
Click Install Now
Click the Install Now button.
This step could take a while, depending on the file size and your connection speed.
Click Activate Plugin
When the plugin is finished installing the admin dashboard automatically redirects to a new page with a big activation button. Click it.
Using the plugin
The plugin is now ready to be used.
In the case of SEOpress you’ll notice it added a new menu item in the left hand sidebar.
This won’t happen with every plugin you install.
A newly installed plugin could add a menu item anywhere in the left hand sidebar.
Some plugins might add a sub-menu to the Settings or Tools menu item, while some plugins might not have a settings page at all.
It’s best you familiarize yourself with a plugin’s usage instructions before installing it. You’ll get instructions on the plugin’s official WordPress repository installation page or at the official website for the plugin.
Free VS paid-for plugins
ALL WordPress plugins MUST be released under the GPL license. That means ALL plugins are supposed to be free.
However, since it takes effort to create and maintain plugins, the creators of paid-for plugins sell support.
Think of it as a Dallas Buyer’s Club system for plugins. WordPress says all plugins must be released under the GPL; plugin creators must make a living somehow, so they go about it in a number of ways:
- Release a free plugin with limited functionality to the WordPress ecosystem and allow you to upgrade to a premium (pro) version.
- Release a paid plugin only, which is actually a “free” plugin with premium support.
There are hefty debates raging online about these issues.
Some clever resellers buy plugins then resell them at a fraction of the cost, but without the original plugin author’s support.
Technically, it’s not illegal.
However, you don’t know if those resellers add malicious code that could hurt your WordPress website.
Furthermore, there are arguments with regards to copyright infringement when they resell a plugin using the original logo and other branding (although, to be honest, I think it’s a weak argument).
However, if a plugin does a great job of giving you the functionality you desire (like SEOpress does), why not support the author?
Tips for choosing a plugin
Sometimes people install plugins that crash their WordPress websites.
This might be due to the plugin being purposefully designed with rogue intentions, but it could also be because the plugin is ancient and simply doesn’t work with the latest iteration of WordPress. Or it might clash with another plugin they’ve installed.
I choose plugins according to a few simple rules:
- The plugin’s last update (by owner) should not have been more than a year before.
- The plugin must have a minimum rating of four stars.
- The plugin must have more than ten ratings.
If you follow these rules you might still come across dud plugins, but you’ll probably minimize killing your website quite a bit by avoiding junk.
If in doubt, simply google the plugin’s name and investigate for yourself.
WordPress is a great system for online marketing.
However, out of the box it’s rather bare. If you’re not technically inclined and you don’t have money to pay for a professional WordPress website you might want to consider going it alone.
That means you’ll need to bathe in the milky sweetness of the extensibility that plugins provide.
This post should help you on your way to becoming a WordPress plugin installation pro.
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