Plugins are clever little tools (usually free) that can help with the day to day running of your website, add powerful functionality and even change the way it looks.
If you’ve got a WordPress website and you’re not using plugins then you are not taking full advantage of your site…
For example there are plugins that will automatically scan and block any spam comments from appearing on your website… there are plugins that will add an email signup box in your sidebar… plugins that add Social Media widgets that you can use to get people sharing your posts and content and so on and so on.
In fact there are currently 24,153 plugins available. If you can think of a problem that’s website related the chances are someone has created a plugin that fixes it.
If you’re still not sure what I’m rambling on about you can get a full breakdown of the difference between plugins and widgets and posts and pages from my jargon buster article here. Not got a WordPress website? You can find out how to set one up in 7 easy steps here.
This ‘How to’ guide is for anyone who wants to install plugins on their WordPress website but might not know where to start.
Before we get started…
Make sure your website is backed up! Whether your web hosting provider backs your site up or you do it yourself it’s always best to be protected just in case. 9 times out of 10 you won’t have any trouble with plugins but very occasionally out of date plugins can cause conflicts on your site. While this can usually be rectified by simply switching them off sometimes other complications can occur so it’s better to be safe.
Aficionados will know that there are two ways to install WordPress plugins – I’m showing you the EASIEST and fastest method. The other method involves FTP access and zip files. I’m aware that many readers won’t know (and probably don’t want to know) what FTP access is and what zip files are which is why I’m walking you through the straightforward method. It works exactly the same, there’s no mess or fuss and you can have your plugin installed in just seconds.
The fastest, simplest way to install a WordPress plugin
Here’s what you do.
1. Copy (or note down) the name of the WordPress plugin you’d like to install.
– You may have found one by Googling, reading a review or getting a recommendation from a friend. For example if you found a plugin that you wanted called “Akismet” note that down or copy and paste it into a Word document.
2. Now log in to your WordPress. The login screen looks like this:
Just enter your username and password.
Logged in? Great.
3. Look for the ‘Plugins’ tab in the left hand column and hover your mouse over it.
4. Now click on the ‘Add New’ tab that appears.
You can see these two steps (3. and 4.) in this screenshot:
5. Now paste (or type in) the name of the plugin you want in the search box and click ‘Search Plugins’. As in this screenshot…
6. You should now see the plugin appear in the search results, along with a number of others. For example if you had searched for “Akismet” (as in our example) you would see the following appear in the results:
7. Click ‘Install Now’ on the plugin you want to install (as in the screenshot above).
It’ll say “Are you sure you want to install this plugin”. Click “OK” and WordPress will automatically install it for you.
Give it a few moments to install – it will let you know when it’s complete. Important: Do not navigate away from the page until it has finished installing because it will not install properly and could cause errors on your site. Here’s how it will look when it’s finished:
That’s it, you’re done!
To switch your plugin on click the ‘Activate Plugin’ link that will appear (you can see this in the screenshot above).
If you forget to activate it on this screen don’t worry, you can click on ‘Plugins’ and you’ll be shown a list of ‘active’ and ‘inactive’ plugins. Locate the one you’re after and click ‘activate’. This is the same screen where you can turn off or ‘deactivate’ plugins.
Don’t forget to check the settings for your plugin! While some will work right off the bat after you’ve installed and activated them, others will need you to fill in a few bits and pieces. For example a “Social Media” plugin that links to your Facebook or Twitter page would need you to enter the links to these pages. Make sure you read the ‘read me’ or accompanying blurb before you install a plugin as this will let you know what to expect.
Did you find this article helpful? What other WordPress topics would you like me to cover. Please leave a comment below!