WordPress Tutorials
How to Install WordPress Plugins

How to Install WordPress Plugins

Do you need to expand your website’s functionality? That’s quite easy if it’s built in WordPress. There are thousands of plugins that you can easily install with a few clicks to add all kinds of features.

In this WordPress plugin tutorial, you’ll learn 3 ways how to add a WordPress plugin and what a WordPress plugin is. You’ll also find a few tips for managing your plugins more efficiently.

A WordPress plugin is a piece of software attached to your website which extends the core WordPress functionality. It is written mainly in PHP but could also contain CSS, JavaScript, and HTML code.

It is not a standalone application and can’t work on its own. Instead, it is integrated into your WordPress website and controlled from its dashboard.

Thanks to the WordPress Plugin API, plugins easily “hook” to the source code of your WordPress site and alter the web pages’ content. The plugins utilize two types of hooks – actions and filters.

Plugins can add all sorts of features to your website – speed optimization, security, site migration, etc. SiteGround has also developed some great plugins for improving your website. You can find more information about them on this SiteGround WordPress Plugins page.

The WordPress dashboard contains a dedicated Plugins section where you can add, remove and manage the plugins.

Plugins section in WordPress Dashboard

When you activate a plugin, it will be incorporated into your website in the context of the plugin’s purpose. Some of the plugins will work in the background without options for controlling them. Others will create their own dedicated section in the dashboard, where you can manage their settings.

How to install WordPress Plugins Automatically

The easiest way to install WordPress plugins is to do it automatically from the dashboard.

To start, log in to your WordPress dashboard, and navigate to Plugins > Add New.

How to add a new WordPress plugin Automatically

This is the page where you can easily browse through the WordPress Plugin Directory and download plugins in WordPress with a single click. On the top right corner, you can search for a plugin by keywords, author, or tag.

Search bar for finding a plugin in WordPress

You can also see collections of plugins based on different criteria by choosing the tabs Featured, Popular, Recommended, and Favorites.

After you’ve chosen a plugin, click on its Install Now button. Your website will automatically download and install it.

Once the installation completes, the Install Now button will turn into an Activate button. By pressing it, you will activate the plugin for your website.

How to Upload a WordPress Plugin from a File

If you have a plugin archived in a ZIP file, you can directly upload it onto your WordPress website. You’ll have to get familiar with this method before considering using premium plugins.

They can’t be automatically installed from the WordPress Plugin Directory. Instead, you will download a ZIP file from its vendor when you purchase a premium plugin. This file contains the plugin’s files and folders.

To upload the file, go to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Plugins > Add New. Click on the Upload Plugin button and then on Choose file.

How to choose a plugin file from your computer

WordPress will open a file selector window to browse your computer’s files. Find the plugin’s ZIP file and press Open.

How to choose a plugin file from your computer

After the file is uploaded, press the button Install Now, which will start the installation process on a new screen.

You will see installation logs and a button Activate Plugin. Press it to activate the plugin you just installed.

How to install WordPress Plugins Manually

Some users prefer manually installing plugins by directly uploading a plugin in the WordPress wp-content/plugins directory. This method is required when the plugin ZIP file is too large and exceeds the server’s PHP max_upload_size limit.

To manually upload a plugin, you need access to your WordPress installation folders. You can use a File Manager in your hosting panel or FTP client. Below, you will find the steps for both options.

Install WordPress Plugins via File Manager

Most hosting providers offer website management tools, and one of the most common is File Manager. SiteGround users can access it from Site Tools > Site > File Manager. To find out what you can do with it, read this guide on Site Tool’s File Manager.

Navigate to your website root folder, reach the subfolder wp-content/plugins, and press the File Upload button.

A new window showing your computer’s files will pop up. Select the plugin ZIP file and open it. Once uploaded, the file will appear in the plugins folder in File Manager. Select the file and press Extract to unzip it.

The ZIP file will be extracted in a new folder named after the file. When you open this folder, you will see another subfolder, the actual plugin folder. Select this folder and press the Move button.

A new pop-up window will appear, asking you to select a Location. Set the path to:


Press the CONFIRM button to start the move.


You may see a warning screen informing you that there is an existing folder in the plugins folder with the same name. Confirm overwriting the existing folder.

Log into your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Plugins, where you can see all installed plugins. Find the plugin you just uploaded and press its Activate button.

Install WordPress Plugins via FTP

If your hosting provider doesn’t supply a File Manager or you don’t find it reliable, you can use FTP to upload the plugin ZIP file to your website. You will need an FTP account to access your website files and an FTP client to establish the connection.

For this guide, we’ll use FileZilla, one of the most popular FTP clients.

Most FTP clients can’t extract ZIP files, so you will have to extract the ZIP file with other tools.

Uploading the ZIP file and unzipping it on your hosting server is preferred, as uploading a single file usually takes less time. For this, your hosting must provide a File Manager or SSH.

If you don’t have a File Manager or SSH on your hosting, you must extract the file on your computer and upload the unzipped plugin folder.

In this section, we will focus on the case where you don’t have a File Manager on your hosting. First, you must extract the ZIP file on your computer.

Unzip the plugin archive on your computer

The file will be unzipped in a new folder containing the plugin’s assets.

After you’ve connected to your server via FTP, the website’s files and folders will appear on the right side of the FTP client. Open your website folder and navigate to the subfolder public_html/wp-content/plugins.

You can browse your computer files on the left side of the FTP client. Find the folder you previously extracted, right-click on it, and select Upload.

How to upload a plugin folder in your WordPress

The folder and all its content will start uploading. Once the transfer is complete, the FTP client will display a “success” log, and the uploaded folder will appear in the “plugins” folder on the right.

Uploaded plugin folder in WordPress

Now, if you log into your WordPress dashboard, the uploaded plugin will be listed in the Plugins section. Press Activate to enable the plugin on your website.

How to Delete WordPress Plugins

To delete a plugin, navigate to the Plugins menu in WordPress, where you can see all installed plugins.

Note that you can delete only disabled plugins, so before deleting a plugin, you should deactivate it.

You can see a Deactivate button under each plugin. Press it to disable the respective plugin.

Once the plugin is disabled, Deactivate will be replaced by a Delete button. Click on it to permanently remove the plugin from your website.

How to delete a WordPress plugin

Some Useful Plugins to Install on Your WordPress Site

There are lots of plugins that will generally improve your website’s performance and security. They will come in handy regardless of your website’s purpose.

Such plugins are:

  • Speed Optimization plugins
  • Security plugins
  • SEO plugins
  • Contact form plugins

Speed Optimization Plugins

These are plugins designed to increase your website speed and reduce the web page’s load time. They achieve it by generating cached versions of your website assets, minifying CSS and JS scripts, incorporating Lazy Load, etc.

We recommend the Speed Optimizer plugin, an all-in-one optimization plugin incorporating various techniques. It is free and available to all WordPress users regardless of their hosting.

SiteGround users can take advantage of even more advanced features like Dynamic caching. It caches the dynamic content of your website to increase the speed further.

To learn more about the plugin’s features, read this Speed Optimizer Tutorial.

Security Plugins

Security plugins prevent unauthorized access and uploads to your website, filter suspicious traffic, and limit malicious bots. They are instrumental in keeping your website and its visitors safe from various online threats.

Security Optimizer is a multi-purpose security plugin that uses various mechanisms to protect your site on many levels. It is free and available to all users. Read this Security Optimizer Tutorial to see all its features and how to use it.

SEO Plugins

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plays a crucial role in your website’s success. Your website must rank high in search engines to be competitive and easily discoverable.

SEO plugins can check how SEO-friendly your content is, give you hints for improving your text and presentation, suggest keywords, and highlight areas for improvement.

One of the most popular and well-established SEO plugins is Yoast SEO, which comes in free and premium versions.

Contact Form Plugins

Staying in touch with your audience is essential for every business, and a contact form is a perfect solution. You can only benefit from having one on your website.

WordPress doesn’t have a built-in contact form, but there are plenty of contact form plugins like WPForms. Read this guide on what a contact form does and how to set it up on your website.

Frequently Asked Questions about WordPress Plugins

What is the Difference between Free and Premium WordPress Plugins

There are tons of useful free plugins with entirely different features and functionalities. They deliver the desired features at a satisfactory level, especially for a beginner’s website.

However, as your site grows and becomes more professional, you may find your free plugins lacking in some departments. At this point, you may consider purchasing a premium plugin that could deliver higher performance and customization than its free counterparts.

Below, we’ll list the most important differences between free and premium WordPress plugins.

Exclusive features

Free plugins could be handy, but they do the bare minimum in most cases and focus on one thing. After all, their developers are not getting paid for the plugins, and they don’t have the incentive to add extra features.

Premium plugins are paid, so their developers invest more effort, and they strive to make their plugins highly competitive to attract more users. Thus, they add more advanced features to compel users to choose their products over the competition.

Level of Customization

You would often need to add customization to your web pages that the basic functionality of a plugin doesn’t cover. That is usually a problem with free plugins, as they don’t have the capabilities for out-of-the-box solutions.

Premium plugins excel in this department, as they generally come with many extra tools to modify various settings.

We can take a drag-and-drop page builder like Elementor, for example. With the free version, you can easily create a basic page. However, the premium Elementor Pro builder allows you to completely customize your page by adding widgets or editing the CSS classes.


WordPress frequently publishes core version updates. These updates usually rewrite the code of the core application.

If a plugin is not regularly updated, its code may stay behind the updated WordPress core updates and start causing conflicts. Such incompatibilities often manifest as fatal errors on your website.

There are numerous free plugins that get periodically updated and prompty address any new WordPress changes. Still, you must research the chosen plugin and check how often it is updated and what its users’ feedback say.

However, many free plugins are not maintained regularly, or their support is completely discontinued. Such plugins will likely conflict with a future WordPress update, or hackers may find a vulnerability that the plugin’s developers may not address.

Premium plugins are better maintained in general. Their developers usually push revisions frequently, making them less likely to conflict with WordPress updates. Many of these revisions also patch reported vulnerabilities to keep the plugins safe.

Regardless of the plugins you use, SiteGround conducts periodic vulnerability checks for WordPress and many widely used plugins to alert clients of security threats. Read this blog post about how SiteGround discovered a vulnerability on Day 0 in one of the most popular WordPress plugins.


Occasionally, plugins may cause an error or not work as expected without an apparent reason. In such times, you must contact the plugin developers.

Free plugins don’t offer live support, and you would often need to email their developers or write on a plugin’s forum pages. Therefore, you would wait a long time and go back and forth until you find the solution.

Premium plugins usually provide dedicated support over chat, email, or phone. Thus, you can reach a dedicated specialist who knows the ins and outs of the plugin to help you fix it quickly.

Is It Safe to Install WordPress Plugins?

Although installing WordPress plugins is generally safe, there is always a small chance that a plugin could damage your website. Thus, you should take some precautions to eliminate all possible threats:

  • Never install cracked premium plugins or free plugins from suspicious websites. Although the idea of using a paid plugin for free sounds tempting, there is a high chance of it containing malware or corrupted code. Thus, you could damage your website and spend much more on repairing it.
  • Don’t install plugins from unknown developers – Their plugin may not have undergone the proper quality testing, and it could be poorly coded, triggering fatal errors on your website.
  • Go through the users’ reviews and feedback on the plugin’s website – Check what other users say about their experience with the plugin. You may find that there are known incompatibility issues with other plugins or themes that you may be using.
  • Before installing a plugin, create a backup of your website – Even if the plugin damages your website, you will have a safe restore point to fix it. If you are a SiteGround user, read this tutorial about the Website Backup Tool.

Is It Safe to Deactivate WordPress Plugins?

Deactivating a plugin could be either harmless or critical to your website. That is why you should find out what the plugin does and how it affects your website.

Plugins that work in the background and don’t affect your website appearance could be deactivated without any consequences. Such plugins are speed optimization, security, backup plugins, etc.

You should be extremely careful with plugins that directly affect your website’s appearance, such as page-building plugins like Elementor or WPBakery. When building pages with such plugins, the pages’ code is wired to them. By deactivating such plugins, the website design will appear broken, and some of its features will stop working.

Can WordPress Plugins Contain Viruses?

Yes, a plugin can contain infected files. To reduce the chance of infecting your site, obtain plugins only from their official websites. You should also install only well-established plugins with high ratings and positive feedback.

Never install cracked premium plugins or download plugins from suspicious or unverified websites. The chance of downloading an infected plugin from such sources is much higher.

Regularly scan your website for suspicious files, so you can react promptly if there is an infection. SiteGround users can take advantage of the SiteGround Site Scanner, which conducts daily scans and alerts you in case of infection. You can also limit file uploads and access to your website via FTP or SSH.

The Premium Site Scanner version secures your website further by adding a File Upload Quarantine. This feature will isolate any suspicious file you uploaded so you can review it before it could damage your website. Discover all Site Scanner’s features in this tutorial on how Site Scanner protects your website.

How Many Plugins Are Too Many?

The number of plugins is less critical than the quality of the plugins you are using. Of course, you shouldn’t cram up your website with unnecessary plugins, but more importantly, you should use reputable ones with high reviews and ratings.

Also, different combinations of plugins could cause plugin conflicts. The more plugins you have, the higher the chance of plugin conflicts on your website.

On average, a medium-sized WordPress website has around 20-25 plugins, but it is normal for a large-scale site to contain 60 plugins or more. However, if your hosting server is powerful and you use stable and reliable plugins, your website should be able to handle more plugins.

It’s best to use popular plugins created by well-established developers. They undergo constant updates and refinements to ensure they are fully compatible and optimized for the latest WordPress versions. Thus, the chance of them slowing down your website is lower.

Obscure plugins created by unknown developers are often unoptimized and haven’t been thoroughly tested. Such plugins are much more likely to slow down your site.

What Happens if You Delete a Plugin?

When you delete a plugin, you will delete all its files and folders, and your website’s functions related to it will stop working.

Plugins working in the background, not affecting your website appearance and functionality, can be deleted without any consequences. Such plugins are security and caching plugins, for example.

You should be careful deleting page-building, e-commerce, gallery plugins, etc. Your website front-end and functions are defined by such plugins, so deleting them would seriously affect your website.

Before deleting a plugin, create a website backup. If anything goes wrong after deleting a plugin, you can restore the website to its functional state.

What are the Common Errors when Installing WordPress Plugins

Occasionally, you may stumble upon an error when installing new plugins to your WordPress website. We will go through some of the most common errors and their causes.

Installation failed: Could not create directory

This error indicates that your WordPress website can’t create a new folder for the plugin you are installing. It pops up when you press the Install Now button on a new plugin.

Generally, there are two main reasons why you may get this issue:

  • You don’t have sufficient permissions to write new files and folders into the “plugins” folder. Ensure that your WordPress website and its folders have the proper permissions – the correct folder permissions are 755. SiteGround users can easily set them correctly using the WordPress Install & Manage Tool to reset the WordPress permissions.
  • You’ve run out of disk space on your hosting server. Check your usage statistics or contact your support team to confirm the remaining free space.

White Screen of Death (WSOD) or a PHP error after activating a new plugin

These errors usually occur when there is a coding error in the new plugin’s files or the plugin is incompatible with your WordPress’ current PHP version. Below, you can see an example of such an error. The error message usually specifies the path of the file containing the problematic code.

PHP error after a plugin's activation

To solve the problem, you can take a few actions:

  • You can trace the problematic code and try to correct it. This approach is advanced and suitable if you are familiar with PHP coding.
  • You can test changing the PHP version of your WordPress website. The plugin could be written for a different PHP version from your website’s. SiteGround users can easily change the PHP version from Site Tools’ PHP Manager.
  • Contact the plugin developers to report the error. They may be already aware of it and provide a solution or investigate the cause.

Allowed memory limit exhausted

This error indicates that activating the new plugin exhausted your WordPress memory limit. Below, you can see what it looks like.

Allowed memory limit exceeded on a WordPress website after activating a plugin

There are a few causes of this error:

  • Your website’s memory limit is too low, and you need to increase it. To find out the detailed steps, read this guide on how to increase the WordPress memory limit.
  • The new plugin conflicts with another plugin. Quite often, the cause is a security plugin blocking the activation of the new plugin.

To check if there is a conflict, deactivate your older plugins and activate the new one. If this is the case, the error will be gone when you deactivate the problematic plugin.

The error may prevent you from logging into the dashboard to deactivate the plugins. Check the following guides on deactivating the plugins in a few different ways:

  • There is an undefined problem exhausting the memory limit. If the solutions above didn’t help, consider contacting the new plugin’s developers.


Plugins are extremely useful tools that can completely change your website’s appearance and functionality. There is a WordPress plugin for everything you can think of – page building, e-commerce, payment gateways, reservation systems, email marketing, etc.

The best thing about plugins is that you don’t need coding skills. You just have to know how to pick and install the right plugins and manage them efficiently.

We hope this guide clarifies the fundamentals of plugin installation. And now, you are on your way to getting the right plugins to build a terrific website.

Tutorial Menu

Share This Article