Learning how to install WordPress plugins is extremely useful. WordPress plugins act like apps, only they are not for your smartphone, but for your WordPress site.

Plugins help you customize your site and enhance its functionality in ways you can’t even imagine. And the best thing about them is that they are really easy to use and don’t require learning code.

In this tutorial, we are going to teach you how to install plugins on WordPress in several ways.

Here’s what we’re going to cover in this article:

  • how to install a plugin from the WordPress admin area
  • upload a free or premium plugin on your WordPress site
  • how to add a plugin via SFTP

How to add a plugin from the WordPress dashboard

Before explaining you how to add a plugin straight from the admin area, we should mention right from the start that if you’re using WordPress.com, you can’t install any plugins.

WordPress.com is pretty limited unless you upgrade to their business or ecommerce plans. Read more about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

If you don’t want to upgrade to the business plan, the best option is to use the self-hosted WordPress.org right out the gate. This way, you’ll be able to install any plugins you want and you’ll have more features available.

Step 1: Search for a free plugin

So, let’s get started: the first thing you need to do is go to your dashboard and look for the Plugins menu in the left. Click on Add New and type in the name of the plugin you want, in the search bar on top right.

Here’s where you’ll find these options:

search and add a plugin from wordpress dashboard

Step 2: Install the plugin

A list of plugins that match your search will appear. As soon as you find the plugin you’re looking for, click on the Install now button and the process will start automatically.

Step 3: Activate the plugin

When the download and the installation processes are done, you’ll also have to activate the plugin from the blue Activate button, in order for the plugin to work:

activate a plugin in wordpress

This method works when you want to install a free plugin in WordPress. You can also use the admin area to upload a paid plugin and we’ll show you below how to do that.

How to upload a paid plugin using the WordPress dashboard

Premium, paid plugins have to be installed in a different way, because you won’t be able to find them in the WordPress directory.

You have to go to the official website of the company that created the plugin and follow their instructions to get the plugin. They might redirect you to their plugin store, a marketplace, etc. Either way, you’ll be able to download a .zip archive of the plugin.

Upload the .zip file to your WordPress website

Once you have the .zip file, go to your WordPress dashboard again and click on Plugins and Add New, just like we showed you above. However, this time, click on the Upload Plugin button on top left, just like in this image:

upload a plugin in wordpress

Install the plugin

Next, select the .zip file you downloaded earlier to your device. Click on the Install Now button, and WordPress will start uploading and installing the plugin for you:

upload and install a plugin in wordpress

Activate the plugin

Once again, when the process is finished, you’ll see an Activate Plugin button and you have to click on it to activate the plugin you’ve just uploaded and installed:

activate an uploaded plugin in wordpress

How to upload a free plugin you downloaded from WordPress.org

Of course, you can upload a free plugin as well, following pretty much the same steps. If you go to WordPress.org from your web browser and click on Plugins, you’ll find all the plugins in the WordPress repository:

wordpress.org plugins

Use the search bar to type in the name of the plugin you want and when you find it, click on the blue Download button, just like in the image below:

download a plugin from wordpress.org

A .zip archive of the plugin will be downloaded on your device. From there on, you follow the same steps described above to upload and activate the plugin on your WordPress site.

How to install a plugin through SFTP

Another method you can use to install a WordPress plugin is by using a SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) client. This method might seem a bit more difficult at first, but we’ll walk you through the entire process.

Using SFTP is sometimes necessary, because some hosting providers have files restrictions, which limit the users’ ability to install any plugins from the admin area.

Download and install the FileZilla SFTP client

We’re going to use the FileZilla SFTP client and you can download it for free here. You’ll need to configure your SFTP client with the settings provided by your hosting provider. These settings include:

  • Address/URL/Hostname
  • Port
  • Username
  • Password

Follow these instructions to connect to FileZilla.

Download the plugin on your device

If the plugin you want to download is free, go to WordPress.org/plugins and search the plugin. Follow the instructions we’ve already mentioned above to download the .zip file of the plugin on your device.

If the plugin you want to install via SFTP is paid, you have to download it from the company’s website.

Extract the .zip file on your device

After you downloaded the .zip file of the plugin on your computer, you have to extract the file. Right-click on the mouse and choose the “Extract all” option. Hit on the Extract button and wait for the file to be unzipped.

A folder with the same name as the .zip archive will then be created.

Upload the plugin to your website via SFTP

Once you unzip the plugin on your device, you can go to FileZilla and start uploading your plugin to your WordPress site.

When you are connected to your server via FileZilla, you can see that the screen will be divided into two parts: the Local site on the left side and Remote site in the right side.

The Local site represents your device and the Remote site is your server, just like in this image:

remote site and local site in filezilla

In the right side (Remote site) find the public_html folder on your server:

public_html folder in filezilla

Open it and look for the wp-content folder in it. Next, locate the plugins folder in it. Open the plugins folder.

From the left side (Local site) locate the plugin folder you extracted and right-click on it. Choose the Upload option from the menu.

upload plugin folder from teh device to the server in filezilla

This will upload the extracted plugin folder from your device to your server, in the plugins folder, in wp-content:

plugin uploaded on server remote site via filezilla

Activate the uploaded plugin

Once you’ve completed all these steps, the only thing left to do is to go to your WordPress dashboard and activate the plugin you’ve just uploaded to your site.

From the left menu, go to Plugins Installed plugins:

installed plugins on wordpress dashboard

Find your plugin in the list and hit on the Activate link, just like in this image:

activate uploaded plugin in wordpress dashboard

That’s it. Now your plugin is uploaded on your WordPress site, activated and ready to use.


There you have it! Now you know more than one way to install a plugin (free or paid) on your WordPress website.

Plugins are extremely useful tools that help you build and personalize your site any way you want to.

So, to recap, if you want to add a free plugin to your WordPress site, the easiest way to do it is through the WordPress dashboard.

In order to install a paid plugin, you can also use the WordPress dashboard but you have to download the plugin to your device first and then upload it to your site.

If you encounter any problems to add plugins from your wp-admin area, you can use a SFTP client such as FileZilla, to install plugins on your WordPress website.

If you found this article useful, you might also be interested in our tutorial on how to create a successful WordPress blog for free.