How to Install WordPress Plugins


First of all, what are plugins? In a nutshell, they are little programs that add something to your site other than Pages and Posts. They are what gives WordPress the power to be as simple as a blog, or as elaborate as a photo gallery, classified ad site, online catalog, online store and so much more.

Standard WordPress Plugin

how to install and activate WordPress pluginsAkismet: If you plan on allowing people to comment on your posts, this handy and essential plugin will keep your WordPress site from being flooded by bogus comments on any pages or posts that you allow comments on. This plugin is installed automatically when you installed WordPress, but you still need to activate it and create an account on Akismet’s website.

In the left hand column you will see the word Plugins. Click on the arrow to expand the menu. Click on Plugins and under the plugin called Akismet, click on the word Activate. You will then see the words Akismet Configuration under the Plugins menu. Click on Akismet Configuration and follow the instructions to create an account and get your API Key that you will need to enter under the configuration screen.

How to Install Other WordPress Plugins

Akismet is really the only plugin you absolutely need, and only if you’re going to allow people to make comments. Other popular types of plugins are SEO (search engine optimization) plugins, photo galleries, contact forms, language translators, and even one one to turn your website into an iPhone application style theme. There are literally thousands of other plugins that you can add to your site. has a directory that not only lists the plugins, but will tell you some key points about the plugins that you should pay attention to:

  • What version(s) of WordPress a plugin works on. WordPress comes out with software updates all the time, but not all plugins are updated to work with the newest version of WordPress. This is the first thing you should check before installing any plugin. You can find out what version of WordPress you have installed by visiting your WordPress Dashboard. The left hand box titled Right Now will tell you what version of WordPress you have installed. Remember this: once you have plugins installed and WordPress updates come out., will those plugins work with the newer version of WordPress? Check before updating WordPress!
  • When was the plugin last updated? Of course if it hasn’t been updated recently, it may not work with the most recent versions of WordPress.
  • You will also find a one to 5 star rating of the plugin. Or maybe a zero rating, if nobody has rated it yet.
  • How many times has the plugin been downloaded?
  • Check to see if people have commented on the plugin. Plugins can be written by anyone (even you). When they’re updated, it’s altogether possible that the newer version has a bug or two that is causing problems with it’s function. If you see a comment that indicates a problem, don’t assume that the problem actually exists. Click on the comment and see if the plugin’s author wrote back. Maybe the person who wrote the comment made a mistake in how they configured the plugin. Or maybe they’re using a different version of WordPress than you are.

Obviously, I suggest not installing plugins with a poor rating, that aren’t updated often, or have poor support should a problem arise. If there haven’t been many downloads, ratings or comments, use with caution. As I mentioned, anyone can write a plugin. Who knows if the person who created the plugin will offer good support if there’s a coding error. If you’re a newbie, I suggest you stick with plugins that have been around for awhile unless your ready so start dealing with any problems that arise.

Installing WordPress Plugins

The instructions for installing each plugin is shown in a tab on the plugin page in the directory. Read the instructions. Usually it just tells you to download the plugin, unzip it, and upload it to the plugins directory on your server. However, unless there are other more specific instructions, like moving one of the files in the package to yet another directory, WordPress makes it even easier for you to both find and install plugins that have been listed on their website.  Just go to:

Plugins > Add New.

From that screen you’ll see a menu at the top that allows you to Search and Upload plugins, and even see Featured, Popular and Recently updated plugins. If you look towards the bottom of the screen, you can click on keywords and get a list of plugins that way, too. When you find one that you’re interested in, click on the word Details. If the version of WordPress that you have installed isn’t compatible, you’ll see a message telling you so. Cool, huh?

Don’t forget: once you’ve installed a plugin, you still need to activate it!