External URL Link as Featured Images

External URL Link as Featured Images

On February 16, 2013, Posted by , In Plugins, By ,,, , With 66 Comments
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What's This?

The plugin has been updated with an additional option. It allows you to set your post thumbnail (featured image) from an external URL without uploading the image to your WordPress media library.

Link 2 Featured Image
Easy Host External Images as your own Featured Images. Save bandwidth by having your featured images stored on externally managed sites. Makes adding images a breeze.

Note this only works if your theme uses the get_the_post_thumbnail(); function in its coding. The plugin now has two options:-

  1. Set featured image from external URL – uses a filter to replace the output of get_the_post_thumbnail (may not work in all themes that write their own function for displaying post thumbnails). The file remains on the external server location.
  2. Upload image from external URL and set as featured image. This uploads the external image to your media library and attaches it to your post as the featured image (this may be better for display if linking to large images as they will be crunched by the WordPress image crunching routine). The file will be copied and stored on your own server.

Depending on your theme design and image display preference you can choose which one you wish to use through the use of this plugin.


There’s one thing that has been bugging me for a while about WordPress and the featured images / post thumbnail functionality. What’s that one thing? It’s how you cannot easily set a featured image from an external URL.

Featured image from URL

WordPress only allows you to set the featured image of a post (or custom post / page etc) as an item that is already in your media library. So if you see a cool image that you’d like to use. You have to save it, upload it, then insert it. A bit of a pain to do.

Why don’t they allow you to do this? Well because the post thumbnails used by WordPress goes through a fair bit of processing and they display them as 150×150 images (rather than massive 10MB images if you were to simply use an external URL of a large image).

I decided to do something about this. I read through all the WordPress codex and through the “core” code of the popular CMS platform and I have developed a nice and easy plugin that lets you set your posts “featured image” by URL. I thought it would be useful to share. So I’ve put it up on the store for a nice low price.

Link 2 Featured Image
Easy Host External Images as your own Featured Images. Save bandwidth by having your featured images stored on externally managed sites. Makes adding images a breeze.

Why am I selling this? Well all EPIC plugins are so valuable that they deserve a price tag. This price tag is so low, that’s it’s almost like saying. Hey Mike that’s cool, let me buy you a cup of coffee so you can carry on making these EPIC plugins.

What’s a quick cup of coffee in return for something that can save you endless hours of time in your future blogging / website management. I say… priceless!

So How does it work?

  • A new meta box is added to your post pages (you can move this anywhere you like)
  • Enter the link to the external image you’d like as the featured image (make sure you have permission to use the images)
  • Click update
    • This prompts WordPress to look at the URL
    • If it’s an image it will add it to your media library and crunch it
    • It will then set the image as your posts featured image
  • You’ll then feel all EPIC because you’ve just saved yourself a TON of time

It’s really that easy!


This plugin is now used to make posting images and new posts even easier. I have developed a Chrome Extension which lets you post new images by right clicking an image. It also lets you create new posts straight from your browser (requires Google Chrome). More details available on the Chrome store.


66 Comments so far:

  1. Joseph says:

    I purchased the plugin, can I dowload this updsted version for free?

  2. James says:

    Will this actually allow me to feature an image hosted on imgur? I mean it’s not grabbing an image and adding it to my media library is it? I don’t want to pay 10 bucks only to find out it’s simply downloading the image and placing it in my media library using my own host.

    Reason I ask is because I want to use 5mb gifs as featured images and hosting them on my low end host will not cut it.


  3. James says:

    Can I just paypal you the money so I can get to using this plugin?


  4. James says:

    It is? Where? I dont see a paypal option.

  5. James says:

    Here is a screenshot of what I see http://prntscr.com/2zdw2c

    Am I about to feel really stupid or is it really not there?

  6. James says:

    Thanks. Just bought it and it works but it does not scale down the images as needed on the index page like it does with standard images. Is there a way we can make it do that to follow suit with the other images?

  7. James says:

    Nah, I knew I was taking a risk on this plugin and I knew my chances were slim it would work perfectly. It does what it’s supposed to do but having to edit code and change themes or upload “smaller” images for 1 plugin is not ethical and a pure waste of time.

    • James says:

      The funny thing is, I am using a default wordpress theme too. Twentyfourteen. The featured post images do not show up properly. Have you even tested this?

      • Mike says:

        Hi James

        I replied via email on this I think but for the benefit of others, 2014 theme uses the “has_thumbnail” function which currently doesn’t appear to have a filter.

        To fix this you’ll need to make an edit to your theme file (use a child theme) so that it thinks there’s a thumbnail and then uses the link instead.

        If you’re unsure of how to do this, post up on the forum


  8. Aria says:

    This plugin will auto upload image from external url to library ?,could i use image from external url as thumb ( for save bandwidth ?),or could you make a plugin like this,i just want to use image from external host like imgur.com,postimage.org,not from my host,for saving hdd and bandwidth..
    tks and sr for my bad english

    I bought the plugin, I’m using it on my blog. I would just take a doubt, because when I send the link to the social networks, it does not insert the image “feature”, but simply a standard image blog, why?

  10. Rupert says:

    Hi Mike
    i have purchased the plugin, but i dont have any download link. can you help me?

    • Mike says:

      Emailed a new link – the download link is provided on the thank-you page after purchase as well as emailed to your email.


  11. Raider says:


    Does it work with any post types ?


    Hello, I bought the plugin and am using it now, even met all my expectations. But just like some help, as I am to change the template of my blog, but the new, there is the images of features, but the plugin does not work. When I put the URL of the image is not displayed, but when I insert it in the blog is, why? how do I look in the new plugin work? Thank you!

  13. Jxn says:

    Purchased the external link plugin, no link on the confirmation page and am still waiting for the email… :( please advise… thanks! Looks like this might be the solution I’ve been searching for.

  14. Daniel says:


    I purchased the plugin, i have lost the file. The download link is broken.


  15. Leon says:


    I’m thinking of buying this plugin. But my theme has “the_post_thumbnail” function and not “get_the_post_thumbnail”. What I need to tweak in my theme? How can I be sure that this plugin will work for me? Can I see any demo of it? I think that answers to these question will help many webmasters to take the right decision.


    • Mike says:


      It will work with most themes unless they deviate from the standard (i.e. use their own functions to get images etc), it isn’t too difficult to tweak (you may need to tweak the template for your theme (using a Child theme))


  16. TJ says:

    Hi. I am very interested to purchase your plugin. Is it compatible with StudioPress/Genesis theme? I tried to look for the get_the_post_thumbnail(); function in my StudioPress theme. But since it has so many files and folders in it I am overwhelmed. Where the get_the_post_thumbnail(); function is usually located in a theme? Also, can I use the plugin for images hosted at Amazon S3? Thanks in advance.

  17. Bram says:

    Hello Mike,

    This plugin is compatible with this theme http://themeforest.net/item/newspaper/5489609 ?

    • Mike says:

      Hi Bram

      We cannot personally test with all themes, sorry. It should work out of the box though and there’s the support forum for any difficulties, if you have a custom theme it may need some edits to the templates if the theme deviates away from the WordPress “Standard”


  18. dave says:

    will this plugin allow me to set a external url on the full image on the attachment page? when users click the thumbnail they go to the attachment page where the full image pictures is aka attachment page when they click it i want my affiliate link there. ready to purchase if possible if not can you make it and cost :)

    • Mike says:

      Hi Dave

      This plugin is for the image itself to be externally hosted (e.g. something like Amazon S3 for example) not to populate with an affiliate link around the image.

      If you need something custom, our rates are here: http://epicplugins.com/epic-freelance/

      • David says:

        Finally – I was looking for an S3 option for featured images. But I fear that what I really want to do – to ONLY rely on S3 to serve up my featured images (and all other rich media) isn’t what’s happening.

        You don’t have an option to not copy the file to the local media library, do you? I’m happy to prep my Featured images as 150×150 png files, hosted on S3. I want to really pare down the items in my media library as my site is getting slower as I add more images, videos etc.

  19. Kchabanov says:


    Before purchasing this plugin, I wounder how would it work with the import process?
    For example, I have woocommerce on my website and I’d like to import 20 products with using the CSV format. in my csv i have a column with the image url for each of the products.
    Where should I stick this field to during the import, so my images would be shown correctly.

    Looking forward to hear from you. Thank you.

  20. takeabreak says:

    1) does it support wp3.9.1?
    2) it will hotlink my external hosted image and auto-resized it on my woocommerce product page right?

    Do you have plans to come up with Product Gallery external link image plugin too?

    Thank you

  21. SOONGI says:

    Link 2 Featured Image plugin today and bought.
    Avada 3.4.3 theme to use.
    Edit screen, press the Update button, which links the output image does not appear Post screen.
    Known solution to this problem would be appreciated.

  22. James says:

    Hey Mike,

    With the “Link 2 Featured Image” plugin work with wootheme or woocommerce.


    James M

  23. David says:

    is there a plugin to create an external url link to a blog post featured image

    so i choose the image from the media library but link it to an external url,
    I can do this with embedded images but not with the “featured” image which creates
    a smaller version of the featured image for the excerpts which is what i want.

    currently the featured image link goes to the blog post itself and loads the same image in a lightbox.

    • Mike says:


      Not that I’m aware of no, since WordPress wants the featured image to take you to a post, there’s a free “post links to” plugin but I think this only changes where the title of the post links to and not the featured image

      You could obviously modify the “links to” plugin + your theme to do what you want it to do though

  24. David says:

    I would appreciate if you show me where and how i can keep the

    “excerpt” featured image “default” link back to the blog post full page (how it is)

    BUT the blog post full page featured image link to external url.

  25. Johny says:

    Mmm,i have a question,if i use this plugin now,how about my old posts ? will it work ?,i just use only for popular posts,related post plugin :D

  26. SOONGI says:

    Hi Mike
    the plugin deleted to my mistakes.

    The download link (see browser address bar) has expired (it’s too old). If you think this reason is in error, please contact the site administrator.

  27. SOONGI says:

    Thank you very much.

  28. Nele says:

    Hi, I’ve got version 1.0, but I believe this is massively outdated. How do I know what the current version is and how do I update?

  29. […] Those “popular” themes that have been written by people from the camp in 6…  which removes the use of any filters or hooks which have generally been designed to make cross development easier. So workarounds have to be done (Genesis and its featured image functions are a prime example, which resulted in an additional filter needed to be developed for link 2 featured image plugin) […]

  30. Min says:

    Hi, i have Pre-sales question.

    Is this possible?


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