External URL Link as Featured Images

February 13, 2017| Mike Stott

There’s one thing that has been bugging me for a while about WordPress and featured images.

What’s that one thing? It’s how hard it is to set a featured image from an external link.

Mike @ Epic Plugins

It’s 2017 and this still isn’t easy to do. So I wrote a plugin to make this easy for you!

How to have an external link as your Featured Image

  1. Purchase the amazing link to featured image plugin
  2. Set featured image from external URL
    • Uses a filter to replace the image output.
    • The file remains on the external server location.
    • Saves you bandwidth.
  3. 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
    • Better for large images as they will be crunched by the WordPress image crunching routine.
    • The file will be copied and stored on your own server.
    • Automates the process. Saves you time!

Want to start saving time and bandwidth?

Purchase the ‘Link to Featured Image’ plugin today

Buy Now for $15

There’s one thing that has been bugging me for a while about WordPress and featured images.

What’s that one thing? It’s how hard it is to set a featured image from an external link.

The Problem:

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).

The Solution:

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 super low price.

The image below is from the WordPress Admin area. Where you usually click ‘Set Featured Image’ you can now enter a URL to use. It then stores this into the post’s custom field and outputs it instead of the featured image. A huge timesaver.

Featured image from URL

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 and a snack 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!

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!

Want to start saving time and bandwidth?
Buy Now for $15
Categories: Epic Plugins

93 thoughts on “External URL Link as Featured Images”

    1. Mike Post author

      Hi – it’s not an update it’s a new way to purchase but it handles updates a lot better – since you purchased with PayPal this will not work for you but I’ll mail all existing customers with any future updates

  1. James

    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.


      1. Mike Post author


        Yes sure. We moved our systems I can add paypal over the next couple of days

        1. James

          Ok, I’ll check back on Monday. BTW I am using a modified version of twentyfouteen theme.

    1. Mike Post author


      You can use ones on imgur if you have the image link yes ie not the page link

  2. James

    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?

  3. James

    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.

    1. James

      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?

      1. Mike Post author

        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


  4. Aria

    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

    1. Mike Post author


      There’s two options you can have it externally hot linked or just use the plugin to quickly upload images to your own site


      1. Aria

        Thank you :D,can i ask more question ?
        Will plugin works with related post / popular post with thumb (hot link)..:D

  5. Albert Corbett

    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?

    1. Mike Post author

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


  6. Albert Corbett

    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!

  7. Jxn

    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.

    1. Mike Post author

      Hi Jeff – I’ve emailed you – seems to be a temporary issue which should now be fixed.

  8. Daniel


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


  9. Leon


    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.


    1. Mike Post author


      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))


  10. TJ

    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.

    1. Mike Post author

      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”


  11. dave

    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 🙂

      1. David

        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.

  12. Kchabanov


    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.

  13. takeabreak

    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

    1. Mike Post author

      Hi it doesn’t auto-resize but you can use it to have your images hosted elsewhere and it hotlink them

      1. takeabreak

        Hi Mike,

        Thank you for your reply. I would like to check are you able to help us customise the product gallery to link to external image link too? Not only the featured image.

        Hope to hear from you soon.

        Thank you!

  14. SOONGI

    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.

      1. paul

        Please help us tweak the plugin to work with CSV import and woocommerce product thumbnail images

  15. David

    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.

    1. Mike Post author


      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

  16. David

    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.

  17. Johny

    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 😀

  18. SOONGI

    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.

  19. Nele

    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?

  20. Aren

    Hi Mike

    Will the Chrome extension work for custom post types? For example, I have a custom post type named ‘Images’ and it doesn’t require a ‘title’ and it has custom taxonomies. Will the extension ‘load’ these custom fields from my custom post type?


  21. Sunny Ujjawal


    Two queries:

    1. Will it work with Newspaper theme http://themeforest.net/item/newspaper/5489609
    (I can provide files to test to your team). Only want to avoid asking for refund if plugin doesn’t work with my theme.

    2. After adding a featured image will it save a thumbnail image to media library or not?
    To save space and bandwidth i don’t need featured image on my server at any cost?

    1. Mike Post author


      1. It should work with the newspaper theme yes. If it doesn’t let me know and I’ll tell you how to edit the files

      2. You can choose whether you want it externally, or uploaded – there’s two different boxes.

  22. Jaz


    I’m just wondering if your plug in will work with the Getty images plug in with an embedded code?


  23. Giulio Vita

    I have a question: I uploaded the files with Filezilla but they are not in the library now. So I would like to use your plugin to set the featured image in pages and posts with the url of the files that I stored with Filezilla. My question is: it is possible to avoid the copy on server of the image. Because in my case it will be a duplicate in the server.

    Thank you

    1. Mike Post author


      There’s two options.

      1. You can just hotlink to tour images without making a copy

      2. You can have them copied to your server

      So option 1 is the one for you


  24. Abe


    I have issues with the plugin I bought yesterday. After installing the featured image was gone and replaced with a non-working ‘external featured image’ section. Can you help? Thank you!

  25. Cosmy


    This plugin is compatible with wp-job-manager?

    I’m using listify theme with wp-job-manager plugin.

    Thank you

    1. Mike Post author

      Compatible how?

      This plugin is used to quickly set the featured images of posts from an external URL.

      If you need to include it on another post type you’ll have to edit the code that displays the meta box to include your custom post name

      Aside from doing that, this plugin automates the upload to your media process from a URL (or you can enter a URL)

      The external URL directly into your site hooks into the post thumbnail actions. If your theme doesn’t use these you’ll need to speak to your theme developer on how to incorporate. The image URL for the external link is saved in a custom post field so the theme can be edited to display this.

      Hope this helps.

    1. Mike Post author

      We can’t and don’t look into custom themes from themeforest.

      You’ll need to look at the theme files or ask the theme author to point you in the right direction

      If the theme uses the get_post_thumbnail function then the plugin filters that.

      However if it also uses the has_thumbnail() WordPress do not provide a filter for that so you’ll need to find that part of the code and replace it with a conditional

      The external URL is stored in post meta so you can access it like this

      $epicurl = get_post_meta($post->ID, ‘epic_urlfeatured’, true);

      If you need help building it into your theme we can help on a freelance basis.

    1. Mike Post author

      Hi – no it’s a plugin which lets you use an external image as your featured image (rather than hosting from your own media library)

  26. Eduardo Rafael

    Hello, does this plugin also work for the woocommerce gallery? To add images in external url?

      1. Eduardo Rafael

        Can you make one for the galleries?
        It would be great since I can not find a plugin for this.
        How much would they charge?

  27. Steve

    Hi. I’m looking for a way to do what your plug in does but I need to use a shortcode from another plugin to generate the external Inge url… can that work with your plugin? What I am doing is using an Amazon product plugin to generate a post with just a ASIN (Amazon product id) ebtered in a custom field…. in a prefect works your plus in would do its magic in the background without me needing to enter anything… if I could hard code the shortcode info so i didn’t have to enter it on every post that woukd be perfect.
    I habe this working but it pulls the external image everytime…. this page is dynamically generated…. ask I enter inn the post is the ASIN in a custom field and use a shortcode in that posts custom template
    The reason I need to change to featured images is because some store pages grab multiple products and take way to long to load.


    1. Mike Post author

      Hi Steve,

      Sorry for the delay, you can get at the link using a custom field rather than a shortcode.

      It might be easier for you to just edit your theme template if your image urls are predictable

    1. Mike Post author

      It’s a custom field in itself, I wouldn’t say it has to work with ACF, why do you think it should and in what capacity?

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