This is the second update of my January 2018 post. It lists the most popular WordPress plugins as of the start of 2020.
There is only one new entry to the list from a year ago at this time and it is Advanced Custom Fields.
Each of my choices is running on at least 1 million sites according to wordpress.org. Many have topped out at 2 million or more active installations.
In making my picks, I looked at the WordPress Plugins repository to get additional information on what people are using.
These plugins are not necessarily the best to use, but are the most widely used. For example, Contact Form 7 has been installed on 5 million sites, but many will find Ninja Forms or WP Forms easier to use.
TinyMCE Advanced was omitted in the original list on the assumption that it would fade away with the then coming new page editor, Gutenberg. But it has been re-tooled to work with Gutenberg and hence it is, popular with over 2 million active installs.
What did I take off previous lists? See Below.
As always, when installing a new plugin, make sure to have a current backup of your site. In addition, it is advised that you have a staging (development) site that is not live where you can try out a new plugin.
The descriptions below are basically lifted from the wordpress.org Plugin Repository. I don’t think they’ll mind. :-). My choices are in alpha order.
Advanced Custom Fields New
Works with Gutenberg or the Classic Editor, ACF transforms the editor screen to add more fields.
This just made the list and it’s a developer’s delight.
Akismet checks your comments and contact form submissions against our global database of spam to prevent your site from publishing malicious content. You can review the comment spam it catches on your blog’s “Comments” admin screen.
You’ll need an Akismet.com API key to use it. Keys start at $5 a month but they have a “Name Your Price” plan!
All In One SEO Pack
Use All in One SEO Pack to optimize your WordPress site for SEO. It’s easy and works out of the box for beginners, and has advanced features and an API for developers.
A most worthy competitor to the better known Yoast SEO. Fewer features and easier to use for people new to SEO.
Do not use more than one SEO plugin.
All In One WP Migration
This plugin exports your WordPress website including the database, media files, plugins and themes with no technical knowledge required.
Upload your site to a different location with a drag and drop in to WordPress.
There is an option to apply an unlimited number of find and replace operations on your database during the export process.
Classic Editor is an official plugin maintained by the WordPress team that restores the previous (“classic”) WordPress editor and the “Edit Post” screen. It makes it possible to use plugins that extend that screen, add old-style meta boxes, or otherwise depend on the previous editor.
Classic Editor is an official WordPress plugin, and will be fully supported and maintained until at least 2022, or as long as is necessary.
Is it any surprise that this plugin is now at the top of the charts? If you’re not ready for Gutenberg, this plugin is for you.
Contact Form 7
Create and manage multiple contact forms. Send custom emails to users. The form supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering and more.
While this plugin is a WordPress standard, it is not WYSIWYG nor state-of-the-art. A solid alternative is Ninja Forms.
Contact Form by WPForms – Drag & Drop Form Builder for WordPress
The developers believe that you shouldn’t have to hire a developer to create a WordPress contact form. Here’s a drag & drop WordPress form builder that’s EASY and POWERFUL.
WPForms allows you to create beautiful contact forms, subscription forms, payment forms, and other type of forms for your site in minutes, not hours!
Convenient way to quickly clone any page or post which is saved as a draft for further editing.
Elementor Page Builder
It’s about time for a live page builder, with no limits of design. A page builder that delivers high-end page designs and advanced capabilities, never before seen on WordPress.
It’s the best WordPress page builder in history. Its acceptance by WordPressers has been meteoric over the past 2 years.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by ExactMetrics
This plugin tracks user activity using the latest Google Analytics tracking code and allows you to view key Google Analytics stats in your WP Admin.
In addition to a set of general Google Analytics stats, in-depth Page and Post reports allow further segmentation of your analytics data, providing performance details for each post or page from your site.
Formerly known as Google Analytics Dashboard for WP.
A nice plugin that digests the blizzard of Google Analytics stats and presents them in your WP Admin.
Google XML Sitemaps
Use this plugin to greatly improve SEO to create special XML sitemaps which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com to better index your site.
With such a sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently. The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs. Additionally it notifies all major search engines every time you create a post about the new content.
You don’t need this plugin if you use Yoast SEO or All In One SEO Pack as XML Sitemaps are built in.
Keep any WordPress site secure, increase traffic, and engage your readers.
The Swiss Army Knife plugin for WordPress. Most of its features are free. It requires a wordpress.com username and password.
Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin for WordPress by MonsterInsights
An easy way to connect to and view your Google Analytics reports from inside your WordPress dashboard. The tracking settings and workflows make MonsterInsights the most beginner friendly google analytics plugin in the market.
This is very similar to Google Analytics Dashboard for WP.
Also known by it’s full name, “Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin for WordPress by MonsterInsights.”
Really Simple SSL
This plugin automatically detects your settings and configures your website to run over https. To keep it lightweight, the options are kept to a minimum. The entire site will move to SSL.
You’ll still need to get an SSL Certificate for your site through your web host.
I’m not sure how needed this plugin is anymore.
This plugin introduces a “Classic Paragraph” block and a “Hybrid Mode” for the new block editor (Gutenberg).
If you are not quite ready to switch to the block editor, or have plugins that cannot be used there (yet), using the Classic Paragraph block and Hybrid Mode is your best option. It lets you to continue to use the familiar TinyMCE editor for most tasks, and at the same time gives you full access to all blocks and new features in the block editor.
I left out TinyMCE in my original list of January 2018 figuring Gutenberg would like this off. I was wrong.
UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin
UpdraftPlus simplifies backups and restoration. It is the world’s highest ranking and most popular scheduled backup plugin, with over a million currently-active installs. Backup your files and database backups into the cloud, and restore with a single click!
Once (and probably always) known by it’s previous name, Updraft Plus.
I’ve used BackWPup for years without any problems.
Whichever plugin you choose, make sure your backups are stored in 2 locations.
WooCommerce is a free eCommerce plugin that allows you to sell anything beautifully. Built to integrate seamlessly with WordPress, WooCommerce is the world’s favorite eCommerce solution that gives both store owners and developers complete control.
It’s not the only way to turn WP into an online store, but it seems that way. It now powers 30% of all online sites.
Wordfence Security is 100% free and open-source security software supported by a large team dedicated exclusively to WordPress security. A deep set of features makes Wordfence the most comprehensive WordPress security solution available.
The WordPress Importer will import pages, posts, custom post types, comments, and other content from a WordPress export file.
WP Super Cache
This plugin generates static html files from your dynamic WordPress blog. After a html file is generated, your webserver will serve that file instead of processing the comparatively heavier and more expensive WordPress PHP scripts.
If you’re going to using a caching plugin, make sure to understand how it will work on your server and to test it before using it. Caching plugins can be tricky.
This plugin will improve your site’s search engine rankings. While Yoast SEO goes the extra mile to take care of all the technical optimization, it first and foremost helps you write better content. Yoast SEO forces you to choose a focus keyword when you’re writing your articles, and then makes sure you use that focus keyword everywhere.
WordPress out of the box is SEO friendly, but this align takes you the extra mile. The All In SEO Pack plugin is a well-known alternative.
What’s No Longer A Popular Plugin?
These plugins got knocked off their perch as most popular but I couldn’t say goodbye to them.
Removed At The End Of 2019
This plugin lets you re-create all image sizes for one or more images that have been uploaded to your Media Library.
An absolute must if you change your theme because each theme sets image sizes differently.
Removed At The End Of 2018
Broken Link Checker
This plugin will monitor your blog for broken links and let you know if any are found.
Your site has thousands of links which may break over time for various reasons. This plugin sends you an email letting you know when a link is broken.
Duplicator lets you migrate, copy, move or clone a site from one location to another. It also serves as a simple backup utility.
While this plugin aids in the migration process, it is not necessary to use any WordPress plugin to move a site from one server to another.
Limit Login Attempts
Use this plugin to limit the number of login attempts possible both through normal login as well as using auth cookies.
Limit Login Attempts blocks an internet address from making further attempts after a specified limit of retries is reached, making a brute-force attack difficult or impossible.
MailChimp For WordPress
An easy way to add mail subscribers to your MailChimp account.
MailChimp for WordPress helps you add more subscribers to your MailChimp lists using various methods. You can create good looking opt-in forms or integrate with any other form on your site, like your comment, contact or checkout form.
I’ve used MailChimp to distribute my email for years but others, like Constant Contact and aWebar, also have plugins that integrate with your site.
A WP standard since 2007. It continues to receive over 1.5 million new downloads per year. It’s easy for simple photo galleries, but powerful enough for the most demanding photographers, visual artists, and imaging professionals.
NextGEN offers a complete WordPress gallery management system with the ability to batch upload photos, import meta data, add/delete/rearrange/sort photos, edit thumbnails, group galleries into albums, and more.
If you’re just looking for a lightbox effect, try Responsive Lightbox.
Redirection is the most popular redirect manager for WordPress. With it you can easily manage 301 redirections, keep track of 404 errors, and generally tidy up any loose ends your site may have. This can help reduce errors and improve your site ranking.
What do you do when you remove a page that others link to or when you need to shorten a url or many other things? You use Redirection. So useful!
WP Maintenance Mode
Add a maintenance page to your site that lets visitors know your site is down for maintenance, or add a coming soon page for a new website. Admins get full access to the site including the front end. Includes a countdown to launch for the front page.
Flexible plugin that I have used for client sites.
Resize, optimize, optimise and compress all of your images with the incredibly powerful and 100% free WordPress image smusher, brought to you by the superteam at WPMU DEV!
What Do You Think?
Did I miss something? Did I list a plugin you think should not be there?
Please leave your comment below.