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UPDATED: The 21 Most Popular WordPress Plugins

This is the third update of my January 2018 post. It lists the most popular WordPress plugins as of the start of 2021.

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.

Some Notes About What Changed Over 2020


1. Two plugins which had been removed in the past – WP Mail SMTP by WPForms and MailChimp for WordPress – made it back into the popular club.

2. Some plugins got new or updated icons such as All In One SEO Pack, WP Mail SMTP by WPForms
MC4WP: MailChimp for WordPress and Contact Form 7. Even WooCommerce got a subtle change.

3. Yoast purchased the popular Duplicate Post plugin in 2020 and quickly rebranded it with a slight new name and a Yoasty icon.

4. Most surprising, Advanced Custom Fields, a WP standard that made it onto the list at the end of 2019 got knocked off at the end of 2020.

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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 Editor Tools (previously TinyMCE Advanced)

Description

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.

My Comments

I left out TinyMCE in my original list of January 2018 figuring Gutenberg would like this off. I was wrong.

Akismet Anti-Spam

Description

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.

My Comments

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

Description

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.

My Comments

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

Description

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

Description

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.

My Comments

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 by WPForms – Drag & Drop Form Builder for WordPress

Description

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!

My Comments

Leaving out my favorite (Gravity Forms) an excellent alternative form builder is Ninja Forms.

Contact Form 7

Description

Create and manage multiple contact forms. Send custom emails to users. The form supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering and more.

My Comments

While this plugin is a WordPress standard, it is not WYSIWYG nor state-of-the-art. A solid alternative is Ninja Forms.

Elementor

Description

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.

My Comments

It’s my Numero Uno plugin of 2020 and what I used to rebuild this site.

Not just a page builder but a web site design system, Elementor has enjoyed meteoric success since its start in 2016.

Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin for WordPress by MonsterInsights

Description

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.

My Comments

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.”

Google XMLSitemaps

Description

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.

My Comments

You really don’t need this plugin if you’re using the current version of WordPress since XML Sitempas have been included in WP since July 2020.

Jetpack

Description

Keep any WordPress site secure, increase traffic, and engage your readers.

My Comments

The Swiss Army Knife plugin for WordPress. Most of its features are free. It requires a wordpress.com username and password.

MailChimp for WordPress

Description

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.

My Comments

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.

Really Simple SSL

Description

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.

My Comments

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.

UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin

Description

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!

My Comments

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

Description

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.

My Comments

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

Description

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.

WordPress Importer

Description

The WordPress Importer will import pages, posts, custom post types, comments, and other content from a WordPress export file.

WP Mail SMTP by WPForms

Description

Having problems with your WordPress site not sending emails? You’re not alone. Over 1 million websites use WP Mail SMTP to send their emails reliably.

The goal is to make email deliverability easy and reliable. This plugin helps get the email off your site and into an Inbox.

WP Mail SMTP fixes your email deliverability by reconfiguring WordPress to use a proper SMTP provider when sending emails.

 

WP Super Cache

Description

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.

My Comments

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.

Yoast Duplicate Posts

Description

A real easy way to quickly clone any page or post which is saved as a draft for further editing.

Yoast SEO

Description

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.

My Comments

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. While no longer playing with the popular kids I still had to show them some love.

Removed At The End Of 2020

Plugin

Description

My Comments

Advanced Custom Fields

ACF Logo

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.

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by ExactMetrics

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

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.

Removed At The End Of 2019

Plugin

Description

My Comments

Regenerate Thumbnails

Regenerate Thumbnails

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

Plugin

Description

My Comments

Broken Link Checker

broker 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

Duplicator

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

Duplicate Menu Icon

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.

NextGEN Gallery

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.

Redireciton

Redirection

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

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.

WP Smush

WP Smush

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!

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What Do You Think?

Did I miss something? Did I list a plugin you think should not be there?

Please leave your comment below.

8 thoughts on “UPDATED: The 21 Most Popular WordPress Plugins”

  1. Awesome list overall. I just implemented Redirection thanks to you. 🙂 I use and like a few of these already: Broken Link Checker, UpdraftPlus, Duplicator, WP Smush, Yoast SEO. But I’ve recently backed away from Limit Login Attempts. Wordfence flags it as possibly abandoned so I’ve stopped using it, thinking Wordfence will do the job. Thanks for this!

    Reply
  2. Thanks Mary!

    I left one or two of these on the list even if they were on the “endangered species plugin list.” All of the 21 still win the popularity contest using the popular filter on wordpres.org/plugins.

    As for Broken Link Checker, my host, WP Engine black lists it because they say it sucks up too many resources so careful on that one. But I still love it.

    If you want more of this kind of thing you can get it even faster if you’ll sign up for my newsletter where I deliver my WordPress Big 3 every Sunday. The sign up form is at near the top of this post.

    Reply
  3. Hi Bud,

    Another great post to be saved and reviewed as our updated site gets close to launch. We already use several you mention, but was glad to hear your opinion of Smush (added last year) and your caution re. caching plugins. Also glad to hear about Redirection, Wordfence Security. Really like the idea of Broken Link Checker, but hesitant if it’s a resource hog!

    The best feature of this post for me was your comments after each plugin. Super helpful.

    Thanks for pulling these together for us!

    Linda

    Reply
    • Thank you Linda for your comments and feedback. I know that Broken Link Checker is a resource hog and is a reason why it’s black listed on WP Engine. But I still really like it and I wish there were a suitable substitute for it. Will need to find that out.

      Reply
      • Thanks so much for replying, Bud.
        We’re redoing our site completely. Maybe a compromise re. Broken Links is to install it and see if it affects site load speed.

        Also meant to mention WPTouch plugin (free and paid versions), which can make a non-responsive site work on mobile devices. It’s been very handy for us while we work on the site redo (with a responsive theme!). Only recent hitch is that it needs semi technical edits to make it function correctly with WP Super Cache and I can’t figure out how to make it work!! Sigh.

        Linda

        Reply
  4. I would NOT be without Redirection! I am rebuilding and rebranding and consolidating a series of posts and without this plugin I would drown in errors.

    I know I have too many plug-ins and need to sort them out but this will help me review any changes I need to make (I hope!)

    Reply

Leave a Comment

8 thoughts on “UPDATED: The 21 Most Popular WordPress Plugins”

  1. Awesome list overall. I just implemented Redirection thanks to you. 🙂 I use and like a few of these already: Broken Link Checker, UpdraftPlus, Duplicator, WP Smush, Yoast SEO. But I’ve recently backed away from Limit Login Attempts. Wordfence flags it as possibly abandoned so I’ve stopped using it, thinking Wordfence will do the job. Thanks for this!

    Reply
  2. Thanks Mary!

    I left one or two of these on the list even if they were on the “endangered species plugin list.” All of the 21 still win the popularity contest using the popular filter on wordpres.org/plugins.

    As for Broken Link Checker, my host, WP Engine black lists it because they say it sucks up too many resources so careful on that one. But I still love it.

    If you want more of this kind of thing you can get it even faster if you’ll sign up for my newsletter where I deliver my WordPress Big 3 every Sunday. The sign up form is at near the top of this post.

    Reply
  3. Hi Bud,

    Another great post to be saved and reviewed as our updated site gets close to launch. We already use several you mention, but was glad to hear your opinion of Smush (added last year) and your caution re. caching plugins. Also glad to hear about Redirection, Wordfence Security. Really like the idea of Broken Link Checker, but hesitant if it’s a resource hog!

    The best feature of this post for me was your comments after each plugin. Super helpful.

    Thanks for pulling these together for us!

    Linda

    Reply
    • Thank you Linda for your comments and feedback. I know that Broken Link Checker is a resource hog and is a reason why it’s black listed on WP Engine. But I still really like it and I wish there were a suitable substitute for it. Will need to find that out.

      Reply
      • Thanks so much for replying, Bud.
        We’re redoing our site completely. Maybe a compromise re. Broken Links is to install it and see if it affects site load speed.

        Also meant to mention WPTouch plugin (free and paid versions), which can make a non-responsive site work on mobile devices. It’s been very handy for us while we work on the site redo (with a responsive theme!). Only recent hitch is that it needs semi technical edits to make it function correctly with WP Super Cache and I can’t figure out how to make it work!! Sigh.

        Linda

        Reply
  4. I would NOT be without Redirection! I am rebuilding and rebranding and consolidating a series of posts and without this plugin I would drown in errors.

    I know I have too many plug-ins and need to sort them out but this will help me review any changes I need to make (I hope!)

    Reply

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