The Most Popular WordPress Plugins & The Pros and Cons of Each [+ WordPress Data]

Jamie Juviler
Jamie Juviler

Published:

With over 50,000 WordPress plugins in the WordPress plugin repository, plus many more available from third-party websites, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed as a new administrator who just wants a decent website for their business or blog.

person using a compter to view the most popular wordpress plugins

Since WordPress is completely open-source software, anyone can build and sell plugins. Naturally, you’re going to get products of varying quality. Fortunately, time has taught us that popularity is typically a good indicator of quality when it comes to WordPress add-ons, including plugins.

In this post, we’ll cover 15 of the most downloaded plugins from the WordPress Plugin directory. From form plugins to SEO tools to security boosters, they’re all worth using, or at least trying out. Let’s dive in.

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1. Contact Form 7

download page for the popular wordpress plugin contact form 7

Active installations: 5+ million

Topping our list is Contact Form 7, the go-to forms plugin for many WordPress users. In just a few clicks, Contact Form 7 lets you add intuitive, flexible forms to your WordPress site. Your forms can be enhanced with CAPTCHA and spam filtering powered by the Akismet anti-spam plugin, and are also Ajax-powered — this means they can retrieve information from your database and change look without needing to reload the page.

So, why has Contact Form 7 caught on so well? We would chalk it up to simplicity — the plugin has what users need, nothing that users don’t (including no premium versions or upsells), and remains easy to use after being in the WordPress ecosystem for so long.

Pros: Contact Form 7 is a free, easy-to-use, reliable contact form plugin that doesn’t overwhelm with features.

Cons: Those looking for more advanced, customizable forms may be unhappy with the limited features and settings available with this plugin.

2. Yoast SEO

download page for the popular wordpress plugin yoast seo

Active installations: 5+ million

Yoast SEO is the leading SEO plugin for WordPress. It focuses on on-page SEO, which involves altering page content and structure to capture more high-quality search traffic. For a free plugin, Yoast SEO packs a healthy number of features to identify problems, optimize content, and get your website ranking higher.

Some of Yoast’s top free features include automated SEO changes to your page markup, XML sitemap generation, Google preview, breadcrumbs, and schema blocks. For what it can’t fix automatically, Yoast SEO will analyze your site for keywords and readability, then provide suggestions for improvement based on best practices.

Want to know more about this plugin? We’ve got you covered — see our guide to Yoast SEO for bloggers.

Pros: Yoast is user-friendly, offers helpful advice, and automates some of the back-end enhancements.

Cons: Some users may find Yoast SEO tedious with its suggestions, and they’re not always perfect. It’s worth testing the free versions of multiple SEO plugins before choosing (and possibly paying for) one.

3. Elementor

download page for the popular wordpress plugin elementor

Active installations: 5+ million

Elementor is a drag-and-drop, what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) page builder for WordPress. With it, you can construct your website pages by simply clicking and dragging your preferred elements into place in any configuration you want. Many WordPress users rely on page builder plugins to build visually elaborate websites without touching any code, and Elementor is one of the best.

Elementor starts you with dozens of page templates, each of which lets you craft a visually engaging page for your site. After picking a template, populate the page with pre-made elements like images, buttons, search bars, sliders, social icons, and a lot more. Elementor also lets you seamlessly toggle between desktop and mobile screen views to ensure a responsive, mobile-friendly experience.

Good news: We’ve got a guide for this one too. Check out our intro to Elementor for WordPress.

Pros: When used right, Elementor can elevate your WordPress site to new heights without requiring you to learn HTML. It changes the WordPress page building experience to one that, for many, is more intuitive and less restricting.

Cons: Elementor has somewhat of a steep learning curve and might feel too complex for users who want a simple website fast.

4. Classic Editor

download page for the popular wordpress plugin classic editor

Active installations: 5+ million

In 2018, WordPress added the Gutenberg Editor to its core feature list. Gutenberg is a block-based editor, allowing users to place and arrange page content as movable blocks. This highly visual building experience was generally well-received by new users. But, as you can probably guess, many WordPress veterans didn’t like having their editing system switched out on them. That’s why the Classic Editor plugin was introduced.

A product of the WordPress team, Classic Editor hides Gutenberg and restores the “classic” WordPress interface for editing pages and posts. It also lets you toggle back and forth between the two editors, so users with different preferences can easily switch without activating or deactivating the plugin. Conveniently, Classic Editor is also compatible with WordPress plugins that alter the classic editor interface.

Pros: Not fond of Gutenberg? This no-frills plugin is for you. Plus, it’s backed by WordPress and updated frequently.

Cons: If you’re happy using Gutenberg or a page builder plugin, you’ll have no use for Classic Editor. Additionally, there is a chance that WordPress will discontinue updating this plugin in the future, requiring you to adopt Gutenberg or switch to an alternative.

5. Akismet

download page for the popular wordpress plugin akismet

Active installations: 5+ million

Do you like having your site’s forms and comments loaded with spam? We didn’t think so, which brings us to our next plugin. Akismet is the leading WordPress spam protection plugin and one of the best-reviewed. It’s also developed by Automattic, the team behind WordPress.

Using Akismet couldn’t be simpler. All you need to do is install and activate the plugin, and Akismet will automatically review all contact form submissions and website comments for suspicious activity. In case of an accidental flag, Akismet lets users recover any discarded submission or message.

Pros: If you’ve ever had to deal with spam, you know how frustrating it can be. Plugins like Akismet are a game-changer — no wonder WordPress users love it.

Cons: Akismet has a simple job that it does well. However, those looking for more advanced spam-blocking tools for WordPress should consider alternatives.

6. WooCommerce

download page for the popular wordpress plugin woocommerce

Active installations: 5+ million

If you’re looking to sell products with WordPress, you’ve probably heard of WooCommerce. It’s by far the most popular ecommerce plugin and can turn any plain WordPress site into a fully functional online store. No matter your niche, be it physical products, digital downloads, or subscriptions, WooCommerce has the tools you need to organize, display, and sell. Users can make customer profiles, choose from payment and shipping options, manage inventory, and even make coupons with the plugin.

WooCommerce is a powerhouse in the WordPress ecosystem — there are WooCommerce plugins to extend the plugin’s features and functions, WooCommerce themes to perfect your storefront, and many integrations with marketing automation and CRM tools including HubSpot.

Pros: As far as WordPress online stores go, WooCommerce can handle most of the heavy lifting better than any other plugin. It’s the de facto choice for WordPress ecommerce.

Cons: While the core WooCommerce plugin is free, its extensions are not. You may have to pay to get exactly the type of ecommerce site you want beyond the basics.

7. Jetpack

download page for the popular wordpress plugin jetpack

Active installations: 5+ million

Plugins are central to the WordPress experience. It’s basically impossible to build a successful WordPress website without using at least a couple of them. The downside is that most WordPress plugins are point solutions, focused on doing one thing. High-functioning WordPress sites need many solutions and a lot of plugins.

Except, not necessarily. Jetpack is another plugin from Automattic that rolls essential website functions — speed, security, design, marketing, and UX — all into one. Jetpack groups its features into modules, so users can purchase them (or download them, as some modules are free) based on their needs.

Pros: Jetpack combines essential website management features into an effective, easy-to-use plugin. It’s also made by the developers of WordPress who know the product better than anyone.

Cons: Jetpack makes a lot of changes to the WordPress interface. When you install the plugin, expect to see its features all over your dashboard. Some users have also argued that Jetpack slows down site speed.

8. Really Simple SSL

download page for the popular wordpress plugin really simple ssl

Active installations: 5+ million

Secure Sockets Layer encryption, or SSL, is an essential security feature for any website. It creates an encrypted connection between your website’s server and your clients’ devices, so that sensitive information can be sent safely to and from your site. For help setting up SSL with WordPress, you can use an SSL plugin like Really Simple SSL.

This plugin works by checking your site for an SSL certificate installed on your server. If it finds one, it redirects all requests for HTTP pages to HTTPS pages (the “S” stands for secure, meaning SSL encryption protects that page). If not, Really Simple SSL lets you get a free SSL certificate inside the plugin. Essentially, this tool saves you the work of redirecting your pages manually from HTTP to HTTPS — on larger websites especially, this frees up a lot of time.

Pros: True to its name, Really Simple SSL is the easiest way to get your WordPress site SSL-encrypted.

Cons: You have to keep the plugin activated at all times to redirect your URLs. Also, the free version is fairly basic, but a premium upgrade is available.

9. WPForms

download page for the popular wordpress plugin wpforms

Active installations: 5+ million

WPForms is a drag-and-drop form builder for WordPress, and one of the best of its kind. With it, users can build extensive, completely custom forms for gathering contact information. WPForms can help you build a registration form, a newsletter signup form, a survey, and a lot more.

A big part of what makes WPForms so powerful is its templates: There are over 300 to choose from for just about any type of form. Plus, WPForms have conditional logic, built-in spam protection, integration with email marketing tools and contact management solutions like HubSpot CRM, and notifications after a form has been completed.

To learn how to use WPForms to its full potential, read our guide to the WPForms plugin.

Pros: WPForms balances usability with flexibility, helping you build tailored contact forms while keeping it easy to do so.

Cons: The free version of WPForms is light on features and many are only accessible with paid add-ons.

10. Wordfence

download page for the popular wordpress plugin wordfence

Active installations: 4+ million

In 2020, there were over 2,800 attacks per second targeting WordPress websites. That’s according to research by the Wordfence team, who also happened to make the next plugin on our list. Wordfence audits your entire website, including themes and plugins, for suspicious code, spam, and vulnerabilities. It scans your site regularly and alerts you of any problems or threats.

Besides security scans, Wordfence prevents brute-force attacks that attempt to guess your passwords and enables two-factor authentication and CAPTCHA, traffic monitoring, and IP blocking. Wordfence is also noteworthy for offering a firewall with its free version. Together, these features make Wordfence one of the best WordPress security plugins.

Pros: Wordfence provides some of the best value you’ll get from a free security plugin, and effectively handles perhaps the most important aspect of your website.

Cons: Again, the free version of Wordfence is very capable, but you’re limited on advanced features without a paid subscription. This is especially relevant if your website stores sensitive user data.

11. All-in-One WP Migrationdownload page for the popular wordpress plugin all-in-one wp migration

Active installations: 4+ million

Migrating a WordPress site seems like a huge undertaking, which is why the All-in-One WP Migration plugin aims to make it seamless. This plugin has helped millions of website owners pick up their site and drop in a new location without needing to sift through endless instructions or write any code.

Instead, just click a button to export your site’s files, including themes, plugins, and media. Then, drag the file into the plugin installed on your new WordPress sites — it couldn’t be simpler. Plus, All-in-One WP Migration works with many leading WordPress hosting providers and also has a library of premium extensions that let you export from and import to other sources.

Pros: There’s no easier way to conduct a WordPress site migration than with this plugin. Just install it on your old and new websites, click a few buttons, and you’re migrated.

Cons: The free version limits file sizes that you can transfer and also does not allow for multi-site transfers. It also requires WordPress to be installed on your old and new servers, which may be inconvenient for you.

12. Yoast Duplicate Post

download page for the popular wordpress plugin yoast duplicate post

Active installations: 4+ million

In addition to its SEO plugin, the Yoast team offers a popular plugin for duplicating pages and posts. This can come in handy in several cases. For example, you can base a new page on an existing template, or make a duplicate to test a design or content change without affecting the original.

Yoast Duplicate Post works by adding a “Clone” button to each page and post displayed in your lists. When this button is clicked, the plugin creates a copy that you can edit immediately. You can also clone multiple pages/posts at once. Like other plugins here, Yoast Duplicate Post provides a simple solution to a simple feature that vanilla WordPress doesn’t have.

Pros: Yoast Duplicate Post seamlessly blends with the WordPress interface and offers a service that many users, especially bloggers and publishers, will find essential day-to-day.

Cons: There aren’t any clear cons to Yoast Duplicate Post, but you may want to try some competing plugins and compare their flexibility and ease of use.

13. All in One SEO

download page for the popular wordpress plugin all in one seo

Active installations: 3+ million

The second on-page SEO plugin in our list, All in One SEO (or AIOSEO for short) is an excellent way to boost your WordPress site traffic. Like Yoast SEO, AIOSEO audits your website for factors that influence your page ranking, then corrects them or provides suggestions on how to fix them. It also can make sitemaps, apply schemas for rich snippets, and integrate with Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages Plugin for faster speeds over slow connections.

While similar in purpose, Yoast and AIOSEO have differences in their user flows. Specifically, AISEO features a highly intuitive interface that makes it particularly suited for non-experts. Still, it’s worth trying out the free versions of each one if you’re unsure which to choose.

To learn more about this SEO plugin, see our in-depth look at AIOSEO.

Pros: The free version of AIOSEO works well for small WordPress websites looking to expand their search engine presence, as it’s simple to understand and clarifies how its improvements help your site’s SEO.

Cons: AIOSEO will try to upsell you in the free version by including gated paid features in the interface — that might bother some users. The paid versions are also on the pricey side.

14. UpdraftPlus

download page for the popular wordpress plugin updraft plus

Active installations: 3+ million

Website backups: Most of the time, you don’t need one … until one day when you really, really need one. You shouldn’t wait until a server crash, hack, or failed update to back up your website. To avoid losing your data, we recommend making regularly scheduled backups with an automatic backup plugin like UpdraftPlus.

UpdraftPlus lets users schedule out their website backups, and also supports backup restoration. For free, you can have your backups sent to a variety of cloud storage platforms including Google Drive, Dropbox, and Amazon S3. The pro version upgrades you to automatic backups. Simple to configure, easy to use, and reliable, this plugin earns its reputation.

Pros: Updraft plus lets you schedule backups for free and automate them for a fair price. It also offers flexibility in what cloud storage platform you can use.

Cons: The free version of UpdraftPlus withholds a lot of useful extra features that could benefit your site further. Namely, if you want to automate backups (and not think about them ever), you need to subscribe to a plan.

15. MonsterInsights

download page for the popular wordpress plugin monsterinsights

Active installations: 3+ million

Without website analytics, it’s impossible to know how your website is engaging visitors and driving conversions. This is why a tool like Google Analytics is so valuable. And, with the right WordPress plugin, you can incorporate Google Analytics right into your WordPress dashboard. This is the job of MonsterInsights.

MonsterInsights is the most popular WordPress analytics plugin, allowing you to integrate Google Analytics with your dashboard and view your key metrics inside WordPress. It also helps you set up Google Analytics on your site and displays your data in user-friendly charts that you may find more intuitive than Google’s interface. Lastly, MonsterInsights compiles your data into reports that give you an in-depth understanding of how your site is thriving and how it can grow even more.

Pros: MonsterInsights supports your site’s growth strategy by putting metrics straight in your dashboard. Your most valuable data is a click away, and the tool’s wealth of visualizations makes it that much easier to find valuable insights.

Cons: The paid plans are quite expensive and may not justify the value for smaller websites generating minimal revenue.

WordPress Plugins: A Popularity Contest?

We’ll admit this much: Just because a plugin is popular, that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect plugin for you. Sometimes, you might be better off with the plugin less downloaded. That’s why, when searching for plugins, we recommend trying several options if you can for free.

Even so, popularity is a generally reliable indicator of quality, which is especially important in the world of WordPress and open-source software. Finding the right plugins isn’t always a popularity contest, but these plugins are a great place to start, and possibly end, your search.

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