I have a personal dislike for list posts – you know the kind of thing, just cut-and-pasted round-ups of the ’20 top this’ or the ’10 top that’. They’re easily compiled articles that (as far as I can see) have very little value for the reader. However, I feel that this post is somewhat different.

The findings here are all based on hard facts. Over the last few months, I’ve collected extensive data on over 40,000 websites. All the websites have been active this year (they’re not just dead and abandoned sites from way back) and the analysis has been interesting in several respects.

In this post, I can reveal:

  • The 20 most popular active plugins
  • The 20 most popular active WordPress themes

Note that the stats here are not for the most frequently downloaded plugins or themes, and they’re not based on any data supplied by the theme or plugin directories. All the figures here are representative of products actually in use on websites. There’s more information on how this data was collected at the bottom of the post. But first, here’s a list.

The 20 most popular active WordPress plugins

Based on data gathered between 1 March 2017 and 7 December 2017 on just over 42,600 websites, the 20 most popular plugins active on WordPress sites are:

PluginNo. sites% sites
Contact Form 71992446.77
Yoast SEO1924645.18
Akismet1156127.14
Revolution Slider776518.23
WooCommerce718916.87
Jetpack710416.67
Visual Composer705316.56
WordFence611314.35
WordPress Importer602414.14
Tinymce Advanced522712.27
Monster Insights508111.93
Duplicate Post456810.72
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP435610.22
WP Super Cache41989.85
Updraft Plus41379.71
All In One SEO Pack41069.64
WP Smushit34958.2
Regenerate Thumbnails34798.17
Google Sitemap Generator33647.9
Limit Login Attempts32667.67

Top 20 active plugins 2017

Some thoughts on this list

Contact Form 7 appears on nearly 50% of all WordPress sites

Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7’s popularity seems staggering at first – however, there are a number of reasons to account for it:

  • CF7 was first released 10 years ago (when WordPress was on version 2.2)
  • It’s been actively developed and supported since then (by Takayuki Miyoshi)
  • It’s a popular plugin with theme developers: many themes, including some of the big hitters on Theme Forest, recommend CF7

According to the plugin directory, CF7 has been downloaded over 66 million times. Wow.

Least surprising fact

Probably the least surprising fact here is that there’s a high proportion of SEO and analytic plugins. It’s to be expected. Yoast is the most popular SEO plugin, but Monster Insights, All In One SEO, GADWP, and Google Sitemap Generator all appear in the top 20. That’s a lot of people doing a lot of SEO.

People care more about SEO than security

Five of the top 20 plugins are SEO or analytic based. Only two, WordFence and Limit Login Attempts, are concerned with keeping your installation secure. Hmm.

Five of the top 20 most popular #WordPress plugins are SEO-based. Only 2, @WordFence and Limit Login Attempts, are security-based. Click To Tweet

Most popular caching plugin

WP Super Cache is the only caching plugin on the list. It’s no particular surprise that it’s the most popular, given that WP Super Cache is an Automattic plugin and is visible on the Featured plugins page of every WordPress installation. This gives it a huge advantage over its competition.

The most popular commercial plugins

If you’ve ever looked at a theme on Theme Forest, then you won’t be surprised by this list’s finding that Revolution Slider and Visual Composer are the most popular commercial plugins. They come bundled with a huge number of Theme Forest themes.

WooCommerce is the fifth most popular plugin

WooCommerce’s popularity means that over 16% of WordPress sites have ecommerce functionality.

Biggest surprise?

For me, the biggest surprise on this list is Duplicate Post. It just goes to show the value of small scale utility plugins that do one job well.

Duplicate post plugin

The 20 most popular WordPress themes

Based on the same data as above, the 20 most popular WordPress themes are:

ThemeNo. sites% sites
Divi19554.65%
Twenty Seventeen12743.03%
Avada9052.15%
Enfold4471.06%
Betheme3940.94%
Newspaper3300.79%
Avada Child3270.78%
Sydney3210.76%
Twenty Sixteen2990.71%
Storefront2710.64%
Customizr2570.61%
Twenty Fifteen2380.57%
Bridge2280.54%
Divi Child2260.54%
GeneratePress2260.54%
ColorMag2230.53%
The71980.47%
Zerif Lite1900.45%
Salient1850.44%
Canvas1830.44%

Top 20 WordPress themes 2017

Thoughts on the theme list

  • The list is dominated by multipurpose, all-singing, all-dancing themes like Divi, Avada, Total
  • By my reckoning, there’s roughly a 50/50 split between Theme Forest themes and free themes from the WordPress themes directory
  • The standout exception to the 50/50 split is Divi, the most popular WordPress theme and, as far as I can tell, the only theme in this list that is available direct from its developers, not from a directory or marketplace
  • After the first three or four themes, the field levels out quickly – there’s a long long tail to this list
  • Sydney is the most popular WordPress theme available on the WordPress theme directory (excluding Twenty Seventeen and other default WordPress themes).Sydney WordPress theme
  • Zerif Lite comes in at 18th – a respectable position given its issues this yearZerif Lite theme

What does all this mean?

Erm, well, that’s a good question.

For one thing, the lists prove the dominance of the giant multipurpose themes. Personally, I’d like to see an end to their popularity – though I don’t expect this any time soon.

I think the popularity of page builders in both lists shows a certain disregard for WordPress standards and/or a dissatisfaction with WordPress capabilities.

What affect will Gutenberg will have on the WordPress economy over the next couple of years? Not much, I think, where the big themes are concerned. They have their own page builders and I think will probably be immune from Gutenberg for a while, unless a killer theme based around Gutenberg emerges.

It will be interesting to see if and how Automattic plans to give its own products greater prominence in plugin and theme directories and the effects this will have on smaller theme and plugin shops. You should read this article for more discussion on the impact of Gutenberg on the WP economy.

I plan to do another of these posts in around 6 months time. It will be interesting to see if any trends start to emerge.

How was this data collected?

This data is captured through Wisdom from sites that have one or more of my plugins installed.

By far the most used of the plugins is Cookie Consent, which accounts for over 30,000 of the tracked sites. This might mean that results are skewed towards European sites: Cookie Consent adds one of those notification bars telling visitors that your site uses cookies and therefore tends to be used by sites based in EU countries. Although there might be some regional differences, I suspect that being a bit Euro-centric isn’t really affecting these results too much and that this sample is fairly representative of WordPress sites worldwide.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *