Top 20 most popular WordPress plugins and themes in 2017

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.

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:

Plugin No. sites % sites
Contact Form 7 19924 46.77
Yoast SEO 19246 45.18
Akismet 11561 27.14
Revolution Slider 7765 18.23
WooCommerce 7189 16.87
Jetpack 7104 16.67
Visual Composer 7053 16.56
WordFence 6113 14.35
Wordpress Importer 6024 14.14
Tinymce Advanced 5227 12.27
Monster Insights 5081 11.93
Duplicate Post 4568 10.72
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP 4356 10.22
WP Super Cache 4198 9.85
Updraft Plus 4137 9.71
All In One SEO Pack 4106 9.64
WP Smushit 3495 8.2
Regenerate Thumbnails 3479 8.17
Google Sitemap Generator 3364 7.9
Limit Login Attempts 3266 7.67

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.

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.

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’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

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

Theme No. sites % sites
Divi 1955 4.65%
Twenty Seventeen 1274 3.03%
Avada 905 2.15%
Enfold 447 1.06%
Betheme 394 0.94%
Newspaper 330 0.79%
Avada Child 327 0.78%
Sydney 321 0.76%
Twenty Sixteen 299 0.71%
Storefront 271 0.64%
Customizr 257 0.61%
Twenty Fifteen 238 0.57%
Bridge 228 0.54%
Divi Child 226 0.54%
GeneratePress 226 0.54%
ColorMag 223 0.53%
The7 198 0.47%
Zerif Lite 190 0.45%
Salient 185 0.44%
Canvas 183 0.44%

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.

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