Most Important WordPress Plugins in 2021

most important wordpress plugins in 2020 list

Most Important WordPress Plugins in 2021 – In this article, I am going to take you through what I consider the most important WordPress plugins in 2021.

There are a lot of plugins out there but I made a list of the must-have WordPress plugins for your website.

If you want to learn about WordPress, make sure you check my other articles:

Having the right plugins is critical to ensure a good website maintenance.

Most Important WordPress Plugins: Statistics

As of January 27th, 2021 there are +58,411 plugins available for download in the WordPress repository.

In total, there have been more than 1 billion plugin downloads, while millions of plugins are being installed (and disinstalled) daily.

What Are the Most Important WordPress Plugins by Active Installs?

Below you can find the list of WordPress top plugins by number of active installs (source: topfiftywp.com):

  1. Really Simple SSL, +5M
  2. Yoast SEO, +5M
  3. Classic Editor, +5M
  4. Elementor Website Builder, +5M
  5. Akismet Anti-Spam, +5M
  6. Woocommerce, +5M
  7. Contact Form 7, +5M
  8. Jetpack by WordPress.com, +5M
  9. Contact Form by WPForms, +4M
  10. Wordfence Security, +4M
  11. WordPress Importer, +4M
  12. UpdraftPlus, +3M
  13. Yoast Duplicate Post, +3M
  14. All-in-One WP Migration, +3M
  15. Google XML Sitemaps, +2M
  16. WP Mail SMTP by WPForms, +2M
  17. MC4WP: Mailchimp for WordPress, +2M
  18. Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin by MonsterInsights, +2M
  19. Advanced Editor Tools, +2M
  20. All in One SEO Pack, +2M
  21. WP Super Cache, +2M

What Are the Most Important WordPress Plugins by Number of Downloads?

Akismet Anti-Spam is the most downloaded WordPress plugins of all times with +82 million downloads.

The second, most-downloaded plugin is Jetpack by WordPress.com with over 53 million.

Additionally, the following plugins have been downloaded more than 7 million times:

  • WooCommerce
  • NextGEN Gallery
  • WordPress Importer
  • WP Super Cache
  • Google Analytics by Yoast
  • Google XML Sitemaps
  • Contact Form 7
  • Yoast SEO
  • All in One SEO Pack
  • Wordfence Security

Most Important WordPress Plugins: the Top 10 List

These are arguably the most important WordPress plugins for any website:

  1. Rank Math
  2. WPForms
  3. Wordfence
  4. WP Rocket (Premium)
  5. Elementor
  6. Imagify
  7. Akismet Anti-Spam
  8. Mailpoet
  9. Woocommerce
  10. Really Simple SSL

Most important WordPress Plugins, Honourable Mentions: Classic Editor, Grow by Mediavine, Duplicate Post by Yoast, UpdraftPlus, Coming Soon by SeedPro

Most Important WordPress Plugins: a List by Category

Best SEO Plugin: Rank Math

Runner Up: Yoast SEO, Alternative: All in One SEO


important wordpress plugins - best seo plugins rank math

Rank Math is the relatively-new kid on the block. It was launched in 2019 and has quickly become a very strong contender for best SEO plugin.

A number of respectable sources including Matthew Woodward (and myself) consider Rank Math as a better alternative to Yoast or any other SEO plugin.

It’s also a very light plugin with +32k lines of code, while Yoast has +95k.

Key Features

  • Powerful Post Optimisation
  • Advanced SEO Analysis Tool (+70 checks)
  • Advanced Redirection Manager
  • Advanced 404 Monitor
  • Integration with Elementor and Other Page Builders
  • Support for Multilingual Websites
  • Multiple Schema Markup Types (16)
  • Multiple Local Business Types (193)
  • Automated Image SEO
  • SEO Breadcrumbs Options
  • Keyword Tracker (Coming soon)

Most important WordPress Plugins: My Experience with the Plugin

Before switching to Rank Math, I was using Yoast and I was quite happy with it. However, since I moved to Rank Math, I couldn’t help but notice an improvement in the overall level of optimisation of the page that you could reach. This resulted in improved rankings and visibility for my website as a whole. Rank Math has also some optional features, like Redirection and 404 Monitor, which would normally require additional plugins or hard-coding. For redirection purposes, I prefer to use a plugin such as Redirection. While Rank Math redirection feature is good, I prefer Redirection for bulk redirects. You can also import your settings from Rank Math.

Rank Math Tutorials: a Comprehensive List for 2021If you want to give this plugin a try, make sure you check out my other article .

Best Contact Form Plugin: Contact Form by WPForms

Runner Up: Contact Form 7, Alternative: Formidable Form Builder

important wordpress plugins best contact form plugin wpforms

Main Features

  • Drag-and-Drop Form Builder
  • Pre-Built Templates
  • Great Anti-Spam Filter
  • Multi-Page Forms
  • Form Abandonment Tracking
  • Integration with Stripe, Paypal and Mailchimp
  • Payment, Donation, and Booking Forms available
  • Responsive Forms
  • Support for Surveys and Polls
  • Support for Membership Sites

Most important WordPress Plugins: My Experience with the Plugin

I use WPForms on my website but I use other contact form plugins like Contact Form 7 and Formidable Forms on other websites that I manage. I find this plugin very easy and intuitive to use. I love the drag-and-drop interface. The ‘lite’ version has all you need to create a beautiful and responsive form for your website. The other plugins that I mentioned are also fairly straightforward to use. However, if you are looking for a complete, all-in-one solution for your contact forms, I would definitely recommend this plugin. It also has an anti-spam custom filter that will save you from using an additional plugin like Akismet.

Best Security Plugin: Wordfence Security

Runner Up: Sucuri Security, Alternative: Anti-Malware Security & Brute-Force Firewall

important wordpress plugins best security plugin wordfence

Main Features

  • Powerful Firewall
  • Integrated Malware Scanner
  • Brute-Force Attack Protection
  • Repair Core Files System
  • Two-Factor Authentication

Most important WordPress Plugins: My Experience with the Plugin

Wordfence is my first choice as a security plugin for WordPress. As with most of the plugins on this list, I have used them all including Sucuri and Anti-Malware Security. However, Wordfence does a cleaner, faster and more precise job when it comes to protecting your WordPress installation or removing malware from an already-infected website.

Best Caching Plugin: WP Rocket (Premium)

Runner Up: WP Super Cache, Alternative: W3 Total Cache

important wordpress plugins best caching plugin wp rocket

Main Features

  • Cache Preloading
  • Database Optimisation
  • Lazyload for Images and Videos
  • HTML, CSS, Javascript Minification
  • Defer Javascript
  • Cloudflare Compatible

Most important WordPress Plugins: My Experience with the Plugin

Calling WP Rocket a caching plugin is very conservative of what this plugin does. Before switching to WP Rocket, I was using what I thought it was the optimal plugin combination for optimising my website: Autoptimize to minify HTML, CSS and Javascript; WP Super Cache for the cache; Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions for optimising the database. WP Rocket does all of this and does it better. I had never been happy with the speed of my website. I knew I could do better. By switching to WP Rocket, my website’s page load speed went from 5-6 seconds to 2.5-3 seconds. It’s not a coincidence that this is the only paid plugin I mention in this list.

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Best Page Builder Plugin: Elementor Page Builder

Runner Up: Visual Composer, Alternative: Beaver Builder

important wordpress plugins best page builder plugin elementor

Main Features

  • Fast Visual Page Builder
  • Pre-Designed Templates and Blocks
  • Built-In Maintenance Mode
  • Image and Video Sliders

Most important WordPress Plugins: My Experience with the Plugin

For the majority of website myself and my team have built, we have used Visual Composer (or its premium version, WPBakery). However, after using Elementor in a couple of recent websites, it has grown on me to become my favourite page builder for WordPress. It’s a tough battle between Visual Composer and Elementor but in the end the latter prevails due to being much lighter on resources than its competitor. This means faster page load speed for your website overall.

Best Image Optimisation Plugin: Imagify

Runner Up: Smush, Alternative: ImageKit

best image optimisation plugin wordpress

Main Features

  • Three optimization levels available – Normal, Aggressive and Ultra
  • For each image you optimize with the Imagify plugin, you will also get its WebP version
  • Display WebP images on your front-end in two ways: <picture> tag or rewrite rules in .htaccess
  • WooCommerce and NextGen Gallery compatible

Most important WordPress Plugins: My Experience with the Plugin

I know this plugin is going to spark controversy. Let me say that in my search for a better image optimisation plugin, I have tried all the usual (and unusual suspects), including Smush, Imagify, TinyPNG, ShortPixel and so on. ImageKit by far has produced the best performance for my website. ImageKit fetches your images from their fast servers. This ensures minimum size and fast performance.

I moved to Imagify from ImageKit. One of the main reasons for the move is the support for the WebP format, which makes your images a lot lighter and your website a lot faster.

Best Anti-Spam Plugin: Akismet Anti-Spam

Runner Up: Antispam Bee, Alternative: Spam Destroyer

important wordpress plugins best anti spam plugin akismet

Main Features

  • Automatic Comment Check and Filtering
  • Comment Status History

Most important WordPress Plugins: My Experience with the Plugin

I must make a big disclaimer here: I don’t actively use Akismet as an anti-spam plugin. As mentioned in the paragraph about WPForms, I use their custom anti-spam filter. This saves me from pretty much 99% of spam messages. There are some sporadic spam comments, which I manage to filter by way of adding specific keywords in the WordPress Settings > Discussion. Having said that, based on number of downloads and reviews, Akismet seems to be the top choice if you are looking for a robust anti spam plugin. Also, I have recently installed it on my website and on most of the websites I managed with excellent results in terms of spam-prevention.

Best Newsletter Plugin: MailPoet

Runner Up: MC4WP, Alternative: Sendinblue, Constant Contact

Main Features

  • Easy to use WordPress newsletter builder
  • Beautiful responsive templates
  • No configuration needed: works out of the box
  • Small site owners with lists of 1,000 subscribers or fewer get the Premium for free
  • GDPR compliant

Most important WordPress Plugins: My Experience with the Plugin

MailPoet has all the features I was looking for in a newsletter plugin. In a few minutes, I was able to set up a number of automations and forms for my newsletter.

Best Ecommerce Plugin: WooCommerce

Runner Up: Cart66, Alternative: WP eCommerce (Premium)

important wordpress plugins best ecommerce plugin woocommerce

My Experience with the Plugin

Of the three plugins that I mention here, I have only used Woocommerce. To be honest, I have never felt the need to look for an alternative ecommerce plugin. Woocommerce and its free and premium addons have all you need to customise your web shop to the highest level.

Best SSL Plugin: Really Simple SSL

Runner Up: SSL Zen, Alternative: WP Encryption

most important wordpress plugins best ssl plugin really simple ssl

My Experience with the Plugin

Yet another case of a plugin that I use on the Increasily website on on my clients’. Incredibly easy to use, it does the job of migrating your website to SSL in a click. Having said that, as of late I have been using WP Encryption more and more. I would recommend it if you want to get a free SSL certificate (renewable manually every 90 days) and use it for your WordPress website.

Most Important WordPress Plugins: Honourable Mentions

The logic behind leaving this plugins out of the most important WordPress plugins list is that you either can do without or you don’t always need them.

For example, if you don’t sell products or services online, you might not need Woocommerce.

These plugins are absolutely amazing but they don’t make the cut, in my opinion, because you can easily run your website without or by finding an alternative.

It’s the case of backing up your website. You can do this at server level or via third party services like ManageWP.com.

Similarly, you don’t have to have your Google Analytics dashboard within WordPress. You can simply bookmark your Google Analytics account and access it outside of your website.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at my honourable mentions.

Best Editor Plugin: Classic Editor

Alternatives: See Best Page Builder Plugin

most important wordpress plugins best editor plugin classic editor

My Experience with the Plugin

If you have been playing with WordPress for a few years, you might have become familiar with the classic interface. If Gutenber is not your cup of tea, then you can revert back to the familiar interface. Just install and activate Classic Editor and your backend will go back to the classic WordPress style.

Best Social Sharing Plugin: Grow by Mediavine

Runner Up: Sassy Social Share, Alternative: AddToAny

most important wordpress plugins best social sharing plugin grow

Main Features

  • Before and After Content Social Share Buttons
  • Floating Sidebar
  • Social Share Counts and Total Share Counts
  • Editable Button Labels

Most important WordPress Plugins: My Experience with the Plugin

The reason why I chose Grow by Mediavine over some more popular competitors is mostly its simplicity of use and weight. With each of the social sharing plugins that I have tried, I would notice an increase in the page load speed. Grow by Mediavine has some very minimalistic social media icons. Most importantly, it’s a plugin that won’t weigh too much on your website resources.

Best Utility Plugin: Yoast Duplicate Post

Runner Up: Duplicate Page, Alternative: Duplicate Post Page Menu

most important wordpress plugins best utility plugin duplicate post

Main Features

  • Clone posts of any type
  • Copy posts to a new draft

Most important WordPress Plugins: My Experience with the Plugin

I use this plugin in the majority of the websites myself and my team create. It’s particularly useful in websites where you need to create a number of very similar pages or posts. It helps you save a lot of time. It’s compatible with the majority of page builders and themes.

Best Backup Plugin: UpdraftPlus

Runner Up: VaultPress, Alternative: ManageWP Worker

My Experience with the Plugin

Personally, I have never used UpdraftPlus or VaultPress. The reason is I am happy with the basic functionalities offered by ManageWP. The free plan creates a monthly backup of your website. If you want to schedule or run a backup more often, you will have to pay as little as $1 per month. Having said that, if you are looking for a more robust backup plugin, with lots of functionalities and customisation, UpdraftPlus is the one with the highest number of downloads and rating.

Best Coming Soon Plugin: Coming Soon by SeedProd

Runner Up: Maintenance, Alternative: WP Maintenance Mode

My Experience with the Plugin

I don’t create a lot of coming soon pages or put the website in maintenance mode to be honest. The few times I did I have always used Coming Soon by SeedProd. If you are looking for a very straightforward coming soon plugin, Coming Soon by SeedProd will do the job. It’s also the most downloaded coming soon plugin with +1 million downloads.

Most Important WordPress Plugins: Conclusion

I hope you liked this article about the most important WordPress plugins in 2021. If that’s the case, please leave your feedback in the comments and share this article on social media.


Pasquale Mellone

Pasquale is Founder at Increasily.com, a H2H marketing agency based in Dublin, Ireland, and owner at print-on-demand ecommerce Mintycase.com. Pasquale has worked in Digital Marketing and Account Management since 2004. He currently lives in Dublin with his wife, stepdaughter and cat.

Comments (4)

  1. Michael Amaral
    18 July 2020

    This is an informative list, Thanks for sharing!
    I think Trash Duplicate And 301 Redirect plugin is also important. It can find and delete duplicate content and also redirect permanent content removal of the main URL to get traffic within a URL. 

    • Pasquale Mellone
      20 July 2020

      Hi Michael and thanks for the comment. I didn’t know about this plugin. I’ll make sure to check it out

  2. Andy
    1 March 2021

    This article really helped me. I installed too many plugins, and because of this, the speed of my site slowed down a lot. After reading your post, I realized which plugins I really need. Thanks!

    • Pasquale Mellone
      1 March 2021

      Thanks for the comment, Andy. I am glad you found the article helpful!

Comments are closed.