While looking for a new plugin or theme for your WordPress business site it’s very likely you’ve spotted a resource that looks like a premium offering but at a fraction of the price. It’s tempting to jump at the opportunity but the phrase ‘if it seems too good to be true, it probably is’ is certainly true when it comes to nulled WordPress themes and plugins. Not only are these seemingly thrifty products ethically dubious, they may also put your site at risk, which is why our strong recommendation is to avoid nulled WordPress themes and plugins in every situation.
What exactly are nulled WordPress themes and plugins?
Let’s start with the basics: how can you tell if a theme or plugin is nulled? Essentially, these are copies of premium themes or plugins that are repackaged and redistributed by another author. While WordPress’ GPL license means this practice isn’t strictly illegal, it’s certainly questionable in terms of ethics and morality. However, this isn’t the only reason you should avoid nulled plugins, as we’ll explore below.
Say goodbye to regular updates
It’s a known fact that outdated themes and plugins are one of the main causes of WordPress site hacks, which is why it’s so important to keep your site up to date at all times. Not only that, but regular updates let you benefit from new functionality, bug fixes and even completely new features.
Without purchasing the original paid version from the genuine author, you won’t get to enjoy all of the benefits and security buffs from the development team. As time goes by this will become even more of an issue, as you may find that your theme or plugin clashes with a future version of WordPress core and experiences issues that render it unusable.
No ongoing support
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a WordPress expert or a relative newcomer, we all run into issues from time to time when setting up and configuring WordPress plugins. Whether you’re looking for simple installation help or assistance for a more advanced query, it’s hugely helpful to be able to contact a plugin author when you need support.
You guessed it – there’s very little support available for nulled plugins and themes. For the most part, you’ll find yourself without documentation and without the ability to reach out for help from the team who created the theme or plugin.
Exposure to security issues
If you do decide to save yourself some cash by downloading a nulled plugin, you may find it turns into a far more costly experience than it would have been to buy the real deal. When you opt for a nulled theme or plugin, you’re buying from a third party rather than the direct source, AKA the developer who created the resource.
While not all nulled themes or plugins contain malware, their reputation for frequently coming bundled with harmful scripts and other malware has been fairly earned. There’s no telling how many times the code might have been edited in the time the original plugin has passed to the third party who is offering a free, pirated version.
Just a handful of the security risks you could be exposing your site to include malicious code, backdoors that leave you a prime target for hackers, and you may even find payment details and other sensitive data compromised.
They may seem like a convenient, budget-friendly option but when you weigh up the pros and cons, nulled plugins are never worth the risk.
You risk your SEO
A huge issue that nulled themes and plugins can create is also the drawback that many WordPress users aren’t aware of. While not every nulled theme or plugin will send your SEO plummeting, this is a common enough occurrence that it’s something we believe all site owners should know about.
It all comes back to not being aware of what code your plugin or theme really contains. Have spam links or harmful redirects been added to the code? What about those mysterious scripts we mentioned earlier? Even if they aren’t obvious in the day-to-day running of your site, nothing gets past search engines and you may find your SEO impact dropping as a result of whatever nasties your nulled resource contains. The worst case scenario? You could find search engines refusing to index your site at all!
To ensure your site is using only the most robust, high-performing and secure WordPress themes and plugins, we recommend choosing resources created by trusted WordPress authors. There are some great resources out there discussing how you can be sure a plugin is reliable before you install it on your site, and this Torque article is a great starting point.