7 Reasons to Avoid Nulled WordPress Themes and Plugins
One of the first choices you’ll need to make when starting a new website is choosing the theme you want to use. Apart from this, you’ll also consider some plugins that can help you with website security, performance, backups, SEO, and more. Typically, these themes and plugins are available either as free versions, with smaller feature sets, or premium versions that offer more functionality and increased support.
Because of this, you might be tempted to use nulled themes and plugins, which give you all the features at a lower cost. This could be a mistake as it could impact your site’s performance, security, and stability. So, while you could end up saving money, you could also be setting yourself up for a few headaches in the future.
With that in mind, let’s look at 7 reasons why you should avoid nulled themes and plugins.
What are Nulled WordPress Themes and Plugins?
Before looking at why you shouldn’t use nulled themes and plugins, let’s first recap what they are. By this time, you know that WordPress itself and most WordPress themes and plugins are registered under the GPL or General Public Licence. As such, they’re open-source software and anyone can obtain and change the code to their liking.
Now, the question is: If they’re open-source, why should you pay for them? The thing is, WordPress theme and plugin developers will charge a fee for their products because they take the time to develop unique features and provide extensive support for their products. Nulled WordPress themes and plugins are copies of these premium products that have been modified and then made available for free or at a far lower cost.
This is an attractive option for many that start a new business or website. Because they don’t have large amounts of money available, they’ll opt for these lower-priced or free options. And, as you’ll see below, there’re several reasons why you shouldn’t do this.
#1 Security Risk
One of the major problems with nulled themes and plugins is that you simply don’t know what the code contains. Because the developers who distribute nulled themes change the code of the original product, they can basically incorporate anything they want into the theme or plugin.
This means they can insert malicious code or malware that grants them access to your site and data, steals your customer data, or that can crash your entire site. Sometimes, they’ll also incorporate spammy links into the code that redirects your customers to malicious websites. Simply put, when using these themes and plugins, you’ll put your and your customer’s data at risk.
The problem is that, unless you’re an experienced developer with tons of time on your hands, you won’t be able to find all these issues. Sure, there is software available that can scan for malware and malicious code, but hackers and other cybercriminals are very adept at hiding their code. Ultimately, this means that you might miss something that could have disastrous consequences, not only for you but also for your website users.
#2 No Updates
If you use WordPress for your website, you’ll know that WordPress itself as well as your theme and plugins are constantly updated. For example, WordPress has major updates around twice or thrice a year, while minor updates are rolled out more frequently. You’ll generally be informed when any updates for your WordPress installation, themes, and plugins become available.
Typically, when these updates are released, updating your WordPress installation, theme, and plugins is as easy as selecting what you want to be updated and clicking a button. These updates are then installed automatically.
The simple reason for these updates is to ensure that any vulnerabilities in the code are fixed and that your website and data stay secure. In addition, these updates also introduce new features that improve stability, performance, and the user experience. So, when you don’t do these updates, you’ll increase your security risks significantly.
With a nulled theme or plugin, this isn’t possible because, to get updates from the developer, you’ll need to enter your license key, which you won’t have. In turn, this means you’ll need to install your updates manually, which involves downloading the theme or plugin again, uninstalling your current version, and reinstalling the new version. This takes a lot of time and effort.
In addition, with nulled themes and plugins, you won’t get any notifications of updates, so you’ll need to consistently check for these updates yourself, which can become quite the chore.
#3 WP Incompatibility Issues
The lack of updates mentioned above, leads to another significant issue. As we’ve said, WordPress gets constant updates to fix stability, performance, and security. Now, if you don’t update your theme or plugins, they’ll quickly become incompatible with the WordPress ecosystem. This is because, as WordPress itself updates, theme and plugin developers typically update their products to be compatible with your WordPress installation.
And here, we’re not talking about weeks or months. Your theme or plugins can become incompatible within days. For instance, if you install a nulled theme today, the legitimate developer of the theme might release a new update tomorrow. This could then hamper future WordPress updates which could not impact your site’s stability, performance, and security, but also, ultimately, break your site.
When this happens, you’ll end up with another problem. Because you’re then using a nulled theme or plugin, you won’t get any support from WordPress. As a result, you’ll likely need to install WordPress, your theme and plugins afresh and, even worse, possibly lose your website’s data.
#4 Lack of Support
We’ve already mentioned earlier that most WordPress themes and plugins are open-source software licensed under the GPL. But it isn’t as if theme and plugin developers package open-source software and sell it to customers. They incorporate their own features and functionality in these products.
More importantly, when you buy a theme or plugin from a developer, you’ll also get support from them when you run into any issues or challenges. This support can be invaluable when you want to troubleshoot any problems with your website.
However, when you use a nulled theme or plugin, you won’t get this support. Likewise, you won’t have access to official documentation like you would when you use legitimate themes and plugins. As such, when you encounter any issues, you’ll have to solve them yourself. While you might be able to find some solutions online, the likelihood of solving all these problems are slim, especially if you’re not an experienced WordPress developer. Moreover, you probably don’t have the time to solve these issues.
So, to sum up, when you use a nulled theme or plugin, you’ll get the same features and functionality as you’ll find in the legitimate versions, but you won’t have any help if disaster strikes.
#5 Negatively Impacts SEO
Let’s face it, you put your website online for your audience or customers to find it. This is where SEO comes in, as it affects how high your website features in a search engine’s search results. In other words, the better your site’s SEO, the higher it will rank.
The problem is that nulled themes and plugins can have a disastrous impact on your site’s SEO. This is because of the way search engines work when they rank sites. When doing this, search engines, like Google, use crawlers to see what your site is about, what other sites it links to, and track several other ranking factors that determine your site’s ranking.
Because nulled themes and plugins often contain spam and outbound links to malicious websites, these crawlers will pick up on this, which then impacts your site’s ranking. Not only that, these outbound links and spam can have a detrimental impact on the user experience, which also affects SEO ranking.
#6 Legal Impact
Now, considering that most themes and plugins are open-source software, you might wonder if nulled themes and plugins are illegal. Generally, with other pirated software, this will be the case, but with nulled themes and plugins, the situation is not as clear cut.
WordPress theme and plugin developers typically use a model where they incorporate both open-source and proprietary code in their product to provide the features and functionality their customers want. Their proprietary code will then not be licensed under the GPL and if anyone uses this code without permission, it would be illegal.
Conversely, if the theme or plugin does not contain any proprietary code or if the proprietary code is removed before distribution, it would not be illegal. The problem is that you won’t know if the developer of the nulled theme or plugin has removed any proprietary code.
And when you use a nulled theme or plugin that contains proprietary code, you could run into legal issues. Here, you’ll be forced to stop using the theme or plugin, or even worse, pay money to the developers and their lawyers.
#7 Discourages Innovation
WordPress theme and plugin developers spend all their time creating new features, eliminating vulnerabilities, enhancing security, and providing support for their products. In return for these unique features, functionality, and support, these developers then charge a fee to their customers.
These fees keep them in business and help them develop their products further. Now, when you use a nulled theme or plugin, you take advantage of all the features or the product, but you don’t pay anything to the developer.
So, by using nulled themes, you’ll discourage these developers from making improvements to their products and providing support to their customers. Worst-case scenario, these developers might also decide to stop offering the theme and plugin altogether or go out of business due to a lack of funding.
If You Shouldn’t Use Nulled Themes and Plugins, What are Your Options?
Now, why would you use a nulled theme or plugin? You’ll typically do this because you don’t have the funds available to invest in the paid or premium versions. This is an especially relevant consideration when you’re just starting your website or business.
So, if you shouldn’t use nulled themes or plugins, what should you use? Fortunately, you have many options available, including:
- Free versions from the developer. Most theme and plugin developers offer free versions of their products in addition to their premium versions. You can easily download these free versions from the developer’s website. While these might lack some features and support of the premium versions, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your theme or plugin will always be up to date, stable, and secure. And, as your website or business grows, you can always upgrade to the paid version.
- Free versions from WordPress’s repository. Apart from downloading your plugins or theme directly from the developers’ website, you’ll also find a wealth of free themes and plugins from the official WordPress repository. These themes and plugins are all vetted by the WordPress team to ensure that they’re safe, secure, and functional.
- Free versions from online sources. Another option is to find recommendations from reputable WordPress blogs. On these sites, you’ll find lots of free theme and plugin options you can use for your site. And, as mentioned earlier, as your business grows, you can always upgrade to paid versions later.
There you go, now you know why you shouldn’t use nulled WordPress themes and plugins. By avoiding these themes and plugins, you’ll ensure that your WordPress website stays secure, stable, performant, and that you’ll deliver a stellar user experience.
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