7 Reasons to Avoid Nulled Themes and Plugins for WordPress
WordPress is home to thousands of premium plugins and themes, and at some point, you’ve probably tried to see if you can get them for free. During that search, you probably learned about nulled WordPress plugins and themes.
These are premium themes that have been modified and you can use them for free. And if this sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. These plugins lack the features, support, and security integrity that the originals contain.
Thus, using them can be detrimental to running your website. Despite this, they have actually become more popular than ever, and many websites are running into problems that they are not aware of before installing.
And as the WordPress space has grown, so too has the accessibility for these tools. It’s quite simple to find them in a Google search. As a result, many beginners suffer from installing one.
For this reason, I am going to share the top reasons why you shouldn’t use nulled themes and plugins in WordPress.
What Are Nulled Themes And Plugins In WordPress?
A Nulled theme or plugin in WordPress is a pirated copy of a premium plugin or theme. This pirated copy is modified to remove all of the official brandings and distributed for free, or at a significantly reduced price.
Now, if you are familiar with other pirated items, you should know they are illegal. That’s actually not the case here (in some cases).
You see, there’s a loophole that makes them legal (kind of). Most plugins and themes use the General Public License (GPL), which permits free and unrestricted distribution. This makes it okay to alter a plugin and redistribute it.
For this reason, the pirates will simply remove the trademarked material, add their own, and give them away or sell them to their own customers.
So, while you won’t get into any legal trouble by using these (some of the time), it doesn’t actually mean it’s a good idea for a variety of reasons.
1. They Are A Security Risk That Can Be Hard to Catch
Plugins and themes are constantly updated to remove security vulnerabilities and those updates are not available for pirated versions. That means from the point the plugin was pirated, you could be using a version with a severe vulnerability.
While this is serious on its own, there’s actually a far worse reason. Pirates often intentionally include malware within the code.
As I mentioned earlier, if a deal is too good to be true, then it probably is. And getting premium plugins for free is a textbook example. These pirates distribute it in hopes of gaining access to the websites that use it.
Because these files are part of the plugin or theme you are installing, malware scanners can fail to actually pick them up. This malware can do just about anything from stealing data to redirecting users to a malicious website.
Of course, the malware sometimes isn’t designed for the actual website hosting it. Instead, it distributes that malware to the visitors, which can end any chance of your website becoming successful.
For this reason, many websites remain ignorant of the fact that they have a malware infection. Usually, it takes a number of complaints from actual users to make them aware of the problem.
By that point, you’ve already done serious damage to your brand. Even if you fix the security breach, you won’t gain back a user’s trust.
2. They Can Seriously Impact Your SEO
If there’s one thing every website has in common, it’s trying to climb the search rankings by improving SEO.
This takes months or even years to accomplish, and installing one of these plugins can undo all of that work in a matter of days.
Remember how I mentioned that these plugins may distribute malware to visitors or redirect them to malicious websites? Well, that’s not just bad for their computer’s health.
Google as well as every other search engine does not like that. If your website has anything to do with malware, the search engine will delist your site from the results page.
This is a death sentence for any website as it completely unranks your site, which removes the chance of getting clicks organically.
Of course, sometimes, the links they include won’t be malicious. Instead, they will be very low-quality websites. And if you have links to low-quality websites, well, Google thinks your website is also low-quality by association.
In either case, your SEO performance will suffer greatly.
3. Nulled WordPress Plugins & Themes Don’t Get Updates
Unlike the official plugins, their nulled counterparts will not receive regular updates.
This means your website will miss out on bug fixes, improvements to existing features, and even new features altogether. This can also lead to security vulnerabilities that we touched on earlier.
Simply put, when you install a nulled plugin in WordPress, it is basically frozen the day it was pirated. And this is not just an inconvenience, it can be devastating.
You see, many plugins need to update to work with the latest WordPress core files or even other plugins. Failure to do so may make things stop working or brick your website entirely.
The same is true for nulled WordPress themes.
Now, there are some websites that do intentionally use older versions of WordPress. In those cases, this becomes less of an issue, but it is not recommended to create and maintain a website on older versions of WordPress.
Bottom line, your website will eventually stop working if you continue to update other elements of it, but fail to update a theme or plugin.
4. They Can Still Cause Legal Issues
While nulled plugins and themes are legal thanks to the licensing loophole, in some cases, you can still be affected by legal trouble for using them.
It all depends on the plugin you are using. You see plugin and theme developers have gotten very smart and have other ways of protecting their products from being distributed for free under the GPL loophole.
And that is copyrighted code.
You see, the license you buy actually grants you permission to use this code, but doesn’t give the person you distribute it with that permission.
Thus, it is a violation of copyright laws. If these developers choose, they can legally go after your website.
This also applies to copyrighted images and logos, which is actually the main reason why these plugins have to be heavily modified as they need to replace just about every image in the plugin or theme.
As you can imagine, this is a real headache that will cost you far more than any plugin or theme would. In the worst-case scenario, your entire website could be shut down.
Not to mention any legal fees and fines that could arise depending on your location.
5. You Lose Access to All Support Options
One of the biggest advantages of purchasing a premium plugin or theme is gaining access to support.
In many cases, the plugin developers will answer just about any question you could have and even provide detailed code to get things working exactly as you want them.
That’s not the case with nulled themes or plugins.
In fact, you even lose access to the documentation that explains how to use the plugin in the first place in many instances.
While you may think you can use other online resources to figure things out, the truth is it’s a lot more work to do so. The information may just not exist in a free form. Or at the very least, you’ll spend hours searching.
It’s important to realize that even if you find these resources online for free, the nulled version is different.
Most premium plugins and themes consist of hundreds if not thousands of lines of code. These pirates have to modify it to remove custom branding, and potentially insert other undesirable code.
Not to mention you won’t know what version you have. The plugin or theme doesn’t get updates, so the latest documentation may not even work for your needs. You would need to locate the document for the exact version you are using.
Ultimately, it’s really not worth the effort to work in the dark like that.
6. The Privacy of Your Website is Compromised
While this is quite similar to security, privacy has become a big enough concern to make its own point.
You see, hackers don’t need to take control of a website to steal info. Certain malware can copy user data and send it offsite without being detected.
This means someone could be stealing your customer’s information.
Sometimes, this can be benign like stealing their email address and signing them up for email newsletters. Annoying, but not exactly the end of the world.
However, what about their home address, credit card info, or social security number?
Things can get bad really quickly depending on what kind of information you collect. This can lead to identity theft and chargebacks, which can actually ruin someone’s life.
And that has its own set of legal repercussions for your website.
If an investigation is carried out and your website was found to purposely use pirated versions of software that contained malware, well, you can expect fines that will end any small business.
The laws around data breaches have only become stricter over the years, thus, your website needs to exercise the utmost caution when you collect user data. It’s also a violation of the GDPR if your company does not.
7. Most Plugin & Theme Developers Are Not Big Businesses
Most people won’t bat an eye when someone pirates a product from a billion-dollar industry. And while that doesn’t make it right, you can see where they are coming from.
However, things are different in the WordPress space.
Many plugins and themes start off as passion projects that developers decide to put into the directory. From there, the project grows and they begin monetizing it out of necessity.
The truth is, it takes time to maintain and improve plugins and themes, and developers need to eat.
If it is not financially viable to maintain a plugin, it is often abandoned. Pirating some of these tools only accelerates the problem and can seriously impact the space when a quality tool disappears forever.
This behavior also discourages developers from ever creating a tool in the first place. Think about it, would you ever spend time making tools that you know will just be stolen? Probably not, and that stifles creativity for the platform as a whole.
Pirating doesn’t just hurt plugin and theme developers but also impacts regular users like you and me.
Is It Actually Worth Using Nulled Plugins and Themes in WordPress?
When you look at all of the negatives associated with using null tools in WordPress, there’s no way it is worth the trouble.
The truth is WordPress has a free alternative plugin for nearly everything on the platform. And those free tools are better options because they give you access to support, updates, and security without risking your SEO.
You can also build a website with a clear conscience and not worry about any legal ramifications.
Let’s take a moment to actually discuss the price because the truth is, these tools are not all that expensive in the grand scheme of things.
While there are certainly some examples of bad pricing, for the most part, you’ll buy a premium theme for $30 to $50 as a one-time fee. That’s really not all that much.
Now, plugins are a bit different.
These tools, often have yearly licenses that can cost you a lot, or very little, it really depends on the tool. That said, these are considered business expenses you can write off, and often don’t impact a site’s profitability.
Most website owners understand this concept. It is generally newer developers trying to save a buck that ends up falling into null traps.
Are Premium Plugins Better Than Free Plugins?
It’s no secret that many premium plugins offer robust free plugins users can install at any time. This really raises the question:
Are premium plugins really better than their free counterpart?
In all honesty, yes, but not by a large margin. They include more features and include access to quicker support options. However, in many cases, sometimes the support options are the only thing you get with a Pro version of a plugin.
Alternatively, sometimes the base plugin is completely free and fully functional. The only difference is that you can install premium add-ons. In these cases, the free plugin is usually more than enough for most sites.
Of course, there are full premium plugins with no free version. Yet, if you look at alternatives, you should find a dozen free options to choose from. With this in mind, let’s get back to the question.
Generally speaking, premium plugins are built better, provide better service, and contain more features. Thus, while they are better, in many cases, the increases are negligible between free and premium plugins.
Therefore, it’s really not worth taking a risk with the nulled version of the plugin for marginal improvements over a free version.
Do Websites Get Away With Using Nulled Plugins And Themes?
So, maybe you’ve read all of this and still plan on using a nulled plugin or theme. You might be wondering if you will get away with it.
Well, to be honest, it depends on the size of your website.
Let’s face it, taking legal action, even if you are sure to win in court, is expensive. Even if a company has the resources, it’s just not worth going through the hassle for an individual or small website.
That’s why many companies don’t go after every person that installs their software illegally. Instead, they choose their battles and take legal action where it will have the maximum effect, and this isn’t any different.
Ultimately, small to mid-size developers don’t have the resources to battle every website that uses a nulled version of their tool.
Instead, many of these developers keep note of any websites that do partake in these nulled tools (that they become aware of) and document it. If the website ever becomes larger, it then becomes more reasonable to take legal action against the site’s owner.
Thus, most null users can get away with using it, but it does eventually catch up if the website ever does find success.
Don’t Use Nulled Plugins And Themes in WordPress
As you can see from the long list of reasons why nulled plugins and themes are bad, you shouldn’t use them. Instead, using a free version of the plugin or a similar alternative is a much better choice.
Even just paying for the plugin is a better option. It is considered a business expense, and ultimately, most are pretty cheap. A premium plugin will not break the bank.
If it does, you probably have different problems to worry about.
Instead, focus on finding a free version of a plugin or theme that has everything you need. When your website is more financially secure, you can upgrade to get all of the bells and whistles.
The risks of using nulled plugins and themes in WordPress far outweigh the benefits.
Do you feel premium plugins are priced fairly? Have you had any bad experiences using a nulled plugin or theme?