We all know WordPress, the software, is free and great for beginners, hobby bloggers, and even serious businesses. The platform is supplemented by hundreds and thousands of plugins, themes, and extensions built by developers from around the globe. There are thousands of free plugins and themes on WordPress, that can easily be used as alternatives to the pricey versions. This makes the life of many website owners easy!
But here’s the thing, from time to time, even the average non-tech guy needs to run premium (paid) plugins to get those extra benefits and functions for their site. A good number of users opt to run these premium solutions nulled, i.e. free software from a non-verified source. This, however, is highly discouraged because it costs your site a lot more than it gives back.
Note: This article is not directed against the use of nulled software for trial purposes. Rather it’s more of a word of caution with respect to running non-licensed plugins taken down from unverified sites on live sites.
Consider the motives of nulled software providers
Before we delve into the consequences for users using pirated versions, let's consider what nulled hosts are obtaining from distributing paid plugins freely. Nulled plugins and themes are, for the vast majority of times, given out by individuals who cannot be identified through unsecured sites. The sites where they allow you to download free premium WordPress plugins and themes are for the most part unprofessional or broken. And even if it is a popular website, you cannot specifically identify the individuals running it because nulled providers simply do no work like normal businesses.
These anonymous providers tend to inject codes and scripts in the nulled versions. When you use these on your site, these codes infect your files covertly. Unknown to you, the provider has probably also injected scripts and codes to run his own ads on your site. Or fill it with spam links, pop ups, banners that – all of which can cause your site to freeze or crash suddenly. It also makes the site incredibly annoying and slow for visitors who may quickly become disinterested and leave. Thus increasing your bounce rate.
In addition, these providers can even steal your personal data like names, IDs email address, and payment information. Thus, filling your inbox with spam mails, hijacking your site or stealing your money. Again, these people are difficulty to track down with names or locations, so if you want to charge them or file a case, it would probably be impossible.
Now let's get into details about why we suggest users to abandon using pirated WordPress nulled solutions:
You're precluded from having a valid license
When you forego paying for a premium plugin or theme you don't get to have a valid and unique license key. This essentially also makes you an unethical user of that solution because you're not listed as a verified customer in that company's registrar. Since you did not purchase it from the authentic website or from the developer of the plugin/theme, your contact and details are not with the company. Which also means the company has no register and track of you. You become an unverified user consuming a copyrighted product unlawfully.
You don't receive updates of the software
Active developers of WordPress themes and plugins regularly release updated versions which improve the performance and operation of your site. With each release comes a variety of developments: bug fixes, tweaks, security patches, and new features.
But when you install a nulled theme or plugin in your WordPress site, you forsake this extremely essential service that is available to licensed premium users. Consequently, as a non-verified customer with outdated plugins, you will end up with a buggy and insecure website that will break down anytime.
Secondly, WordPress itself releases updated versions of its core platform. For best performance, you should always run the latest versions of WordPress. Similarly important is ensuring that the plugins, themes, and extensions you're using are also compatible with the latest version.
If you only update your WordPress core but keep using nulled versions, it still wouldn't help if your plugins and themes remain outdated and incompatible with the WordPress core. Consequently, your website may start malfunctioning or even break down.
If you're running a marketplace, for instance, it becomes absolutely essential, for this reason, to keep your WordPress store updated. Keeping WordPress, your plugins and themes updated ensures that your site loads faster, stays free of bugs, and secured.
No access to new features
When you're opted out from automatic updates, you also don't get access to all the new features and functions from the developer. The new features can add more functionalities to your website, augment your performance, and bring you more traffic and sales. These are things which you wouldn't even know have been released unless you subscribed to their newsletter or blog.
Makes your site unsecured and vulnerable
When we start a website or business, our first concern is to set it up right so that visitors can navigate easily and be attracted enough to spend time on the site. But what happens if your users are unable to smoothly browse through your site? What if it crashes every few seconds? And what if the user is constantly bombarded with unwanted obstructions, annoying pop-ups, that hinder him from using the site?
That's exactly what happens when you run a WordPress site with nulled plugins and themes.
Why does this happen? Nulled software often comes with malicious codes and scripts injected into them, which undoubtedly affect the proper functioning of your website. These harmful codes and scripts are also known to spread across the site through files in hidden and mysterious ways that are very difficult to catch, detect, and resolve for the amateur person. Even an expert would charge a hell lot of your time and money to clean up infected files and fix these dangerous attacks.
Using pirated plugins and themes also makes your site vulnerable to attacks from hackers and malware. Since you don't get updates of the new releases, the pirated product is bound to become buggy and outdated. This causes your site to be buggy as well and susceptible to malicious attacks.
Support is not available
Premium plugins often come with a lot of features and settings that can be difficult to configure for the average user. For many pro plugins, documentation and tutorials are only be available for licensed users. Free 24/7 support from dedicated customer representatives by the developer's company is available to valid licensed users. Though free version users are eligible to get some amount of support through tickets and email, nulled plugin users are left stranded from getting assisted because they don't have a valid license proving ownership of the plugin.
So if you're running nulled versions, you're left on your own. You won't be eligible to seek out the developers when you need help.
What can be worse than this! And if you're thinking about seeking assistance from elsewhere, it might cost you time, energy, and let's not forget, money as well. If the outsider you're seeking is not experienced with WordPress themes and plugins, he may even cause your site to break with wrong fixes, leaving things worse for you than better.
Let's not undermine the fact that WordPress plugins and themes developers spend a lot of time creating these products and hiring customer engineers who will provide the best possible support so you can run your website without any hindrance. These specialists create documentation, tutorials, videos, blogs, images, answer queries, requests, and honor user demands. So when you forsake going through the lawful process to use the software, you also prevent yourself from obtaining these supplementary and free services, like support.
Susceptible to attacks from malware, spyware & hackers
Since you get no updates, new features, protection or support from the developer, your WordPress site becomes extremely vulnerable at this point to attacks from viruses, malware, and worst case scenario, hackers. Nulled plugins and themes often have malicious code inside that steal information and make them available for hackers.
If you run an online marketplace or membership website, this can be deadly. These malicious codes and scripts can cause confidential information from your site to be stolen. Such as, usernames, passwords, email addresses, credit card numbers and payment data.
Loss of personal data and information
Having your customer data lost is one of the worst things that can happen. It compromises the integrity of your website and costs your business to lose its credibility. The negative effects of nulled plugins and themes are so fast and far-fetched that they are hard to detect while they're happening. And when the harm is done, it's too difficult to turn things back to normal. Stolen personal information is not only deadly for your website, but also for your business.
Your customers can easily lose faith and not trust back your business again. Customer trust is a determining factor in business and losing it costs a brand to suffer in strength and competencies. Theft of personal information brings bad reputation and can even prevent new traffic and sales. The negative effects of running nulled plugins and themes on your WordPress site can even cause your existing customers to run away.
Affects your SEO negatively
Nulled WordPress themes and plugins also bring down your SEO rankings significantly. The pirated versions have well-hidden codes that add spam links, viruses, and obtrusive pop-ups to your website and redirect users to spammy sites where their information can be hijacked. It may even cause your site to hang and crash several times while users browse. Search engines are quick to catch this and can penalize your site by lowering its search ranking or by de-indexing your site completely.
The countless hours, effort, and smartness you spent to gain a good search ranking will all be outdone by these spam links, annoying pop-ups, and crashes. It may cost you several months to recover your search ranking position. If that doesn't solve it, you may even have to create a new website.
A spammy site also makes your site look less credible for customers, causing more number of people to leave the site without purchasing or taking an action.
If you're using free premium WordPress plugins and themes unethically, that in and of itself is an offense liable to be punished under Civil, and even sometimes, Criminal Law, depending on the graveness of the circumstances. This is especially the case if the developer has copyrighted the codes of his product. Federal Law imposes serious penalties against those charged with piracy and copyright infringement which can lead to civil or criminal lawsuits.
Developers lose money
Plugins, themes, extensions and a lot more are a result of a developer's skill, talent, hard work, and education. When you use his copyrighted work unethically, you take away his credit. But there's something more than a nulled software does.
Developers spend a lot of time and money to create these solutions for the benefit of users. They create websites, hire support specialists, buy space on rent to run the company, run social media posts, ads, and a lot more to market their product. Using nulled software hurts their business and they end up losing money to those who are distributing their copyrighted work for free.
Nulled themes and plugins are disastrous for the businesses of both developers and users. It costs your website a lot more than any benefit it yields. Nulled free premium WordPress plugins and themes break your site, bring viruses, insert malicious codes and scripts, make the site slow and vulnerable to hackers and malware, hurts your SEO position, and causes you to lose data. Even developers lose business, money, and enthusiasm to continue creating innovative products.
As an invalid user without a license key, you don't get to obtain support and updated versions. So you're left with a buggy and spammy site which eventually brings down your credibility in the eyes of customers. Loss of trust in business has long-lasting negative effects which are sometimes irreparable.
Have something more to add? Let us know your thoughts in comments!