How WordPress Plugins Could Be Killing Your Website

How many plugins do you currently have on your WordPress website? Whether you have just a few, or a few dozen – it’s important that you ask yourself another question. How many do you really need? In this guide, we will cover a number of common WordPress plugins that you probably don’t need and in fact, could actually be harming your website.

Page Builder Plugins

There are many WordPress developers out there and a very wide range of skillsets. At the bottom end, it is extremely common to see a website that is built using a page builder plugin.

Page builders, such as Elementor, Divi, WP Bakery, Beaver Builder and many others, are tools allowing non-coders to build relatively professional looking websites using templates and drag and drop tools.

The upside is that almost anyone can build a website without too much of a learning curve. This is absolutely fine for personal projects and enthusiast sites etc. However problems arise if you have any intention of growing your site and increasing your search visibility. The reality is that page builders are bloated and slow. Very slow.

Each time a visitor (or Google) loads your website, there are a number of necessary resources that need to be downloaded. This includes the content, the CSS file, images and any javascript that the page needs to function. When you use a page builder, there is a huge drain on your server caused by loading unnecessary files and features that are baked into the plugin. This can vastly increase the loading time of your site leading to issues with Google’s Core Web Vitals metrics. Bad news for SEO.

Page builders were designed with enthusiastic amateurs in mind, but increasingly some agencies are using the tools to deliver quick, templated business websites at the expense of core SEO fundamentals. If your site was built using a page builder plugin, you won’t be able to remove it overnight. However if your website is more than just a personal blog or a fansite, you will see a measurable benefit from rebuilding it properly.

Image Compressors

Another set of tools used by a large number of WordPress developers are image compressor plugins, such as Smush or Imagify. These are used to reduce the filesize of images in order to reduce the amount of data required to load a page and therefore to increase page speed.

While optimising images is absolutely the correct goal, plugins are rarely the best way to approach the problem. This is for two distinct reasons. Firstly, optimising images is so easy to do that there is really no need to put the unnecessary strain on the server – images should simply be optimised before they are ever uploaded to WordPress. Secondly, the plugins do a worse job of optimising and compressing images than we are able to do ourselves.

Unfortunately there is a tendency for some SEOs to switch on a compression plugin and to think “Job done!”. This leads to a bonus third reason why you shouldn’t use image compressors: they teach us to be lazy with our SEO. This always leads to suboptimal results.

Pretty much any ‘single job’ plugin

OK, so this one’s a little broad. It’s probably important here to say that plugins aren’t inherently bad for your website. There are many well built plugins that are continuously developed and that efficiently do what they are supposed to do. Very often a plugin genuinely is the best way to accomplish a task in WordPress. The problem is that the opposite is also true.

Many plugins have no real reason to exist. That is to say that the problem they solve is already achievable within WordPress with often no, or very minimal technical knowledge required. Moreover, all plugins are essentially third parties with access to our websites, and therefore they come with an inherent security risk.

So you’re trading a very small amount of time saved, for an increased security risk and increased bloat. This could lead to slower website response speeds as well as longer loading times in the WordPress admin area.

The worst offenders here are plugins that do simple tasks like installing Google Analytics code, such as MonsterInsights among others. The problem the plugin solves is almost trivially easy to achieve for any website owner, without relying on a plugin that could stop working with any future update. This isn’t just a theoretical issue. We’ve seen a number of real-world examples where businesses have lost valuable analytics data because a plugin stopped working as it should, or a licence ran out.

Whether you look after your website yourself, or you use a developer, ask the question “Do I really need this plugin?”. Removing unnecessary plugins will lower your security risk and could seriously speed up your WordPress site, improving your visibility in search engines as a result. Not to mention removing those annoying nags to upgrade to the pro version!

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