What’s a nulled theme or nulled plugin?
Nulled plugins and themes are pirated versions of premium WordPress plugins and themes. In other words, nulled themes and plugins are not offered by the original author. Instead, they are offered by some 3rd party website that has no connection to the original author. In fact, usually developers are not even aware of the site that offers their plugin or theme.
Why would someone use a nulled plugin or nulled theme?
Usually the reason behind using a nulled software is to save money. Premium WordPress plugins and themes often seem to cost a bit too much. As a result, site owners move on and start looking for alternatives. This can lead them to nulled websites, where they can download the plugin or theme without paying.
So, nulled plugins and themes seem like a great deal. It makes people think they get a premium WordPress plugin or theme for no cost at all. They think that because there’s no upfront payment to be able to download the installer. Obtaining a paid product without spending money seems like a good deal. However, there’s a cost of using nulled plugins, even if you don’t pay that immediately.
7 reasons why you should avoid nulled plugins and themes
Nulled plugins and nulled themes give the impression of getting a paid plugin or theme for free. However, they do come with a cost, even if you won’t pay that cost immediately. Nulled plugins and themes can cause serious harm in your website.
So, you’ll pay for using any nulled product when you waste time trying to figure out what’s wrong with your site. Additionally, you can pay real money to fix the damage they’ve done to your site.
1. They cause security problems
The first issue with nulled themes and plugins is the security concern. You can’t be sure you get the exact same installer that paid users do, since you didn’t get it from the author. The 3rd party can do anything with the installer before you downloaded it. To make it more simple, you have no chance of knowing whether the installer is safe to use.
In fact, nulled plugins and themes are always modified by the 3rd party that distributes them. For example, the distributor usually modifies the plugin or theme work without license.
You might not mind having to enter the license, which you won’t have anyway. However, nulled distributors don’t stop there. In fact, many nulled plugins contain malicious code. For example, they might create a backdoor on your site, to give access to your site to the distributor. In other words, your website can get hacked because of using a nulled plugin. Cleaning up a hacked site can cost thousands of dollars.
2. They can steal private information
Apart from getting access to your website, nulled plugins can steal your site’s data. They can contain codes that “phone home” and steal the data of your users. So, the private information of anyone who registered to your site ends up at the distributor. For example, they can get their hands on email names, addresses, passwords and other data.
This is especially concerning because of certain data protection laws, such as GDPR. If your users’ data is leaked because of your site, you can face a serious lawsuit.
3. They can destroy your SEO
Having a good SEO is crucial to any website. However, Nulled plugins can destroy that by inserting malicious links to your website. Or they can redirect to spammy websites. This can highly increase your bounce rate, not to mention that Google sees these links. So, they can ruin your ranking, or in a worst case scenario, make Google blacklist your site.
In fact, in most cases you will not even notice the problem until it’s too late. Malicious codes like these usually won’t appear for administrators. So you will only notice you’re missing traffic, without knowing why.
4. There are no updates
Premium WordPress themes and plugins need a license key to update. This license key is only available for those who buy the products directly from the author. In other words, by using a nulled plugin or nulled theme, you will not have a license key. Without the key, you will not be able to update.
Why are updates so important? They can contain important fixes. For example, security patches. Or maybe compatibility codes with new WordPress and PHP versions. Using the latest WordPress, plugin and theme version can help reduce security risks. So you should always use the latest version of your theme, plugins and WordPress.
If you can’t update your theme, or a plugin, updating WordPress or PHP can cause site-breaking changes. If you can’t update a plugin you’re either forced to remove it, or to stop updating your site.
5. You’re on your own
Another aspect of premium themes and plugins is that they need a license to get support. The developers invest lots of time to develop, document and support their product. For this reason, they can only offer their help to those who purchased it from them.
If you use a nulled plugin or theme, you can’t ask the author for support. In fact, some plugins and themes make the documentation available only for their customers. So, if you don’t buy the product, you can’t even browse the documentation. You’ll need to learn the plugin or theme all by yourself, with no one to turn to.
6. They discourage innovation
Creating a fantastic plugin or beautiful theme takes lots of skill and effort. Additionally, developers always need to learn the latest technologies to improve their product. For these reasons, they deserve an income for their efforts.
By using nulled plugins and nulled themes, the developers don’t get income. If they don’t earn money from their plugin, they’ll likely abandon it. As a result, plugins and themes can disappear. This can destroy the whole WordPress ecosystem in the long run.
7. They can cause legal problems
I know what you’re thinking: why are legal problems so low in this list? Aren’t nulled plugins and themes illegal? Shouldn’t you have started with the legal issues?
In fact, usually it’s not illegal to use nulled plugins. WordPress is under the General Public License (GPL). In fact, usually the WordPress plugins and themes are under GPL as well. This means after getting the installer, people are free to run, study, change, and distribute it.
However, many themes and plugins are not fully licensed under GPL. They contain some files which are under a different license. If you don’t buy the plugin or theme from the author, you’re not authorized to have these files on your server.
Additionally, there are some hosts where it’s a breach of terms and services to use any pirated software. If the nulled plugin/theme is not fully licensed under GPL, hosting it can cause legal troubles for the host as well. Additionally, the malicious codes they contain are dangerous to the server, too.
What are the alternatives of a nulled plugin?
Nulled themes and plugins have only one thing that seems like an advantage. They don’t need upfront payment to run. It’s okay if you don’t want to spend money on a premium plugin or theme. But avoid nulled plugins and look for free plugins instead.
One of the best places to find free themes and plugins from trusted sources is WordPress.org. It has a huge list of free themes and possibly an even greater list of plugins. These plugins come directly from the author, so they won’t contain malicious code. The plugin authors have no intent on doing shady tricks like that.
Nulled plugins and themes seem appealing, because they appear to give access to paid products for free. Although you don’t need to pay to download them, they do come with a high cost. In fact, they’ll cost you money and time in the long run, because they often contain malicious codes. Cleaning up a hacked site is hundred times more expensive than a premium theme or plugin.
Ultimately, nulled plugins and nulled themes are dangerous, and you should not install them on your site. If you’re looking for a theme or plugin you can’t use without paying, check WordPress.org. You’ll find plenty of great products there for free.