How to Figure Out Which WordPress Plugins to Avoid

5 April 2021Ashley Maxwell8 min read

We can’t offer you every piece of advice you will ever need to avoid nefarious or poor quality plugins. No matter how many points we cover, there will always be something new that we haven’t covered. Yet, thanks to our years of experience dealing with WordPress plugins, we have narrowed our advice down to what are probably the most salient points. Here is how you figure out which WordPress Plugins to Avoid.

Free Plugins Asking You To Subscribe

They offer no indication that you have to sign up for anything. You download them, install them, and suddenly you need a paid or free subscription. And, you can be guaranteed that the free subscription is sub-par and you need to upgrade it with an annual subscription.

Wordpress Plugins Are Not Free

As you can see from the image above, You Cannot Rely on Negative Review Ratings because it is easy to get a high review rating for a terrible plugin. It wouldn’t be so bad if the companies responsible were upfront about the paid subscription, but it is very frustrating when said plugins drop it out of the blue, and you realise you just completely wasted your time. Plus, with spam groups, it is very easy for plugins to have very high review ratings on plugin stores, while still being nothing more than bait-and-switch subscription services.

Plugins That Plant Themselves In Your Web Code and Stay There No Matter What

Yes, this still happens even today, and yes, even the best plugin stores still have plugins that play this sleazy card. They install fine, but they leave parts of themselves behind on your server after you uninstall. The only way you can completely remove them (unless you have your website professionally cleaned) is to completely uninstall WordPress and install a fresh WordPress installation. There are even some plugins that work well when they are installed, but when they are uninstalled, they take some valuable assets with them, which essentially breaks the website once the uninstallation is complete. Plugins that are difficult to fully remove are a problem, especially for people who are not expert coders and who are not able to manually remove the code themselves.

Plugins that leave parts of themselves behind are frustrating for two reasons. Firstly, many of them still have high review ratings on plugin stores because people typically review after using and very rarely review after uninstalling. Secondly, it is not always obvious that the plugin has left a part of itself behind. It is often WordPress and coding experts that notice how the plugin has stained their perfectly installed version of WordPress. Dirty uninstallations are frowned upon by WordPress plugin stores, but they are difficult to guard against, which is how they end up on plugin stores for so long.

Openly “Not” Showing the Price

In most cases, if a plugin is free, you can download and install it right away. If it is a paid plugin, you pay, and then you can download and install it. However, there are loopholes where you can download and install the app, and it sits on your WordPress, but you cannot activate it without paying. This is a sleazy marketing tactic, and the sad fact is that it is very common and doesn’t break any rules.

Again, just like the subscription plugins mentioned earlier above, you will often have people posting negative reviews mentioning how the supposedly free plugin is not free, but the positive reviews often dwarf the negative ones. If you find yourself caught by a supposedly free plugin, please uninstall, and immediately go and leave a negative review stating how the plugin passed itself off as free when it wasn’t. Over time, thanks to people like you, enough negative reviews will form saying the same thing about the plugin being “Not-Free” that people who check the negative reviews will stop downloading the plugin.

Just Demo Trial Version

Yet another tricky marketing method is to let you download the plugin, install it, and even start using it. You think it is great, you start raving about it and post a five-star review, and then out of the blue, around ten days later, your free trial has ended. It turns out that the plugin you loved so much was just a demo, and now you have to pay if you wish to keep using it.

Demo plugins appearing to be free

Again, just like the other sleazy marketing tactics mentioned in this article, these are not the sort of thing that plugin stores consider to be a violation of the rules. Even though they are not stating outright that you have to pay, they are not rule violations. The only way they violate the rules is if they take your money without asking. Ergo, these types of sleazy marketing methods are allowed to flourish in WordPress plugin online stores.

The Pro Version is Useless

If you are going to sell somebody something, you give them all the best stuff first. People think, “Wow, if that is what they are giving away for free, imagine how good the paid stuff is.” Then, in typical fashion, people pay for the paid version, and it is nothing more than the same free plugin with a few additional features.

Again, if you read the single-star reviews, you may see repeated comments about how the pro version is useless, or how it is a mild extension of the free version. Luckily, this is the sort of marketing method that doesn’t fly for very long in plugin stores that allow user reviews. In almost every case, when somebody pays money for a plugin upgrade, and it is terrible, they rush over to whatever review platform they can find, and they start running down the plugin with all the anger they can muster. Plugins that try this marketing method are often poorly rated and rushed off the plugin stores within just two years.

Plugins That Cause Errors and Conflicts

Within certain areas, you see certain problems arise again and again. For example, if you are looking for a plugin to help you count your viewers, or plugins to perform analytic functions, you often see them conflicting with the Google analytic tools, Google ads, and so forth.

Another example is with plugins that help you place adverts on your website, you often see them conflicting with the advert providers you already have. This is especially true when you are looking for plugins that will automate advert placement on your website. One of the problems with plugins that cause errors and conflicts is that they are difficult to identify before using. This is because you have different plugins, builds and themes to other people, meaning a plugin may work great for 98 out of 100 people, but causes conflicts and errors with 2 out of 100 people. This is why you should back up your website before you download and install new plugins, especially ones that perform important functions, because you may need to restore your website back to its previous settings/state it was in prior to you downloading and installing the plugin.

Plugins That Decrease Page Speeds Dramatically

If you are familiar with the Google speed check tool, you will know just how much your plugins can affect your page rendering and loading speeds. Since page rendering and page loading affects your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), you can either keep your plugins to a minimum. Or, you can only deal with plugins that don’t have a big impact on your page speeds.

There are some plugins that are perfectly functional, but they slow your web pages down so much that it may not be worth having the plugins. There are two ways you can figure out if a plugin is slowing your website down. You can check its reviews, both on the plugin stores and on other websites to see if it slows down websites. Or, you can download it, install it, and then run a speed check with the Google tool to see if it slows your websites down.

Plugins That Are Just a Bad Idea

Without running down specific plugins, there are some that are bad at the very conceptual level. Like the plugin that creates a scary face on the screen whenever somebody presses a certain button on the website. Or, the plugin that lets you auto-adjust every meta tag on every blog post, but doesn’t have an undo button, which means a simple typo is repeated on every blog post, and you have to go through every blog post to correct the error.

There is a plugin that causes a unicorn to appear on the screen every time there are more than five seconds of inactivity, which is a nice idea for an action-packed game, but is not so amusing when you are trying to read a blog post. There is a content randomizer that mixes up the order of a news feed with the hopes that people see new stuff on repeat visits, but actually forces people to re-see the same stuff over and over again without any method for organically moving from one blog post to the next.

Plugins That Create a Pop-Up Saying “Leaving So Soon”

There are many variations of this plugin. Some say, “Leaving already,” and others say, “Before You Go…” The point is that these sorts of pop-ups are probably the most annoying on the Internet, and that includes the noisy ones that ping up with a message, and those super frustrating pop-ups that spawn whenever you first load a page.

The problem with these pop-up plugins is that they are the essence of redundant. The only people they possibly suit are people who accidentally clicked the “Back” button. But, even the people who did accidentally click the back button, they could just click the “Forwards” button to get back again.

Plugins That Offer Benefits Your Website Already Has

Without being unfair, there are times when these types of apps are helpful. For example, you can put Google Ads code into your website yourself, and you can put Ads.txt code into your website yourself, but sometimes it is just easier to download a free plugin that simplifies the process. Then there are the plugins that for some reason are able to get away with offering functions that WordPress already offers.

A typical example is the one that allows you to turn off comments on your blog posts, or that allows you to turn off pingbacks and trackbacks on your website. These are functions that WordPress offers. There are tens of WordPress spam catchers that claim they allow you to blacklist certain keywords so that spam bots are unable to attack your website, and yet the standard/base version of WordPress has this feature already built in.

Sometimes The Negative Revives Numbers Say it All

This article has covered plenty of sneaky ways that a plugin makes your life on WordPress worse. This article has offered plenty of advice on which WordPress plugins to avoid, and every snifter of advice was gold. Yet, sometimes there is low-hanging fruit, and that comes in the form of an abundance of negative reviews.

Terrible Plugin Ratings Reviews

Let’s face it, if you come across a plugin that has an overwhelming number of negative reviews, then it doesn’t even matter what the reviews say. It doesn’t even matter what the problem is. You can take the review score at face value, and keep looking. Perhaps the plugin is a bait and switch, or perhaps it drains your credit card, who knows, and who cares. If a plugin has more negative reviews than positive ones, then it’s best to avoid it and move on 9 times out of 10.

Conclusion – Always Check the One-Star Reviews

The best advice is to check the reviews on every plugin you look at, and always look over the one-star reviews. See if several of them give the same criticism. If several of the one-star reviews make the same complaint, then you can assume something is wrong. When it comes to figuring out which WordPress Plugins to Avoid, experience does help, but above all, do not be fooled by its current popularity, its high download/install numbers, or its five-star review ratings. Remember that the bad plugins survive by masquerading as good ones.