In this article, we’ll share and explore the key points and things to look at to choose trustworthy plugins for your WordPress website. While WordPress is the most-used content management system (CMS) on the planet, it’s also the most vulnerable. The latest statistics show that WordPress now powers over 34% of the internet. This means that roughly one in four websites is run on this CMS.
How to Choose Trustworthy Plugins for WordPress
But having a website powered by WordPress also means that you are subject to some vulnerabilities. Specifically, BuildThis reports that 83% of the more than 34,000 websites infected in 2017 used WordPress. One of the top reasons (39.3%) that hackers gained access to WordPress sites was due to out-of-date installations. But the second-biggest source of vulnerabilities in WordPress is plugins.
This is why you need to be careful when choosing which plug-in to install on your WordPress site. Here are some tips for selecting the most trustworthy plugins so that you can avoid these common vulnerability issues.
Make Sure It Meets Your Needs
You’ll likely get a long list of results for any of these searches, but you want to make sure that the plugin you choose meets your needs. For example, if you are looking for website security plugins with scanning and backups, there are several choices (Jetpack, Sucuri, iThemes Security), but not all results provide these features.
Search by Average Ratings
Just as with most other online sites, you can find plugins that are popular by searching for ones that have top ratings. Obviously, plugins with average ratings of three stars and below might want to get scratched off of your list.
When you click on the Reviews section of a plugin, you can see the ratings. This is only one part of the story, however. A plugin with one 5-star rating isn’t likely as good as one that has thousands of ratings at 4-stars or higher.
Check the Number of Installs
One of the biggest indicators that a WordPress plugin is legitimate is if it has a large number of users. When you’re on the main page of the plugin (or in the search results) on WordPress.org, you’ll see something that says “Active Installs.” The number next to that is the total number of WordPress sites that have installed and are using this plugin.
While 1,000 sounds like a large number, it’s not in this case. Ideally, you want to find plugins that have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of active installs. Granted, every new plugin needs to start somewhere, but you don’t necessarily need to be a guinea pig for something that could ruin your website and cost you money.
Read Some User Reviews
Most consumers today want to know about the experiences of their peers before they make a decision – even about a free plugin. Even if a plugin has over 1 million active installs, it might still have some issues that you’ll want to know about before you connect it to your website.
From the plugin’s page, click on the second tab, called “Reviews.” From there, you can scroll down and read reviews of other users. To get a good picture of what the plugin can do and some potential snags, read both 5-star and some 1-star reviews to see if there are any common themes.
Compatibility and Updates Choose Trustworthy WordPress Plugins
First, if a plugin isn’t compatible with your version of WordPress (which should be the latest), you can skip it. Plugins that don’t get regular updates from their developers are more likely to have vulnerability issues. This compatibility information is on the main page (Description tab) of the plugin on WordPress.org.
If you install and activate a plugin that isn’t compatible with your version of WordPress, you risk that plugin not doing what it was supposed to do, crashing your website, and even causing damage that you can’t repair. If you’re not sure which version of WordPress you’re currently running, check the Dashboard of your site.
Seeing the date of the last update can also be encouraging. If you’re looking to install a plugin, and it was just updated a few days or weeks ago, this is a good sign. It tells you that the developer is continuing to make improvements and cares about their product. You can infer that they will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Choose Trustworthy WordPress Plugins: Review the Changelog
In addition to checking out the date of the last update for a plugin, you can go back through the history of all of its updates. The “Changelog” tab will show you what the developer has done with the plugin, with dates, since it was first released. There might be some bug fixes as well as additional features added to the plugin. Go through this list to review the progress and determine whether it is something that you trust.
See If It Offers Support & Documentation
A feature-rich plugin isn’t going to do you much good if you can’t figure out how to install it or make it do what you want on your site. Some plugins are complicated!
Review the plugin developer’s support history as well as what sort of documentation they provide. Are there instructions for installing and configuring the plugin? Is there a troubleshooting guide? How quickly do they respond to support requests?
Search WordPress-related Websites & Forums
If you’re not sure about the trustworthiness of a particular plugin, look for independent reviews and analyses online. Just like when you are looking for a WordPress hosting, you can go through trusted review sites such as Trustpilot or HostScore to look for comments.
You can also search through WordPress forums or Google the name of the plugin. You’ll likely find quite a few results and can read discussions. Reviews and testing result from others so that you can make a more informed decision.
Choose Trustworthy WordPress Plugins: Avoid Nulled Plugins
If there is a premium plugin that you want from a reputable developer, avoid installing a nulled version of that plugin on your site. These are pirated versions of plugins, and they often contain malicious code that can give hackers access to your website.
Further, null plugins are never updates, and you won’t get any support. There are ethical considerations, as well. The developers continue to spend resources on these programs, and they need your support.
Test the Plugin in a Controlled Environment
You can also “test” a WordPress plugin independent of your website before you commit. For example, a site like Poopy.life allows you to test anything for free. The disadvantage of this is that you can’t see how the plugin will interact with your current site. The theme, and content. Alternatively, you could create an exact copy of your website to use as a testing ground. For any number of things – including plugins.
There are over 50,000 WordPress plugins available in their library, as such, choosing the right WordPress plugins involves some consideration and research. But the consequences of choosing the wrong plugins can be disastrous. It makes sense to take the time to find the right tool that is going to enhance the user experience. While not compromising your site’s performance or security.