Is Jetpack a good plugin for WordPress? Believe it or not, this is a very common question and one which a lot of people will disagree with. In fact, apart from Gutenberg, this one plugin causes the most disagreement between WordPress users. But why is that?
Due to the nature of WordPress, websites built with it can become code heavy, and a code heavy site will naturally take longer to load. Most of the time these problems are caused by poorly coded plugins or other technical issues. But one plugin nearly always stands out as a plugin that causes disdain with many. That plugin is Jetpack.
What is Jetpack
Jetpack is a plugin developed by Automattic. Automattic is the company behind WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Tumblr and many more. At the head of Automattic is Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress itself. It’s a billion dollar company with hundreds of developers around the world. It’s for these reasons you can be sure that the code is of the highest quality
Jetpack itself is a unique plugin that”s very different to most other plugins. Unlike the majority off plugins that you install then make a few option changes or paste a shortcode, Jetpack requires that you first sign up to WordPress.com. This is because many of the features Jetpack offer are native to the managed WordPress.com offering. For example, you can get traffic statistics at a glance, site accelerator, social shares and much more.. The plugin is seriously feature packed and offers many upsell paid addons. So if it has so many features, why don’t people like it?
Jetpack slows your website down
Jetpack adds bloat
Jetpack is buggy
The reality is, all three common quotes, which you’ll find with very little effort online, are misconceptions which have spread through the WordPress community.
a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing
If you’ve ever heard this quote before it rings true when it comes to the Jetpack plugin. The strongest opponents of Jetpack are those who know a little about WordPress, enough to troubleshoot problems, but not enough to know how code truly works. The true reality is that Jetpack doesn’t do any of that and it’s more than likely either a conflict with another plugin or theme or bad hosting that’s the root cause of the problem.
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Where does the Jetpack misconception come from?
In short, it’s the size of the plugin and the number of options it provides is what makes people think it’s bad. When you install Jetpack it’s a large plugin. In fact, it’s nearly 8mb zipped. That’s big for a plugin. It also has a lot of options. That large code base and the number of options it has leads people to mistakenly believe that it causes bloat and will slow a site down.
The misconception also comes from virality. “I saw someone say it’s bad and someone else agreed, so it must be bad.” Most of the time these sentiments are not backed up with evidence or are written by an authority or someone who knows code. It’s usually just someone who created a blog on a budget host who has minimal if any experience and needs to point their finger anywhere but their $3/m host. These musings create a bad reputation for an otherwise great plugin.
While it can be argued that activating each option will slow a website down, the reality is the impacts should be minimal. Here’s why. Each option is like a switch. It’s either on or off. If it’s off no code will be run. If it’s on the code will run. The more code on a page technically the slower a page will be. But this isn’t always the case. Some of the options can actually improve page load times!
Another thing that the misinformed like to grab at is the increase in requests the moment the plugin is activated. In tools such as GT Metrix you may see increases in the total number of requests for a page. Typically speaking it’s a good idea to keep the number of requests to a minimum, but you can sometimes do that to your own detriment. Outside of cache and optimisation plugins, some of the options in Jetpack will result in a faster delivery of assets. This is mainly thanks to HTTP/2. I won’t get into it too much now, but the principle is that it allows for between 6 and 8 connections at a time to download your page, and take a guess at what Jetpack does? Yes, it might add 10 requests, but it can then help deliver page wide requests up to 8 times faster!
Why is Jetpack a good plugin?
- Free plans. It has free options and even on the free plan it offers incredible features that you simply have to take advantage of.
- Downtime monitoring. You’ll get alerts if your site goes offline
- Auto-update plugins. Even though this is coming in WordPress 5.5 and there are other plugins that can also handle the menial tasks, this option is already built into the free version of Jetpack.
- Brute force attack protection. Need we say more. You can never have enough security, and this is free.
- WordPress.com login. When you use Jetpack you must have at least a free WordPress.com account. Once you have this account you can use the account for logging in.
- Performance & speed. You get FREE access to the global WordPress.com CDN which can significantly increase the load times of your website
- Lazy-loading images. This too comes free and can significantly improve load times on your pages by only loading the image when it comes into view. This can offer significant improvements to page load times
- Display images in a full-screen carousel gallery. This offers an amazing gallery experience for posts. Instead of users clicking an image and opening the image as a page, this creates a beautiful carousel gallery over the existing content.
- Several composing options to improve your writing
- You can add testimonials to your website with one option.
- You can include portfolios to showcase your past projects
- Infinite Scroll. This can speed up the pagination between page 1, 2, 3 etc by loading the next set of posts when the bottom of the page comes into view. Since this uses Ajax it will only load those assets instead of a full page. this results in faster loading and fewer server requests.
- Additional widgets and display controls. You can control which post or pages a widget will display on.
- You can use the simplified WordPress.com toolbar, which I personally don’t like.
- Automatically share new posts to your social networks. This is an amazing traffic generating option.
- Sharing buttons at the end of a post
- Like button for more social signals
- Replace the default WordPress comments with the WordPress.com one which will allow users to login and comment with their WordPress.com account or a social network. These comments can also include comment likes and HTML markdown
- Allow readers to subscribe to comments and the blog for email updates when new posts are published. This is once again an effortless traffic generating option.
- Related posts. Allow Jetpack to display related posts. Usually, related posts are a resource hog as they hit the database searching for relevant posts to display that are related to the current post. Jetpack handles that for you off your site, increasing click through to more posts and time on site, and also performance
- Site stats are included out of the box. These aren’t as detailed as Google Analytics, but generally offer a great quick glance at your traffic levels and referrers among a host of other stats.
- URL shortener. You can also use the WordPress.com URL shortener. This can be handy when sharing to sites like Twitter or for link cloaking (affiliate links)
- Jetpack can also generate an XML sitemap and verify your site with search engines. While this is a nice option, I recommend using a dedicated SEO plugin such as Yoast instead.
Those free options are quite good and offer enough reasons to use it. But you can extend these options with a paid upgrade. The paid version of Jetpack includes
- Backups and security scanning. Protect your site from attacks, infections and catastrophe in the event that something goes wrong.
- Host videos. Yes, you can host your videos on your own site, but there are a million reasons not to and about one reason you should. You can also use a site like Youtube, but then you’re competing with Youtube for traffic for your own videos. Take a guess who will win that one. With this paid option you can be the sole place for the video, and if it’s genuinely unique it can prove to be a great source for traffic.
- Jetpack search. Big sites use a lot of resources for their search. In fact, a complicated search term on a large site run multiple times in quick succession can take a site down. With Jetpack search they handle it for you, improving overall performance and protecting your site from slow search results
- Ads. You can join their ad network and run ads from the WordPress ad network across your website. There are reports that the ads can generate fantastic revenue, but my personal experience was far from that. Still a nice option for blogs rejected or blocked from Adsense
- Additional SEO tools. The paid version offers more SEO tools to help you rank, but I still prefer dedicated SEO plugins
- Google Analytics connection. This is included, but not necessary as other plugins exist that can do this for free
In addition to all of those features, you can also download a=the WordPress.com app for iOS and Android. The app includes stats and most other Jetpack options but also allows you to create posts and pages from your mobile.