Did you know that over 1 million WordPress sites were hacked in 2021, with 90% involving outdated or vulnerable plugins? Keeping your WordPress website up-to-date may seem like a low priority amidst the whirlwind of running a business. But overlooking those pending updates can put your site at serious risk.
Outdated plugins and themes open dangerous vulnerabilities that can lead to website crashes, data breaches, and even site hacks. Yet research shows approximately 81% of WordPress websites run outdated plugins.
Don't let your website become part of this statistic. In this article, we’ll uncover the hidden dangers of outdated WordPress plugins and themes, and how keeping your site updated can protect your business.
The Threats Lurking in Outdated Software
Outdated WordPress plugins and themes can pose multiple threats to your website:
Vulnerabilities and Security Risks
Like aging infrastructure, outdated software contains vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Sites running outdated WordPress plugins are 2.5 times more likely to get hacked. These vulnerabilities allow attackers to gain access, steal sensitive data, and even take control of your site. The consequences can be devastating.
Bugs and Errors Causing Site Crashes
Outdated plugins and themes often contain unpatched bugs and errors. These can cause random glitches, conflicts, and crashes that disrupt your site’s performance.
Nothing frustrates customers more than an unreliable website. Site crashes directly impact user experience and undermine trust in your business. In fact, 44% of online shoppers will abandon a site after just one failed visit.
As WordPress releases new versions, outdated plugins and themes may no longer function properly. This can break key site features and plugins.
Compatibility issues can also slow down your site and cause front-end errors that appear to your visitors. These ongoing technical headaches quickly become a nightmare. Just ask anyone who upgraded WordPress only to have their site plagued with “could not connect to database” errors.
Missing Out on New Features and Improvements
By failing to update your plugins and themes, you’re missing out on all the latest features, enhancements, and performance optimizations.
Sticking with outdated software means your site remains stagnant while others are reaping the benefits of new innovations. This can negatively impact site functionality, speed, and user experience.
For example, failing to update your e-commerce plugins could mean missing out on crucial new payment gateways, security enhancements, or checkout features that your competitors leverage. This directly hurts your revenue potential.
Poor Performance and Slow Page Load Times
Research shows that a 1-second delay in page load time can cause a 7% reduction in conversions. Outdated software tends to create performance drags that slow down your site.
Sluggish load times frustrate visitors, hurting your traffic, rankings, and revenue. Keeping your plugins and themes updated is key to maintaining speed and performance.
Negative SEO and User Experience Impact
From broken images to display issues, outdated plugins and themes can introduce all sorts of problems that degrade user experience. Poor user experience has a direct negative impact on conversions, revenue, and long-term growth.
Outdated software can also hurt your SEO rankings by slowing down your site speed or causing indexing errors, limiting your visibility and reach. One study found sites that load in 5 seconds (vs 19 seconds) increase their rankings by up to 38 positions.
Increased Maintenance and Troubleshooting
The longer you let your software remain outdated, the more issues you’ll encounter. This leads to increased maintenance, troubleshooting costs, and emergency patching.
Rather than waiting for things to break, staying updated proactively reduces headaches down the road. The cost of being reactive is always higher, as anyone who's paid for emergency weekend maintenance can attest.
How to Identify Outdated Plugins and Themes: A Checklist
Wondering if your WordPress site is running outdated software? Here's a step-by-step checklist to identify outdated plugins and themes:
✅ Step 1: Check the Admin Dashboard for notices about available updates.
✅ Step 2: Visit Plugins > Installed Plugins and check for any plugins flagged as having updates.
✅ Step 3: Go to Appearance > Themes and check if your theme has any available updates.
✅ Step 4: Monitor your site for any glitches, crashes, or compatibility issues that signal outdated software.
✅ Step 5: Use a monitoring tool to check your site speed and performance for problems.
✅ Step 6: Run a security scan to uncover any vulnerabilities that may stem from outdated code.
✅ Step 7: Check when you last updated your plugins and themes. Anything over 6 months merits close inspection.
Here are some telltale signs your site may be running outdated software:
- Random glitches and errors, especially after WordPress or plugin updates
- Compatibility issues and conflicts between plugins/theme and WordPress core
- Sluggish performance and long load times
- Problems importing/exporting content
- Being unable to update plugins or themes normally
Addressing these red flags quickly can save you a lot of headaches down the road.
Best Practices for Keeping Software Updated
Now that you know the dangers of outdated plugins and themes, here are some tips to keep your site updated:
- E-commerce sites should enable one-click updates to immediately install important security patches and compatibility fixes. Sluggish carts and checkout flows hurt sales.
- Membership sites should test major version updates on a staging site first. You want to ensure member login, restricted content access, and other core functionality remain intact before updating your live site.
- Service-based businesses should consider managed WordPress hosting (hosting is included in our maintenance plans). Let the experts handle your software updates so you can focus on delivering great service to clients.
- All sites should enable automatic background updates for easy, worry-free updating. Subscribe to update alerts to stay on top of new releases. And monitor your site health regularly to catch any issues quickly.
The key is finding a routine that fits your business needs and sticking to it. Don't let updates pile up - address them promptly to avoid problems down the road.
The True Cost of Outdated Software
What happens if you ignore those pending updates? For starters, the risks and costs begin piling up:
- Loss of customers - Between crashes locking out customers to slow load times driving them away, failing to update can directly hurt your revenue. Each site crash can result in up to a 4.8% loss in monthly traffic.
- Damage to your brand’s reputation - Bugs, downtime, and even data breaches resulting from outdated software can tarnish your professional image. Your reputation is your most valuable asset, so it's not worth the gamble.
- Emergency troubleshooting - Waiting until something breaks to update usually means emergency patching and troubleshooting. And when you have to shell out for a reputable website developer, this gets expensive fast.
- Increased security risks - The longer you delay updates, the more vulnerabilities hackers can exploit to steal data and take control of your site. Even a minor breach can have years-long business impacts.
- Penalties for non-compliance - Depending on your business, running outdated software can sometimes violate compliance standards for security and data protection, which can lead to hefty penalties.
Why Does This Matter to Small Business Owners?
As a small business owner, you simply can’t afford the costs and risks associated with outdated WordPress software. The headaches of emergency maintenance, lost business, and security threats can seriously jeopardize your business.
Staying updated may feel like less of a priority amidst all your other responsibilities. But modernizing your website through prompt updates is one of the most effective investments you can make.
Don't wait until disaster strikes to take action. Be proactive now, and avoid the disastrous consequences of outdated plugins and themes.
Maintain a Modern, Secure Website
At Your WP Guy, we recognize the headaches that come with keeping a WordPress site updated. That's why we handle these critical updates for you, along with security protections, performance optimization, and backups.
With us as your partner, you can rest assured your website is always up-to-date and running smoothly. No more worrying about forgotten updates or emergency troubleshooting. Just focus on your business, while we focus on your website.
Schedule a discovery call with us today to keep your website modern, secure, and ready to drive business growth. We can't wait to show you what a hassle-free, optimized WordPress website looks like!
The Hidden Dangers of Outdated Plugins and Themes: How Your WordPress Website Could Be at Risk Summary
- Outdated WordPress plugins and themes open dangerous security vulnerabilities and risks.
- Failing to update software leads to site crashes, compatibility issues, sluggish performance, and negative SEO/UX impact.
- Regularly check your WordPress dashboard, Plugins, and Themes pages for available updates.
- Enable automatic background updates and monitor site health to proactively stay up-to-date.
- The costs of outdated software include lost customers, reputational damage, troubleshooting expenses, and compliance violations.