Pros, cons and secrets of Jetpack plugin for WordPress sites

Plugins are the cause of many problems in WordPress and they have benefits, drawbacks and even secrets

There are people that say the Jetpack plugin for WordPress is a fantastic tool with great features, but others tell you to avoid it. Is it good or evil? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Jetpack plugin for WordPress best and worst features. How to optimise it, how to live without it.

What is Jetpack?

Jetpack is a plugin for WordPress that is designed to provide a wide range of functions. In fact, there are currently over 35, although to access them all you would need to pay for the Personal, Premium or Pro version. However, even in the free version there around 20 functions. Go to the Jetpack site for a full list of features in each version.

If you have a wordpress.com website then Jetpack is built in but it has fewer controls than with self-hosted sites.

Some web hosting companies include a set of plugins with new self-hosted WordPress installations and Jetpack may be included by default. If you don’t have Jetpack, check your plugins, it can be added from the Plugins section of WordPress.

If you search for it you will find that it has around one million active installations and around a 4-star rating. It sounds like a great plugin and in some ways it is, but in other ways it isn’t. It is complicated and there are pros and cons that you need to be aware of.

Jetpack best features

The large number of functions in one single plugin is one of Jetpack’s best features. If you were to replace every function with a separate plugin you would probably need to find and install and maintain 20 or more plugins. With Jetpack you only need to install and update one.

Almost everything you need to get started with a WordPress website or blog is included and there is no need to go looking for plugins. Some of the features are not just very useful, but are essential.

The website visitor statistics on the WordPress dashboard is excellent and you can click through to see even more statistics. This is so useful and it is one of my favourite features.

Jetpack shows visitor numbers on the WordPress dashboard

Simplicity is a strong point with Jetpack and some features are simple on/off switches and when features need configuration, it is often just a few basic options to choose from or set. Jetpack is great for non-technical people.

For example, it is essential that you include Open Graph meta tags in the posts on your site. These provide SEO information for search engines like Google and Bing, and when sharing links to posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social sites.

Enable one of Jetpack’s modules and it does this automatically, with nothing for you to configure or worry about. It just works, which is great for non-technical people.

It is unlikely that you will need all of the 35+ functions in Jetpack but there are bound to be several that you will find useful on your site. There is a lot to like in Jetpack.

Jetpack worst features

Jetpack is unusual because it is more like a collection of plugins than a single one. Imagine having 35 plugins installed in your WordPress site, but only using 5 or 10. That is the situation with Jetpack.

It is big, there is a lot of code, and you probably are not using even half the functions the plugin provides. What is wrong with that? Having lots of modules enabled slows down your website. It’s like having 20 or more plugins installed that you are not even using. It drags down the performance, which is critical for visitors, search and social shares.

Some people find that Jetpack causes problems and clashes with other things in their website and Jetpack even has a whole page on the plugin’s website dedicated to things it is incompatible with. See Jetpack known issues. There are many reasons why one plugin might clash with another plugin, but Jetpack has quite a few clashes with popular plugins.

One thing you should be aware of when using Jetpack is that the functions it provides may not always be the best in class. For features where there is an alternative plugin, the alternative may be better.

For example, Jetpack provides SEO functions and adds Open Graph tags to posts, but it does not have anywhere near the number of features of Yoast or All-in-One SEO plugins.

It has performance features to speed up your website, but it does not boost the performance as much as a caching plugin like WP Fastest Cache for instance.

It has security features, but they are not as comprehensive as Wordfence.

More examples could be listed, but you get the idea. Some Jetpack functions are very basic and they do not offer the best that is available.

Jetpack secret features

If you have Jetpack installed on your WordPress website, you should take a close look at it. Disabling modules you are not using will speed up your website and may eliminate some problems too.

Instead of using the standard interface that you see in WordPress, you should use the alternative interface, which is not quite secret, but is not obvious and it is unlikely that you would find it by accident.

  1. Go to Jetpack in the sidebar in WordPress
  2. Scroll right down to the bottom of the page
  3. Click the Debug link

The Jetpack Debug link in WordPress

You probably would not think of clicking that. In fact, you probably have not noticed the link before.

On the next page is a lot of information, but near the bottom is this. Click the link to access the full list of Jetpack modules.

Jetpack debug screen in WordPress

The next screen lists all the Jetpack modules and that blue All (42) says there are 42 modules! What is important are the active modules. Click the Active button to view them.

Jetpack modules list in WordPress

The first task is to go through the list of modules and see if there are any you are not using. Some of the names might not mean anything to you, but clicking the name opens a new tab with an explanation.

Move the mouse over a module to show the Configure and Deactivate links. Click Deactivate if you do not use an item. The more you can deactivate the faster your site will be.

There may be modules that you use, but you can live without or other plugins can provide the features. For example, Site Stats is the module that puts the site visitor numbers chart on the WordPress dashboard, but you could use the Post Views Counter plugin instead to show which pages are the most popular. Google Analytics also shows daily, weekly and monthly visitor numbers.

Prune the list of active modules to the minimum that you need for your site to optimise Jetpack’s performance. Don’t forget that for every feature you can find an alternative plugin that does a similar job, perhaps even better, so you could go all the way and deactivate everything.

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