Jetpack: that ‘essential’ plugin you dont need

From the moment I installed WordPress on my domain, I was persistently spammed with a plugin called Jetpack. I ignored it for the longest time until I was coerced into installing it. In this article I will revisit my experience with Jetpack and give some insight on whether it is as essential as it claims to be.

How I was forced into using Jetpack

  1. I was not able to use the WordPress app on my iPhone to edit my blog without Jetpack. There was just no way around it. If I wanted to use the WordPress app, I had to install jetpack whether I liked it or not.
  2. Ditching the WordPress app altogether did not mean I was safe from Jetpack. A point came when I wanted to install the WooCommerce Plugin. Again, for WooCommerce to work, I needed Jetpack. Why did I need it? I still do not know. In the end I got rid of WooCommerce as well.

What does Jetpack do?

Jetpack claims to be an all inclusive plugin for wordpress which offers a variety of tools and widgets for your websites performance, security, Search Engine Optimization, and content development. After installing it and exploring through its settings, yes, it really did have all those wonderful features. It was impressive to see how many options you got with the free version.

How I used Jetpack on my WordPress

Jetpack Widgets

The collection of Jetpack widgets available are actually nice and functional like the forms and galleries. However, as a simple content writer who really just does basic things with my blog, I did not use a single Jetpack widget on any of my pages. Those were just a bunch of options that I never clicked on. If I ever did click on them to see what they did, I always hit the undo button right after. Many of the widgets I actually needed are already available on the default wordpress block editor.

Website activity monitoring

Every time I logged into WordPress, the first thing I saw on my Dashboard was this widget that showed how many visitors came to my site on a particular day. While this is useful, I got the same information from Google Analytics and the Search Console, which I regularly used anyways. So in the end, I ignored that widget.

Jetpack Boost

The Jetpack suite included an array of tools under a section called “Jetpack boost”. From what I recall, this may have been an additional plugin to install but was accessible from the same Jetpack Dashboard.

This part actually was useful as it had options such as:

  • Regenerate Critical CSS
  • Defering non Essential Javascript
  • Lazy Image Loading
  • The Image Guide
  • CDN

By playing with these settings, I at least became aware on how to improve my websites performance in terms of speed and loading. I found the image guide helpful as it showed me which images were heavy in size and contributing to the Cumulative Layout Shift problems I was having. I could immediately adjust or compress some of the larger images as needed for better page speed.

The Overall score option was also a helpful indicator on how my website was performing for Desktop or Mobile. I do however question the accuracy of these results as pagespeed insights and GTmetrix often gave me different results.

Despite everything I did with Jetpack, my website still sucked in terms of Performance. My Core Web Vitals still faced, I still had CLS and LCP issues, and my ranking on Google’s search results stayed low due to the performance. Was the Jetpack plugin really doing anything? I finally got around to solving my performance issues with another plugin.

Anti-Spam / Brute force protection

This was something I never actively used as Jetpack claims to manage all that for you. So I just trusted it and let it do its thing. All I got from this was a widget on my dashboard telling me how many malicious log in attempts were blocked. I often received emails from Jetpack as well giving me a report on how much protection I was getting. But protection from what? Why would anyone try to hack this pointless website? If Jetpack wasn’t there, would I suddenly be more vulnerable? I became skeptical of this very quickly. And the emails were annoying.

Downtime Monitoring

Fortunely my website is using a reliable hosting service. Learn more about web hosting options here. As all things in life, nothing is perfect and have experienced the rare momentary downtime. For a website that does not get much traffic to begin with, downtime was not a critical problem for me. The jetpack plugin was however nice enough to send me an email to notify me that my site was down and then another email to tell me it was back up again. I appreciate that.

Search Engine Optimization

Jetpack’s SEO tools are good. They provide the same writing assistance tools to help keep your content optimized for certain Keyphrases. I could say it’s just as good as any other SEO plugin out there. However, the sitemap or XML file generated by Jetpack was cumbersome and not compatible with google search console. In the end I had to resort to using Yoast SEO (Read all about that here) as it generated a more functional XML Sitemap. But now that I has Yoast SEO active, Jetpack no longer permitted me to use Jetpacks SEO tools. So now I no longer needed Jetpack for SEO

Jetpack Social Sharing

On the surface it was a great convenience to link my Facebook and twitter accounts to Jetpack and publish any new post to those platforms as soon as I wrote them. However, I was limited in the number of posts I could share for free before I had to start paying for additional shares. I resorted to doing it manually in the end.

Integration with other services

Jetpack has several options to integrate social media platforms and google analytics to theoretically improve your user experience and interactivity on your pages. But, if every integration requires having the plugins for each service already installed on your WordPress, what’s the point of connecting them again with Jetpack? Many of those tools are also just available on a good WordPress theme.

Getting rid of Jetpack

If you read everything above, you would have seen how every feature of Jetpack eventually became redundant for me. In the end it was just this heavy plugin sitting on my wordpress taking up space. In the tech world, we call it bloatware. After a year of working with Jetpack and finding other lighter plugins that solved my problems, I decided to uninstall it.

It turned out I never really needed Jetpack for beyond nothing .com and the type of user I am. Perhaps a more advanced user may find some utility for this plugin and even pay for its premium features. This failed blog for now wont be needing those anytime soon.

Ever since I removed Jetpack, I didnt see any performance issues or those thousands of bruteforce attacks (ignorance is bliss). Life is simpler, and my website feels ‘lighter’. I can’t use the wordpress mobile app or WooCommerce, but thats not a huge loss. Read about my take on the wordpress moble app.