If you create online media content content aimed at niche audiences, there’s a good chance that the content management system (CMS) powering it is WordPress. Further, if you want to add social sharing buttons to share content to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social networks, it’s highly like you are using the Simple Share Buttons Adder WordPress plugin. If you do, be warned that the Simple Share Buttons Adder plugin — which is built by the same people who created the “Sharethis” plugin used by many high-profile news sites to place content in people’s Facebook and Twitter feeds — promotes harmful Web software that can slow your site loading times to a crawl. What follows is my review of my Simple Share Buttons Adder adtech experience.
How did I discover a problem with Simple Share Buttons Adder? By paying attention to my website loading times. I recently noticed that one of my WordPress sites was extremely slow. Because I had installed the Woocommerce e-commerce service earlier in the year, I assumed it was related to that, but when I saw my traffic dropping on other WordPress sites that don’t use Woocommerce, I began to worry there was a problem with the WordPress theme I was using. We’re talking about site loading times that Pingdom measured at 30 seconds or more. I could see it with my eyes (as could my audience) that the home page took a very long time to show anything.
So I began to investigate. And what I discovered was Simple Share Buttons Adder was doing some really shady stuff in the background – dozens of redirects to various adtech sites and suspicious domains that added tens seconds to the site load times. As I noted in my book Lean Media, adding just a few seconds to your site’s rendering time results in fewer content loads. In the following example, readers on a major business news website read as much as 8% fewer articles over a month-long period, for just a 3-second delay on the FT.com website:
Some people may not even wait for the page to load at all. They quickly hit the “back” button or go to some other site that loads more quickly. This means a lost chance to engage with the audience or gain a new fan, whether it’s for a book, movie, song, video game, or some other piece of media.
After noticing the slow loading time, I used Pingdom to test my primary domain. This domain is a commerce site for books. In recent weeks I had seen a dropoff in traffic AND sales, so I knew something was up. But when I ran a Pingdom website speed test I was shocked that it took upwards of 30 SECONDS to load, not to mention more than 100 requests:
100+ redirects? Thirty-second load times? What the heck was going on? Certainly, the site loaded images and scripts (many of them associated with the theme) that can slow things down. But among the warnings was a long list of redirects containing all kinds of red flags:
One URL kept popping up in the redirect chains: ShareThis. I knew about ShareThis, which as noted before, is used by news sites to promote content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks. But I never knew they were connecting websites with dubious adtech companies (as well as some more legitimate ones, such as DoubleClick). In any case, I didn’t use the ShareThis plugin.
However, I did have a similar-sounding plugin on my WordPress site: Simple Share Buttons Adder, which I had installed to help people share blog posts and book product sites to their social circles. Sure enough, turning off the plugin, the scammy redirect problem disappeared … and my site loading times improved, too.
Simple Share Buttons Adder reviews on WordPress.com
Digging deeper, I discovered that, indeed, Simple Share Buttons Adder and ShareThis are made by the same organization. Moreover, others had discovered the problem with the Simple Share Buttons Adder WordPress plugin, and their WordPress reviews even suggested the plugin was delivering malware or performing other ugly operations, leveraging the sites of innocent users:
The same issue afflicted every single of my WordPress sites that use Simple Share Buttons Adder. The plugin is clearly untrustworthy, and harmful to my business. I disabled and deleted the plugin, and will never use it again … or any competing plugins, for that matter. It’s clear that they can be used for other purposes beyond their stated description.
The ShareThis terms of service gives an inkling of what’s going on in the background:
We help advertisers find consumers who are likely to be interested in their products or services based on what their browsers or devices share online. This is how we support our business with a service that is free to you and consumers. This means we use pixels to place a cookie on your visitors’ browsers. In some cases, this may involve your visitors receiving a cookie from an advertising partner.
In other words, Simple Share Buttons Adder is not only slowing your site to a crawl, it’s helping advertisers track your visitors and customers.
The depressing thing about this plugin is its used on thousands of sites, and maintains a high rating …. because people haven’t figured out the tricks it is playing, or the ratings are based on an older version of the plugin that didn’t redirect to scores of adtech domains.
WordPress should seriously consider banning Simple Share Buttons Adder and Sharethis until it cleans up its act. The plugin is harmful to media creators, and may also be supporting questionable adtech domains and other tricks that hurt the Internet ecosystem … and media creators.