See the results of my deep tests on the paid versions of Social Pug and Social Warfare for speed, page weight, features and overall performance.
These were two of the top performing plugins in my free social share button case study tests. So I was anxious to see how well their paid versions held up to the same scrutiny, and they didn’t disappoint!
About the Tests
There’s way more to social share button plugins than how the buttons look or all the fancy whistles and bells they include.
All plugins can take a toll on your site in for the form of:
- Number of requests added – like CSS, JS, and fonts
- Weight of those requests
- How long the additional requests take to load
- Whether the plugin will slow down your site
Performance Testers Used
I limited the performance testing to my top two services: WebPage Test and Google PageSpeed Insights.
See how to run an accurate speed test with WebPage Test.
Fashion and Function
Both plugins were also tested for the functions they provide, as well as styling options and placement options.
Both plugins have options for placing the buttons:
- Inline – meaning top/bottom of post
- Sticky – meaning they float at the bottom as the visitor scrolls
- Floating Sidebar – meaning on the side edge
Social Pug offers an additional option of Pop-Up buttons with settings to show
- After scroll
- On Exit intent
- After a few seconds
- And more
Both plugins also offer a Pinterest button on image hover option. The look and placement of the button can be styled on both as well.
Combo Tests of Open Graph (OG) Tags and Twitter Cards
Both plugins were tested as standalone and in conjunction with the Yoast SEO plugin.
This is critically important, as Yoast SEO also provides the same OG meta tags and Twitter card tags picked up by Facebook and other platforms, and Twitter when either the link to the post is shared directly, or via the share buttons.
Both plugins completely overrode any custom settings/images in the Yoast SEO plugin when a custom image, title and/or description was input into the plugin’s special fields for that.
When those fields were not used, then the tags were appropriately placed around the featured image, post title, and first words on the post.
Bottom line, you don’t need to fill in the custom fields in the social section of the Yoast SEO module in the text editor. Either leave all fields in Yoast SEO and the plugins empty, or just fill in the ones for the plugin.
The custom Pinterest settings of both plugins were tested to see how they posted the custom image and description input specifically for Pinterest when the share button was used. Both plugins performed as expected.
Pinterest description and hover button for embedded images was tested, as well as the option to disable pinning of images. Both plugins did very well with these tests.
(Yoast SEO does not have custom fields for Pinterest.)
Other Third Party Pinterest Combo Testing
If you are using either one of these plugins, you don’t need other Pinterest-related plugins like Tasty Pins or a Pin It Button plugin.
Both Social Pug (version 2.6) and Social Warfare can do all of what those other plugins offer and more.
That includes marking images as no-pin.
And unlike Tasty Pins, they will not suddenly make all of your images pinnable. That issue only shows up on mobile with Tasty Pins for images like your logo and category or sidebar images.
FYI, I tested what happens to images with custom Pinterest descriptions from Tasty Pins if that plugin is deleted. The custom descriptions remain.
The reports for each plugin (40+ pages each) are available to my Webmaster Training Level 6 members as a bonus.
The reports include:
- All speed data
- Screenshots of all performance data
- Exact requests added
- Orphaned files/folders/database tables and rows left when the plugins were deleted
- Full list of all functions
Things to Know About Plugin Requests
Here are a few things to know about what was tested.
A few acronyms used:
- CSS – Cascading Style Sheet – for how it looks
- Font – both of these plugins provide their own .woof font that is stored locally
About extra JS
Most of the plugins that contain JS files also invoke the two JS files native to WordPress. This way WP carries the bulk of the code library and the plugins can remain light.
However, it does increase the total number of requests and page weight. But, it’s likely that other plugins, or even your theme, will be calling in those two files too, so I didn’t hold it against any of the plugins in my evaluation.
Caching for more speed
A good local caching plugin, like WP Fastest Cache and WP Rocket, can help defer and speed up the extra CSS and JS and font files both of these plugins contain. But, no caching was used in these tests to keep everything on the same, raw level.
Displaying counts slows down the site, have not been accurate in 2 years, and no longer encourages more shares. For these tests, they were turned off.
Share button plugins change rapidly out of necessity due to changing conditions on the social platforms. Neither of these plugins looks like they did a year ago. So that’s why it’s important to state the version used in this case study.
You may find significant differences in load and functions with the plugin versions down the road.
Social Pug – version 2.6 beta – this fixed a significant issue I found while testing the plugin in combo with Yoast SEO. The public release should be out soon.
Social Warfare Pro – version 3.5.1
Special Thank You
I want to send a big HUG to long-time client Manny Oliverez of Favorite Grampy for donating a Social Pug license for these tests!!!!!
I purchased the license for Social Warfare.
Plugin Results and Reviews
Below is a synopsis of how each plugin performed, plus features offered.
Which Paid Social Share Button Plugin is Best?
Both Social Pug and Social Warfare are evenly matched in their basic functions as a share button provider.
And both have an array of extra whistles and bells, including additional Pinterest functionality. So no other plugin is required for adding a custom Pinterest description and Pin button to every image in the post. Both offered opt out of pinning on any image as well.
One plugin did not clearly standout over the other, as far as a recommendation as to which one to use with regard to the basic functions.
But for me, Social Pug edged out Social Warfare for 3 very important reasons.
Reason 1. Social Pug also offers social follow buttons.
That’s one less plugin you have to install and maintain.
More importantly, it’s another set of requests you can avoid, meaning that you won’t have the additional CSS, JS, and fonts from a second plugin.
So, even though Social Pug was a little heavier on page weight than Social Warfare, it’s still lighter than having an additional social follow plugin.
Social Pug already has a slightly higher score than Social Warfare, even with the additional weight. And you won’t take another potential ding from Google PageSpeed Insight by adding another plugin.
Reason 2. Social Pug does not require the free version of the plugin to run in addition to the paid version.
Social Warfare requires both. Not keeping those two plugins updated in sync broke so many sites at one time that it was the last straw for many users and they have dumped the plugin for good. While the plugin seems to have been stable for many months now, it has too long a history of breakage. And no site owner should be constantly in fear of updating a plugin and it tanking their whole site.
Reason 3. Social Pug comes to the top for me because of the extra number of social network choices it provides, even in the free version. It just has more buttons to choose from, especially for emerging social platforms.
Sometimes, early adoption on the latest social platform fad leads to growing your audience there faster and bigger. So, a plugin that keeps on top of what’s hot, and provides buttons for it, is important.
Do You Need a Paid Social Share Plugin?
Well, that depends on your needs.
Scriptless Social Sharing was by far THE lightest weight social share plugin in my free share button plugins test. And, it does offer the option to input a custom Pinterest image and description. But, it will be limited to only one image that is embedded in the post.
And that’s it.
So, if that’s all you need, you’re good to go.
But, if you want a custom Pinterest description on every image, and a Pin button when folks hover on the image, plus the ability to opt images out of being pinned, or hidden images for Pinterest, then a paid plugin is definitely worth the low price charged. (I believe that’s $29/year.)
You can do all that with a combo of several plugins, or even manually coding, but then that gives you more devs to rely on and plugins to maintain, or takes more of your time.
With WordPress and PHP changing constantly, having current plugin development and support is crucial. Plus having everything integrated is worth the cost, in my opinion.