The best part of free WordPress themes is that it is FREE! And everything free need not to be inferior. There are some really exceptional WordPress themes in this category too! But you should be competent enough to recognize a good WordPress theme and a poor one.
Why No Free WordPress Themes?
What makes a theme excellent and why you should be careful while choosing one up? Wait, we'll talk about it in a minute. Right now let's see why most of the Free WordPress Themes are bad.
You look cheap and not serious
You are passionate about blogging and you love your blog, right? You are serious about making money online and ready to put your time and effort into it, isn't it?
Free themes are recognized from a mile's distance. Anybody looking at your blog thinks cheap of you and you're not that serious about your blog. Can't you invest a little money to your blog?
Blogs with premium theme look professional and the blog owner appears to be serious about whatever he is doing. He's put money on his blog.
Oh! no support
If all is fine, it's okay. But, what if something unforeseen happen? What if some very useful plugins failed to work? Where to edit and what to change in theme to maintain compatibility?
Often free themes are provided in ‘as is' basis and you can't demand support from the theme developer since you've not paid a penny to him/her.
Features! They are so limited
Often free themes allow basic and limited features. These are just to start your blog, but for performance plus usability, you'll learn in due course, the theme is actually lean!
Moreover, you know the competition, right? With so limited features, how will you conquer your competitors while they are equipped with rich and optimized features?
SEO! Better you learn them sooner
Paid traffic is fine for short term and specific goal, but for the long run and survival, the importance of organic traffic is unavoidable. For large organic traffic, your blog must be optimized for search engines.
You may say plugins are there! Why bother when there's WordPress Plugin by Yoast?
Well, SEO is not just about titles, nofollow, noindex, and blah bla. It also includes theme features such as:
- Clean code – let search engines know your website better
- Light Weight – Light themes load faster improving your ranking
- Don’t use many JS and CSS codes – JS and CSS should not be more than 12-15
- Responsive Layout & Design – Don't loose traffic just because your readers need desktops to view your blog
- Plugins Compatibility – WordPress has thousands of plugins, does your theme support the necessary ones?
For the above provisions, you can't just depend on a good SEO plugin.
Outgoing links! Footer links?
Nothing comes for free! Even free WordPress Themes are not free in fact. Most of the free themes push you to allow the theme developer's back link. Did you notice the links at the footer?
It's fine. A couple of outgoing link as the return favor for the theme developer is fine. But are you convinced, they are the only ones? Some links might be sinking somewhere; or in the worst case, the outgoing links might be dynamic. What if the links point to some hateful or unlawful sites?
If nothing bad, do you know the price of one link going out of your blog? Are you not paying more than what a premium theme will cost you?
Umesh relates a story of how the theme injected a number of outgoing links in the sidebar which came into sight only after the site was successful in getting PR 5. And there was no way to disable or eliminate them. Urgh! It's too much!
Many of the free WordPress themes do have some sort of links built within the theme, some of the more elaborate theme creators have planted the links to a point that if you try to remove it, your entire site will fail.
As Harsh of ShoutMeLoud states “Since Google Penguin update, such encrypted links are seen as spammy links and sites like wpmu was penalized due to it. Though outbound links have SEO advantage, but such kind of linking should be avoided at any cost.”
Why not for the new bloggers?
For seasoned bloggers and those with some technical skills can check a theme in contrast with the requirements. They are comfortable in choosing one that does the work at hand. But the story with new bloggers is completely different.
Naturally new bloggers lead towards the free WordPress themes. They are, in that state, perplexed and hesitant to make any investment yet. Even if they are ready to spend some money, they don't know much about which premium theme suits them.
So the following information is to offer some direction
Themeisle Themes – Choose this only if you wish to earn good money promoting products & affiliate marketing
MyThemeShop Themes – Great choice for newspaper and magazine blogs
Thrive Themes – A strong candidate for your next blog. It's great for marketing blogs.
Elegant Themes – They can be perfect for niche websites. Do you know what's a niche 😛