Free WordPress Theme vs. Premium WordPress Theme

Selecting a WordPress theme is always a challenging task.

This is especially true when there are so many free WordPress themes and premium WordPress themes available on the market.

How do you know which one to choose?

Furthermore, should you choose a free WordPress theme, or buy a premium theme?

Free or Premium WordPress Themes
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We often talk about WordPress themes on SML, probably because this is the first need of any blogger who wants to start a WordPress blog.

Most new WordPress bloggers use free themes, not fully understanding why they should pay for a premium WordPress theme.

When I started with WordPress, I was using the Arthemia free theme for the first six months. Only later did I settle down with the premium Genesis WordPress theme.

When I started with WordPress, I thought:

  • Why pay money when I can get something for free?

Like most people, I found a pretty nice free WordPress theme.

Later on, I realized my mistake…

Now, I personally believe that free themes are amazing only because they are free.

May 2020 update: In free category, Astra is one theme that I highly recommend. The free one is as good as premium one. Read this detailed Astra theme review to learn more about it.

4 Reasons To Opt for Premium Themes Over Free WordPress Themes

First of all, let me say that free themes are not bad. 

You can find many good free themes in the WordPress theme directory.

But the majority of problems come with updates. Most theme developers release a base version on free theme directories and later use this to make a sale of the “pro” version.

I would recommend that instead of wasting your time on technical know-how and trying to fix problems when WP updates screw up your theme, it’s better to opt for a premium theme and focus on making quality content.

Here are some reasons that will make you want to ditch your free theme and buy a premium theme.

1. Support and updates

WordPress is constantly updating its technology and every few months, there’s a major update in WordPress.

  • Your themes (and plugins) need to be compatible with the latest version of WordPress.

When you are using paid themes, it’s the responsibility of the framework company to release an updated and compatible version of the theme.

However, free theme creators use their theme as a side project, and you may need to wait for months before you see an update.

Furthermore, all premium theme authors offer free support, whereas in free themes, you can’t expect any kind of support.

Also, if you have a premium theme framework like Genesis, you will find tons of tutorials on the web.

This doesn’t happen often with free WP themes.

2. SEO

WordPress themes play a major role in the overall SEO of your site.

In free themes, you will find many structural bugs and moreover, hardly any of them offer any inbuilt SEO options.

In particular, it’s very important to have a site which is not only SEO optimized but also offers clean code for faster loading.

Themes like Genesis offer lightning fast loading, but, of course, they are not free.

In terms of faster loading, using a premium theme also helps you in lowering down the amount of resource-hogging plugins.

3. Features

Premium theme development is a competitive marketplace. In order to survive, theme developers need to offer the latest features and seamless web integration.

Free themes have a limited number of features. Most developers are not willing to update their free themes with anything too fancy.

If you want to see a particular feature in a free theme, you will either have to find a plugin, or find a different theme.

4. Encrypted links

This is the one thing I hate the most about free WordPress themes.

Most free theme developers encrypt the footer and sell those links.

This has a very bad impact on the overall SEO of your blog. If you want to create a customized footer, this is not possible. (FYI: A nice footer has a great SEO advantage if you use it wisely.)

Since the Google Penguin update, such encrypted links are seen as spammy links. (Legit sites like WPMU were penalized due this reason.)

While outbound links have some SEO advantage, such kinds of linking should be avoided at all costs.

Free Themes vs. Premium Themes

If you don’t have $50 to spend on a quality premium theme, getting a free theme is definitely the way to go.

But once your blog starts getting momentum, I would highly advise you to switch over to a good paid theme.

What are your opinions on free vs. paid WordPress themes? Let us know in the comments!

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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

32 thoughts on “Free WordPress Theme vs. Premium WordPress Theme”

  1. Shaheen

    Hi Harsh,
    Thanks for sharing informative article. I am using free version for our company website, I tried by all means to rank our website but no way. Now I came to know why our website not ranking as we are expecting as per our efforts to rank.

  2. Amrita Sen

    I guess for a starter like me free themes are the options. I had started blogging just out of passion and never thought of monetizing. I am currently using Hueman theme and it works well. But if I want to monetize my blog (which I am seriously considering now!), I think I have to switch to premium themes.

  3. Zach Strange

    Great article. I’ve been blogging for a little over a year now and have always used a free theme because of the cost. However, lately, I have seriously been considering investing a little bit for a premium theme. My main reason is simply to move my page a little bit away from the pack of beginner bloggers in hopes of drawing a little more attention.

    Thanks again for the post.

  4. Tracy R. Simmons

    Nice blog!!! Really I don’t know the difference between the free and paid WordPress themes. But, now with the help of your blog I have understood the difference between the free and paid WordPress themes.

    Thank you for sharing!!!

  5. Alina Silvasan

    Hi! What if a free theme is just as powerful as a premium one? I have discovered a free news theme called ionMag. and I fell in love!

  6. Stephanie

    I’m currently using a free theme, and I definitely think it’s a good go-to option for beginners and those who don’t have much money. However, I can now start to see the benefits of having a premium theme. Because of this, I’m definitely considering moving over to a premium theme.

    I’m beginning to consider what are the best premium themes available, do you have any suggestions?

    I noticed you mentioned Genesis themes…do you think this is the best option? Also, what do you think of Thrive Themes?

    Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

  7. Jaswinder Kaur

    Hello Harsh,

    Very Effective Topic, I was looking for the answer, so just opended your Blog and put my Search query in Search Box. I got the answer.

    I am using Spacious Free Theme and now planning to change it to Pro.

    Yes one more thing, which is not related to the Topic, Your Blog is very Slow than before, I have no idea it’s my side or everybody having the same problem.


  8. Palashtd

    It’s a good post about premium and free themes. I think every webmaster should use a premium theme for blog or website if they want to be a serious blogger or online marketer.

    However, thanks for sharing this information.

  9. Nicolas Puegher

    As every other thing, free stuff will always have some limitations for being free, even so, they can be great not only to start with but to try different styles or a different approach.

    Premium themes are a whole new level, not only for features but also the developers care a lot, adding new and often updates, adding new plugins to help customers or specific things their clients want. You cannot have this with a free theme that never gets a single update.

    I recommend to start with a free one but buying a premium theme can make things a lot better. For now, I have a free theme but isn’t just a common free theme, is the WordPress free theme for 2016 which is pretty cool, unique and customizable as shit.

    Thanks for this helpful content 🙂

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