Why Choosing Free WordPress Themes May Put Your Blog In Jeopardy

Drawbacks of Free WordPress Themes
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Imagine you turn your system on to check out how if your website is functioning fine. And suddenly you are like “Where the hell is my website”!

Such a scenario arises when your website has probably been hacked and all your data is gone.

Sounds scary? Doesn’t it?

I did not mean to scare you, but such things happen to bloggers who choose a free theme for blogging instead of a premium one.

Let me tell you the truth – free is not always good, even if it is a WordPress theme.

In this post, I will show you why choosing a free theme could be dangerous for the blog.

Important note: There are many good looking free themes that offer encrypted free footers (link free footers) and are of great quality. But, again there are downsides to using free WordPress themes over premium WordPress themes.

Why Free WordPress themes are not worth your time

1. Unwanted URLs in the footer

When you choose a free theme, you also accept the user agreement from theme developers.

In exchange for the free themes, these developers always want you to keep their affiliate URLs on your website’s footer.

Remember, if you ever try to get rid of these URLs, it will be considered breaching the agreement.

If you attempt to remove these links, you will not be able to get rid of them. Moreover, all you will get is a broken theme.

Sometimes these links are hidden with a template color, so you cannot notice them without moving the cursor over the footer.

Usually, these links are not harmful but in most cases, they redirect you to suspicious and malicious sites.

WordPress hacked
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Also, you might just expose yourself to a virus such as Trojan.

2. No SEO-optimization

As a blogger, we understand the power of SEO and how important it is for a blog or a website. And, you will hardly get a free theme which has inbuilt SEO options!

The following features make a theme SEO optimized:

  1. Clean code: A well-written code helps search engines to understand your website better.
  2. Light Weight: If the theme size is heavy it will take time to load.
  3. Don’t use many JS and CSS codes: Free theme contains multiple Javascript and CSS codes. It is recommended that JS and CSS should not be more than 12-15.
  4. Responsive Layout: If your audience is not able to view your website in their mobile devices (tablets, smartphones, etc.), you are going to definitely lose them. 
  5. Responsive Design: Free themes rarely come with a responsive design.
  6. Plugins Compatibility: There are thousands of plugins available on the WordPress that can boost your SEO. A free theme does not support these plugins.

Theme developers save other features for their premium themes.

3. No Customer Support and Updates

Customer support
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If you are facing problems with a free theme, you will not able to get any customer support from the company. And guess why. You’re right! Because it’s a free theme!

In the future, if in case, the developer updates the theme for bugs and advance coding, you will not get notified. Hence, your site will be at risk. Only the premium theme holders can avail an update feature.

However, there are some theme developers who will provide an update for a free theme. But there are chances that you may lose your site by then.

4. Limited Features

Premium themes come with lots of handy features that can boost your website’s performance and usability.

If you’re using free themes (with very basic features), it will be difficult to beat your competitors which use premium themes (with advanced features).

5. Hidden Costs

A few days ago, one of my friends installed a free theme for one of his sites. He was happy to find a theme that looked absolutely beautiful, and the best part – it was free!

He checked if there were any links present in the footer, but he couldn’t find any! At this time, his website was ranking well on the search engine too.

Two days later, he noticed there were 25 outbound links on the right side navigation pointing to different kinds of sites.

However, the weirdest part was he hadn’t added any of those links. So, he tried to remove them from his site but failed!

He uninstalled the free theme and got back to a basic theme. He found no links then. A few hours later, he installed the free theme again to check what went wrong.

He assumed himself to be smarter than the theme, but as soon as he installed the free theme again, the outbound links returned.

Finally, he decided to leave the idea of a free theme completely.

So, I learned that there is a hidden cost in a free theme too.

6. Plugins compatibility problems

Many free themes do not support advanced plugins which could lead to a bad user experience and poor SEO performance.

The problem occurs because the theme is rarely updated. Most plugins support an updated theme.

I faced this issue once when I was installing a plugin to collect subscriber’s emails.

The plugins only support updated themes.

Final thoughts on using free WordPress themes:

Not all themes are coded the same and there are many good WordPress developers who have published well coded free themes and later turned it into a paid one. When you are working on a WordPress blog for short term, free theme are not a bad choice if you can find something which is free from all the above risks. Again, this is possible when you are well versed in spotting these mistakes and bad codes in the theme.

[Tweet “Having Premium #WordPress theme is not the style statement. It’s a necessity!”]

If you are someone like me who prefers to focus on what we are good at, it’s better to buy a premium WordPress theme. It’s not only about getting support, updates but it also ensures your blog works great and has a stunning design. Maybe, if you would have asked me for an opinion a couple of years ago, I would have recommended you to download a free WordPress themes for your blog, but these days when making money from a blog is relatively easy, buying a Premium WordPress theme is a well-thought investment. Here are some of the popular premium WordPress themes. I suggest you to check all of them out and pick the one that suits your design and functionality requirements.

  1. ThriveThemes (Probably the only theme that you will need)
  2. Genesis (ShoutMeLoud uses Genesis theme as backend and custom child skin)
  3. ElegantTheme (This one is perfect for niche sites)

I hope by now you know the risks that free themes come with.

I am curious to know your thoughts. Have you ever faced any problem with a free theme? Please share your valuable thoughts and experience. 

Here are a few guides you should read next:

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Authored By
Umesh Singh is a digital marketing strategist and the man behind curiousblogger.com and growwithweb.com . He loves to write about content marketing, social media, and SEO. He helps small companies to grow their business through web.

41 thoughts on “Why Choosing Free WordPress Themes May Put Your Blog In Jeopardy”

  1. Bego Mario Garde

    This blog post somewhat surprised me and seems to base on a bunch of terrible misunderstandings. I would like to briefly go through your statements:

    1. Unwanted URLs in the footer
    It is right, that some (not all) Themes have an URL in the footer that points to the website of the theme author. These *credits* are the only thing that gives a little love back to the developer, who shares his work with the WordPress community for free. You are always free though to either hide credits via custom CSS or create a child theme and remove credits in the footer entirely. (Many themes even provide a theme setting that allows you to add your own copyright and credit links instead.)
    Malware? WordPress is Open Source and so are all free themes in the WordPress repository. Feel free to inspect the code and in the very unlikely event you should find anything odd, please report it to the WordPress Theme Review Team, which then will take care of it immediately.

    2. No SEO-optimization
    Your claim, free themes would lack optimization for SEO, simply is wrong. In fact, most free WordPress themes are targeted to a specific audience or try to solve special layout needs, while commercial themes tend to be bloated multipurpose themes with more code.

    3. No Customer Support and Updates
    Giving support in the German WordPress support forums I know, that we try to help people who run into difficulties with free themes, while we can’t offer any support for commercial themes as we would need to buy dozens of themes every week to provide help voluntarily. Usually users with commercial themes are asked to contact their vendor’s support instead, which especially is problematic if your vendor (such as Themeforest) only provides support for a very short period of time. Additionally, every theme and plugin in the WordPress repository comes with it’s own support forums on WordPress.org, where users get free support.

    4. Limited Features
    The more features, the better? What you describe as “lots of handy features” can turn out as a nightmare for the user. WordPress mantra always was “decisions, not options”. Multipurpose themes with oh-so-many “handy features” not often leave the user alone with design decisions, but also provide a poorer website performance. You can handle this in part by using a cache plugin (which requires at least some basic skills) yet it will never outperform themes with less features.

    6. Plugins compatibility problems
    I don’t even understand, where this assumption may come from, but every free WordPress theme provided in the official WordPress theme repository first gets reviewed thoroughly by the Theme Review Team, which uses high standards for their reviews. I don’t see, why any theme provided in the theme repository shouldn’t work with plugins that comply with WordPress’ coding standards.

    Overall, I would agree that free themes *may* be dangerous, if we talk about hacked (commercial) themes offered in obscure sources. However, it would be nice if you valued the voluntary work by thousands of members of the international WordPress community a little more.

    1. Online Rockers Hub

      You spoke from your heart. Some people offer paid themes in the market for free. They are these malicious and dangerous themes. WordPress is not damn stupid to place a malicious theme on their official website.

    2. You really touched my heart by mentioning the point number one,
      A great line mentioned by you that these unwanted links give back a little love to the developer and of course he is having the right to it because these free themes provide a courage and hope to the blogging starters,
      You really such a great person I’ve ever seen,
      Thank you so much Mr. Mario

  2. Surendra Sahi

    The major concern with a free theme will be Security & Updates. However, there are some free themes available those actually perform as well as pro themes. Even though Pro themes also have lot of bugs. All you need to do is to take care in finding the best theme for your website from the best theme provider, whether it is free or paid.

  3. I think theme ranking & reviews can highlight if there are such issues with the theme. There are few good free themes that have been running for 5+ years without issues, but should definitely be careful with new ones.

  4. Himadri Subrah Saha

    I am using Twenty Eleven for my tech blog, Never faced any problem in the last 3 years. Also, no problem with the plugins. For SEO, I use plugin which is Yoast SEO. Ezoic takes care about the different layout of my website. Hope my website is safe in terms of security. Any expert comment?

    1. Free blog template can be Dangerous. However, the problem is not in the template, but when your traffic increases then something is definitely Dangerous, I problem-free template is associated with an AdSense account Bnned. The main problem is redirect & Unwanted malware.

  5. Content Locker

    The worse thing I ever did for one of my niche blogs was to choose and Buy 2 pro themes. The developer of one does not update and the other is not good for affiliates who promote online.( coupon theme)
    The best theme I ever used is one that has been used for years and it’s always improving and has the best score when scanned for WordPress code errors. The free theme can go from static professional front page to a regular blog in one click. Great space for Adsense ads and 200+ options.
    FREE is not always bad. There are other ways to secure a blog and much of it can be added to any theme and also choose your hosting wisely.

  6. Wonderful information, I have never really think about these points. But, now when I can afford the premium them for my blog. Than, I will must do the needful changes. Let me know few good paid themes for Quotes blog…

  7. Ronak Toshniwal

    Heyy Umesh Singh,
    Can you tell me about If one can use Premium Themes which are provided for free. like Nulled/Cracked Themes.

  8. This is my .02 cents and sorry if it’s repeated information. I have been blogging for many years and have created and sold my blogs and now actually settling down with one I have had for 3 years. In all my years blogging I never used a free theme and never even used the ones WordPress just ad’s in our theme section after upgrades.

    Here are my thoughts.

    Free themes don’t even provide support in most case’s or answer questions within a few days. These themes to tend to never get updates when WordPress releases a never version that has a lot of changes meaning the Free themes actually need some tiny tweaks to it. Then people email the theme creator and can’t really get good support or the author to update theme download file.

    Most people online can spot a free theme from a mile away and tend to think you the blog admin is cheap and not willing to invest real money into your blog besides cheap web hosting you purchased that might even give user’s a bad experience. I don’t trust blog authors who use free themes. They might provide good advice but I don’t trust them because to me, they are not serious about there blog and got it up and running for practically nothing.

    Free themes tend to not be coded that well as a premium theme. This mean’s the theme creator didn’t spend much time perfecting the themes code to work flawlessly with the latest WordPress coding standards and might actually cause security risks on your blog meaning it will get hacked more easily then a premium theme that’s coded well and the proper Security plugins are installed as well which helps a ton in general.

    Free themes tend to have those stupid footer links with the theme author having his linkback to any blog or page he wants to get a ton of backlinks for free. With a paid theme, chances are you are allowed to remove these footer links which will not give the owner a free backlink. These free theme creators will create a nice design,, poorly coded theme just to be able to get free backlinks to any URL they link to in the footer of there theme. All they want is backlinks and really could care less about the people having issue’s with the theme, he got a backlink and he don’t care about the hundreds of people needing help on the theme or need it to be updated to work correctly with the latest wordpress updates.

    Look, do not get a free theme period. It”s nothing but trouble for you and makes your followers and potential followers think you are a cheap person and not willing to invest money into your blog to make it a super cool one. Look you can get a premium theme for theme actually and once you generate enough money, you can hire a designer to create you a custom theme in which will help you a ton in keeping followers interested in your blog and it’s eye candy for visitors who might subscribe to your blog because they feel by the look of the blog and your quality posts that this is the blog to follow for sure.

    1. Content Locker

      I challenge you top use this theme ( Ambro Theme on Mojo $49.00USD )vs Mantra 2.5.0 ( 5yrs in updates ) and tell me which gets the most updates and questions answered by the developers.
      If anyone assumed that Mojo Developers were going to stop working on a theme after you purchase it.. I would have asked for a refund.

      You can get premium support to customize a theme like mantra..and affordable vs customizing a broke Pro Theme with dead plugins that no longer work after WordPress updates. 🙁

  9. suraj deshmukh

    Thanks for this amazing article. I recently start my new blog with free WordPress theme, I didn’t know how free themes are dangerous but after reading this post I am going to change theme with paid one.

  10. Nice article for them who want to know which theme should be chosen.

    For @ Harsh
    I think you should start writing about How to make your own WordPress theme integrated with many features?

  11. Himanshu Gupta

    Hey Umesh ,

    Nice post on Free WordPress Themes being dangerous.
    But what about any newbie blogger who has just started blogging who does not have enough money and idea on buying a good WordPress theme.
    And not all free WordPress themes are not SEO friendly.
    Anyways really nice post.

    I wanted to know if you have some plugins in mind which would help me creating custom post like the Thrive Content builder.

  12. Nice information UMESH. Currently I am using Jarida theme for my website.Which paid/premium theme will be more beneficial for my website.Kindly advice and guide.

  13. Pravin Nath.K

    I already planning about moving to premium theme. But my problem is, which is better elegant or genesis? I running a news site, so many people suggesting to choose a magazine style theme. please give a suggestion, should I use magazine style theme? and which is better elegant or genesis?

  14. Vishwajeet Kumar

    Nice article Umesh. I actually didn’t using free WordPress themes due to SEO incompatible. But you have mention some good other reasons as well which is definitely impact bad to your blog. Thanks for sharing this awesome article.

  15. I never knew this kind of information before. I am new to blogging and this could help me. Thanks for your informative article.

  16. Rocking Aryan

    Some free themes are still work perfect for new users. Nulled and cracked themes are harmful for Blogs.

  17. Umesh however, free themes are dangerous but if we use a theme completely using our own coding then we can get rid of these issues.

    When i uses a free theme i completely change all the files and names associated with that and some time i uses a child theme and these themes never create problems. It is recommended that you must use security options very well while using free themes.

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