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?
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.
Why Premium WordPress Themes Are Better Than 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.
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.
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.