When you start your new blog and select WordPress as your CMS (Content Management System), a free WordPress theme is automatically installed on your blog.
You always have a chance to upgrade to a premium theme, but you never pay attention to it and keep using the free theme months even years later. You may never realize that this free theme is actually costing you a lot.
But how can you find out for sure?
Why There’s No Such Thing as a Free WordPress Theme
You might think that you had chosen the free theme so you had done the great work. Actually no, because “free” must always have a hidden price.
Free themes come at the price of your time and resources, which is the most valuable thing in today’s life. They snatches your audience and badly effect your blog’s growth.
The longer you delay in upgrading the blog’s theme, the more chances are there that you give up because of frustration.
No doubt, to choose a free theme seems a good idea in the start; later it starts decreasing the life of your blog.
How would you determine if your free theme is working fine or is sabotaging your blog?
Following points describe the 7 warning signs your free WordPress theme is sabotaging your blog:
1) You Change Your Theme More Often Than Your Clothes
When will you know that now it’s time to upgrade your WordPress theme? You are not happy with your theme and don’t want to use it for long.
A free theme makes you feel better but later it starts disturbing you and you feel the need to change it as soon as possible. There could be many reasons that may force you to change the theme or upgrade it. These reasons may include; the theme is not as appealing as other blogs or your blog looks identical to other blogs or your theme is having lack of needed functionality.
Changing the theme regularly seems harmless, but it does have many major issues associated with it.
Firstly, it is a time consuming work. Every time, you need to search for a theme then download and install it on your blog. After that you have to configure the new theme settings and check if the theme is reflecting the customizations you made before. Playing around with new themes also take time.
Secondly, it also effects the user experience. You need to think from a user’s perspective. The users are used to the layout of your blog and knows how to find something they need. And then suddenly the layout is changed, they try to adjust with the new layout and adapt it. When they’re about to get used with the new layout, the theme is changed again. Don’t you think, this way they would get annoyed? Surely, they would.
If you had surfed your time, money and energy on the premium theme, you would never feel the need to change it soon. So try to invest in a premium theme that will stay with you for long and adopt the changes you make.
2) You’re Using Plugins to Plug Holes
Most Bloggers make this mistake, they think using many plugins on the blog will give better results. But no, using too many plugins prove to be harmful for the blogs health. Though plugins seems like a quick fix but they probably aren’t.
A poorly coded plugin can ruin your entire blog, so always try to be choosy about using plugins.
Around 42,000+ plugins are available this time, all of them are not poorly coded. There also exists some excellent plugins. Every plugin comes with a risk, but you won’t have to take this risk if your theme had all the functionalities you need.
Most commonly plugins are used for following features:
– Social sharing
– Optimized image galleries
– Related posts
– Visual editor
But a Premium theme most likely come up with all of these features, eliminating the need of such plugins.
Some plugins are not avoidable even though you use a premium theme. This means you should have to make use of plugins wisely. Don’t use too much and only use that are most necessary.
3) Your Nav Bar Is Like a Cockroach That Just Won’t Die
A landing page is a best option to gain more subscribers. Thus, every blogger wants to have a landing page on their blog. They want a landing page with no Nav bars and no sidebars, because it mostly distract the visitors from the one call to action to subscribe to the blog.
But some of the free themes don’t have the ability to remove all the navigations from one or set of particular pages.
Many free themes allow you to hide the sidebar for the purpose of displaying the content in full width. But they don’t provide you the facility to remove the Nav bars from specific pages, which is the need for a landing page to work correctly.
Very limited number of plugins are designed to perform this task. But according to the reviews on these plugins, there appeared many issues with these plugins.
If you want to know if your theme has a landing page feature or not, follow these steps:
– Click the “Pages” menu from the WordPress dashboard and then open of the page to edit.
– On the right side of the screen, look for “Page Attributes” option. In case you don’t find it, click on the “Screen options” residing at the top of the screen and check the “Page Attribute” box.
– If your theme has a landing page feature, you will see the “Landing Page” or “Blank Page” options to select within “Template”. If it doesn’t have a landing page, you will see the “Page Attributes” portion like below
You can also check about landing page feature in the theme’s documentation. You can find the documentation here: Appearance > Themes > Them Details. If there is nothing mentioned about the landing page, it means the theme doesn’t have this feature.
With free theme, you can buy a premium plugin to fulfil this functionality. But this wouldn’t be a good choice, besides you can surf your money on a premium theme which will create landing pages as well as provide other features too.
4) You Find a Bug, and Support Gives You Crickets
Another main problem with free theme is that they have very poor support. So if you have any problem with your theme, there is no one to help you out.
For example, if you found a problem in your theme and need someone (may be from the support team) to check and fix the problem for you.
If you tried to approach the support team but didn’t get any response or there is no way to submit your query to support team. The last way you are left with is to search Google for different forums, where you look for similar problem as yours and its solution. This is totally a waste of time.
How will you know that you’ll get help when you need it?
The following four questions will help you in finding the answer of the above question:
– Firstly visit the support forum before applying any theme on your blog. On the forum check the latest 5 to 10 threads posted during the last one or two months. Did the support team respond to those threads?
– If yes, did they respond quickly?
– Were they glad to answer the questions or they seem annoyed by the questions?
– Was the issue resolved?
If there is a “no” to any of the above questions, or you’ve not found a support team to help you in resolving your problem. Then don’t mess up with the free themes anymore. Free support is not as good as the paid support. Save your time and invest your money in a premium theme.
5) You Can’t Place Opt-Ins Where You Need Them Most
You can easily put an email opt-in box in the sidebar of the free theme, by just copying and pasting the code from email provider in the text widget.
To place an opt-in where it is really needed can be a tough task.
The sidebar is actually not the best option to place an opt-in form. Because the sidebar is mostly used for placing advertisements and the visitors know this very well so they avoid looking at this area. They have sidebar blindness.
There are two areas other than sidebar where you can put the subscription form:
– Above the fold the place where visitors can see it without scrolling down the page.
– Below the posts put the form below your posts to capture the actual readers of your content.
There will be the need of additional widgets to achieve this, the section where you can add the widgets which will appear in all the post and pages.
But the free themes don’t give the facility to do this, they only come with the standard sidebar and footer widget areas. There are many plugins though that can do this for you, giving you additional areas for widget. But again these plugins may ruin your blog badly, as we discussed earlier.
Premium themes make it really simple for you. All you have to do is to drag and drop your required item. You can see in the image below:
6) Your Site Loads Like a Sloth Crossing the Road
Does your blog takes time to load? If yes, it’s because of the free theme you’re using.
Ofcourse, it is not necessary that always your free theme is the reason behind slow loading. There might be some other reasons causing this issue like server problem or un-optimized images. Following are the steps to check is your free theme or something else is causing the loading problem:
– Visit Google PageSpeed Insights.
– Type your blog’s URL in the box and click “analyze” button next to it.
– It will then show the results containing score for your speed on both mobile and desktop.
– Now put your blog in maintenance mode. You’ll need the WP Maintenance plugin, install and activate it. Then open its settings. Within “Design” tab, you can change the setting of splash pages that the visitors will see while your blog is in maintenance mode. Within “General” tab, eliminate any one of the pages from showing the splash page by typing its slug in the “Exclude” box. After it select “Activated” radio button. Click save settings.
– Now change your current theme and activate some other default theme of WordPress (like twenty fifteen etc).
– Again visit Google PageSpeed Insights and analyze URL again.
– If the score is now higher than the previous score, then it means your free theme is sabotaging your blog.
Always try to invest in a premium theme, so that it will not cost you as much as free theme does.
7) You Got Hacked… Again
It is really important for the health of your blog that you update your WordPress and the theme frequently. If you don’t update the theme on timely basis, it will cause many problems along with security issues.
AND Free themes aren’t kept updated always. Plus it is said that free themes are poorly coded and easy for spammers to hide the malicious code.
There are some signs that will help in identifying if you blog is hacked:
– Home page has changed
– Your blog redirects to some other site that doesn’t belongs to you.
– Google shows a warning page
– The admin password doesn’t work anymore
– You’re seeing new and strange traffic
Beside these signs, how will you make sure that your blog is really hacked? You can use different malware software such as “Is it hacked” to check your blog.
It’s Time to Ditch Your Free WordPress Theme
Your free WordPress theme is getting you hard times. It’s time to say goodbye to your free theme and use a premium theme.
Start all over again with the new premium theme, never hesitate to spend money on it because your blog worth it.
When you invest in your blog, your blog will surely pay you back; either in the form of revenue or more subscribers.
Choose a premium theme today, install it and stop worrying about suffocating your blog.
Don’t forget to share your experience with us…
Edited by AJ