5 Reasons Why Free WordPress Themes Are Not Really Free!

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June 7, 2019

One of the best things about using WordPress as your content management system is that it has plethora of themes ranging from free to premium. Just browse through WordPress theme directory once, and you will be able find more than 2,650 free themes to use on your WordPress sites. You can’t find these many free themes anywhere else, and that’s the beauty of using WordPress. It gives you plethora of great options that any other blogging platform can’t provide.

WordPress provides an incredible theme functionality, which enables it to produce stunning looking website designs. WordPress themes are available in two general categories – Free themes and Premium themes, each one of these two category of themes have their own benefits and drawbacks.

Are free WordPress themes really free as implied by their name? You really don’t have to pay a single dollar for their usage. Just download them from WordPress site, install on your blog and start using them. There are literally thousands of free WordPress themes available on the site and they come in 1 column, 2 columns, three columns and almost every color scheme.

Most free WordPress themes have plenty of hidden benefits for the developers who design the themes. On the face these themes look the most desirable option for a WordPress beginner but consider these points and your perception towards free WordPress themes might change.

Why free WordPress themes are NOT really free

free wordpress themes are not free

Below I’ll mention few strong reasons why free WordPress themes are not really free. So make sure to read the post if you want to know the BS of using free WordPress themes or consider reading them if you want to use free WordPress themes on your sites.

1. Backlinks

Most of the free WordPress themes have a hyperlink in their footer which provides the theme creator a backlink to his/her website. This dilutes your page rank and the terms of use of the free theme mentions it clearly that the hyperlink has to be kept intact in order to use the theme. So in effect you are giving a backlink to the creator of the theme. If you are focused on Pagerank and not giving any dofollow backlinks from your websites to others, then don’t use free themes.

2. Difficult to modify

The free WordPress themes provide basic functionality, limited widget areas, shallow documentation and relatively not-so-clean code. This doesn’t mean any disrespect to the theme creators but when it comes to customizing these free WordPress themes to suit the needs of the blog or website, it requires coding effort, which has its own learning curve and secondly if you like to go for support from the theme creator you’ll often have to shell out money from your pocket.

Even if you want to modify the functions of the free themes, you will end up getting worst loading times on your WordPress sites. So you only have to get help from the creator of the theme which in turn costs you money.

3. Compatibility issues

Compatibility of free WordPress themes is also an issue. With latest plugins being developed at a fast pace themes are often found lacking in keeping pace with them. Again to make the theme compatible coding effort is required and if you are not adept enough you’ll have to purchase the talent.

Most free WordPress theme designers don’t make free themes mobile friendly. So you have to pay them extra bucks if you want to make it mobile responsive (in case if you really like the free theme you are using).

4. Functionality

Free themes generally lack complex functionalities like e-commerce and integration with third party payment processors. This means to get the functionality new code has to be written, which again means money to be spent on the free themes you are using.

5. Support

Most of the free theme providers have lots of issues on their plate. Support is just one of them. Releasing new versions, making patches to existing themes and maintenance of existing themes already takes a lion’s share of their time. The support queues are huge and they often do not commit any time duration to address the support ticket.

These troubles faced by free WordPress themes users prompted many developers to use the WordPress theme opportunities to create good looking and more functional themes. Many premium theme providers have mushroomed to provide theme frameworks (Genesis and Thesis etc) and standalone themes with various functionalities.

The advantages of WordPress are fully exploited by these developers to create themes which offer e-commerce sites, directory sites, membership sites and lots of other complex websites. Extending the core functionality of WordPress, which was earlier better known as a blogging platform, these premium theme developers are making it easy for users to extract a content management system (CMS) like functionality from it.

Why should you avoid using free WordPress themes?

Though few WordPress themes are free, as I said above, they are not free at all. There’s always a catch when using free stuff from anyone. No one gives you a piece of cake at free of cost, there’s always a catch no matter what.

Here are few strong reasons why you should not use free WordPress themes.

  • Most free WordPress themes are not unique. They don’t give an appealing design to your WordPress sites. They all are generic and you simply can’t stand out from the crowd. If you are a WordPress beginner, you need to stand out and stay unique to quickly build your online presence. So avoid using free WordPress themes if you want to be successful.
  • They are not search engine friendly. Most of the free themes on WordPress are not designed for search engines. So you won’t get any additional features or more organic traffic by using free themes. If you want to increase your search traffic, use search engine friendly themes like Thesis, Genesis etc.
  • Most free WordPress themes are not mobile responsive. Having a mobile friendly theme is a must if you don’t want to lose traffic from mobile, tablet or smart phone devices. As mobile Internet usage is increasing day by day, you would lose a lot of traffic and revenue if you don’t have a mobile friendly design.
  • No customer support and rarely updated. Take any free WordPress theme, and you will notice that they won’t get updated. Moreover when you have problems with your design or theme functions, you won’t be able to get any support from theme designers.
  • They always come with a BS. They contain unwanted footer links. They may contain malicious code inserted into the themes. They often have complex CSS codes that you can’t easily tweak. And many other functionalities that you don’t want on your WordPress sites.

Use premium themes that increase your search traffic

When you are using premium themes over free WordPress themes, there are so many advantages you can get. Few are mentioned below;

  • Great customer support
  • Regular theme updates
  • Secured design and coding
  • Search engine friendly
  • Mobile responsive design
  • Uniqueness in website design

Premium WordPress themes come at a price – Ranging from $30/site usage license to $150 and more these theme providers charge anything depending on the popularity and functionality it provides. There are professional developers behind the scenes of these premium theme providers and with it comes professional support, good documentation, keeping up with the upgrades, compatibility issues and ability to get more features if you are able to pay the price.

This makes creating a feature rich website with WordPress a cakewalk for the average users and allows them to focus more on their business or main purpose instead of scratching their head around over technical snags and getting the right functionality.

Besides frameworks, sites like elegant themes, theme forest etc are some of the largest providers of premium themes.

From the facts mentioned above things clearly tilt in favor of premium themes for the speed and hassle-free environment they provide to create a particular functionality around WordPress. The themes look elegant and give a professional outlook to your web presence.

Other WordPress Themes Review:

Free WordPress themes, though give a hard time to a new user to use WordPress fully, provide a huge variety for any WordPress users to try their hands and if they have the knowledge and skills to create the desired functionality, free WordPress themes are a real good option to have. If you are a beginner, free WordPress themes give you plenty of room to improve your blog design.

Personally I don’t suggest anyone to use free WordPress themes on their WordPress sites. The reason is that, if you want to make money online, you have to first invest money. Without spending money, expecting money in return doesn’t work. Also considering the fact that, you will get serious if you are spending money on something. So invest some money on buying a premium theme that suits your needs and you never have to look back.

So what are your thoughts on using free WordPress themes? Would you recommend free themes or premium themes to a  newbie? Please share your views in the comment section below.

Anil Agarwal

Anil Agarwal

Anil Agarwal who owns Bloggerspassion.com, is a full-time blogger and SEO expert who has been helping people build profitable websites for over a decade. Bloggers Passion has been featured on premium online sites like Forbes.com, Huffingtonpost, SEMrush, Problogger, Crazy Egg, The Next Web and so on.


  1. Suraj Gupta says:

    Can you please tell us which is the best WordPress theme for web development professional website? I can go for paid also my budget is $199

  2. Ankit Kumar Singla says:

    Free WordPress Themes Are Not Really Free! Absolutely right Anil bro and very well crafted post.

    When I started blogging, I always looked for free themes but after not getting good response, I bought one premium theme and it’s really super cool.

    I must say one should invest some money on necessary things like themes, plugins and tools if necessary. It will return much more to you.

  3. Manish Agrawal says:

    Hey Anil,

    Thank you very much for sharing this very informative content regarding free wordpress themes because i also use free wordpress themes everytime,

    It is very helpful to beginners. I shall be sharing it with my friends.


  4. Nirmala says:

    You’ve written a nice post for the bloggers by insisting not to use the free themes Anil 🙂

    All the reasons which you’ve mentioned here are acceptable and yes, theme should be of SEO friendly to drive organic traffic. Recently, I have moved my blog to Genesis wordpress theme and it is quite good with little improvement in traffic.

    Thanks for writing a detailed post about free themes, it would help your readers to use premium themes for their blog.

  5. Dean Saliba says:

    The thing I dislike the most about free themes is when the creator sells links in your footer, links that are rubbish and have nothing to do with your niche (PPI Claim, credit cards, insurance, etc). And they make it impossible to remove them without breaking the theme.

    I much prefer premium or custom themes now.

    • Ankit Kumar Singla says:

      I’m agree with you Dean.

      Those footer links are really annoying. And one more thing that is ridiculous about those links is those are dofollow links which passes your hard earned link juice to them.

      It may harm your blog as well. So I highly recommend to my fellow bloggers not to use free themes.

  6. Jenna says:

    Free themes indeed have less functionality but you must put in balance the money vs the time you have to spent…

  7. Rahul says:

    wordpress themes are seo optimized and easy to use so these are premium and beneficial for our blog thanks for sharing..

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