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Why I Changed from Free to Premium WordPress Themes

When I started blogging and using WordPress, like many others I was trying to do everything as inexpensively as possible. I used only free plugins and themes.  I tested and used a lot of different themes over the last few years, such as your basic Twenty Ten and Twenty Eleven, Weaver, and many others. I ended up moving to Premium WordPress Themes because I needed the following: 

wordpress themes - free vs premiumI Needed a Site That Looks Like a Real Website

A lot of the free themes are really made for blogs, and when I started building more sites that I wanted to look like more standard web sites rather than WordPress blogs. I needed the sites to look professional and to have functionality my clients needed. Most of the freebie plugins and themes just couldn’t accommodate my clients with the professional appearance and functionality they needed.

Needed Sites to be Problem-Free

Some free themes were discovered to have spammy backlinks hidden in them which were being used to boost the search rankings of whatever site the free theme maker wanted to promote. And by this, I don’t mean just a legitimate theme name/author in the footer, but like excessive links in ways that violate Google’s terms and put the site using the theme at risk.

Seeing as I was now creating sites for paying clients, I couldn’t risk having some crazy backlink mess up our ratings. That’s when I realized I needed to move to reliable themes. I found the premium WordPress themes were just what I needed.

Needed My Sites to Be Flexible and Robust

I found it was hard to get great free themes that were flexible and robust. I know, that’s asking a lot from a free theme, and that’s when I realized if I’m wanting that much out of a theme, it only stands to reason that the theme designer has a right to be compensated for that work.

I Needed Website Security

Other themes were found to have major security vulnerabilities.  Many hacked WordPress sites have been compromised due to insecure themes.

I Needed Themes That Are Responsive to Mobile & Tablets

As is reported on often these days, more and more people are browsing web sites via their mobile phones (primarily iPhone and Android based) as well as Tablets (iPad, Android tablets, Kindle Fire, etc.).  A surprisingly large number of web sites still make no adjustment for these users and so their websites range from looking bad to downright unreadable on these devices.

I’ve used mobile specific themes, domains and redirection type scripts in the past, but found that the very best way to deal with this issue is to use a premium theme which is built to be responsive. In other words, the theme will adjust it’s look and feel automatically to best suit the type of device the visitor to your website is using.

My Go-To Themes: Premium WordPress Themes

I no longer use free WordPress themes. I know they are great for people who are just starting out or who just need a blog, but my needs have advanced beyond that. I need to know that:

  • No one is going to be able to hack into my site due to poor theme security
    • There’s more to WP security than this, but  that’s a topic for another post
  • The site will look professional
  • I’ll be able to build a site with reliable contact forms, email sign ups, e-commerce shopping carts, cool looking headers, flexibility
  • I’ll get customer support when I need it
  • I won’t get dinged by Google because of spammy backlinks, slow page load performance or poor mobile support

While many of the WordPress Premium Themes are pretty impressive, I’m an especially big fan of the Genesis based themes (aka Studiopress themes which are built on the Genesis framework). I’ve now built several sites for my own affiliate marketing efforts and for clients on Genesis/Studiopress themes, and I’ve found them to be very flexible and functional. I love how they look, how fast they load, and how responsive they are. You can check out the Genesis/Studiopress themes here.

Deciding What Will Work For You

You may still want to try out some free themes and plugins. If you do, I encourage you to:

  • Watch carefully for problems with security
  • If you are struggling with your Google rankings, look into spammy backlink or slow page load problems
  • Beware of clunky plugins that mess up your theme appearance
  • Be aware that you may not be able to get customer support when you need it

If you want to share what has worked for you or ask questions, please post a comment. I look forward to hearing what you’ve learned and answering questions the best I can!

Improve Your SEO Ranking by Using Tags on Blog Posts

You’ve probably heard that Google is punishing bloggers for overusing and abusing keywords, right? In other words, if you load your blog posts with an unreasonable and unnatural amount of keywords, you’re going to get Google-slapped. Your rankings will drop like a rock if you don’t have valuable content on your site and instead have just crammed it full of keywords.

search engine optimization SEO

Great Way to Insert Unnatural Keyword Phrases

However, there are ways to improve your SEO rankings by stuffing your post tags with keywords. This is a great way to get those unnatural keyword phrases like “need electrician Dallas” or “weight loss Dr. Oz” into your posts without looking like your blog posts were written by an imbecile. Tags are still magically Google-proofed – meaning Google will let you pile up unnatural sounding phrases in the tags.

 

How Do Tags Work For SEO?

When a post gets indexed by Google for post tags, it will show up as “archive for post tags” – but this often will bring you to the first page of Google, leapfrogging you over all those keywords people stuffed into actual blog posts.

 

When entering post tags, be sure to separate each tag with a comma. Unlike keywords, you do not have to have the exact phrase in the text of your blog post. This frees you up to enter keyword phrases that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to work into your blog post.

 

What Website Frameworks Work Best?

You’ll see that some webpage frameworks are easier to work with than others. I’m a fan of Genesis themes because their blogging structures allow you to post tags and do other behind-the-scenes SEO work that other themes might not support.

 

WordPress themes in general are the boss, but Genesis themes are a step up in usability and functionality, plus they rock style.

 

Not Sure How to Choose Keywords?

You might think you can just intuitively pick the right keywords, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t do your keyword research.

 

I personally like to recommend Scribe for new bloggers because Scribe has a keyword research tool built into the program.

 

Scribe will also evaluate your blog post for readability (checking the reading skill level required to understand your blog post – this is helpful especially for technical or informational blog posts.) Scribe will also give you advice on how to improve your SEO rankings by making small tweaks to your blog post.

 

Scribe is especially valuable because it is always changing along with Google’s changes. The good people at StudioPress stay up on the latest Google algorithm changes and build these into the Scribe updates. This means you won’t have to pay attention to what Google does – Scribe will do it for you.

 

Here’s a money-saving tip: If you buy Scribe at the lower level, you can use it to evaluate your first several posts each month, and then use the information you gleaned from those first few posts to apply the guidelines to the rest of your posts. This is a great way to use Scribe (and take advantage of the Google ranking updates) at budget cost. Remember to write off your Scribe membership costs on your taxes – it will more than pay for itself if you pay attention to the updates provided.

 

How Much Tagging is Too Much?

This is a good question. Right now you can get away with tagging your blog post with multiple tags, but you will want to watch out for over-tagging. Chances are that Google will eventually start punishing bloggers who over-tag, whatever they decide that is. Keep your eye out for information about new Google SEO algorithm changes related to tagging.

 

In the meantime, go back through your old posts and add appropriate tags to every post. You’ll see your old posts showing up on Google in a week or so.