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Why don’t we use free or purchased WordPress themes?

Ah, WordPress. It’s such a powerful tool when used correctly.

When used incorrectly, however, it can cause major self-destruction. Security issues, SEO problems, lack of expandability… These all can be catastrophic to your site.

  • Security issues: WordPress is already susceptible to hacks when it’s not set up correctly: Add a common theme onto it and you just gave hackers another way into your site. This is especially true if the theme developers aren’t keeping the theme up to date on those types of security flaws.
  • SEO problems: Simple coding rules for SEO can be totally ignored in these themes. Proper ordering of heading tags, for example, is one of the worst offenses I’ve seen. Theme developers will use a H1 tag in the header to display the logo – which doesn’t tell the search engines anything about the content of the page. Some of these themes also load the styling inline (basically styling each element individually) which is also a huge no-no for search engines.
  • Lack of expandability: Want to add in a certain blurb to the home page? Sometimes, with these pre-built themes, that can take days of work to complete – and you need to really know how to code for WordPress. Want to add a shopping cart? You may have to completely style the product pages, cart and other items yourself to get them to sort-of match the theme. Don’t know what PHP, HTML or CSS is? Then you’re really going to have a tough time expanding your site.

One of the easiest ways to cause these issues is by selecting the wrong theme. Themes can range from free to $500 – and still have major flaws.

We came across one of these terrible themes when doing some SEO work for a client. The new site had just been built by another developer and they saw a major drop in traffic to the site. So, they looked to us for SEO help to boost their rankings again. When we went into the code of the site, we found over 3,000 lines of code. We went through 2,200 lines of code before we even got to any of the content. Then, we found those heading tags being used inappropriately, inline styles being loaded via javascript and a whole bunch of other problems. The scary thing? This theme is the top seller on ThemeForest, one of the largest template sales sites on the internet. It’s been purchased over 230,000 times. That also brings us to the security issues – one hacker finds their way into one site that uses the theme and the rest of the 230,000 sites are at risk.

So how do we (W.A. Fisher) get around these issues? Simply put, we built our own theme from scratch.

That’s right, any of our WordPress sites are using a COMPLETELY custom theme that only includes the elements needed to make the site function. Plus, we make sure to use a child theme for each project so that if we make any core updates to the parent theme, we don’t overwrite any customization for the site.

You’ll find that our custom themes:

  1. Have minimal code.
  2. Follow SEO best practices.
  3. Are expandable – if you want to add a shopping cart down the road, we can easily edit the theme to do just that.
  4. Are exactly what your website needs and nothing more.

So, if you’re wondering if your WordPress theme is putting your site at risk for catastrophic issues, get in touch with us! We’d be happy to take a look at your site and let you know if you need to be concerned.

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