How Do I Find a Great WordPress Theme?

How Do I Find a Great WordPress Theme

If there is a question we get asked more than any about Themes it would have to be What are the best WordPress themes?

Answer: The best theme is the theme that satisfies your needs and looks the way you want your site to look. OK, so that sounds like a bit of a cop out and it is.  What we are trying to say here is that there are literally thousands of awesome great themes and new amazing themes are being released daily.

The problem is that the above question is not the right question. There are a series of questions you need to ask yourself when choosing a theme for your website, brand and ultimately your business. in this article we will step through the question.

1. Do I need a Responsive Theme?

Yes you do. We have put this question first for a reason.  There is no longer any reason to not have a responsive theme. Almost all good themes free or premium are responsive. With Mobile devices becoming so ubiquitous the traffic on the web has changed from being primarily laptop/desktop based to becoming an even split with mobile and tablet. Whats does this mean? It means that as many people are viewing a site on a mobile device as there are viewing it on a PC.

Responsive WordPress Theme
Responsive WordPress Theme

Add to this that Google has put more emphasis on mobile in the search engine results and announcing that Google’s preferred method for handling mobile devices is responsive. There is no reason to ever touch a theme that is not responsive. Any good theme publisher will know this by now and either have remade an old theme or built a new theme using responsive technology.

Just in case you have missed it we will say it one more time “use a responsive theme”. If you see a site that you like and are unsure what theme it is using then use our WP theme detector to see what theme it is using and you will be able to check if it is actually responsive.

2. What Colors Do I Use?

Choosing a color for WordPress site
Choosing a color for WordPress site

Colors are important so give them plenty of thought. The colors to use will generally depend on the business logo. Try to match your site to logo. If you don’t have a logo yet then we recommend you select a color palette for the look for the website. There are a few sites online that can do this for you. One that we use a lot is https://paletton.com/. We like it because you can choose a base color and it will generate color schemes for you. Once again if you see a theme you like and it has the colors you would like to use then simply use our WordPress Theme Detector mentioned above to find it.

If you are a little confused about colors then a good point to start is to apply a little simple psychology to color selection. Consider your audience/customers and make a selection based on it. Here are some very simple guidelines do not use these as hard rules.

  • Women don’t like gray, orange, and brown. They like blue, purple, and green.
  • Men don’t like purple, orange, and brown. Men like blue, green, and black.
  • Blue is generally the color of trust.
  • Green is good for nature, outdoors and environment.
  • Orange is a fun color and although both men and women tend not to like it. Used correctly it can make a site stand out from the pack.
  • Yellow is used in warning signs and is a great color to grab attention just be careful with its application.
  • Black and other dark colors can be luxuriant. However the over use of these colors can make sites look bleak.
  • White is important because it ads negative space and negative space applied correctly can really make your calls to action stand out.
  • Use bright colors like pinks and reds as calls to action.

3. Choose a Theme With an Easy to Read Font

choose WordPress theme
choose WordPress theme

Font selection is important. Fonts have been tested for over a hundred years. Before  computers and the internet it was newspapers had already done much of the font testing. A newspaper could be made or broken based on its font selection. In the early days of home computing Apple in particular put a lot of research into fonts as the desktop publishing revolution came into being.

So the results are in and below we have a list of fonts that a site should stick to. Most are sans-serif mutations.

  • Roboto
  • Open Sans
  • Lato
  • Slabo
  • Oswald
  • Source Sans Pro
  • Montserrat
  • Raleway

We also recommend that you make the font size of about 16px. Why? The good people at Google.com have hinted that  small fonts can have a negative affect on SEO. It actually makes sense even if it is not a direct link between font size and SEO. What can happen is that user engagement metrics are negatively affected by small fonts.

4. Use a Premium or Free Theme?

There are some great free themes out there. This blog uses a modified version of a free the theme Twenty Seventeen. It is a great theme but very basic and that is exactly how we like it. The staff here at WordPress Theme Detector are almost all skilled php/java/jquery coders. We consider twenty Seventeen a good baser to start from. We are not looking for fancy things like sliders, popups, visual editors, etc.

What is a good professional looking free theme? There are quite a few but one that is a very popular in our office is Hestia. To borrow directly from its page on wordpress.org:

It has a multipurpose one-page design, widgetised footer, blog/news page and a clean look. It is compatible with Flat Parallax Slider, Photo Gallery, Travel Map and Elementor Page Builder. The theme is responsive, WPML and Retina ready, SEO friendly, and uses Material Kit for design.

However if you really want to get serious about the look of your then you will probably want to look into a premium theme. Premium themes can afford to be a little better than free themes precisely because they offer their authors a way of making an income, which in turn allows the author to put more effort into the development and support of the theme. The theme author can also afford to bundle premium plugins into the theme bundle.

What are the Best Premium Themes?

Here are the 5 we use most and a short reason why.

  • Avada A truly all purpose WordPress theme. This is the most popular premium theme ever sold
  • The7 Possibly the most customizable theme on the web at the moment
  • X the Theme Also customizable and powerful but a bit easier to use
  • The Fox A personal favourite of the team here at WP The Detector
  • Be Theme This theme comes with a huge database of pre-built sites

If you use any of the themes above you will end up with a truly amazing site.

WordPress SEO Plugins 2019 Comparison

WordPress SEO plugin comparison

What is the Best Free SEO Plugin?

The SEO Framework is now the best free SEO Plugin for 2019. That is a huge claim so I guess we better justify it. This plugin might not do everything that the big wigs in the WordPress SEO space do but it is not far off. Install it now but continue reading if you want our justifications for this claim. At the time of writing The SEO Framework has had 90,000+ active installs, 800,000+ downloads 190+ five star reviews. So the plugin has well and truly moved past the untested phase of plugin development and moved into stable release. to make it easier to find what plugina  site is suing, we will be adding a plugin finder to WordPress Theme Detector very soon.

1. the SEO Framework

The SEO Framework WordPress Plugin

 

What do we like about the SEO Framework? It works well and it works every time. The reliability of this plugin is something that we haven’t encountered in a long time in the WordPress world. We have tested this plugin by installing multiple different themes onto our test bed and many different plugins that have clashed with other SEO plugins and have not managed to make the website fall over. This is something we cannot say about almost any other SEO plugin we have tested. So if lack of plugin conflicts is important to you then use this plugin. If not then you need to change your attitude to conflicts.

This plugin is so lightweight the test site hardly knew it was there. Modern plugins tend to be bloated with ads, premium upgrades and nonsensical functionality. Sybre Waaijer the author has a personal philosophy of sticking to what is functional. He is well known and respected in the WordPress community, not just for this plugin but the many projects he has had a hand in.

Just because it’s lightweight doesn’t mean it hasn’t got most of not all features you would want in an SEO plugin. Like most good SEO plugins it can be left to its own devices. It can be left in fully automated mode. Just install and forget. The AI that has been built into the plugin saves so much time. It tweaks pages based on WordPress signals and in most situations it does a great job. It auto mode it will enable and optimize breadcrumbs, generate titles and descriptions that follow Google guidelines and has a built in sitemap generator.

The SEO Framework feels like what All in One SEO felt like the first time we encountered it many years ago. I remember installing All in One on client sites and getting an almost instant boost in Google traffic. While those days are gone TSF brings back that feel. There have been a few sites we have installed it on and seen an immediate increase SERP

OK so we have established that The SEO framework is lightweight and automates almost everything but is it customizable? Yes it is. It has all the options that “All in One SEO” and most of options of the free and premium version of “Yoast SEO” but we will talk about this later.

List of some of the customizations:

  • SEO Framework pluginTitle/description
  • Social media settings
  • Visibility (nofollow, noindex, canonical, etc.).
  • Basic schema markup like breadcrumbs and Google sitelinks
  • The automatically-generated XML sitemap
  • Social media
  • variety of free and premium modular extensions
  • Much more

SEO Plugin Comparison
One final feature before move onto the other SEO plugins. The SEO optimization column in the All posts list is so useful and easy to understand. All modern plugins should have quality of life features like this. It makes life easy for us SEO and WordPress professionals but what we really like about it is that clients can look at it and quickly get an understanding of what a possible problem with a post could be. When you have a worried client on the phone it is nice to be able to talk them through looking at this list and slowly make changes that positively affect their SEO.

2. Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO was the former king of the hill when it came to WordPress SEO plugins. We are not even going to bother with download and and install statistics. This is one of the most installed plugins in WordPress history and the reviews are very positive.

Yoast SEO plugin

For the longest time this was our go to plugin for SEO. We made all our clients install it and it worked incredibly well. The plugins focus on keyword analysis is what put it above the competition and to be fair, Yoast is still a little better than TSF at this. Yoast actually requires you to enter keywords to target and then formulates an analysis of the post around the entered data. Hardcore SEO types will stick to this plugin and for good reason. If you know what you are doing it takes out a lot of the guess work out of structuring a blog post for optimal SEO results.

Another amazing aspect to the Yoast plugin is analyse the readability of the post. Grammar has always been important but with Google improving its AI markedly in the last 5 years this has become more important than ever. Yoast provides color coding for readability and keyword focus which makes it easy to see what aspect of the blog post needs to be worked on.

So why don’t we recommend Yoast over TSF? TSF does almost everything that Yoast does and has a few unique aspects of its own. Also ease of use factors heavily in our decision to put TSF over Yoast. However the big thing that has made us move away from Yoast is incompatibility with certain themes and plugins. We have not only seen this on our own websites but many of our clients have reported weird incompatibilities with the Yoast plugin. It is a shame because this plugin is still truly an outstandingly good plugin. The readability and keyword targeting features are a god send but the fact that is bloated out with many unnecessary features and the upgrade to premium is a little intrusive for not a lot of extra value means we really can’t recommend it anymore.

3. All in One SEO

Before the Yoast SEO plugin came along All in One SEO reigned supreme in the WordPress SEO plugin space. I vividly remember installing “All in One SEO” to a small niche review site I had built back in 2011 and 8 days later reaching the top of the SERPS for many valuable keywords. This site went from making about US$400/month to US$3000/month and the only thing I did was install this terrific little plugin.

All in One SEO plugin

What a revelation that was. I did the same thing to a few other sites with varying success but never as good as that first site. Still it was this plugin that gave me a foothold into the niche website marketing trend at the time and help me build a great business. Those days are now long gone. Because of this I was devoted to this plugin for a very long time. It requires much more effort than installing an SEO plugin to get to the top of Google SERPs these days.  Unfortunately this plugin has become long in the tooth. It has no analysis or readability features like Yoast SEO and is not lightweight and nimble and easy to use like The SEO framework. It is a still a stellar performer and after all these years is still in the top 3 SEO plugins for WordPress.

Like Yoast SEO it is bloated and a little unwieldy and has the annoying upgrade path to a premium version. I could never recommend this plugin over the other 2 mentioned above.

Conclusion

If you haven’t realized by what we have already said we highly recommend The SEO Framework as the dedicated SEO plugin to use on a site. One plugin that we haven’t mentioned but we are keeping an eye on is SEOPress. We have heard very good things about it and have installed it on a 3 new niche sites to see how effective it is. We will keep you informed of the results.