#33 – Which is The Best WordPress Theme For Your Authority Site?

What you will learn

  • The one mistake most other people make when choosing a WordPress Theme (plus how to avoid it)
  • What to look for when theme shopping
  • Which themes to avoid
  • Our recommended WordPress Themes

Everyone who starts a website will quickly come across this problem. Which WordPress theme should you use? In today’s episode we explore the different things to pay attention to and give you our recommendation for the best theme.

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Full Transcript

Welcome to the Authority Hacker podcast, the place to learn field tested, no BS tactics to grow hack your online business, and finally, live life on your own terms. Now, your hosts, Gael and Mark.

Gael: Hey guys, welcome to the Authority Hacker podcast, here I am with Mark, how is it going Mark?

Mark: Hey, it’s going good.

Gael: Cool. We decided to make some podcast that treats a lot of the questions you guys are sending us. We have quite a few people read Authority Hacker these days and listen to the podcast, there is actually more and more people. Listening is pretty frequent, we get over 2,000 downloads for our episodes now, so if you are taking time out of your days to listen to the podcast, well first of all, thank you, and we are going to do our best to cater it to what you need and for that we are going to take some questions that maybe mark and I don’t ask ourselves anymore, and try to focus on the questions you guys ask.

Mark: I would just like to point out if anyone has any questions that they would like us to answer, perhaps topics for future shows, go to authorityhacker.com/ask and you can ask us any question there, and we actually use that to derive the topic for this very podcast, so there’s a good chance we’ll answer your question via podcast that way.

Gael: Yeah. This question comes all the time, right, and that question is “Which WordPress theme should I use”. So I think before we actually jump into the theme part, I think I’d like to say that I cannot even conceive building a website without WordPress at this point, and without all the plugins that we use etc, so if you are still in the school of like, “oh let’s build an html site,” well if you’re a coder that’s great, but even if you are developer, you’ve got the factor the time it takes and I actually remember when we used to have an agency and we had that client that was taking care of like dentists sites around the US and the guy was like he knew his way around building HTML sites and stuff and how to code, I talked to him when he was deciding the platform and he was like, “Oh but I can code everything myself, it’s a little bit faster, you don’t have to process all the PHP etc”, I’m like sure, but you are only one person, you are only able to manage all these sites in HTML, make all the changes they ask etc, it would be much much faster in WordPress, you need to consider that stuff.” And for all I know, they went with HTML at the beginning, and six month later, they regretted everything, they called me back and they switched all the sites back to WordPress. So I think at this point, WordPress is powering something like 18% of the internet at this point. If your site goes down because it’s on WordPress, so will 18% of the internet, including sites like TechCrunch and so on. So, it is pretty safe. But then, when you install WordPress, which usually is a one click install with most hosting providers. Then, it doesn’t exactly look like the site of your dreams and the way to remedy that is to use a WordPress theme. Sometimes there are free ones, sometimes there are paid ones.

Actually, let’s talk about free versus paid, right. There are a lot of free WordPress themes out there, and if you are really trying to save money because you really don’t have much, it might be a good place to start, you can definitely make money with a free theme, but what I want to say is that with the free theme you don’t get support and you don’t get updates, usually. And that is, the updates especially is what puts your site at risk of being hacked, and that’s what gives WordPress a bad name, and that why we tend to focus on paid themes.

Mark: It’s not a big outlay, I mean, even for a half decent paid theme, you can get it for 20, 30, 40 dollars.

Gael: Yeah, it goes up to 50, 60, for like the really good ones, but it’s a one off, you usually pay just to get the support is really cheap actually, if you need anything. So WordPress themes are definitely like, it’s a very competitive market, a lot of people provide them and as a result, it’s very affordable and so, I prefer having a paid one, if I know that the provider is going to have good support, and that’s what we are going to be talking about today, it’s mostly going to be paid themes. Now that we talked about that, we’ll explained what a theme is, essentially it’s skinning your website making it a little different, make it look a little bit more like what you want your end site to look like. Let’s talk about the elements of a good theme, and I’ll let you start with that, Mark.

Mark: Yeah, so, the first thing when you ever go shopping around for a theme, the first thing you always see in the demo at least, it the homepage. And, that’s not necessarily the best place to look, when you want to sort of get a feel for it, and I’ll explain that in just a second. But, definitely it’s the most eye catching thing, the first thing people notice. And, the way that the demo version of the theme is laid out will sort of impact on your initial impression. They put the most effort into that part of it so that if you see anything, wow, this, I really like this. But, it’s not really the most important part of your site, at least if you are building sort of an authority site, like we do. Instead, you want to look more on what does a normal blog post look like. Again, you can navigate through the demo version of the theme very easily and stuff, but your initial impression of that I would say is much more important than what the homepage looks like and the reason is that when you start doing this most of the, the first page that the most new visitors will see is not going to be your homepage, it’s going to be a blog post or some kind of landing page if you are doing advertising and whatnot. So I think that is the thing you need to pay the most close attention to, how that feels, how that looks initially, and there is not really a scientific way of saying oh this is god or this is bad, I mean, obviously, if it’s broken, and things aren’t aligned then yeah, but it’s really about what kind of initial impression it gives.

Gael: It’s kind of a branding choice, basically.

Mark: I also like things which are simple, there is a lot of themes out there that have all these sort of complex elements and visual HTML5 stuff which looks really cool in the demo theme but you often find it’s quite one dimensional and you can never really get it to do what you want when you end up building it yourself. So, something quite simple, the last kind of crazy elements on the blog post or page design the better. And, so that’s the first thing I would really look at. And the second thing for me would be the sort of elements like the typography, fonts and colors. Now, most of this you can change and that’s fine, but unless you are a designer, chances are you are not going to be so good at picking which font goes well, and which color where, and that sort of things, so one of the big benefits of using a theme, is that someone who hopefully knows what they are doing has already made those decisions, so you are basically getting this design advice kind of built in into the theme which is really nice.

Gael: Yeah, I mean, if you are not a designer, really stick with simple ones, Mark and are not designers, and if you look both at Health Ambition and Authority Hacker, they are like ultra simple, it’s like light gray background with basically just the custom image and the title and nothing else, even on home page, home page on Authority Hacker guys is going to change at some point, so if you are listening to this podcast three months after it was released, there’s a good chance it’s going to change, it’s pretty terrible right now. Same with Health Ambition to be frank. One thing I want to say is like when you start your new site, all these fancy things, especially if you are not a designer, is going to take you time and more work to make them look alright, even just look halfway as good as it looks on a demo theme; and these demo themes, they’re really a trap, because these people that use gray images, they spend hours and hours on that, because it makes them thousands of dollars, because you buy the theme, but it’s not necessary stuff that you should be doing yourself when you start a new site, like starting your theme for three months, not a good idea.

Mark: Yes, and the last point actually I want to mention on the elements of the theme is I like to look specifically at the head of foot in site bar, what does that actually look like, because you need those to be really function for you, especially the header, a lot of themes have these fancy drop downs, and sliders and all kind of stuff, but you really just need a good menu, with enough room to actually put several links along there. A lot of the demo themes you come across will be designed for sort of a web designers portfolio, home, about me, portfolio, contact us, which are for very short words but if you are building an authority site you might want to put lot of different categories out there or just need to pay attention to that and make sure there is room in the way they are laid out. And again, it’s relatively simple, it’s not going to take up too much real estate on your screen. So yeah, that’s pretty much it, the only other thing I would say about colors actually is the more sort of basic and neutral, I find the better. You find a lot of really actually beautiful looking themes which are sort of black and purple and stuff, but when it comes to doing an authority site, you find that really, white background, or some version of gray background is where you want to be at. You need to be able to add a lot of your own colored images in which are going to be all sorts of different colors.

Gael: A lot of stock images have white background as well, which looks really good on white background, but horrible without a white background.

Mark: Yeah, that’s true, that is a good point. So if you are going to be buying stock images, white background all the way. Honestly, for me, the rules are always like white background, usually dark gray font, it’s not like exactly black, it’s usually dark gray and blue links. Blue links, I like to keep it blue, I like to keep it underlined, like the classic internet links, so that the users know what to expect and I think when we change the link color oh Health Ambition to blue, it was green at some point, the clicks to Amazon actually increased quite a bit.

Mark: Yeah, that’s quite well documented sort of conversion thing, have typical internet explorer blue underlined links and you will get higher click through.

Gael: Yeah, so I heard red links do pretty well as well. I don’t think it fits our brand, so I’ll keep it blue, but yeah, it’s definitely keep it super simple. Now we’ve talked a little bit about the demos already, so I’m not going to talk about that again, but let’s talk about what look at in themes, but the thing is like, most people when they buy themes, they look at the design and stuff, and the truth is, you can essentially redo the entire design of any theme. Now, it would not make much sense to buy a theme and just redo every single element, you might as well find a theme that is closer to what you need, but the argument is, what it looks like is definitely not the most important thing. For me, what is important is that the creator keeps it updates and keeps working on it, I like to see new features, I like to see them adapt to things that came up so for example a good example is social cards, right. There are snippets in your pages that you can use right now so that your title looks different on social media than it looks for Google. So you can have your title tag with your keywords optimized etc, and you can have your social media title tag that essentially is more clickbaitsy and will generate more traffic from social. And that is quite cool. And this function is built inside Yoast SEO so if you’re using that, it’s not so bad but I like to see that the theme creator is actually like worked on that, for example on Thrive, I know as them specifically to actually add that in there, at the time when Yoast wasn’t doing it yet, they actually did it first and it’s nice to see that it’s updated, it’s also nice to see that they updated for the new versions of WordPress, WordPress updates like two to four times a year, and there are incompatibilities cropping up with the new versions, and if the team owner is not updating it then you could have problems and it could break your site.

Mark: It’s also quite a big security thing to make sure your theme is updated as much as possible, and if the theme developer is fixing any flaws, that the WordPress update wouldn’t catch.

Gael: Yeah, that’s one of the things that give themes in WordPress in general a bad name, it’s people not updating and code not being updated.

Mark: Plugins installed but not activated and then not updated, that kind of things.

Gael: Yeah, so, that stuff just ads [12:55 inaudible] wrote into your site, but it’s not WordPress that does the poor maintenance of your website essentially, so that’s what I’m looking at mostly, together with the initial site speed when the theme is installed and there is nothing else on the site, what does my site speed look like, it just gives you a good idea of how well the html is coded, so usually run not with the Google page speed tool, I use pingdom usually. And I compare the WordPress stock theme which is really well coded, with the theme I am installing, and usually if I don’t see much difference, then I can go with that. And actually, we are going to give you some specific themes at the end of this podcast. And talking about updates, a lot of people will want to make customizations to their themes, change the css, add new functions etc, and that’s fine.

Mark: Change the checkout maybe.

Gael: Change the checkout, what we’ve been doing three times now, on our site, and it’s been really painful, and to do that, you should use something called the Thrive theme. Essentially like a theme for your theme but the fact that, most developers that develop for WordPress will not do that, so if you are hiring someone, just write down a brief, in red, and say if you don’t do it I won’t pay you. Because, a Child theme essentially allows you to update your WordPress theme, so like when the theme owner creates a new version you can update it without losing the changes you’ve made, if you don’t do that, there is a good chance that you will lose a lot of the changes you’ve made unless there is some specific place for that, for example, Thrive has a custom css, box in the theme option that allows you put changes in there, without using your Child theme but still, if you are doing some heavy changes you should still do that. And yeah, the developers that we used for our checkout on Health Ambition despite the fact that I mentioned it three times did not do it, and I am pretty mad.

Mark: They actually edited the theme files, so when they were making some customizations to our checkout so when we then went to update the theme, it was fairly actually, those changes which they had made to the theme files were lost.

Gael: And out whole checkout book.

Mark: And our whole checkout broke, it was down for week, I couldn’t figure out what was going on, and then, just we are having someone else who is updating our Authority Hacker checkout and he is like, they didn’t use the Child theme. It was a big point of frustration today, let’s just say that.

Gael: The missed opportunity is in the four figures, between the lost sales and the cost for the guy that is going to have to fix that. If you end up selling your own products and doing that kind of stuff, you have missed opportunities as well, whereas if you actually do it properly, you make sure they do it properly, and like we did, you should be in good shape and that should save you some trouble. Use a Child theme for your modifications especially if you do heavy modifications. Let’s talk about what we look at when we choose a theme.

Mark: I just want to say that what I used to do all the time, and I know you did this as well Gael, is we would find a theme and then build a site around that, rather than- you want to do it the other way around, so you have an idea of what your site needs to look like and what elements you need on there, and what functionality you need, and find the theme that matches it. That way.

Gael: It’s just a typical newbie mistake, right, it’s like you go on Theme Forest, usually, and we’re going to talk about Theme Forest in a second.

Mark: I’ve done this at least five times by the way.

Gael: I can tell, I probably spent 500 to 800 dollars in themes, doing that, and dropping every single website I started that way, but essentially, they have very good niche themes, they have cool directories, they have ecommerce stuff, etc, like oh my god, this is amazing, this is like all out of the box, all I need to do is populate it.

Mark: And when you start to populate it you start to put a blog post, oh actually, I need to fit an image here, and this color is wrong, and this is too wide, or this is too narrow and that kind of stuff.

Gael: You will never make it look nearly as good as what the demo looks like and you end up dropping the site because you realize well, actually starting a website is a bunch of work and you don’t have time, and you have something else to do etc. So, I think the first thing is don’t bye a theme and then create a site, but create a site and then buy a theme.

Mark: Yes, you can actually do that, you can build a site just using the default WordPress template. Is it still 2014 or is it 2016?

Gael: I think it’s 2016.

Mark: I don’t know if they update every year, that’s how little I look at it. Anyway, the default WordPress theme is just like a black bar at the top and mostly white, you can build a site based on that and then the beauty of using WordPress themes is you can add any theme later, and it’s going to look okay, there might be few things you need to change.

Gael: I’d go that way, if it was me.

Mark: That’s what I mean, if you want to put up your first sort of ten blog posts or something, if that’s the first time you’ve done it and you don’t know anything about themes, that’s definitely a better way than just hoping you bought the right theme, because you are not going to know what you need, until you have that experience.

Gael: In any project we have, I like putting a hard task before we spend any money, so I like testing myself on my dedication to the project, so for a lot of people that start a new site, I’m like, okay, you want to start a new site, let’s make sure you really want to do it, I want you to plan the first hundred articles into Asana. And, you cannot buy the domain until you have the first hundred articles, and that makes sure this is not one of your projects you will not follow up on. And that goes the same way with the theme, it costs money, so make sure you have a lot of basics before you actually go through that and if you want to work on the framework of your site or something, yeah, the default WordPress theme allows you to do that. Is there anything else we look for on WordPress?

Mark: Yeah, when it comes to marketing, a lot of the stuff we teach in Authority Hacker pro actually, it requires, not quite sure how to phrase this, but like you need to be able to edit specific pages in specific ways.

Gael: If you want to put Facebook pixel on your page, for example.

Mark: For example, yeah. There is adding code to it, but, I am talking more about like if you want to create a landing page, which is a blank page.

Gael: Without the menu, without your footer, without all of that, so that if you reduce this distractions, you get higher conversions.

Mark: Yeah. So it’s not just a normal blog post, it’s more like a sales page, you want to have functionality that has in a theme that allows you to do that and ideally, even has different kinds of templates for that. Another little thing, it’s not a huge deal, but I know a lot of themes do this now, is they have sort of privacy policy, about us, contact us, terms, pages, and it’s actually like for the privacy policy it’s pre populated with the legal stuff which you need to do. Again, not a huge deal, but if someone does that in their theme, it shows me that they have really thought about what the end user is actually going to use it for.

Gael: And you know, there is a kontra argument for that, for landing pages, people are like well, you are using Thrive content builder which has a landing page builder in it, so why do you need that, and like why do you need the privacy policy, why can’t you copy and paste from the internet. And it’s true, you could do that, I mean, first of all, it’s nice to have the landing pages in your theme, because it preserves the experience of your entire site, so in a case of Authority Hacker for example, we do have track on the builder we use it for most pages, but you also use a lot of landing pages that use the theme landing pages, because I like to preserve, like I like that when someone comes from the blog with the white background and with the logo on the top left etc, I like them to go on a page that looks pretty similar so they feel they are on the same site as well, whereas all these landing pages builder will usually break the experience, so I try to break it at tragic point not necessarily on the first page you get to. And so that’s why I like having landing pages. As for the privacy policy etc, yeah, you could do it without it, you could have a plugin for it etc, but it bloats your website and you like having a lot of these things built in your theme, it’s just less plugins, less opportunities for hacking, faster site etc.

Mark: Yes, the last thing you want to be doing is install a plugin which specifically just generates privacy page, that’s how you slow down your site by doing that, and okay, not just that, but if you take that approach you end up with fifty plugins. As we’ve experienced with Health Ambition before.

The other thing as well is, I know on Authority Hacker we promote sort of Thrive content builder a lot, and this kind of has a lot of of these elements in there already, but a theme which has a pre built library of sort of shortcodes, buttons, call to actions, this kind of thing which is sort of designed already according to the theme.

Gael: It goes together, basically.

Mark: Yeah, it’s a button which looks like it’s part of the theme, not just some random thing that sticks out, although, maybe that’s not such a bad idea if it’s- you know what I mean.

Gael: For our pages, very often I use a shortcut still, even when we use the drag and drop builder, because I want, once again, to make it more of an integrated experience. And, that is one thing that Thrive content builder didn’t do very well, it’s like they have the themes on one side, and they have the builder on the other side, it’s like the designs are completely different.

Mark: Sorry, I just want to explain to anyone who is not familiar- Thrive Content Builder is like this drag and drop surprisingly enough content builder, so rather than going into WordPress and sort of writing your article word for word into WordPress editor, it has its own editor and it’s like a visual of what you see is what you get editor. It’s just a better way, we have a review of it, I’ll stick it into show notes. It’s a much better way of producing content and make it look much better.

Gael: I was going to say if you want to learn more about it you can go to Google and type Thrive content builder review you’ll see on page one, we probably have the most comprehensive review of that actually. Cool, now that we talked about all this stuff, let’s talk about specific theme companies, let’s talk about what we think about them, because this is all nice and cool, but people want to know hey, which one do I buy? We are going to give our opinion on these companies, and I want to say, our opinion is like not the word of god or anything like that, it’s just our opinion based on what we do with our sites, if you are running an ecommerce company or if you’re doing anything other than what we do, then you might have a different opinion of this companies and they might be catering better to you, so I am not always nice with tools as you can see on some of our reviews and posts, and I am not going to make an exception this time, but yeah, once again, it depends on what you do, so be careful with our reviews.

Let’s first talk about what I think is by far the most stable framework, so if you want a theme that has no technical problems and is compatible with most things, the number one recommendation for me would be actually the Genesis framework. It’s also by far one of the most expensive out there, I think the license is like $150 or something.

Mark: No, it’s $60.

Gael: Alright, my bad, Genesis I’m sorry. It’s still very expensive for a theme. But, it’s old, it’s been well coded, they have invested a lot into like a really good developers to do it, it’s very basic, it doesn’t look anything super fancy, but you know it’s never going to fail you, so if that’s what you’re looking for in a theme, I would go with that, and the good news is it has a lot of child themes available, both official and unofficial that is also like a bunch of tools for it etc, so yeah, if you want a good basic framework with a basic design, you just want to focus on content and never worry about your theme, I think Genesis is by far the best one for that.

Mark: Yeah, I’d say in kind of strange way it’s like the vanilla of the WordPress themes.

Gael: Okay. So, the one that usually comes right after which is for me, basically the complete opposite is Theme Forest. So Theme Forest we mentioned it earlier in this episode, and Theme Forest is not a theme company, it’s a theme marketplace. That means that a lot of individuals are allowed to sell their themes there and then you can browse it, and there is a nice interface and you pay through their system but then the money goes to the creator and probably the theme you are buying there is built not by a real big company, but by a guy in his living room that has worked on that project for a couple of months and then decided to sell it, to make some passive income as a developer. And, usually these themes, for me they are more focused on design, because usually they are done by designers or as you said, 99% of them are like designer portfolios in their demos and there’s a reason for that, and the functions are usually not very good, they vary, some of them have a lot of like external functions, like I talked about the social media cards, but some of them have like included SEO, they have drag and drop builders, they have all of that built in. And our agency site was actually built with a Theme Forest theme, it was I can’t remember the name, n fold I think, it’s one of the best selling ones, I think, and it was alright, but you could feel that everything was kind of made with duct tape, and if you tried to as we said earlier, like do something a little bit custom, a lot of stuff would break, so yeah, for these, the updates are not nearly as timely as the big companies and so on, but one thing I need to give to Theme Forest is that they have a lot of themes, like way more than anyone else, and they are great for niches so real estate agent is pretty good. You want to say something?

Mark: Yes. That’s exactly what I wanted to say, they literally have a real estate theme category, there is one for weddings, and I think, I’m just on it right now, there’s actually 406 real estate themes on there. So I’m sure 90% of them aren’t so great, but the good thing about Theme Forest is you can see how many sales there were of a specific theme in the last year or the last month, or whenever, and so you can actually assess popularity by what other people are buying and usually, not always, but usually, that’s a good indicator of whether something is pretty solid or not.

Gael: The way I judge it usually, it’s like they actually have the support tab you can click on support for their theme, and it’s public, right, so I go there and I see how many people complain about the theme before I buy something. So there are some good ones there by the way, there are probably some ones that are really well built technically, it’s just because they are kind of all mixed together, it’s kind of hard to know which ones are well built and which ones are not, but check the support section, that’s a good way to figure out which ones are good and which ones are not so good.

The next one, let’s talk about the next one, the next one is Elegant Themes. Elegant Themes is actually pretty big, it wasn’t a couple of years ago, but I think they’ve done a pretty good job at selling their membership, like they sell like an all inclusive membership. A little bit the way Thrive does it and that’s the next we’ll talk about. And for me they’re alright, they are kind of the number two, they do a lot of things pretty okay, but they are not the best at anything, they have pretty okay designs, but not the most amazing designs, they have pretty okay functionalities, but not the most amazing functionalities. They have also plugins because if you buy the membership you get plugins as well, the plugins are alright but their opt in plugin is probably the second best on the market but Thrive just destroys it, the themes- probably Genesis is more stable and some of the Theme Forest are better designed, for example, so it’s-

Mark: Yeah, I think Elegant Theme is just one of these ones where if you are a website designer and you are designing a lot of sites for small businesses using WordPress, it’s probably quite a good one to use for that. But, for authority site, because as well, you pay per year, for access to all their themes and you only need one.

Gael: Yeah, it’s alright, it’s like, if you want a good all arounder, it’s not bad. You will not get the best design you will not get the best functions etc, so a bit like buying an iPhone, like the iPhone is not the best for any category, it doesn’t have the best camera, it doesn’t have the best battery life, but it’s kind of 8.5 out of 10 at everything.

Mark: Yeah, there’s nothing that’s bad.

Gael: Exactly. It’s like usually things that are really good, they also get really bad in some things, for example Theme Forest, usually pretty good at design pretty bad at functions. Genesis, really good at functions and stability, pretty average design, etc, Elegant Themes, is like the iPhone of themes, it the 8.5 at everything. That’s how I would qualify it. Before we finish on Thrive, let’s talk about My Theme Shop. This one has been increasingly popular, a lot of people are using them and for a good reason. They are very clever, what they do is they find very popular site like lifehack.com or even Smart Passive Income or any kind of really popular site, and they build a theme that looks exactly like it, and that’s exactly what people want, people just, when you make a brief for design of the site, you say I want a site that looks like this, basically, and that’s what they did, and that’s why they are getting quite popular, they have looked at very popular sites, they have done their market research and they are providing with that. I actually bought Socially Viral, I think that was the name of the site the one that is based on Viral Nova, and I absolutely, I came from Thrive Themes, and I absolutely hated it, I was considering putting it on one of our sites, and I completely backed off after four hours of using it, I find it quite buggy. However, the support was really good, it’s like when I would ask a question I would get the answer within like five minutes, even if it was technical so that was very good and a lot of people liked them for their support. It’s an important one, but, I just feel like they are still in Beta for me.

Mark: I want to point out as well, they do actually have a lot of free themes on there as well, probably not the best ones.

Gael: Some of them are pretty okay, like they have the socially viral free version, if you are going to do like a viral story or something that is really socially reliant, for a free theme, it’s pretty alright, and I think that’s how they get a lot of popularity and so on, but yeah, for me, when you start trying to tweak it, when you start trying to customize it, if you are going to be using the stock theme, make the site look exactly like the original site it’s fine, but to be frank, I have yet to see a site that looks exactly like another popular site become very popular as well. So it’s usually not a very good idea, and actually I have a podcast with Perrin coming on copycats so we’ll talk a little bit about that. So My Theme Shop- yeah, it’s like design 9 out of 10, tech probably 4,5 out of 10, that would be how we’d grade it essentially.

And then we get to Thrive Themes which is disclaimer, what we use on all our sites, so that’s our choice, it doesn’t have to be yours, but that’s how it is. I’m going to start bad for them I am going to say it’s by far the worst Thrive product out there. The themes is the first thing they developed, like as they were starting as a brand new company that had no idea if it would work out or not, and it’s doing okay, they are good but not great. So like overall Thrive Themes, the themes themselves, I would probably give them like 7,5 out of 10.

Mark: It’s worth pointing out that we’re recording this in June 2016, and by the end of this year I think that’s when they’re hoping to roll out version two of a bunch of their more popular themes, so things could change, but I totally agree with you for now.

Gael: Yeah, for now it’s just not that great. I mean, it’s still in the top 20% of WordPress themes, but it’s not in the top 5 or 10%. The reason why we still use them is because we kind of like buy into this Thrive framework thing, so as we mentioned it, we used their content builder, we used Thrive leads which there is a big review you wrote Mark, coming out on the blog soon, and it’s really good, it really helped us grow our email list etc, and these products kind of synergize with each other, when you use all of them together, it unlocks more functions, that allow you to do more and what I like as well is that design is very simple, it’s definitely not the best design by far, once again, it’s probably a 7, or 7,5 but it’s very simple it’s very easy to customize if you are not a designer, and honestly, you shouldn’t worry about design when you start your site. I also like the fact that they have little things here and there, they allow you to highlight call to actions on your menu, make it look different, add some color on page level, essentially it’s built for marketing and conversion optimization rather than for design. So if you wanted something for design, maybe something like Theme Forest or My Theme Shop or Elegant Theme are better than Thrive, no questions, if you want something that is more technically robust, Genesis is probably slightly better than Thrive, it’s still slightly more stable but Thrive is also pretty stable, and if you want something that allows you to work on your conversions well, then Thrive is probably the best out there because it has all this little functions that are built for marketing, like these social stuff we talked about etc. We also use their apprentice function which is a way to structure your course on Authority Hacker pro. Once again, okay but not great, I hope they’ll do a version two of that because it’s definitely not their best product, but one thing that is pretty good with Thrive is it’s very fast and another cool thing as well is they compress your images with cracked.io, which is normally a paid service, what you pay per image and actually do that for free once you install them, so like you pay for the theme but once you’ve done it, you actually get your site speed quite well optimized with this image upload algorithm and the fact it’s well coded, and you don’t need to pay any kind of monthly fee, so that is definitely a plus of using Thrive. And personally, I like them, I’m used to them, I understand why some people don’t like them too much.

Mark: Yeah, like I just want to get across a point you made about sort of buying into the whole Thrive ecosystem which we absolutely do, I mean, we use all of their products really. The best way I can think of to compare it to is in World of Warcraft, right. So, this is a good comparison, trust me. So, choosing a theme is like choosing a class, at the end of the day, the class you pick, it doesn’t really matter, you can still play the game, you can still get to level I don’t know, whatever it is they are right now. And when we talk about buying into the Thrive ecosystem, that’s like in World of Warcraft you can specialize your class, so again, I can’t remember what any of the specializations are, but if you are like a mage you can focus on fire or something like that, it’s like that, and you just get all these sort of synergies between having Thrive Themes, Thrive leads, and coming up now Thrive Ultimatum, and Thrive Content Builder all working together, it just gives you that little edge, it’s not essential, you can still, I mean most websites, very few websites out there actually do it, but in our experience, from what we’ve been doing, it just gives you that little edge of everyone else.

Gael: It’s also nice that when your staff knows to use it, and then a new product comes out, new functions get added or whatever they do and then they kind of know how to use it from day 1, it’s the same builder every time, they don’t need to learn something etc, so it’s kind of nice for that too, but yeah, that’s what we decided to do, you don’t have to, but that’s what we prefer. Alright, I did not believe we could talk for forty minutes on WordPress themes, but I guess we did.

Mark: And how it compares to World of Warcraft.

Gael: Yeah. So guys, thanks for listening, unless you have something to add Mark?

Mark: No, I think we covered it, I think in the future, we’ll probably do a pretty extensive blog post about this like comparing them all and sort of going into more detail about it, but for now I think this is good.

Gael: This is our quick answer to the question, in forty minutes.

Mark: And once again, if you guys do have any more questions that you’d like to ask us, that we could cover as a topic in one of our podcasts, then go to authorityhacker.com/ask and put your question in there, and we’ve used some like 80% of them so far so there is a good chance we’ll talk about it.

Gael: Alright, and before we close actually, I’m going to remind people as well because I guess we have a lot of new listeners, that you can go on authorityhacker.com/bonus and we’ll give one of the Authority Hacker pro training away, one webinar I did a little bit ago about going from zero to one thousand dollars a month with affiliate marketing, if you review the podcast on iTunes, so if you guys enjoyed this podcast, please consider rating us on iTunes, you’ll even get a nice little bonus there, you just need to send us a screenshot on authorityhacker.com/bonus and once again, thanks for listening and we’ll see you guys in the next episode.

Thanks for listening to the Authority Hacker podcast. If you enjoyed this show, don’t forget to rate us on iTunes and send us a screenshot on authorityhacker.com/bonus to claim your free premium Authority Hacker training.

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22 Comments

  1. Why do you think that your readers would use your recommended themes when you put only themes with affiliate links?! I know you have to earn some money, but come on…

    1. Hi David,

      Many of the links you’ll find on Authority Hacker are affiliate links. However, if you’ve been following us for any length of time, you’ll realize that we don’t promote anything that sucks.

      For example, the themes that we recommend are the same ones that we use on our sites (including this one).

      When it comes to other tools such as email autoresponders, we promote Active Campaign. However, Active Campaign pays the least out of all of the major email tools. Yet we promote it because we think it is the best and because we use it ourselves.

      The internet is full of online marketing sites promoting shitty tools like BlueHost (terrible host, high affiliate payout). We’re different. We don’t promote terrible products on this site and never will.

    2. Hey David, I don’t about you. But I’m big fan of Authorityhacker and not only a fan I’m also an old subscriber & reader. I love authorityhacker. You know I’m also using thrive themes & TCB. Because Authorityhacker recommend this. That’s the trust factor.

      1. I don’t know about you either :) I’m a feedly subscriber and I like to read this blog too, but I learnt that you should not trust anybody, especially when they earn a commission. I don’t say that these themes are bad but maybe there are other free option or paid option without an affiliate program.

  2. Good advice on picking WordPress themes. Too often we focus on the home page, sliders, and whizz-bang features.

    Personally, I focus on fast themes with a regular editor not fancy editors like CMS.

    Had not considered stock images on other backgrounds but I typically use white backgrounds anyway.

  3. Since we’re talking about Themes here, some graphics in the post would be nice (in addition to the podcast audio.)

  4. Sorry to say that Thrive Themes are NOT as good as you make them look.

    Obviously we have to pay attention to how a theme is coded but there is a need for some aesthetic as well and Thrive Themes are ugly. They do not even have a color picker ( even though it has been asked by many customers for over a year… ) and that makes branding a site very difficult.

    Thrive people mainly focus on plugins and the themes are created to complement them.

    There are far better choices than Thrive and it is surprising that there is no mention about Genesis, Headway and BeaverBuilder ( which not only has a wonderful theme but is head and shoulders above Thrive Content Builder as a front end WP editor. )

    As someone else said, we all understand there is need to make money but objectiveness should come first.

    1. Hey Trula, thanks for dropping by but did you actually listen to the podcast?

      We actually mention Genesis and say it’s by far the most stable framework and it’s great for newbies (even better than Thrive Themes). As for Beaver builder, to me it feels like an upgraded Optimizepress, it’s much slower to build pages with it than it is with TCB. I just find the “row” system annoying but if you like it, that’s your choice.

      As for Headway, it looks a lot less developped.

      Anyhow, we make very little money with affiliate marketing on AH (a few thousands a month vs high 5 figures with our courses) so the pocket change doesn’t really affect our editorial decision. As you can see, both of our main sites run on Thrive Themes and while I said they’re only a 7/10 in the podcast, I enjoy the integration with the really good plugins and I am crossing my fingers for them to finally nail them when they release the v2 themes in January :).

      Gael

  5. Hi Mark,
    Loved the tips. I bought thrive themes because its being used and is promoted by awesome sites like yours, Zac Johnson and a few others.

    What I felt was they are awesome but as far as themes is considered they have some errors or pitfalls in terms of SEO.

    I used the rise theme, loved it and had customized a bit like font etc (taking their expert help) but to my surprise, I got a bounce rate of 80-95% and traffic drop by 80-90% after using rise.

    I switched back to genesis and all was normal. I re-switched to rise and the same problem happened.

    Other than that all features are great but if you want only a theme, thrive themes are not a good choice (at least not the rise theme).

    Loved your podcast like your posts :)
    -Swadhin

  6. Not necessarily a good idea to use theme’s shortcodes. It creates a horrible theme lock-in, and when you change the theme (which you WILL at some point) you have to go through and manually change all the shortcodes.

    This is what plugins are for. Put the functionality of the shortcodes into a plugin, and update the CSS when you change the theme.

    1. Good point on the shortcodes, we’ll have to mention that next time. I guess you can move them to a plugin with custom code later but that’s a bit of a headache.

  7. Hello –

    Long time reader and fan of your blog! Was wondering if there is a theme that looks like the Authority Hacker website? Thank you so much!

  8. Hey guys,

    thank you for the great podcast. I really appreciate all the information you constantly give!

    In the last webinar in May you mentioned that you´ll still be using Thrive Content Builder in 2017 but not Thrive Themes because it is not good on mobile.

    Which theme would you recommend instead now?

    Thank you so much!
    Kevin

  9. Hey Guys, thank you for all the information you share through your blogs and podcast. I was recently introduced to Authority Hacker and love it.

    I am just starting from scratch and what I am picking up is that the Genesis Theme in WordPress is probably the best for beginners. My site will be in a niche that will be mainly built around information and obviously I want the majority of my traffic coming to me organically.

    With right kind of content, do you feel that Genesis is the way to go?

    Also, I read in another post that .com, .net, .anything does not make a difference when it comes to SEO. Is this correct?

    If you have any links I can use to get to any tools, please send me to your page so I can make sure you guys are compensated in some way. Thank you for your help and keep up the good work guys.

    Thanks for all your help!
    James

    1. Hi James,

      Thanks for the comment. Genesis is a great theme, plenty of flexibility there for your purposes.

      .com/.net etc doesn’t make a different for SEO (local version like .co.uk do in the relevant country). However, I’d strongly suggest you find a .com. It’s just more professional looking and when it comes to link building/outreach, it’s will make it more likely that people take you seriously.

      You can find the tools we recommend here: https://www.authorityhacker.com/online-marketing-tools/

      Thanks,
      Mark

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