On Monday I wrote about how I got hacked last year and what I had to go through to fix everything because it also ended up taking out some of my other websites for awhile. I also mentioned in that post that it was due to some free themes that I’d downloaded years earlier that I never used, but forgot to remove from my blog at the time.

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This brings us to the discussion about paid versus free themes. Often you’ll read where some blogging “professional” is telling people that a paid theme will help you make more money because it’ll work better with your keywords and thus Google will love you. They’ll also tell you that if you want to look like a professional you’re going to need to get a neat photo icon to pop on there to help your branding.

I agree with only one part of this; you want to have a blog that looks nice and professional. It turns out that you don’t have to go the paid route to get that, although you’re probably going to need some technical expertise or a couple of friends to help you out. I’m telling you this one from experience as someone running 5 blogs.

What makes a blog look professional? That’s kind of a tough question to answer because there’s no one way to look like you know what you’re doing. Instead, let’s go from the aspect of what makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

First, colors. If people can’t read what you have to say then you’re just wasting time. Hey, my favorite color is red, but a bright red background, no matter the color of the print, is going to freak people out. The same would apply if I had red print against almost any color. This blog stands out because my print color is burgundy; how many other blogs have you seen using that color? But it fits well with the overall color of the blog if you ask me.

Second, your header. You want something that’s at least a little bit unique. In my case I use the banner that’s also at the top of my website. Some people use colors, some have images created that fit well up there. Going with the WordPress header is quick and convenient but truthfully, so many other people use it that you not only won’t stand out from the crowd, you also won’t look very professional. If you don’t care and just want to write then it’s fine. But if you hope to do business, you’ll want to change something up.

Third, your sidebars. There’s nothing wrong with pimping a product or two on your sidebars, but being too busy can be distracting for people who you hope are there to read your content and learn more about what it is you do or can do for them.

With all of these things, if you go the free route then you’re probably going to need some help, at least initially, to help you get it right. If you pay for your theme then your learning curve is much easier and you can get some expert help. Still, you’re paying for it whereas you might not have to pay a friend. Or you might if you want a nice fancy business logo.

What I want to mention in closing is that even paid themes can get hacked if you don’t keep up with software changes. WordPress is great because they’re always updating for security, but if you’re not updating your blog, the theme won’t matter. Decide whether you want to spend more money or more time getting your blog correct, and then go forth and write.
 

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