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Sponsored WordPress Themes: A Great Business Model

Sponsored WordPress Themes: A Great Business Model

Thord over at reports on Blogging Pro‘s recent release of its InSense theme for WordPress. Now apart from the theme’s being great-looking (and probably great, code-wise, too), what makes it really interesting is the business model that David Peralty (and my other former colleagues over at Bloggy Network) have come up with.

You see, the theme comes with a sponsor link at the bottom, and the folks over at Blogging Pro, who are doing the actual release, aren’t shy about it. Lots of themes cram in affiliate links and whatnot in their themes, but few of them admit that they are trying to leech on unknowing users.

David wrote me to tell that they’re also considering releasing more themes in the coming months using this business model. While the link is automatically included in each download of the theme, this isn’t required, and the user may opt to remove it. Still I would think most users would not bother to remove the link, out of respect to the theme author.

Having such themes created though takes time and money, and so we have gone ahead and added a sponsor to the theme. We want to be up front about this and mention it, as it is not something we feel should be hidden. This sponsorship has allowed us to produce this theme, and will allow us to continue to produce themes for the WordPress community. We hope that you will keep this link intact, but it is not required as part of our Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

And what exactly do sponsors get from paying for WP themes? SEO! Doshdosh talks about the benefits here.

Theme sponsorship can be an effective method of link building that may help your SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking because you have the option of choosing the specific anchor text to use for your link.

This can be a long-term link building strategy that helps you to increase your keyword rankings, which means a lot more search engine visitors to your website and higher ad earnings as well as product/service sales.

Successful theme sponsorship may also help you to rapidly increase your website’s Google Page Rank, because it will receive a large volume of one way incoming links, each with a certain amount of PR and authority.

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Imagine having thousands of bloggers linking to your site from all their blog’s pages. Sure, not all of them are popular, but you’re bound to get a good mix of sites with great pagerank/trustrank.

I know several designers who give away WordPress themes to blog hosting services for free, so long as they get a link back to their sites. Now this seems to be a great business model for people who want to monetize their theme creations. Not all bloggers can afford to pay for your themes. But there are companies and businesses that would be willing to foot the bill. In the end, everyone’s happy: users get great themes, designers get good money, companies get inbound links.

I see this business model taking off in the near future.

View Comments (21)
  • I agree, this is a great idea. Although I don’t think Bloggy would take the credit for coming with up the concept- it’s well out there. But the compromise between the sponsored theme link and the CC license- in terms of the ability to remove it- is unique, I think. I wonder if some of the more established themes out there would consider an exclusive sponsorship?

  • Definitely has been done before us, we just decided that if we were going to do it, we’d take care of a couple of things that make the practice of releasing sponsored themes unpopular with some folks.

    1) We wouldn’t include the link without telling people about it beforehand.

    2) And we would allow people to remove it if they so choose.

  • Actually, this was brought up over a month ago and was seriously slammed. People were digging into their WordPress Themes to remove these. There was a huge backlash against Theme designers and sites which sponsor such links.

    A link back is considered appropriate. A link to a “sponsor”, aka advertising, is very much frowned upon by serious bloggers and WordPress fans. The average blogger won’t care or even notice, as you say, but the ones who do have spoken loudly that they find this bad manners, poor taste, and, for some, criminal.

    This will probably continue and grow as designers find ways to fund their continued design work, but it could also backfire.

  • This sounds like a cheap and risky way to get some backlinks. It’s not how many link back to you, it’s who. Google is watching, believe me.

    Backlinks does not = revenue. Bad business model for monetization me thinks.

  • If this trend continue to grow, this will bad for WordPress community.

    WordPress start as open source blogging, but many people/designer take this opportunity to make money by releasing theme with sponsor inside.

    IMHO, if the designer want to wait until sponsor before releasing their theme, then better use it themselves. There still a lot of way of earning rather than putting sponsored link in their theme footer.

  • I agree with Lorelle and Undertypo. It’s going to backfire.

    I don’t agree with the sponsored themes movement, with the exception of how bloggingpro did it. People need to know the sponsored link is there. Here’s my take on sponsored themes and where .

    If you don’t have time to read my post and don’t know what’s going on, some sponsored theme designers are spamming the Theme Viewer. The quality isn’t there. And it seems like most of those sponsored themes were created just so the designer could have another theme for sponsorship.

  • Yah, the problem with this was that your sponsor link goes to anywhere, from pharmaceuticals to porn. someone should be ready with this.

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