Generate Backlinks with Custom WordPress Themes & Templates

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Backlinks are the golden path to page rank. Building backlinks however, can be a slow and tedious process every blogger has to face. We constantly find information on the web telling you to “write quality content”, “get involved with social networking”, “establish relationships with readers and other bloggers”.

All of these are excellent points and hold a lot of truth, but what if you want to speed up the process? What if you want to build pagerank by the time Google’s next update comes around?

A quick trip to the theme viewer gives us the answers we are looking for. For example the WP theme “Networker 1.0” has received 4,174 downloads at the time of this writing. If you were the designer of that theme you would have your link in the footer, which means that as of right now you would have 4,000 backlinks give or take, depending on how many have left the footer intact after downloading. That would be a surefire way to get that page rank you are after, and all it takes is one good theme.

WordPress themes are probably the easiest and fastest ways to build backlinks to your blog, with little effort. They are free to download which means you open the doors to anyone interested, the millions of WordPress users are all looking for one and there is new bloggers setting up their sites each day so the traffic will continue to flow. When designing your theme you want to go for popularity so scour the Internet for popular themes, check the popular section in the theme viewer and use what you find as an outline for what others are looking for in a theme.

Some Good Ideas to Include in Your Theme

  • Search engine optimization is always a plus!
  • Add functionality for the most popular plugins. Nobody likes a theme that won’t work with their favorite plugins.
  • People love money! If you can add off the rack monetization people will thank you (Google AdSense ready)
  • Make it widget ready, there is no reason not to and everyone wants it.
  • Keep it light! Although there are die hard fans of dark themes they usually don’t accumulate as many downloads.
  • Add some flair to your theme. Give it something unique, maybe a recent posts box or a nice subscription form.
  • Offer support! This is very important, people will have questions when downloading your theme. Should you choose to ignore them they will find another theme, there is plenty of them out there.
  • People like options. Maybe you can include several header styles with the download, which will give them the opportunity to personalize it. For ideas, look into these templates for blogs and websites.

What if You Don’t Know Anything About Web Design?

Don’t leave this article feeling empty if you don’t know anything about web design, there are alternatives. Below are a couple of ideas you may consider when trying to jump on the backlink train.

1. Sponsor a WordPress theme. Many theme developers are looking for sponsors on their themes. This gives them a way to make a direct income on a free design and they love it. A typical sponsorship will cost anywhere from $15 to $400 dollars depending on the popularity and the designer. Theme sponsorship will give you a link in the footer, usually “Sponsored By”. This is a valid alternative to designing your own theme, but with all advertising efforts, check the fine print and know what you are getting into, before dishing out your hard earned money.

2. Pay someone to design a theme for you. The funny thing about this is, you can probably find someone to hard code a theme for you in the same price range as sponsoring one. Which would make this a more viable option for your consideration. Take a look at some of the freelance coding sites and forums to see how much you can get someone to do this for. Never pay for services up front, you should expect to see a fully functional theme before handing over payment.

Which option you choose to go with is up to you and your skill level. Never put your name on a poorly coded design, you want people to think quality when they think of you and the better the theme the more backlinks you are likely to generate.

Sujan Patel is Director of Search at Single Grain, which specializes in Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing

Sujan Patel
Sujan Patel has over 12 years of digital marketing experience and has helped hundreds of clients increase web traffic, boost user acquisition, and grow their businesses. He’s currently the VP of Marketing at When I Work, the top rated employee scheduling software. In addition to his role at When I Work Sujan co-founded and wrote the book on Growth Hacking titled 100 Days of Growth.
Sujan Patel
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  • Online college degree program

    For example the WP theme “Networker 1.0” has received 4,174 downloads at the time of this writing. If you were the designer of that theme you would have your link in the footer, which means that as of right now you would have 4,000 backlinks give or take, depending on how many have left the footer intact after downloading. OK this can work but admins of high PR blogs modify footer and remove this, or change to nofollow. Regards

  • Aviva

    Just a few caveats about this:

    1. Matt Cutts has explicitly recommended against this (for what that’s worth):

    2. Rand Fishkin has classified this as blackhat and believe that doing this is one reason why many directories got penalized (his point #5):

    3. You’ll have trouble distributing the theme as many of the theme directories no longer accept sponsored templates.

  • rxbbx

    This is perhaps offtopic.. but check the WP themes provided by so called theme designers.. every theme has errors.. do not validate.. look awful when tested in several screensizes and browsers.. so as for:

    “Some Good Ideas to Include in Your Theme..”

    Please clean and correct code.. or just dont design and submit themes for whatever Open Source you re writing.

  • Loren Baker

    Although mass spamming of WordPress themes may be considered somewhat blackhat, let’s keep in mind that template spam is not the issue or what this post is about.

    Producing a quality template for distribution or for a friend or company to use, and placing a ‘designed by’ link is totally legit and whitehat. Web designers and firms have been practicing this for years, outside of blogging.

    As for high PR sites eliminating links, look at the bottom of this blog and you’ll see full credit given to Chris Pearson for the design and Pronet for SEO and marketing. These are legit links, attrbuting those companies which have helped with this blog.

    Copyblogger also practices this, and Techcrunch links to Neil too for its marketing. Would you consider these blackhat practicing blogs?

  • sylv3rblade

    Great tip. Makes me even more motivated to finish my first WP template

  • Aviva

    @Loren – just to make clear: I have no problem with this link building technique. I’m also aware that many high profile sites use this technique.

    I just thought it important that it was pointed out that the technique is not without some risks, and in fact has been explicitly criticized by Google (which means it probably works well).

    Also, what high profile sites can get away with differs somewhat from what ordinary sites can get away with.

  • Michael Martinez

    This is an older, outdated technique that has been spammed to death.

    If the only reason to sponsor a template or distribute a template is to build up a backlink profile, it’s not a good enough reason for anyone seriously interested in promoting their Web site to do so.

    The first impression you make on people as they learn about your Web site should be a good one. Although I’ve criticized the SEO community for espousing “relevant link” mythology, there is a great deal to be said for placing links in content that is related to your own — it helps to prequalify people who click on those links.

    Random link placements is not marketing, it’s manipulation. To become marketing, the random link placements need to create their own context.

    For $400, I would want far more than a link in a footer.

  • Sujan Patel

    This is about creating quality themes not so much spammy themes to get a quick link. I understand that it has been spammed but a lot of good link building ideas have been spammed. Social Media Marketing can get you lots of links and is being spammed does that mean everyone should stop doing that?


    Why is having a link on a theme leave a bad impression?

    If someone were to like the amazing theme I either designed, paid for, or sponsored I should not get credit for it by placing a simple link in the footer?

    Keep in mind that the article is not suggesting everyone goes out and creates hundreds of themes instead it is opening readers minds to the fact that creating a quality theme can also get you some links.

  • shs

    Matt Cutts has explicitly recommended against this (for what that’s worth)!

    Who cares Matt Cutts is he paying me? lol
    And how should google know that im a blackhat when 4000 sites linking to me on different footers? Is google a usability monster? Google makes us paranoid and they wanna scare you. It seems that it takes effect when i read such comment from guys who have no clue about offpage optimization.

  • Brennan Carey

    I agree if you are creating a good template for free, why not have link backs, I dont see how that can be a problem

  • Moe

    Now in 2012 almost 2013 post panda & penguin is developing a theme with an attribution link still a viable way to generate quality back-links?