Sponsoring a WordPress theme | How to Audit a Sponsored Theme

30 comments

There's been a lot of controversy over WordPress theme sponsorhip lately.

In response, I've just done an extensive and detailed write up on how to evaluate Wordpress theme sponsorship. Pick the right theme and you could get up to 500,000 almost free backlinks with anchor text.

Unfortunately, most theme sponsorship doesn't end in thousands of backlinks.

I cover both how to choose a good candidate for sponsorship and how to conduct an audit after the fact or on the designer's other work.

Don't believe themes.wordpress.com download figures. Downloads are next to worthless to the buyer. Long term implementation is what you are looking for.

Comments

More fake links...

lovely...

I always remove footer links

I always remove footer links and say to myself, "Hey spammer dude, thanks for the cool theme"!

there are no bad links

only bad websites.

at least that's my take, jill. in the link wars, i'm not sure sponsored themes links are any worse than bought links (recommended by Rand Fishkin/SEOmoz, Aaron Wall, Barry Schwartz, Jim Boykin - among just the white/light grey crowd).

for the most part, the links are going onto unassociated sites (different IP's, different content).

i'd love it if the fairy godmother would waver her magic wand and make the only existing links relevant ones, as a reward for quality content, but somehow i don't think that's going to happen.

@seobuzzbox

the conditions of using the theme include leaving the links in most cases.

if you don't want to use a sponsored theme - don't use it. but to use it without the links...

as some of the people around here are fond of saying that's just theft (DianeV, cabbagelooking)

is this tendency to petty larceny confined to theme misappropriation?

but to use it without the

but to use it without the links...

Yeah but the trouble is, is it worth your time pursuing those who don't abide by that teneous requirement? If its really a stipulation of the usage, are you prepared to actually take some no-name blogger to court over a backlink?

Its rarely worth the fight.

> are you prepared to

>> are you prepared to actually take some no-name blogger to court over a backlink?

It'd be great linkbait ;)

just hide the links

lol .. joke

It'd be great linkbait

> It'd be great linkbait ;)

Especially if you owned the blog as well ;)

> Especially if you owned

>> Especially if you owned the blog as well ;)

Well, that would just be plain wrong, IMO

Perhaps

Quote:
in the link wars, i'm not sure sponsored themes links are any worse than bought links (recommended by Rand Fishkin/SEOmoz, Aaron Wall, Barry Schwartz, Jim Boykin - among just the white/light grey crowd).

Perhaps. I'm not sure all of those mentioned there would agree, however.

In any case, I don't believe in war, especially link war, and I think going for fake links such as this simply makes it more difficult for those real links (votes) to count. I don't particularly care as Google is the one who's made link building a craze, so it's no wonder that spammers will get links at all costs.

But just like everything else in SEO, the spammers will once again ruin stuff for the rest of us.

Jill, that ship has left the harbours

years ago. Quality editorial links are what we all want. But you also need filler links with targeted anchor text.

I don't know if you checked the reference - all of those gentlemen gave very specific positive testimonial on that page.

If any of them didn't want their names up there any more, I believe (unlike some elite *** cough *** marketers), their testimonial would be taken down.

Personally I agree with you. Google's visible page rank has been terrible for the web, as it provides the basis of a market for links.

404 - doesnt work....

how to evaluate Wordpress theme sponsorship

Here I am, all hyped up, champing at the bit and ready to consider joining Fagin's gang and all I get is a 404.

sorry about that cl...

ecto backdated the entry on me when i reposted it with some changes.

should work now. alas, the method is not as diabolical as two matts and jill would have you believe.

m. mullenweg does it everyday with the default installof wordpress.

I think going for fake links

I think going for fake links such as this simply makes it more difficult for those real links (votes) to count.

If a web design by link is fake, then is a hosted by link fake? Is a online marketing by link fake? Is a live link in a newsletter sponsorship fake? Why or why not?

If you ask the people who care most about the cleanliness and purity of the link graph what constitutes fake they never look at their own sites.

It's getting too easy to

It's getting too easy to spot the link drops in the link drops. With 16+ "editors" at ThreadWatch now, how did this get so much exposure?

I know... bad question. Why am I reading, etc etc etc.

I think editors do more spam

I think editors do more spam removal than anything else. If a story looks legit, an editor can make the decision to publish it, or defer for someone else to decide.

Most the rest of the time it's deleting anonymous postings via autosubmission spam and clueless PR agencies.

WordPress is Released Under GPL

See Matt's take on sponsored links in wordpress

Finally many of these themes try to legally disallow you from removing the advertising link by claiming it’s part of the Creative Commons attribution to leave it. This is almost funny, because these themes are on shaky legal ground themselves. WordPress is Free, meaning you’re free to do pretty much anything you like with it. It’s under a license that encourages user freedom called the GPL, which says if you distribute something that links internal functions and data structures of a GPL program (like themes do with WordPress) that also needs to be Free. At best, theme authors claiming you can’t remove the link are ignoring or ignorant of the license issues, at worst they’re actively exploiting the work of thousands of volunteers that have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into WordPress.

Viva La Link Removal!

At best, theme authors

At best, theme authors claiming you can’t remove the link are ignoring or ignorant of the license issues

Playing devil's advocate here. I have noticed an increasing number of WP Theme designers demanding that their links are left intact. Take this design here:

I reserve the right to request that the original source of the theme - 5thirtyone.com - remain intact.

I reserve the right to request that any credits concerning the theme origin be retained

There are people in the forum asking permission to even alter the structure of that theme. Probably the same people who wouldn't blink before removing some link from a dirty spammer. Just interesting to me, as both of these people have enabled a free theme to be distributed but one is treated with respect (1) and the other with contempt.

I can also understand that theme designers want to get paid for their work (1). It doesn't seem that fair for everyone to come down on them as 'adware scum'. Matt M's actions in all this actuallly remind me of Google's moves to regulate the free market online (think paid posting). The availability of themes has played a significant part in WP's/Matt's success. If sponsorship provides an income for these designers too, why not?

Quality Posts

@ John Andrews

If you don't think sponsored themes are of interest to Threadwatch readers, you are entitled to that opinion. I think it is.

The research on that article involved about twenty hours of buying these themes and working out a system to do evaluate what the clients were getting for the money.

Writing it up with illustrations and detailed accurate examples took another two or three hours, including proofing and editing.

How long did it take you to write your usual inane and superficial comment?

If you don't have anything useful to say, sod off. We are here at Threadwatch to avoid noise, not make it.

@ Nick Wilsdon

The whole commercialisation of WordPress is a sore spot. Matt includes obligatory blog rolls, links to the main domain in the standard templates and everything he'd like - but frowns on anyone else getting commercial advantage out of WordPress. I identify with him to some extent - there have been some real profiteering creeps jumping on WordPress's back and trying to turn it into a straightforward proprietary spam system for profit.

But the lines are hard to draw. Lawyers fall on both sides of the fence. Here's one who writes that GPL doesn't cover themes.

I know many plugin editors are getting tired of giving everything to WordPress but all the credit/revenue going to Matt Mullenweg/Automaticc. It's complicated. WordPress has ended up being its own ecosystem and even more - it's own software model.

I think Aaron is spot on with this comment about the difficulty of drawing these lines about links in general. Even if you know what side of the line you want to be on, where is that line?

--

I certainly don't have a problem with the designer of a theme getting credit with that link remaining intact. But if by sponsorship, you mean the designer selling that credit link to someone or some company that had nothing to do with the design of the theme, then you're now crossing the line into search engine spam, imo. (Assuming they're doing it for the link pop/anchor text/pagerank.)

So now, Google will have to start discounting any theme links, since there's a good chance they'll be paid-for ads, and we know they don't believe those are true votes for a site. On the otherhand, I personally believe that a designed by link is indeed a true vote for the site. Afterall, you're using their design, you must like it! Which is why I previously said that once again, the spammers are ruining things for everyone.

If I were using a theme that was sponsored by some company other than the designer, I wouldn't feel bad about removing that link, or finding a different theme that wasn't playing those kinds of games.

The link police thing is

The link police thing is getting old.

The web is a structure depending on links, to let google "laws" govern that structure in any way (commerce concerns included) is pathetic.

Maybe if that Matt guy wrote wordpress in a way that would disallow Adsense I MIGHT take his weenie whining a bit more serious.

Hey Google! When do we get the internet back?

But if by sponsorship, you

But if by sponsorship, you mean the designer selling that credit link to someone or some company that had nothing to do with the design of the theme, then you're now crossing the line into search engine spam, imo.

But they did have something to do with the theme. They paid for it to be made and released. That allowed everyone to have it for free.

(Assuming they're doing it for the link pop/anchor text/pagerank.)

Maybe they are doing it for the traffic or the brand recognition. you never know. Even if they're not so what? I'm sure many design agencies release themes in order to get links. What makes you so sure their motives are purer than a sponsor? Anyway, as Hardball says, we're getting back to link police games. None of us should be doing this job for Google.

My line comes with hidden links (which would be a more accurate target for the adware accusation) and plagiarism. Other than that, why not just have disclosure and let users decide if they still want the theme.

I wouldn't feel bad about removing that link, or finding a different theme that wasn't playing those kinds of games.

Me too - I remove all advertising links, including the ones to WP and Matt's friends. I recognise though that people will look for ways to make money for their work. It's rather sanctimonious to be critising them at the same time you're downloading. Maybe themes need to be paid for, that certainly seems to be the way plugins are going. Then maybe people will look more favorably on advertising as a way to keep the freebies coming.

So now, Google will have to

So now, Google will have to start discounting any theme links

I think Google have had it on their patent armoury for some time to devalue most WP theme links, or else minimise their impact, plus devalue them further in future.

I've sponsored a WP theme for the fun of it, but couldn't make it a serious part of link development.

IMO I think the main value (mostly untapped) is in brand development and marketing, rather than outright link bombing.

2c.

IMO I think the main value

IMO I think the main value (mostly untapped) is in brand development and marketing, rather than outright link bombing.

I agree Brian. It would be good if people recognise that sponsorship isn't limited to viagra and real estate. Take bloggingpro.com's "insense" theme which was supported by Hostgator. I imagine a lot of serious companies though will be put off by the burning torches and pitchforks. Making money is of course evil.

Well, ... I think commercial themes don't support the free spirit of the 'open source' idea behind Wordpress. That's my simple opinion!

On a side note, I wonder if people that come from this perspective actually contribute anything at all? Apart from their hard work in maintaining the moral high ground. We actually gave back a plugin and it really gave me a different perspective on all this. Programming it is just the beginning, the real work comes with the endless support questions (some online but many just email direct). Then you have to ensure the plugin works with every update. It's not a small contribution.

NIck you are right on

Themes: I agree with you that advertising and branding are other good reasons to get into sponsoring themes. There will be lots of page views and new visitors from a successful theme, as Hostgator has created.

Plugins: The WordPress plugin directory only allows GPL'd plugins. Fine, that's their right. But then for heaven's sake, as I and others have told them again and again on their own boards, they should get their own nepotistic links out of the base install. The problem with sponsored themes is quality control - there are designers out there who are just cycling banner colours and releasing theme after theme. Quality control for the theme directory would be most welcome. I'm not sure just keeping out sponsored themes provides the real solution.

Some thing has to give with plugins as well. That will be the next major campaign from Foliovision. Top notch specific use plugins should be paid for on commercial sites. We've developed some which fall into the free category and some which are specifically commercial. From what I can tell Matt Mullenweg will tell us we can't sell it and if we do it somebody should pirate our code and release it in a free version. In my opionion, it's the plugin authors who have built WordPress. Without plugins, WordPress is just another weblog software.

@ Brian and hardball

I'm totally with you about the new link police stance. Google is setting themselves up as the de facto despot of the internet. If they can't sort out their algorithms to detect and devalue, why should we be volunteering our time to a for-profit organisation to do their dirty work for them? There may be an answer for this (civic spirit, we all need clean SERPs) but for the moment I haven't heard it. For the moment, it's to help them preserve market dominance (engine with cleanest SERPs wins so far) in online advertising (those serps come with AdWords ads whether you like it or not, whether you did your part in cleaning up the web or not. And before they ask us for anything in regards to cleaning up the mess that visible PR has wrought, they'd better get rid of the visual page rank.

@ Jill

If the designer credit is okay, a single sponsored by link should be alright as well. The issue could be that when there are multiple links (which most sponsorships which run in parallel with design links) it becomes a bit overwhelming. For instance it doesn't bother me to use a theme with a single outbound link as a condition of use, but there are themes going out today with four or five links in them (designer plus three sponsors; original designer plus adaptation plus three sponsors). I would have really have an issue with using such a theme or even sponsoring it. But the choice remains, one can use the theme as offered (with extra links) or just not use the theme.

The tough guy stance of using a sponsored theme but chucking out the links is manifestly hypocritical. Don't want the free pen with a logo on it? Buy your own.
But I don't think you would do that Jill. You'd just look for another design, with only a designer link in it. As a link savvy commercial web designer, if I were in the market for a theme, I'd probably do the same.

As a link savvy commercial web designer

>>As a link savvy commercial web designer

why wouldn't you just design your own?

Hours in the day...

if you are talking about internal use, depending on the site, we might not want to take the time to do a full theme design (it's quite time-consuming to do something good).

If you are talking about designing and releasing our own with a single sponsor link - that's not a bad idea. Again, it's a question of time. Sponsored themes are something I'd like to outsource rather than do inhouse.

But you've got a point. I'll have more hands on deck next month and maybe we should do some of our own theme releases.

sod off?

Quote:
Writing it up with illustrations and detailed accurate examples took another two or three hours, including proofing and editing. How long did it take you to write your usual inane and superficial comment? If you don't have anything useful to say, sod off. We are here at Threadwatch to avoid noise, not make it.

I didn't appreciate the "sod off" comment and so I spent a few minutes writing this reply to Ronsard, the guy who takes search seriously:

Quote:
Personally, to me search is neither fun nor funny.

The guy who has been harping on Signal/Noise (and disagreeing with me) for almost two years now. Oh, and he was a paying member/paid subscriber/sponsored member, too. I read it at least 4 times in Ronsard's various comments.

As for sodding off, it took me a few minutes to skim through that work of yours, which by the way was not published here but on your own site. What was published here was a link drop, often referred to as spam. Want to increase signal on TW? Publish here. Want to claim you've worked hard? Publish here. Otherwise, it's less valuable than even drive-by comments or "mark of the beast" posts.

As for your "quality work", since when are PR4 "free template" sites referred to as "high PR authority sites" and since when are they worthy of being included on a list with themes.wordpress.net? Do tell, are any of those also your sites?

For the record, my "usual inane and superficial" comments are laced with cynicism and sarcasm, in case you missed those aspects. I do apologize though, as I recognize I have lost patience for explaining in great detail how so many blogs and free template sites are spam, how many publications are not only propaganda but lame propaganda, and how many forum participants (including many moderators) are less-than-upfront with their agendas. It gets tiring, and I admit to being tired. As for spam links embedded in WordPress themes, is that a step above or below this signal stuff you're adding to ThreadWatch?

Again, the "sod off" bit bothered me, so perhaps I digress from the thread. Mea cupla. It won't happen again.

Looks like you're in the minority, John...

in your absence we've had quite a fruitful discussion.

Juvenile sarcasm/lame cynicism should not be confused with useful contribution.

It looks like Aaron might have to close the thread - if you have something else off topic to say, please send it to me in a PM.

I've never minded being a

I've never minded being a minority, Ronsard. I still matter.

By the way, you didn't comment on whether any of those template sites you were promoting were your own. ThreadWatch has thousands more readers than the dozen or so in this thread, and I am sure some would appreciate knowing if a link drop is feeding a landing page with hidden sponsored links.

No.

Wrong again. No relationship.

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