Sometimes the only “good” thing about a free template is the fact that it is free.
While some template designers create good usable free templates many of these templates can actually cost you traffic and , more importantly, clients.
Let’s look at some of the problems I’ve found with free templates, and which is why I’ve moved away from free templates to joining template clubs and more recently, to using Artiseer. Some of these issues you can work around by editing the template’s index.php file but others you are bound by agreement, eg. linking back.
1. Required link backs
Many free templates incorporate a required link back to the designer, which in itself is not so bad if they at least targeted the link to a new browser window. But worse than a link back to the designer’s template site is the fact that they often link back to their other services, which may very well be in competition with your own services, i.e. links to web development and/or hosting services.
Solution: At least edit the index.php file to include a target=”_blank” tag in the link.
2. Alt and title tags
The alt tags and image and link title tags are very important SEO tags. However in many of these free templates they often include worthless reminder code for the designer or even contain referrence to the designer’s services or the original web site the template was designed for.
Solution: Search the template’s index.php file and edit all alt and title tags to insert your own keywords.
3. 404 Errors
With some free templates, even club templates, the templates are reworked old templates and all the code and links, such as image links and template file links, were not fixed for the new template with the result that you may get a lot of 404 errors. This is very bad for your site SEO.
Solution: Do a check on your web site stats, check the 404 errors. If you find any template related 404 errors you will have to work through the template files to find and fix these errors, normally the xml files, and the css files.