“Custom Coded” Themes are Different than “Customized” Themes.  Customized Themes are Great Ways to Stand Out.  But Custom Coded Themes Create High Cost for Editing and SEO/PPC Work For Life of Site. They Even Cause Security Risks, Slower Business Growth, and More.

Delayed results and long term cost are the reasons almost nobody recommends the custom theme approach for small businesses.  It’s kind of like hiring somebody to build a car from scratch in order to drive to the airport where you hire somebody to build the airplane – before you can fly to your destination….

Custom themes written in code create a kind of a trap that keeps clients having to come back to expensive full-stack developers to get even more custom code – forever!  Site owners have to come back to the original provider because nobody else can work on the site in a “productive” manner.

Most of those who write custom code don’t really intend to create a trap. They usually think they are giving you something more ‘special’ than using any of 10,000+  standard or premium WP themes.  But the custom theme code gets quickly out of date and thus becomes vulnerable to hackers and site takeovers.  It will also make it very hard to use a massive library of WP productivity tools that have been created to speed the site performance and help make SEO and PPC work go faster.

Custom themes are actually far beyond the skill set of most WP designers or even back-end coders.  Unfortunately, this usually means that the only person who can update the site, perform crucial SEO tasks (which also improve PPC Ad Quality Score – raising ad rank while lowering cost per click at the same time).  It is also not possible to keep ‘custom themes’ safe from hacking.  Real themes are constantly examined and patched to stay ahead of potential attackers.

The result is that the only person who can update the security, or even access the SEO settings completely, is the person who ‘wrote’ the ‘custom theme’.
  • I’m sorry to say that it can be kind of a trap even if the designer or coder didn’t intentionally mean to create this outcome.
    • The outcome is, in highly competitive fields, it costs a lot more (time = $) to do things that need to be done on the site for SEO optimization.
    • It also makes it hard to improve PPC Ad Quality Score that would raise the ad rank and lower bid cost per click at the same time.
Running with a “custom theme” or unusual WP configuration that requires editing the raw code in .PHP theme files in the back end of the site in order to change the public facing website or do SEO/PPC work to the fullest extent is not a good idea. Incorrectly coded custom themes are not accessible to the usual WordPress page, theme, or site management tools. That means work normally taking an hour can take 3 hours.   That means your budget won’t go as far as normal for SEO/PPC or even design work for a WordPress site.  No matter what your budget, it could take 3 months to do what can normally be done with conventional WordPress install in one month.


The Bottom Line

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Article By Lonn Dugan, Principal,
BIG Marketing Solutions LLC


Converting to a conventional WP Core Platform Installation using a well-supported, secure, and constantly updated theme will allow 3-4 months work at any budget to do what might otherwise take a year to accomplish with an unconventional WordPress configuration or custom theme requiring all changes be made in raw code.   Converting to a proper WordPress configuration with any of 10,000+ standard or premium themes, plugins, and productivity boosts they bring means changes will be easier and faster.  Your Search Rank will come up faster, and your PPC Ad Quality Score will increase.  A higher PPC Quality Score can led your ads outrank competitors with lower quality scores even while bidding only half as much per click as they bid!  That’s because Google wants to send searchers to the sites with the highest ad quality score (meaning most relevant to their search and search intent).

That most relevant site, in Google’s algorithm, could be your site if the build and content work is right.  If you want to do it the easy, faster, less costly way, for a better ROI…. then I recommend conventional builds instead of Custom Themes as the best choice. Conventional builds are powerful!  Long live WordPress!