How To Make Sure You’re Not Using A Shady WordPress Theme

WordPress is fast becoming the most popular website content management system. It is popular because it is user-friendly and relatively inexpensive. In fact, there are many free WordPress themes. Unfortunately, some of these WordPress themes could have some very negative effects on your website and your web presence.

Top Three Shady WordPress Theme Practices

Static links pointing to suspicious websites

Not all static links (or embedded links) in WordPress themes are bad. Usually, embedded links are just links that acknowledge the developer of the theme. As long as the links are decent, and granted that the theme user is informed that the links will be displayed on their site, then they might be alright.

However, in some instances, the embedded links may be going to spammy websites. When links point to casino sites, online pharmacies or some shady biz-op products, all without the site owner’s knowledge, then unfortunately you have a WordPress theme you should not be using. Search engines will not reward your site and its links to the dark side of the internet, and you may actually be penalized for it even if you’re an unwitting participant.


Some links and code blocks in shady WordPress themes are “locked” with JavaScript and/or PHP code. Removing these links or code blocks will make the entire WordPress site go blank, displacing your content with a message telling you that you need to put the links/code blocks back in place to be able to remove the message from your site.

Encrypted code

Encrypted code is a term in the WordPress community for code snippets that are purposely being hidden from the user of the theme. The intent of encrypted code is to hide portions of the theme’s source code and to make these portions difficult to remove. Encrypted code can do a variety of things, such as generating links to third-party sites and interfering with the user experience.

Why are these theme developers using these shady practices?

Some companies go out of their way to include harmful elements in their WordPress themes. Why would they do this? You might ask. Because WordPress themes are a great online marketing tool.

The market for themes keeps growing year over year. It’s been reported that nearly 20 percent of all sites are built with WordPress. And, at one point, all those site owners will go out looking for nice themes. The way some people capitalize on this opportunity is by creating a great-looking WordPress theme and then including hidden links and obfuscated code in the theme. Imagine what their reach could be like if they get even a few hundred domains installing their theme.

How to make sure you’re using a trustworthy theme

The best option is to use a theme obtained from a reputable source and created by a trustworthy theme developer, both of which can significantly reduce the potential of these shady practices being employed. If you are using a free theme, it’s also a very good idea to have a consultant review your site to make sure you’re using a trustworthy theme. Call Connect4 Consulting at 202-236-2968 for help.

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