What makes a good WordPress theme for a niche site?
For me, it’s clean design, clean code, and very lean in features.
I’ve tried a whole bunch of different themes over the years, but it’s been a while since I went browsing around the free section.
A couple of years ago, there was a clear distinction between a free and paid WP theme. Free themes were either really bare, and/or poorly designed.
That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
Of course, there still are some really poorly built themes out there, but I was surprised to see how much the selection of free themes improved both in design and function.
What I look for in a theme
Obviously, design is the main factor. But functionality and code are equally important.
I’ve found simple 2-column blog layout themes to perform best with Adsense.
But a good design is just part of the equation. A good theme is one that is light, fast, and has just enough options for what you need (like these ones).
For instance, a fancy new business theme might have a nice design.
But it also usually includes things like parallax sliders, built-in shop and checkout functionality, an option for a forum, and perhaps even a bunch of different shortcodes.
I like to go with bare-boned themes – ones that have exactly what I need and nothing more.
That usually means just a simple blog layout, with maybe a featured post section, and a sidebar.
Medium-inspired with 2-columns.
2-column with a full-width header image.
Always full-width across the page.
Clean, minimalist and all-white.
Compact 2-column with a full-width featured slider option.
Beautiful with clean typography and spacing.
A clean, 2-column content grid.
9. Simple & Clean
A bold 2-column theme.
10. Pro Blogg
2-column content grid with an elegant featured post slider.
A simple and clean 2-column theme with nice, big padding.
Very elegant with compact widths.
Wide, versatile with a full-width slider.
Pretty and elegant with 3-column grid and content area.
Very beautifully designed with just the right amount of functionality.
Left-columned sidebar, large clean fonts and spacing.
A wide, 2-column layout with large featured images.
Left-sidebar, left-edge theme.
A very nicely designed theme with separate left and right screen background colors.
A clean, medium-sized content WordPress theme.
My favorite theme in this list. Great design and layout with clean typography.
22. HarmonUX Core
A standard 2-column layout.
24. Clean Retina
Full-screen header image, with 3 featured post/page section on the homepage.
Minimalistic, white theme with 2-column grid and no sidebar.
A wide content area.
27. Rara Clean
A bare-bones, clean theme.
3-column masonic grid on the homepage.
Another compact theme with clean, elegant design.
A spacious blog theme with a full-width slider on the homepage.
A colorful magazine theme for sites with lots of categories.
A minimal blog theme with fancy use of typography and borders.
A very narrow one-column theme with no sidebar.
A simple 2-column grid layout.
A professional-looking blog theme with a sleek featured post slider.
A super clean blogging theme by Dessign.net
Are these themes Adsense optimized?
Yes, in that they do have the best layouts and designs that perform best with Adsense.
But apart from that, there’s really no such thing as a fully “Adsense optimized” theme. Optimization depends on your ad placement, not how a theme is designed.
Things like font-size, font-family, font and link colors can be easily edited for any theme and they shouldn’t be a major factor in your decision.
For some more tips on Adsense optimization, read this blog post.
What’s the difference between a free theme and a premium theme?
There are a few major differences.
The biggest being quality.
Since premium themes generate revenue, the authors need to make the extra time, care, and effort to make their product the highest quality possible.
That means extensive documentation, reliability of usage, and A+ support.
With a paid theme, you can have peace of mind knowing that your theme is well-built, will be updated frequently, and is backed by support if you need it.
I recommend going with a paid theme if possible
Your niche site is going to be your business. Get serious about it and at least give it a professional design with good functionality.
They won’t cost you much.
They’ll run you around $20-$50, and that’s just a one-time fee. Because you use WordPress, you have the luxury of using themes instead of having to pay thousands of dollars to a web designer.
Here are a few of the places you can find some beautiful, functional WordPress themes.
The first two, ThemeForest and Creative Market, are marketplaces. The others are individual companies.
What’s a marketplace? It’s somewhere multiple theme developers upload their themes for sale. They do go through rigorous approval processes so you can be assured they’re high quality.
Obviously, this means that there are more options to choose from.
That doesn’t mean all free themes are poorly coded and built by people who don’t care.
Any theme that’s available in the WordPress repository goes through a review process made by real reviewers that ensures a certain quality standard.
You just have to be fine with not having any real support if you run into any issues.
Be careful of WHERE you download free WP themes
You should never download a free theme from a site you don’t know or are unsure about. Some free themes out there have malicious code built into them, and installing them can cause you a lot of headaches.
I personally would only recommend you download from the WordPress repository or from a reputable paid themes company (most paid theme companies offer free themes as well).
Which WordPress theme should you use?
Any of them!
It depends on what design and layout you prefer.
They’ll all work. I would be comfortable using any one of these themes for my own niche sites.
My personal favorites from this list are #1, #10, 19, and #21.
What about you?
What theme do you use on RankXL?
I get this question almost on a daily basis, so I’ll answer it here for anybody else wondering.
RankXL uses a custom developed WordPress theme designed by yours truly. I’m not a professional developer or designer, but I love playing around with CSS and HTML.
It’s my hobby. I’m constantly browsing web design blogs, looking for inspiration, and playing around with different designs.
79 thoughts on “36 Free WordPress Themes Perfect For SEO And Adsense Niche Sites”
Thank you so much for recommending those WP themes. Just wondering, Newspaper WP Theme is still your favorite WordPress theme for all of your niche sites and those great themes mentioned in this blog post are for those who need a FREE WP theme?
Yup, still loving that theme 🙂
Hi Chris, These are awesome themes. My favorite #1 and #32 😉
Thanks for sharing, Pankaj!
This is such an amazing, large list…nobody will ever be without a theme again 🙂
Seriously, this is one of the most useful posts I’ve read in a while. I’ve a question… which hosting do you use for your adsense sites (I know this is more related to SEO/Pagespeed, but would be great to know)
If you have the time, please do a post on the plugins useful while setting up a site for Adsense.
Thanks Guarav 🙂 If you’re looking for fast hosting, I would recommend Traffic Planet.
Thanks for the great share Chris. I really like the newspaper theme that you recommend though, it’s well worth the price 🙂
Nice 🙂 Glad to hear that.
Hueman theme. Also a very good free wordpress theme for adsense. Since switching to this theme my income has doubled. I use the content left and sidebar right lay out. Funny to see how a simple change can make a huge impact.
Thanks for sharing Seppe.
I second Hueman.. it’s the theme I picked for my very first website.
Chris, do you have any recommendations among the above themes if you like having lots of features (like hundreds) to customize? I’m currently using Weaver Xtreme which allows me to install the same theme on all of my sites and still have them all look very different by tweaking the various aspects of it.
For something with hundreds of customization options, you’ll want to look into a premium theme.
You said “But it also usually includes things like parallax sliders, built-in shop and checkout functionality, an option for a forum, and perhaps even a bunch of different shortcodes.”
I believe that if you have a forum or some kind of community in some niches is very important. Helps get more engagement from the users, increase recurring visitors and build more authority with the visitors see a good site with a active community.
What do you think?
Yup, you’re right Ricardo. If you’re going to be adding a forum, then nothing wrong with using a theme that has them.
Thank you for sharing this themes. I personally, love themes a lot.
I have gone through all of your lists. they are really awesome. And it is difficult to choose one, because, almost all of them are pretty. However, Simple and clean by organizedthemes dot com was the one that I have downloaded ( I really like it.)
Anyways, Thanks for Sharing with the community.
Glad you liked it 🙂
I would like recommend this SuperAds for Adsense https://wordpress.org/themes/superads-lite/ It is also best theme from my experiences.
Thanks for sharing, Katie!
Loved how 31. Mesocolumn looked on my desktop – especially the Slider and the featured categories. But it looked horrible from a my mobile 🙁
Thanks for sharing, Henrik. Sounds like it will need some css edits.
Do you have any suggestion on WP theme which is good and ready for affiliate product marketing theme?
Any of these themes would work.
nice compilation of themes Chris! One question though, I heard that changing to a new theme can affect your current rankings using your old theme. What is your opinion about this? Any experiences with this Chris?
Yeah, but as long as the new theme is optimized, it should be fine. You can check for it though, and fix them through its php files.
The most important thing is to make sure that the theme’s header tags and title tags are properly set up.
Some themes have strange things like using h4 tags for the post title and things like that.
Thanks for the in-depth list of themes, it’s a great resource.
I was wondering what theme you used for this site? I really like how the home page goes for an optin, but also directs people to the blog.
Thanks Brent! This theme isn’t available for sale. Everything is custom built, and the homepage is just a standard WordPress page that’s been custom designed as well.
I like #1 the most, but I am curious what font is used on rankxl? I reads better than #1.
If you wanted to have a very long pillar post on the homepage, what theme would you recommend?
RankXL is currently using just a standard ‘helvetica neue’ font.
Any theme will work. It’s just a matter of your preference and what you feel is best for your niche/site.
it is a little off topic, but I came across your site when they mentioned your name in a niche pursuits podcast. They were discussing keyword research for a guy just starting out his site. They said you had some method that worked well and cost very little like something around $5, but it required a bit of manual work.
There is a lot of content on your site, so I did not know how to find this method. Is there an article on doing keyword research on the cheap on you site somewhere?
Hey Ty, that was from a private conversation that I had with Perrin. I haven’t written about it on this blog, but Perrin created a great tutorial about it here: http://www.authorityhacker.com/short-content/.
Chris, thanks for sharing the link with me. I am finding keyword research to be one of the most challenging aspects of things. Writing is probably number two in terms of challenges.
there is a lot of nice themes. should try some of these
Thanks for reading, Jual.
These are awesome themes Chris.
thanks for sharing this useful info 🙂
No problem, Macapati! Glad it was helpful.
Great collection of themes here Chris, sadly I already bought I theme before I read this post.
Paid themes are usually good and high quality. No need to regret 🙂
These suggestions of free theme are just so awesome. I’ve used #8 (basic) and # 30 (sparkling) before for my blog. It’s a great theme. Currently, my blog is using premium theme i.e. thrive theme (luxe) and as you said, “With a paid theme, you can have peace of mind knowing that your theme is well-built, will be updated frequently, and is backed by support if you need it.”
Just to share, I find other recommendation for free WP theme on Neil Patel’s blog which is
32 Free WordPress Themes For Effective Content Marketing
And #30 (Sparkling) is also on the list. Either way, Keep up the great work!
Cool, thanks for sharing Imer!
I’ll add a link to Neil’s post here: http://neilpatel.com/2015/09/03/32-free-wordpress-themes-for-effective-content-marketing/.
all theme very good, thanks for share friend, 😀
You have done a wonderful job in consolidating the good themes for the WordPress niche sites.
I’m a WordPress theme designer and have launched my 4th theme on the grand marketplace, ThemeForest.
It is specifically designed for Adsense users and have SEO & Speed customization as well. Frond end ad editor is the main highlight of our theme.
Do you wanna have a look at the this WordPress theme for Adsense?
Nice looking theme Sakthi! You provided a lot of good options for ad positions. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks Chris for having a look at the theme, glad you liked it 🙂
No problem, Sakthi! Keep up the great work 🙂
Great Post Cris, This awesome theme
thanks for your information
I have exactly what info I want. Check, please. Wait, it’s free? Awseome!
Thanks for the mesocolumn theme … I loved it and am using it now 🙂
thanks for this list. i was just wondering? can the theme you are using on your website be the cause for it begin rejected multiple times by google adsense.
If your theme makes your site look spammy, or if it’s poorly coded, or if it contains malicious code.
Themes are awesome, but in Shamrock there is no place to put my site logo.
You might find a Customize option in the Appearance section.
it’s so great, thank you for sharing, Chris.
I am using Newspaper WP Theme for my blog, it’s so beautiful and convenient
Awesome! I love that theme.
Thanks for this Chris! Loved Masonic theme, it’s cool
Thanks. Glad you liked it.
Thanking for sharing a amazon list of themes.
I am confused with selecting the theme for a Finance blog, can you recommend from the above list of theme which will be good for my finance blog.
It really just depends on what you want your site to look like 🙂
Great Collection, I just downloaded 2 themes these are just great!
Great Work Thanks alot 🙂
Great Post Cris, This awesome theme
thanks for your information.Your really great post
Great List …I all like themes..Thanks
Hi Chris, These are awesome themes. My favorite #1 and #32
Cool, thanks for checking them out.
Wow. I like this great collection 🙂 Thanks for sharing this useful themes.
I am using Phlox on my blog which is not available on your list. I myself like it because it is a responsive and customizable WordPress theme that can satisfy everyone with its demos.
Cool, thanks a lot of sharing Benjamin.
Thanks a lot for the article. Will try out some. Are the templates shown here also tested on vulnerabilties? I have a website security audit service and what i see a lot of time with free themes that they use old slideshows and plugins which could make them vulnerable..
These are all in the WordPress official repository of themes, so they should be fine.
Is Shamrock good for niche site? Is it optimized for speed?
Hi Chris… Awesome themes you draft out here.
But the problem is I am still searching for a theme to use. Thank you anyway.