wordpress theme for adsense

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.

A niche site usually won’t need any of those. That results in hundreds of unused lines of code, and dozens of idle PHP and javascript files.

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.

1. Shamrock

Medium-inspired with 2-columns.

shamrock

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View Demo

2. Tecblogger

2-column with a full-width header image.

1 - techblogger

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View Demo

3. MegaResponsive

Always full-width across the page.

6 megaresponsive

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View Demo

4. Simpler

Clean, minimalist and all-white.

4 - simpler

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View Demo

5. Salt

Compact 2-column with a full-width featured slider option.

Salt Theme Demo

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6. Patus

Beautiful with clean typography and spacing.

6- patus

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View Demo

7. Wilson

Left-sidebar, content-focused.

7 - wilson

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8. Basic

A clean, 2-column content grid.

Basic Demo

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9. Simple & Clean

A bold 2-column theme.

Simple

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10. Pro Blogg

2-column content grid with an elegant featured post slider.

pro blogg

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11. Ignite

A simple and clean 2-column theme with nice, big padding.

1 - ignite

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View demo

12. Cicero

Very elegant with compact widths.

cicero

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13. Dazzling

Wide, versatile with a full-width slider.

dazzling

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14. Silk

Pretty and elegant with 3-column grid and content area.

silk

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View Demo

15. Canard

Very beautifully designed with just the right amount of functionality.

canard

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View Demo

16. Rams

Left-columned sidebar, large clean fonts and spacing.

rams

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17. Vito

A wide, 2-column layout with large featured images.

vito

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View Demo

18. Moments

Left-sidebar, left-edge theme.

Moments

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View Demo

19. Rowling

A very nicely designed theme with separate left and right screen background colors.

rowling

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View Demo

20. Prolog

A clean, medium-sized content WordPress theme.

Prolog

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View Demo

21. Lovecraft

My favorite theme in this list. Great design and layout with clean typography.

lovecraft

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View Demo

22. HarmonUX Core

A standard 2-column layout.

harmonux

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View Demo

23. Radiate

radiate

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24. Clean Retina

Full-screen header image, with 3 featured post/page section on the homepage.

cleanretina

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View Demo

25. Kouki

Minimalistic, white theme with 2-column grid and no sidebar.

kouki

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View Demo

26. Apex

A wide content area.

apex

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View Demo

27. Rara Clean

A bare-bones, clean theme.

rara

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View Demo

28. Masonic

3-column masonic grid on the homepage.

masonic

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View Demo

29. MioMio

Another compact theme with clean, elegant design.

miomio

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View Demo

30. Sparkling

A spacious blog theme with a full-width slider on the homepage.

1 sparkling

Download

View Demo

31. Mesocolumn

A colorful magazine theme for sites with lots of categories.

2 mesocolumn

Download

View Demo

32. Kerinci

A minimal blog theme with fancy use of typography and borders.

3 kerinci

Download

View Demo

33. Zinnia

A very narrow one-column theme with no sidebar.

4 zinnia

Download

View Demo

34. Keratin

A simple 2-column grid layout.

5 keratin

Download

View Demo

35. Portfolio

A professional-looking blog theme with a sleek featured post slider.

portfolio

Download

View Demo

36. Blogger

A super clean blogging theme by Dessign.net

portfolio

Download

View Demo


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.

THEME MARKETPLACES

ThemeForest
Creative Market

THEME COMPANIES

Elegant Themes
Thrive Themes
MyThemeShop
StudioPress
Themify
ThemeZilla

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.

77 Comments

  • Reply
    Jerry Chang
    February 26, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Hi Chris,

    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?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 26, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      Yup, still loving that theme 🙂

  • Reply
    Pankaj
    February 26, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Hi Chris, These are awesome themes. My favorite #1 and #32 😉

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 26, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Pankaj!

  • Reply
    Gaurav
    February 26, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Hey Chris,
    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.

    Cheers,
    Gaurav

  • Reply
    Bryan
    February 26, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks for the great share Chris. I really like the newspaper theme that you recommend though, it’s well worth the price 🙂

    Cheers,
    Bryan

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 26, 2016 at 11:04 pm

      Nice 🙂 Glad to hear that.

  • Reply
    Seppe
    February 26, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 26, 2016 at 11:05 pm

      Thanks for sharing Seppe.

    • Reply
      JJ
      February 27, 2016 at 12:13 am

      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.

      • Reply
        Chris Lee
        February 27, 2016 at 7:25 am

        For something with hundreds of customization options, you’ll want to look into a premium theme.

  • Reply
    Ricardo
    February 26, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Hi Chris

    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?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 26, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      Yup, you’re right Ricardo. If you’re going to be adding a forum, then nothing wrong with using a theme that has them.

  • Reply
    GFRT
    February 27, 2016 at 12:33 am

    Hi, Chris

    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.

    Keep sharing

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 27, 2016 at 7:23 am

      Glad you liked it 🙂

  • Reply
    Katie Lyons
    February 27, 2016 at 7:47 am

    I would like recommend this SuperAds for Adsense https://wordpress.org/themes/superads-lite/ It is also best theme from my experiences.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 27, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Thanks for sharing, Katie!

  • Reply
    Henrik Flensborg
    February 27, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Loved how 31. Mesocolumn looked on my desktop – especially the Slider and the featured categories. But it looked horrible from a my mobile 🙁

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 28, 2016 at 5:48 am

      Thanks for sharing, Henrik. Sounds like it will need some css edits.

  • Reply
    Lino Senese
    March 12, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Do you have any suggestion on WP theme which is good and ready for affiliate product marketing theme?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      March 12, 2016 at 8:08 pm

      Any of these themes would work.

  • Reply
    Harry
    March 15, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    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?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      March 16, 2016 at 6:07 am

      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.

  • Reply
    Brent
    April 17, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    Hi Chris,

    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 again,
    Brent

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 22, 2016 at 1:41 am

      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.

  • Reply
    Ty
    April 22, 2016 at 12:38 am

    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?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 22, 2016 at 1:48 am

      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.

      • Reply
        Ty
        April 22, 2016 at 3:26 pm

        Chris,

        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?

        Thanks

        -Ty

        • Reply
          Chris Lee
          April 25, 2016 at 3:36 am

          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/.

          • Ty
            April 26, 2016 at 7:07 am

            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.

            Best regards,

            Ty

  • Reply
    jual genset baru
    April 25, 2016 at 2:52 am

    there is a lot of nice themes. should try some of these

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 25, 2016 at 3:38 am

      Thanks for reading, Jual.

  • Reply
    Hidup mulia
    May 4, 2016 at 3:20 am

    These are awesome themes Chris.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      May 4, 2016 at 4:15 am

      Thanks Hidup.

  • Reply
    Macapati
    May 25, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Great Post
    thanks for sharing this useful info 🙂

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      May 25, 2016 at 6:15 pm

      No problem, Macapati! Glad it was helpful.

  • Reply
    Bhuboy Villanueva
    June 20, 2016 at 7:37 am

    Great collection of themes here Chris, sadly I already bought I theme before I read this post.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      June 21, 2016 at 6:39 am

      Paid themes are usually good and high quality. No need to regret 🙂

  • Reply
    Imer Imran
    September 18, 2016 at 12:00 am

    Hi Chris
    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!

    Imer

  • Reply
    Mediamaya
    November 18, 2016 at 2:12 am

    all theme very good, thanks for share friend, 😀

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      November 18, 2016 at 9:50 pm

      Thanks!

  • Reply
    Sakthi Kumaran
    December 9, 2016 at 2:44 am

    Hello Chris,

    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?

    https://themeforest.net/item/admania-best-ad-optimized-wordpress-theme-for-adsense-affiliate-enthusiasts/18194026

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      December 11, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Nice looking theme Sakthi! You provided a lot of good options for ad positions. Thanks for sharing 🙂

      • Reply
        Sakthi
        December 11, 2016 at 9:12 pm

        Thanks Chris for having a look at the theme, glad you liked it 🙂

        • Reply
          Chris Lee
          December 12, 2016 at 4:37 pm

          No problem, Sakthi! Keep up the great work 🙂

  • Reply
    Jual sarang walet
    February 6, 2017 at 3:02 am

    Great Post Cris, This awesome theme
    thanks for your information

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 6, 2017 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    Christy
    March 9, 2017 at 7:25 am

    I have exactly what info I want. Check, please. Wait, it’s free? Awseome!

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      March 16, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      😀 Haha

  • Reply
    Mukul
    May 23, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks for the mesocolumn theme … I loved it and am using it now 🙂

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      May 23, 2017 at 8:13 pm

      Awesome 😀

  • Reply
    nycrunch
    June 8, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    hello chris
    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.
    thanks

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      June 22, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Oh yes!

      If your theme makes your site look spammy, or if it’s poorly coded, or if it contains malicious code.

  • Reply
    health dose
    July 13, 2017 at 5:33 am

    Themes are awesome, but in Shamrock there is no place to put my site logo.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 16, 2017 at 11:29 am

      You might find a Customize option in the Appearance section.

  • Reply
    Tony
    July 13, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    it’s so great, thank you for sharing, Chris.
    I am using Newspaper WP Theme for my blog, it’s so beautiful and convenient

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 16, 2017 at 11:30 am

      Awesome! I love that theme.

  • Reply
    Bob
    July 23, 2017 at 5:07 am

    Thanks for this Chris! Loved Masonic theme, it’s cool

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      July 24, 2017 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks. Glad you liked it.

  • Reply
    Mukesh
    August 18, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Hi Chris,

    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.

    Regards
    Mukesh

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      August 20, 2017 at 10:38 am

      It really just depends on what you want your site to look like 🙂

  • Reply
    afridi
    August 20, 2017 at 1:00 am

    Great Collection, I just downloaded 2 themes these are just great!

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      August 20, 2017 at 10:37 am

      Sweet!

  • Reply
    cercie
    September 7, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Great Work Thanks alot 🙂

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      September 11, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      🙂

  • Reply
    Jon pul
    February 20, 2018 at 5:44 am

    Great Post Cris, This awesome theme
    thanks for your information.Your really great post

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 22, 2018 at 11:29 am

      Thanks!

  • Reply
    dharmesh
    March 10, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Great List …I all like themes..Thanks

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      March 14, 2018 at 12:05 pm

      Thanks!

  • Reply
    Sufiyan Momin
    March 25, 2018 at 2:41 am

    Hi Chris, These are awesome themes. My favorite #1 and #32

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      March 27, 2018 at 3:46 pm

      Cool, thanks for checking them out.

  • Reply
    Benjamin
    May 6, 2018 at 4:09 am

    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.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      May 12, 2018 at 3:41 pm

      Cool, thanks a lot of sharing Benjamin.

  • Reply
    remco
    November 15, 2018 at 9:52 am

    Hey..

    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..

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      November 16, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      These are all in the WordPress official repository of themes, so they should be fine.

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