WordPress is, in my opinion, is one of the great phenomena’s of the Internet phenomenon.  I’m talking about the open source blogging software here, not the hosted blogging platform.  The software has undergone incredible refinement and improvement, primarily from a base of programmers donating their time and expertise.

There are also countless plug-ins and themes (template systems) that developers sell.  Many of them are incredible bargains.  If you consider the potential cost of having someone create custom programming, the availability of plug-ins, both free and for a cost, is simply wonderful.

I first heard about the Thesis theme from my director of SEO, Etela Ivkovic.  Etela had been participating in a webinar being given by an industry expert.  The expert had mentioned that Thesis is the way to go – that it will help your web site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Now, when an industry expert gives you advice like this, you listen.  And since I’ve become pretty fluent with WordPress, I purchased Thesis, and installed it on a website.

Not so easy

The first thing I realized was that it wasn’t a slam dunk.  When I tried to make the theme do something that it didn’t do right out of the box, working with what the Thesis folks call ‘hooks’ was not that straight forward.  In fact, I spent hours trying to accomplish something that would have been a simple task otherwise.  At the end of the day, I’ve ditched Thesis.  I find that I can make things happen more quickly and more easily by just modifying the base WordPress theme.  And now with WordPress 3.0 and the TwentyTen theme, I find it is a piece of cake.  Thesis might have some benefits, but for me, they just don’t outweigh the downside.

Here come the affiliates

What Thesis does do well is sell.  They have an affiliates program that provides 33% commission.  And some of the best and brightest of the online world have joined up to help sell – like Chris Brogan.  So, if THESE guys are saying it’s good for SEO, they must be right, right?  After all, as Mitch Joel writes in Six Pixels of Separation, “Brogan can’t lie or deceive this audience.  If a brand is about trust, a personal brand is like the deeper trust we extend to our immediate family.”

Brian Clark, a co-founder of DIYThemes and blogger says that one of the main reasons Thesis is good for SEO is the optimized code. But when I run Chris Brogan’s site through http://validator.w3.org/ , there are plenty of errors to spare.

In the right situations, Thesis could be just the right thing.  Good professional look right out of the box. I’m just a bit uncomfortable with so many industry experts making their Starbucks money off of saying it is the best thing for SEO.  That claim just isn’t justified.  Are there themes with lousy code?  You bet! But even cleaner code can be had from working from a custom theme.

Witness Protection Program?

I hope I haven’t offended these industry stars.  Both Chris and Brian’s blogs are at the top of my Google Reader list.  And to Chris Brogan’s credit, he is always fastidious about letting readers know that he promotes many things as an affiliate.  Who am I to question a bloke’s right to a living?  But it can be a bit like my dermatologist selling me some Shaklee – I’m not sure if the motivation is pure.  And in drinking Mitch Joel’s Kool-Aid, I really want to believe.

Disagree?  Agree?  Putting a contract out on me?  Let me know!