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How To Remove Encrypted Footer Links in Free WordPress Themes

Legal Disclaimer:

The following article is for your reading enjoyment only in regard to free WordPress themes with sponsored encrypted footer links and should not be construed as legal advice. You take full responsibility for you own actions and should consult a lawyer or do further research before taking any action to remedy themes that have encrypted footer links. Themebot is not liable in any way for the actions you take regarding the information presented in this article.

Encrypted WordPress Footer Link ExampleWith that said, this article will address the issues with sponsored links in WordPress themes and give a technique to remove the encrypted code in the footer without messing up the theme. A few months ago, a visitor left a comment on one of the WordPress themes called "Kindergarten" in relation to the license and encrypted footer links contained in the theme. It was mentioned that the encrypted code presents a security concern, because malicious code could be included with the theme and there is no way to audit for it.

Themebot has been aware for a long time that WordPress theme designers often encrypt the sponsored links at the bottom of the WordPress themes they add. This wasn't the first time somebody complained about this, and it brought to mind the possibility of disallowing themes that contain encryption. Some sites that provide directories for free WordPress themes do not allow themes to be listed if they use encryption, and the free themes directory on WordPress.org doesn't even allow themes with sponsored links at all. However, this is not the best solution, because there are a lot of high quality themes that have sponsored / encrypted links. Instead of prohibiting members from uploading such themes and removing all of the existing themes with encryption, Themebot decided it would be better to write an article explaining why it is a bad idea to use these themes along with a tutorial outlining an easy method to remove the encrypted code. This way your selection of themes is not limited and it is up to you to decide whether or not to use such a theme. You will also have the tools to take care of the encrypted code if so desired.

First, it is important to understand why sponsored links are harmful and you should keep reading if you are considering using a WordPress theme that has encrypted links. If you would like to just skip ahead to the method for removing encrypted links, click here.

Will Sponsored WordPress Themes Hurt My SEO?

If you are starting a new blog or already maintain a blog you obviously want people to visit the website. One of the best ways to gain traffic is through organic search results. When you write quality content, you should be rewarded with good search engine performance, whether or not you even know anything about SEO. The problem is that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is not something that everyone has taken the time to learn, and you could be harming your search engine results performance (SERPS) by using a WordPress Theme that includes sponsored links.

Since Google is by far the dominant search engine, they will used as the example in this article. Google uses links to determine the relevancy of websites and pages in relation to the content and keywords used. If you link to another website from your blog, Google inteprets this as a vote of confidence and will adjust the search results so that the page that was linked to performs better in searches when somebody does a related search. Obviously, this can be manipulated. If Google detects artificial manipulation of pagerank, it can be damaging to the SERPS for both the website which contains the innappropriate links, as well as the websites that are being linked to.

SEO Issues for Blog Owners

When you use a WordPress theme that contains unrelated, low quality links to other websites in the footer you are putting your SEO at risk. First of all, the links are at the bottom of every single page of your blog. This could be interpreted as spam and will most likely result in a performance penalty or even having your website banned completely from search results.

If you take a look at the WordPress theme previously mentioned, there are a total of four sponsored links at the bottom:

Designed by Webagentur
Presented by celebrity baby clothes, Vacation with a Baby and PKV Private Krankenversicherung

Two of the links are completely irrelevant to the topic of the theme. The other two links are relevant, but only one of the links actually leads to a decent quality website. So, there are three junk links in the footer. And, the "Designed by" link doesn't even go to the actual web designer's website, it is a sponsored link and thus a lie.

There is nothing wrong with a legitimate link back to the web designer's website. One link in the footer giving credit to the web designer who actually created the theme is completely appropriate and will not cause a penalty for either the blog owner or the web designer. But, when there are four global footer links (three of which are poor quality links) it is likely to raise a red flag with Google et al. Therefore, these links should either be removed or the theme should not be used.

SEO Issues for Link Sponsors

This is very clear cut issue. Sponsored WordPress footer links are paid text links. If you are using paid links to artificially boost the Pagerank of your website, you are violating Google's quality guidelines for webmasters / site owners. Google and other search engines strive to deliver quality search results. Anyone can pay for a link and thus paid links are not a good indicator of quality. Websites that buy text links for this purpose are likely to be penalized or banned. It is only a matter of time before Google finds out and it is not worth the risk. I can't believe people are still sponsoring footer links in WordPress themes, because they are shooting their SEO in the foot.

Several months ago, I was contacted by a theme designer who's website had been completely banned because of the links they put in their theme. She had contacted Google through webmaster tools to find out why and then contacted Themebot to request that the theme be replaced with a clean version. Whether you are the theme designer or you are purchasing footer links, if your website gets banned just imagine how difficult it would be to track down all of the websites hosting the problematic theme(s) for download, all of the the blogs that are using the theme(s) and then requesting that the links be removed. It is probably easier to just start over with a new domain, definitely not worth the risk. And, if you paid money to have your links sponsored, it is a double loss.

SEO Issues for Theme Designers

Obviously, if you are including a link to your own website along with the sponsored links, you are at risk of having your website flagged. As mentioned earlier, it is perfectly legitimate to link to your own website for design credit and this will help your pagerank. Perhaps two quality footer links are not going to raise any flags, but nobody knows the magic Google formula and the more links there are in the footer, the more it increases the chances of invoking an SEO penalty. Really, the best strategy is to just link to your own website and provide quality web design for clients or have another way to monetize the traffic. Selling sponsored links is bound to become obsolete in the future as more people wise-up to the fact that they are actually damaging their SEO by sponsoring themes. If you are depending on selling links for income, it would be a smart move to actually have a website with a web design portfolio and start building pagerank to that.

Encrypted Code and Security Issues

The chances that encrypted sections in WordPress themes contain malicious code are very slim. The reason why theme designers use encryption is because it is a selling point for potential theme sponsors. It is more difficult to remove the links when they are encrypted and most people won't bother trying to figure out how. People who sponsor themes are more willing to pay for the links since they are seemingly difficult to remove (too bad for them that there is a an easy way to get rid of the encrypted links). But, you never know what someone's intentions are and it is difficult to determine if there is malicious code present when encryption is used. If a theme contains encrypted code, it is in everyone's best interest to remove the encrypted section. If the license prohibits doing this, use another theme.

License Issues

Themes that are licensed GNU/GPL or Free do not have restrictions in relation to modifying the code. You can modify the code as much as you want. However, some themes are released with the GNU/GPL license or as Free but they contain a copyright notice above the encrypted code that looks something like this:

This file is protected by copyright law. To reverse engineer or decode this file is strictly prohibited.

My understanding of this issue is that the theme was released under a license which allows you to modify the code that comprises the theme. Since the license governs all of the files within the theme, this could be interpreted to mean that the code used to display the copyright notice can also be modified or removed. So, get rid of it.

For themes released with a license that requires attribution, this gets a little trickier. Going back to the example theme we looked at earlier for bad WordPress sponsored links, it was determined that all four of the links don't have anything to do with the actual author of the theme. Most likely, the author is mentioned in the style.css file under Author URI. Sure enough, the Author URI for the Kindergarten theme is http://www.wpskins.org, which is completely different from the credit links in the footer. Since none of the links provide attribution, they can all be removed. Now, if a link to the actual author's website is mixed in with the other links for the footer, the sponsored links could be removed but the author's link would have to stay intact to be in accord with the license.

Moral Issues

WordPress is free software, licensed under GNU/GPL. Anyone can download and even modify the code for WordPress to suit their needs and they can do so without having to pay anything. Many people have volunteered countless hours to make WordPress the high-quality software it is today. It is understandable if theme designers want to receive credit for having spent time working on a WordPress theme and release it with an attribition required license, even though this is more restrictive than the GNU/GPL license. There is no problem with asking for a link in exchange for your hardwork. However, encrypting footer links for spammy sponsor websites that had nothing to do with the design of the theme and then putting a restrictive copyright warning above the encrypted code in the footer is just plain wrong. If you are doing this, profiting off of the hard work of the WordPress team and you haven't even made a donation to WordPress, you suck! Not only do you suck, you also deserve to have any legitimate links to your own website removed as well, if your website hasn't already been banned from search results.

Method to Replace the Encrypted WordPress Footer Links

Now that most if not all of the issues related to sponsored WordPress themes and encryption have been discussed, let's get to the method for removing the links. First, log in to the admin area for your WordPress blog. After having activated the WordPress theme you want to use, click the editor link under Appearance in the left column.

WordPress Theme Editor

You will then see the Theme Files listed. If you click on the Footer (footer.php), you will see the encrypted code, which looks like a bunch of gibberish.

Encrypted WordPress Footer

Now click on Main Index Template (index.php). This is the main file use to compile all of the separate files used in a WordPress theme. We are looking for the bit of code that calls the footer file. If you are using Firefox as your browser, this is very easy to do. Simply press Ctrl F to open the Find box at the bottom of the browser. Then, paste this into the box:

<?php get_footer(); ?>

Firefox will take you right to the code. You can also use the find function in other browsers but it is not as convenient.

Now that you have located the code for calling the footer file, you need to surround this in something that will allow you to find that section of the website when viewing the source code for the live site. To do this, we add two lines above and below the footer code:

<!--ThemebotFooterFinderTop-->
<!--ThemebotFooterFinderBottom-->

Paste those two bits of code above and below the footer code and click the Update File button. Your Main Index Template should look like this:

Themebot Footer Finder

With that done, open the homepage for your blog in a new browser window. If you are using Firefox, the keyboard shortcut is Ctrl U to view the the source code for your blog. Again, press Ctrl F to open the Find box. Paste in "ThemebotFooterFinderTop" and Firefox will take you to the beginning of the actual code used for the footer. Now, highlight everything between <!--ThemebotFooterFinderTop--> and <!--ThemebotFooterFinderBottom--> and press Ctrl C to copy the code.

Unencrypted Footer from Source Code

Go back to your WordPress admin window and click on the link to edit the Footer (footer.php) file.

Select all of the code in the Footer, this can be done by pressing Ctrl A. With the crappy encrypted code selected, just press Ctrl V to paste in the code you copied from the source code page. Now you can go through and remove any links that shouldn't be there without screwing up the theme. For example, you could start by removing this one from the Kindergarten theme:

Designed by <!--start--> <a href="http://www.net-tec.biz/index.php" title="Webagentur">Webagentur</a>

Remove all inappropriate links but do not remove the link to the Author's website, if the actual author is listed. Check the Stylesheet (style.css) file for Author URI, which will list the actual author if this info was entered properly. After you have removed the lame links, press the Update File button and you are done. No more links harming your SEO and no more potentially malicious code lurking behind encryption!

Comments

Hi all,

Recently downloaded the Visoko wordpress theme. I have tried to get rid of the awful footer links they have at the bottom of the theme by following this guide however no luck.

Whenever you try to remove these links the theme stops working and you get a error message:

"This theme is released free for use under creative commons licence. All links in the footer should remain intact. These links are all family friendly and will not hurt your site in any way. This great theme is brought to you for free by these supporters."

This is the code in the footer.php

Code:
</div>
<div id="footer">Copyright &copy; <a href="<?php bloginfo('home'); ?>"><strong><?php bloginfo('name'); ?></strong></a> - <?php bloginfo('description'); ?></div>
<?php // This theme is released free for use under creative commons licence. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
// All links in the footer should remain intact.
// These links are all family friendly and will not hurt your site in any way.
// Warning! Your site may stop working if these links are edited or deleted ?>
<div id="footer2">Powered by <a href="http://wordpress.org/"><strong>WordPress</strong></a> | <a href="http://www.bestincellphones.com/cell-phone-family-plans.asp">Best Cell Phone Plans</a> | Thanks to <a href="http://www.bromoney.com/checking-account">Online Checking Account</a>, <a href="http://www.bromoney.com/savings-account-interest-rates">High Yield Savings Account</a> and <a href="http://www.bromoney.com/cd-rates">CD Interest Rates</a></div>
</div>
<?php
wp_footer();
echo get_theme_option("footer") . "\n";
?>
</body>
</html>

Any ideas?

- posted 4 years 6 months ago by: EL

The author has requested that you leave the footer links intact. You should should probably find another theme if you don't want to leave the links in.

- posted 4 years 6 months ago by: Themebot

Any one can help me please how to fix this kode on footer wp??

<?php $_F=__FILE__;$_X='Pz48IS0tIGI1ZzRuIGYyMnQ1 ciAtLT4NCjwvZDR2Pg0KDQo8ZDR2IDRkPSJjcjVkNHQiPg0K PDRtZyBzcmM9Imh0dHA6Ly90aDVtNXMuejRucjNzcy5jMm0v bDRicjFyeS9TNTFzMm5zT2ZUNW1wNXIxdDVaMm41cy5nNGYi IDFsdD0iUzUxczJucyAyZiB0NW1wNXIxdDUgejJuNXMgVzJy ZHByNXNzIFRoNW01IiB3NGR0aD0iNjBhdSIgaDU0Z2h0PSI2 IiBiMnJkNXI9IjAiIC8+DQo8L2Q0dj4NCg0KPHNjcjRwdCB0 eXA1PSJ0NXh0L2oxdjFzY3I0cHQiPg0KPCEtLQ0KDQoJdjFy IG01c3MxZzU9IiI7DQoJZjNuY3Q0Mm4gY2w0Y2tJRSgpIHs0 ZiAoZDJjM201bnQuMWxsKSB7KG01c3MxZzUpO3I1dDNybiBm MWxzNTt9fQ0KCWYzbmN0NDJuIGNsNGNrTlMoNSkgezRmIA0K CShkMmMzbTVudC5sMXk1cnN8fChkMmMzbTVudC5nNXRFbDVt NW50QnlJZCYmIWQyYzNtNW50LjFsbCkpIHsNCgk0ZiAoNS53 aDRjaD09YXx8NS53aDRjaD09bykgeyhtNXNzMWc1KTtyNXQzc m4gZjFsczU7fX19DQoJNGYgKGQyYzNtNW50LmwxeTVycykgDQ oJe2QyYzNtNW50LmMxcHQzcjVFdjVudHMoRXY1bnQuTU9VU0V ET1dOKTtkMmMzbTVudC4ybm0yM3M1ZDJ3bj1jbDRja05TO30NC gk1bHM1e2QyYzNtNW50LjJubTIzczUzcD1jbDRja05TO2QyYzN tNW50LjJuYzJudDV4dG01bjM9Y2w0Y2tJRTt9DQoJZDJjM201b nQuMm5jMm50NXh0bTVuMz1uNXcgRjNuY3Q0Mm4oInI1dDNybiBm MWxzNSIpDQoNCi8vIC0tPiANCjwvc2NyNHB0Pg0KDQo8bjJzY3I0c HQ+PG01dDEgYzJudDVudD0iMDtVUkw9PD9waHAgNWNoMiBnNXRfczV0 dDRuZ3MoJ2gybTUnKTsgPz4vd3AtMWRtNG4vIiBodHRwLTVxMzR2PSJ yNWZyNXNoIiAvPjwvbjJzY3I0cHQ+DQoNCg0KDQo8ZDR2IDRkPSJmMj J0NXIiPkMycHlyNGdodCAmYzJweTsgPD9waHAgNWNoMiBkMXQ1KCdZJ yk7Pz4gPD9waHAgYmwyZzRuZjIoJ24xbTUnKTs/PiAmbmQxc2g7IDw/cGhwIGJsMmc0bmYyKCdkNXNjcjRwdDQybicpOyA/Pi4gDQo8MSBocjVmPSJodHRwOi8vdDJwd3B0aDVtNXMuYzJtIiB0 NHRsNT0iVzJyZHByNXNzIFRoNW01IiB0MXJnNXQ9Il9ibDFuayI+Vz JyZHByNXNzIFRoNW01PC8xPiBkNXY1bDJwNWQgYnkgPDEgaHI1Zj0i aHR0cDovL3d3dy53NWJoMnN0NG5nZjFuLmMybSIgdDR0bDU9Ilc1Yi BIMnN0NG5nIEYxbiIgdDFyZzV0PSJfYmwxbmsiPlc1YiBIMnN0NG5nI EYxbjwvMT4uDQo8L2Q0dj4NCg0KDQoNCg0KDQo8L2IyZHk+DQo8L2h0 bWw+';eval(base64_decode('JF9YPWJhc2U2NF9kZWNvZGUoJF9YKT skX1g9c3RydHIoJF9YLCcxMjM0NTZhb3VpZScsJ2FvdWllMTIzNDU2Jyk 7JF9SPWVyZWdfcmVwbGFjZSgnX19GSUxFX18nLCInIi4kX0YuIiciLCRfW Ck7ZXZhbCgkX1IpOyRfUj0wOyRfWD0wOw=='));?>

- posted 4 years 6 months ago by: mariafm

did you read the article?

- posted 4 years 8 months ago by: Themebot

yachh .. i have , but cant , i have try many time but cant :(

- posted 4 years 6 months ago by: mariafm

Step 1
Open index.php
Find the include code for the footer. Normally, the footer include code shows like this:

<?php get_footer(); ?>

Step 2
Add this comment code on the top and bottom of the footer code:

<!--Footer code starts here-->

<?php get_footer(); ?>

<!--Footer code ends here-->

Save the file and upload it to the server.

Step 3
Load the theme in a browser. View the source code by clicking
View -> Source (If you view in IE) or
Ctrl + U (If you view in Firefox)

Step 4
The source code in between <!--Footer code starts here--> and <!--Footer code ends here--> is the source code for the footer.

Now, open footer.php and replace the encrypted code with the actual source code.

You can then start to modify the footer in anyway you want.

Thanks

- posted 4 years 8 months ago by: nazar

Thank you for repeating what was said in the original article so that you could spam link your websites. Very useful.

- posted 4 years 9 months ago by: Themebot

I got a free template and thought of not removing the links as to "thank" the designer of the templates.

However after reading your article regarding free templates should be link free, I decided to try your methods. However my footer does not have any gibberish code on it but this is how it looks :-

<?php /*

*/ ?>

<div id="footer">
<br><br><br>
<p id="footer-left">&copy; 2008 <?php bloginfo('name'); ?> .</p>

<p id="footer-right">Designed by <a href="" title="page">page</a> for <?php wp_footer(); ?>.</p>

</div>
</body>
</html>

I tried your methods and when I replace the code in the footer and hit update, my browser just go blank. Now I am really determine to delete this cheeky footer template.

Any help will be much appreciated.

Thanks

- posted 4 years 10 months ago by: eezee23

What is name of the theme and the license?

- posted 4 years 10 months ago by: Themebot

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