Rough draft: Upsell/Affiliate/Sponsorship guidelines

After talking with the team leads, I was asked to publish an outline of ideas to consider for guidelines. These are being posted here for feedback from the entire community.

Nothing is set in stone. The below and any comments will be discussed in the next team meeting. Now is the time to share your thoughts.

The following is in response to the recent uptick in discussion as well as usage of affiliate and sponsored links within themes. These need to be addressed in a meaningful way that’s both fair to users and theme authors without allowing themes to be displaying things that are akin to spam.

The general rule of thumb should be: Any link, advertisement, etc. should benefit the user in using this specific theme. It should not be upsells of unrelated products.

Affiliate links in general:

Affiliate links in and of themselves are OK. They’re not inherently bad.


Themes may only upsell products and services that are directly related to the theme. It’s probably best to go with a whitelist of things that are OK just so that it’s clear. I think the following covers most things, but I may have missed something.

  • Child themes for this specific theme.
  • A pro version of the theme, whether in theme or plugin form.
  • An add-on plugin for this theme.
  • Design/Development services.
  • Theme support.

Plugin recommendations:

Themes may not include third-party plugin recommendations either via link or TGMPA solely as part of a paid sponsorship. Any plugin recommended by a plugin (affiliate link or otherwise) must have some sort of theme integration. The following is a list of some things that I consider theme integration.

  • Theme uses plugin hooks to make template HTML match.
  • Theme adds CSS to directly style components of the plugin.
  • Theme adds custom templates to handle the front-end output.

Paid sponsorship:

Any sort of paid sponsorship for backlinks should be prohibited. For example, hosting companies shouldn’t have their links on a theme admin page, which are not relevant to the theme itself.