Content, backlinks, and relevancy have always been important ranking factors. But starting in 2015, 2 new ranking factors came out of the blue:
Mobile optimization and a speed score.
Google started ranking sites based on whether they were mobile-friendly back in 2015. This happened because for the first time in all of history, mobile searches outpaced desktop and tablet searches.
In fact, there were more mobile searches than desktop and tablet combined.
Then in 2017, Google started ranking all sites based on how fast they were. If you couldn't load in a reasonable amount of time, you could kiss the first page goodbye.
You can imagine that the search landscape felt an impact. Webmasters overhauled pages, niche site owners eliminated plugins, everyone was changing themes.
And it was in this change that lightweight, mobile-optimized, fast tools began emerging.
One of these tools is a theme called Astra. Astra was created to provide an easy-to-use, already-crafted theme that was perfect for mobile and ran lightning fast.
In this Astra review, we're going to take a look to see if this theme can help you rank better. We'll check speed, see how it looks on mobile, and see what else Astra has under the hood.
But my favorite thing about Astra is that it's free. Always and forever. You can click here to try Astra for free on your site.Build a fast, flexible, mobile-optimized site with Astra
- Ease of Use - 100
- Speed - 99
- Customization - 100
- Price - 100
WP Astra is a fast, mobile-optimized, flexible theme that helps your Wordpress site to succeed. Best of all, it's free. You can click here to use Astra for free on your site.
- Super fast
- Mobile optimized from day 1
- Great pick for beginners or the design challenged
- Super strong branding options
- They don't pay me anything if you sign up for the free version (but I think the free version is enough for 90% of buyers)
- 1 WP Astra Theme Review
- 2 Astra Pros and Cons
- 3 WP Astra
- 4 Astra Price
- 5 Is Astra Pro Worth It?
- 6 Who Is Astra Best For?
- 7 WP Astra
- 8 Astra & Your Site
WP Astra Theme Review
Astra wants to be the theme that ends all themes for your site; the last theme you ever use. Here is what they offer for free:
- Lots of speed
- Mobile optimization
- Customization without code
- Pre-built website templates for you to use
- Easy functionality with page builders
- A fast, global customizer
Let's take a look at each of these in depth.
Astra & Speed
Astra claims to have 3 ways that they reduce speed:
Astra doesn't allow jQuery, the theme is less than 50 KB, and they've optimized the code. But let's take a look at how this theme compares when we put it in tools like Pingdom and GTMetrix.
Here are the results from Pingdom:
The page I tested is Astra's speed test page. A lot of themes have a speedtest page, but you might have to search a bit to find it.
The page I tested has a bit of text, so it doesn't load at quite 50 KB. Your site's pages will do the same things, so no need to worry about that.
One thing that's interesting is that Astra could speed up their site more by making one or two little tweaks. Before I show you how I know that, let's take a look at what GTMetrix finds:
No doubt about it, Astra's speed test page runs super fast. It didn't quite load in under half a second on Pingdom, but that's to be expected. The theme might load under a half a second, but the text on the speed test page can slow things down.
On GTMetrix, Astra did load under a half a second. And one thing that's surprising about this page is that Astra hasn't optimized it like they could have. When I scrolled down the page, GTMetrix let me know that Astra isn't used a content delivery network (CDN) like Cloudflare.
I use Cloudflare as my CDN. They are free and help your website load faster for users worldwide. If you use a CDN, your home page could have the potential to load even faster than Astra's barebones speed test page.
How Does Astra Compare To GeneratePress?
So no doubt about it, Astra is lightning fast. At 50 KB, it is one of the smallest themes out there.
But how does the other lightning fast, lightweight theme stack up? Who wins in the battle between Astra and GeneratePress?
(by the way, you can check out our GeneratePress review here)
Let's take a look using GTMetrix.
I plugged in Astra's speed test site and GeneratePress's speed test site. Here's what we get:
At first glance, it seems that GeneratePress wins on all fronts. And there's no denying it: GeneratePress's speed test page is tiny.
So is that what makes GeneratePress faster? It's just smaller, more light weight?
Maybe. Or maybe not.
Because when we take a look at the actual differences in the pages, the results tell quite a story:
We see here that the Astra speed test site (on the left) is making more HTTP requests and isn't using a CDN. Neither of these things are related to the theme itself, but will be different from website to website. I'm pretty confident that GeneratePress has invested resources in perfecting these two scores; I don't think I've ever seen a website get a 100 on HTTP requests.
It's not a huge deal, but this isn't a true fair test if GeneratePress has invested resources to make their speed test site faster and Astra hasn't.
So I tested it out.
I bought a dummy domain (maybe I'll turn it into a niche site one day. Who knows?) and on this domain, I tested GeneratePress and Astra. Here's what I got. Results are with GeneratePress first.
And here are the results for Astra:
These untainted results help us out quite a bit. GeneratePress is about 10 KB smaller and loaded .1 second faster. Everything else is equal, so we can see that GeneratePress does load just a fraction of a second faster than Astra.
But in the grand scheme of things?
Both of these themes are lightning fast and I don't think that .1 second makes a big difference. If you like Astra for one of the other reasons we outline below, don't worry about the speed.
I think that other than GeneratePress, Astra is the fastest theme on the market. And as we'll see, Astra comes with other perks that GeneratePress doesn't quite match.
Since Astra and GeneratePress are competitors, I do an in-depth analysis between the two of them later on down the post, in the How Does Astra Compare To GeneratePress section.
Astra On Mobile
One thing I like about Astra is that it's mobile optimized from the get go. You won't need any page editors like Elementor (read my Elementor review here). Your pages are ready for cell phones from day one.
To test this out, I used my dummy domain. I haven't modified anything on this site; not my posts, not my author name, not a single setting.
Here's how it looks on Astra from day 1:
Not bad. It's already got the menu button to the top right of the page and places the sidebar at the bottom of the screen.
I wouldn't recommend it, but you could start writing posts from day 1 with Astra's mobile design.
(but really, at least get rid of the sidebar at the bottom first)
Doesn't get easier than that.
Can I Use Astra With No Code?
Astra claims that their customizer is very easy to use and that you'll never need an ounce of CSS or coding skills.
That's good news for me since I don't have any coding skills.
Astra offers a lot of functionality from the get go… like, a lot.
At first glance the customizer looks pretty basic, like what you'd find with even the default WordPress themes.
But it isn't.
Once you get into the settings, you can really see the power of Astra. Here is a screenshot of just a few of the options when I was editing my header:
That's kind cool, right?
But wait. It keeps going.
And this is just what you can do with the headers on the free version of Astra. Almost every aspect of the standard WordPress customizer works just like this. There are tons of options and extra functionalities even without buying Astra Pro.
If you go into the WordPress dashboard, click on Appearance and then Astra Options, you can see a list of everything Astra adds to WordPress:
Some things I think are notable here:
- You can customize your headers/footers
- You can have an almost limitless variety of different colors
- You can customize your sidebars
- You can edit blog post/page layouts (customize width, for example)
- You have access to Google fonts
And then as you can see near the bottom of the screenshot, Astra gives you even more options if you get the pro version. All things considered, there's a ton of value here even if you just keep the free Astra.
I don't think you'll need any code to work with Astra. The out of the gate customization options are plenty and will allow you to get the look, feel, and branding of your website how you like it without knowing code.
This is even more true if you use a page builder like Elementor (which is also free)
Astra's Pre-Built Site Templates
Astra has a unique strength in that it gives you tons of free website templates included with the free version. These are great options if design isn't your sweet spot or if you like to have a starting point.
When you first install Astra on your site, you will get a little popup asking if you want to see some site templates. If you say that you do want some templates, you'll be asked to install a plugin called Astra Starter Sites.
Even if you're a pretty advanced niche site designer like myself, I like to have a launching pad that I can work from. I use these beginner sites to give me a running start in my design. From there, I use Elementor to get branding that I like.
And it's free, so what do you have to lose?
Once you have the plugin installed, go to the WordPress dashboard. Click Appearance and then Astra Starter Sites. You'll be asked which editor you prefer.
Once you select your editor of choice, Astra gives you several starter sites to choose from.
Not all of these starter sites are free. But 49 of them are, and I think that's close enough. Here is a preview of some of the free ones:
There are 49 free starter sites and 53 other sites that come with Astra's pro version.
To be honest, I think any of the starter 49 with Elementor's free version is enough for 90% of users. Astra plus Elementor puts your total cost for a custom website at about… $0 total.
Can't beat that.
The starter sites is one area where Astra comes head and heels over competitors. Even GeneratePress doesn't offer any starter sites until you use the power of the almighty dollar.
Astra & Page Builders: Your Free (Or Almost Free) Custom Website
Besides the speed, this is my favorite aspect of Astra:
It works great with page builders.
I've already recommended Elementor a few times, so I'll try to keep from beating that dead horse. Astra also works with Beaver Builder, Thrive Architect, Divi, or whatever else page builder you're working on.
And I don't think that Astra's free version works any better with page builders than other quality themes like GeneratePress. But I do think that if you go the paid route, Astra will offer you some unique opportunities for your page builder.
We'll discuss Astra's pricing options in a second, but if you get the Mini Agency bundle, Astra allows you to get a plugin called “Ultimate Add Ons”. There are two options here: Ultimate Add Ons for Beaver Builder and Ultimate Add Ons for Elementor.
These plugins pretty much give your page builder of choice a massive upgrade. Think of it like the cheat codes to a video game.
Here is more or less what's included in either one of the Ultimate Add Ons packages:
- Info box
- Modal popup
- Dual color heading
- Before/after slider
- Advanced headings
- Multi buttons
- Fancy headings
- Content toggle
- Contact form
- Gravity form slider
- Business hours
- Google maps
- Image gallery
- Price list
- Price box
- Video gallery
- Form sliders
- Hot spots
- Marketing buttons
- Particle backgrounds
- Business reviews
- Countdown timers
- Several tools for WooCommerce
- And more…
So if Elementor and Beaver Builder give your site superpowers, Ultimate Add Ons pretty much creates the Man from Krypton himself.
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I don't think the add ons are necessary, but they are a nice perk with some of the packages for Astra Pro. If you want to upgrade Astra anyways, it might be worth it to get the extra bells and whistles.
Astra made some pretty cool upgrades with Astra 2.0. Most of these upgrades had to deal with the customizer, so I thought I'd take a minute and show you how cool some of this is. As with many of Astra's features, the coolest thing is that it's all free.
Astra solves a huge need with the standard WordPress customizer. In the past (and with any other theme) you needed to have multiple tabs open with the WordPress customizer to get some things done.
Astra fixes that.
They added a Global option to the customizer. This Global option packs some pretty neat features:
Within each of these sections you have options to change settings sitewide.
Astra's team also made sure that the customizer runs blazing fast. With their 2.0 upgrade, they got the customizer loading speed down from over 3 sec to just over 0.6 seconds. That won't mean a lot if you're like me and don't use the customizer.
But for someone who uses it a lot, that shaved off time feels awesome.
Astra Pros and Cons
Now it's time to take a dive into the strongest (and weakest) parts of Astra.
The Good Stuff
Let's start with the good news. I've already covered a lot of this above, so some of this won't be new to you.
Astra is one of the fastest themes in the whole internet. The only two that might be fractions of seconds faster would be GeneratePress and Hello Theme by Elementor.
But despite what “speed plugins” or “speed themes” might say, I don't think 0.1 seconds matters a whole lot.
Super Easy For Beginners & Design Challenged Folks
Astra's bundle of starter sites makes it very easy to get a beautiful website up and running. You don't have to know code or even be a good designer at all.
That's good news for guys and gals like me who want to have a great-looking website but don't speak HTML or CSS. If your design skills are so bad that you'd flunk out of Pre-K art, the website templates are an enormous help for you to grab some inspiration.
Mobile Optimized From Day 1
Mobile optimization is a huge factor now since so many searches are from people's cell phones. Astra saves you a lot of the hassle of getting your site right; you're optimized and ready for mobile from day 1.
Astra's recent 2.0 update brings some cool changes. You no longer need to have the WordPress customizer open in several tabs; now the customizer is global.
The Astra team also brought some super cool speed customizations to the customizer so it's a lot faster-loading now.
Hands down, I love this the most about Astra. It's free.
There are premium features that are super cool and we discuss those in a second.
But here's what I do on my site: I use the free version of Astra with the premium version of Elementor. I have all the speed of Astra and use one of the starter sites to give me a template. Then I use Elementor to design my theme and branding how I like it.
Even if you don't want to use a page builder, Astra has extensive customization options. The paid version can do some really cool editing to your headers and footers so that you can be unique and get your branding.
Whether you pay or not, Astra's free version will help your site run fast and look great on desktop, mobile, and tablet.
The Not So Good
Now let's talk about Astra's flaws.
To be honest, there's just one. And it's kinda splitting hairs.
Not The #1 Fastest Theme… But It's Close
As I said, this is splitting hairs. There can only be one fastest theme. And it's worth saying that not even GeneratePress takes the cake for fastest theme.
That award goes to the Hello Theme from Elementor. The Hello Theme is the smallest, most lightweight, and fastest theme available.
That's because there's nothing on it.
It is an actual blank page. Here's what Elementor says about it:
So no, Astra isn't the fastest theme. That award goes to the literal blank page theme.
But I'd say Astra is in the top 3, and that's close enough.
WP Astra is one of the fastest, most flexible, and most powerful themes on the market today. I even use it for my own niche site. You can use Astra to:
- Speed up your site
- Be mobile optimized from day 1
- Establish strong branding
- Save your money
Now let's move onto how much Astra will run ya. Astra has 4 pricing plans: Free, Pro, Mini Agency, and Agency.
This is my preferred use of Astra. The free version isn't some sort of free trial; it's forever free. And it packs in a ton of features.
The free version of Astra allows you to take advantage of one of the fastest themes around. You can optimize your site for mobile, gain access to new color swatches and hexidecimal codes (that's the nerd way of saying pretty colors).
Astra also lets you have limited customization of your pages. I don't like wide pages, so it's nice being able to change that how I want it.
Astra Pro works a lot like a page builder but with more focus on your theme. It costs $59 and then has a 20% renewal discount each year. You can also buy a lifetime package for $249.
Astra Pro allows you to do some awesome customization on your branding. You can customize headers in super neat ways. You can create sticky headers, transparent headers, customize your breadcrumb trail, and get more header options.
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You can set footer widgets, scroll-to-top links, customize your page and post layouts, create mega menus, and integrate with tools like WooCommerce, LifterLMS, and LearnDash.
Astra Pro is a good option if you want your branding to be super strong on your site. I don't know of any page or theme builders that match any of the options presented here. Astra is in a league of its own.
Astra Mini Agency Bundle
The Agency bundles are made for agencies and have some cool benefits. The Mini Agency Bundle costs $169 per year with a 20% renewal discount each year. You can also buy a lifetime package for $499.
The Mini Agency Bundle comes with all of the features of Astra Pro but also includes 50+ agency starter site templates. These are nice for the design challenged like me 😉
You also get the WP Portfolio plugin for free to show off what you as an agency have done. You get white labeling so your clients never know that they're using Astra. To top it off, you get your choice of Ultimate Add Ons for Elementor or Ultimate Add Ons for Beaver Builder.
If you want the branding from Astra's paid version but would also like Ultimate Add Ons, I would recommend that you buy the two separate rather than going for the Mini Agency bundle. You'll save a bit of cash.
Astra Agency Bundle
The Astra Agency Bundle is intended for larger agencies who make client sites. It costs $249 per year with a 20% renewal discount. You can also buy a lifetime package for $699.
The Agency Bundle comes with a lot of very cool features packed in. You get the agency site templates, Ultimate Add Ons for Elementor and Beaver Builder, as well as Convert Pro and Schema Pro.
Since the value difference between the Agency and the Mini Agency is that you get Convert Pro and Schema Pro, let's spend a second talking about them.
Convert Pro is a Thrive Leads and OptinMonster alternative. You collect emails with it. I've never tested it, but I hear that it's a great alternative. Just judging from the other stuff I've seen and experienced on Astra, I don't doubt that Convert Pro does a fine job.
Schema Pro works by helping you to secure featured snippets, rich info boxes, image carousels, and more in the search results. Schema Pro helps structure your data so it's easier for Google to take advantage of. If you search “Amazon news”, you'll get an idea of what one of these schema may look like:
The real value of the Agency bundle is that you get templates, super strong branding, superpowers for your favorite page builder, an email lead generation tool, and a tool to help you capture featured snippets.
That's pretty valuable, and I think Astra offers all of it at a very reasonable price point.
Is Astra Pro Worth It?
I've spent a lot of time going over the perks of Astra. And just the free version is amazing: you can run a fast site, have some amazing options in the WordPress customizer, be mobile optimized from day 1, and have an awesome slate for page builders.
So is the paid version worth it at all?
The Perks of Paying
I recommend Astra's paid version if you want some extra bells and whistles on your website. Astra's paid version will do a lot to help you stand out above the crowd in regards to your website's design and your branding.
With the pro version of Astra, you can get some awesome tools for branding your website. I would recommend the pro versions of Astra for a few situations:
- You're a new site owner who wants to look awesome and develop a strong brand from day 1
- You're an experienced site owner who wants to differentiate yourself from your competitors with a unique website
- You're an agency who wants to build fast, attractive, well-branded sites for clients
- You want a variety of tools; Elementor/Beaver Builder add ons, lead generation software, and tools to steal featured snippets
If you're on a super tight budget or feel that your branding is strong enough, then I'd say just stick with the free version.
If you do want to look at the paid version, here is a list of what you'll get:
- Extra blog layouts
- Different site layouts
- Starter sites (agency starter sites if you get the agency versions)
- WooCommerce integration
- Sticky headers
- Page headers
- White labeling
- Unique navigational menus
- More color controls
- Better typography
- Custom layouts
- Scroll to top link
- Footer widget
- Header sections
- More header designs
- Spacing control
- Mega menu
- Footer widgets
- Hooks and filters
- … and more
So what does all that mean for you? You can master your headers and footers (the first and last thing people see). You can set your spacing, get your colors and type how you like it, and make a better website for your viewers.
Full disclaimer: I use Astra pro on my niche site to really set myself apart from competitors.Develop better branding and stand out from the competition with Astra Pro
Who Is Astra Best For?
So now that we know what Astra does and how much it costs, let's talk about who it's best for. I'll break down a few situations you might find yourself in and talk about how Astra will do for you.
The New Site Builder
Astra is a great option if you're pretty new to all this and don't have a big budget to spend.
Astra is free, so you won't have to shell out any dollars for a quality theme. It's also nice that Astra includes a bunch of free templates that you can use as a launching pad for your brand.
Having a lightweight, fast theme will already put you ahead of 90% of websites. I would say go ahead and give Astra a try.
Experienced Site Builder
I'm going to put you in this camp if you're making more than $1,000 per month from your niche site or online business.
At this point you aren't just trying to show up in search resutls; you're trying to beat the competition. You need speed, strong branding, and a great website.
Astra can make your website faster and help your branding. If you want a very unique website and some header/footer options that you won't find in any page builder, then you could consider Astra Pro.
I think that as far as free themes go, you'd be hard pressed to find a better one. I'd recommend Astra Pro if you need some strong branding options. The Agency bundle would be helpful if you want strong branding, email marketing, and a better chance at rich snippets.
If you're an absolute nut about speed, going with GeneratePress might shave off 0.1 seconds worth of load time.
I use the term “agency” as a bit of a catch-all. Maybe you're a website design agency, maybe you build niche websites and sell them. Astra is a good fit for your business if you're trying to power your agency and still go white label.
Astra allows you to make all of your branding your own. They can provide you with an upgrade to Elementor or Beaver Builder. They help you snag rich snippets, info boxes, news results, carousels, and more. You can even use them to collect email information or to build super unique websites with strong branding.
I think agencies won't have a ton of benefit from the free version unless you're just giving a client site a speed boost. But the Mini Agency or the Agency Bundle could provide a ton of value and help your agency stand out in the results that you bring.
WP Astra is one of the fastest, most flexible, and most powerful themes on the market today. I even use it for my own niche site. You can use Astra to:
- Speed up your site
- Be mobile optimized from day 1
- Establish strong branding
- Save your money
Astra & Your Site
Thanks for reading my Astra review! Overall, I think that Astra is a super high quality theme. It's fast, super customizable, helps your website stand out, and helps you succeed.
On my niche site, I use the free version of Astra with Elementor Pro so that I can build the theme. But I recommend Astra Pro for some super cool header/footer options and some tools that help your site stand out.
Was this post helpful to you? If so, let me know in the comments. Are there any questions you have? I'll do my best to answer them below.