Website themes impact SEO
Google posted a short video that responds if a website theme is affecting SEO. John Mueller, the video host, responded that yes a website theme would affect SEO and noted how this can happen.
“It’s easy to think of website themes as just a splash of color on top of a finished structure. But there is so much more involved.
A theme will impact how the website displays many pieces of content that are at the heart of SEO:
- How the pages are linked
- Page load time
- Structured data
According to Google, good themes will allow search engines to understand content better, and Mueller claimed that changing a website’s theme will generally affect a website’s SEO.
Related: How to Choose the Best Shopify Theme for SEO
Test new website themes
John Mueller said it’s a good idea to test a website theme before choosing one.
Continue reading below
- Try themes on a test website
- Add content from previous website
- Block indexing of a test website so that Google doesn’t accidentally crawl it
- Review the HTML generated by the theme
Insights from the research community
I asked a few SEO and website design experts if they think choosing a website theme affects SEO.
Adam J. Humphreys
Research marketing expert Adam J. Humphreys (LinkedIn profile) from Making 8 Inc shared his thoughts on the impact of themes on SEO:
“Yes, absolutely, the way websites display has an impact on how they resolve for search engines.
I saw a 26% increase in overall views for a large group of boats and their best year ever due to changes to their themes.
Themes really and frankly matter, if you are using WordPress for example, you should be using Gutenberg based editors (otherwise known as Gutenberg block builders) for WordPress as they are the purest form of editor using the kernel. WordPress and will result in a ridiculously fast page speed.
The reality is that even if Google Core Web Vitals weren’t a ranking factor, I would still make it a priority as I have for years just because of how fast users respond to sites. We’re talking more clicks, more calls, and generally speaking, more sales conversions. Whether it’s a multinational level site or a local business, the positive answer seems to be the same.
This is why I recommended the Gutenberg Blocks based editors because they use the WordPress engine which allows for a much faster load time.
Oxygen and Bricks Builder this year are my only two recommendations on topics for those who want to take the time to learn them.
Otherwise, just fire up the WordPress editor, because not everything else will accomplish 100 mobile scores in a first mobile world.
Alternative themes load too many scripts, which guarantees lower scores.
Fewer moving parts means less friction which is the same with choosing a theme for SEO.
Continue reading below
Chris Labbate (LinkedIn profile), Marketing Director at SEOBank.ca agreed that choosing a theme was essential:
“Changing your WordPress theme can affect SEO rankings, to a large extent if you make the wrong choice.
Alex Alexakis (LinkedIn profile), founder of PixelChefs offered his insightful opinion on the importance of themes for SEO:
“Yes, changing a site’s theme can affect a website’s speed as the design, page structure, internal links, and sometimes architecture change.
For example, themes can negatively affect the speed of your sites by:
- requiring several plugins to function “correctly”
- loading excess external resources (scripts, web fonts)
- loading excess internal resources (scripts, web fonts)
- bad coding
- unoptimized css
Site architecture is a big issue, especially in site rebuilds, as some themes are configured with custom post types that force a URL structure that may not match the existing architecture.
Choose your website theme carefully
Many themes present themselves as being SEO friendly. But it’s not always the case. Many themes provide low performance scores in Google’s PageSpeed analytics tool. Even demo sites for some of the “SEO friendly” themes perform poorly.
Page speed score of an ‘SEO friendly’ theme
Adam J. Humphrey is right to mention Gutenberg Block Editor as a viable option for building a fast and efficient website. Building directly with the WordPress Gutenberg site builder is faster because the site is generated directly from the kernel and does not have to go through additional layers. WordPress has continuously improved Gutenberg’s code so that it only loads the files needed to build a web page.
Continue reading below
It is important to understand that Gutenberg is not completely finished. It’s built in four phases and WordPress is currently well into the second phase of bringing full site editing to Gutenberg.
The four phases of Gutenberg’s development
- Easier Editing – Already available in WordPress, with continuous improvements
- Personalization – Full site editing, block templates, block directory, block based themes
- Collaboration – A more intuitive way to co-author content
- Multilingual – Basic implementation for multilingual sites
As John Mueller suggested, always set up a test site for staging your new WordPress theme where you can configure the site to look exactly the way you want it to be.
Services like WP Stagecoach, which I have used, make the process easier.
Watch the Google video
Is A Website Theme Important For SEO?