Can changing your WordPress theme have an impact on SEO?

Yes, changing your WordPress theme can have an impact on SEO, but whether that’s a positive or negative change will depend on what theme you are switching from and to.

I’m often asked by WordPress users who are thinking about changing their theme if it will affect their website’s position in search engines.

In short, yes, changing your WordPress theme can have an effect on SEO. This may be a positive effect, resulting in an increase in traffic to your website, or a negative effect. But this will almost entirely depend on which theme you are currently using and which theme you are switching too.

I’m doubtful that you will see an immediate difference in terms of your website’s positioning in search engines, or in terms of your traffic from organic sources, but in the longer term, you may notice some changes.

So how and why does this happen?

In this post, I am going to explain some of the reseasons why changing your WordPress can have an impact on SEO.

Website structure

There’s are tens of thousands of WordPress themes out there, and each theme is set up differently. Some are well optimised for search engines, while others aren’t so great!

This means if you switch from a theme that is well optimised for search engines to one that is not as well optimised, or visa versa, this may have an impact on SEO.

For example, some themes will use multiple H1 heading tags on one page, which is a big no-no, or they might use H2 or H3 tags where a H1 tag should actually be used. It’s a small difference but it matters.

Another example is some themes use schema tags which are used to provide search engines with additional information about your website, while others don’t.

Built-in SEO functionality

Some WordPress themes, such as the Genesis framework, have built-in SEO functionality that allows you to optimise your website and it’s content for search engines. This functionality, for example, may allow you to enter custom meta descriptions and keywords for each of your posts and pages, customise the structure of page titles, control whether certain pages are indexed or not, or add Open Graph data to your website.

If you are using a theme with built-in SEO functionality, and you are utilising it, when you change themes you may lose the features and functionality I mentioned above, and you will have an alternative way to add in this functionality.

This is why I always recommend using an SEO plugin rather than using the SEO functionality built into a theme. If you use a plugin, the SEO optimisation you are carried out will be safe when you switch themes.

So if you’re reading this post and you know you are at risk of losing your SEO features, I suggest taking some time to copy over your SEO settings to a plugin like Yoast SEO. I have a number of posts on installing and using Yoast SEO, so be sure to check those out.

Website speed

Long-time readers of this blog will probably know about the importance of having a quick loading website because I talk about it all the time!

Google takes the loading time of your website into consideration when ranking your website. Some themes are better optimised for speed than others, so if you switch from a fast-loading theme to one that takes longer to load then your ranking in search engines could be affected.

Ideally, you would want a WordPress theme that well-optimised code and no unnecessary bulky files, that resizes images correctly, and that doesn’t rely on too many external resources of plugins.

I recommend running the demo website of a theme through a speed analysis tool like GTmetrix before purchasing a theme in order to make sure it’s not going to slow your website down.

So here are my tips for you:

  • Choose a theme that is optimised for search engines.
  • Always use an SEO plugin rather than the SEO functionality that is built into the theme.
  • Ensure that your new theme loads quickly, and test it before you make an investment!

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