Google released a short video that answers if a site’s theme affects SEO. John Mueller, the video host, replied that yes, a site theme will affect SEO and noted how this can happen.
“It’s easy to consider website themes as just a splash of color on top of a finished structure. But there is so much more involved. ”
A theme will affect how the site displays many content elements that are central to SEO:
HeadlinesTextImagesHow pages are connectedPage loading timesStructured data
According to Google, good themes will make it easier for search engines to understand the content, and Mueller confirmed that changing a site’s theme will generally affect a site’s SEO.
Related: How to Choose the Best Shopify Theme for SEO
Test Drive New Website Themes
John Mueller said it was a good idea to try out a site theme before choosing one.
Continue reading below
Try themes on a test site Add content from previous site Block indexing of a test site so that Google does not inadvertently crawl it Review HTML generated by the theme
Insights from the search community
I asked a couple of SEO and web design experts if they thought the choice of a website theme influenced SEO.
Adam J. Humphreys
Search marketing expert Adam J. Humphreys (LinkedIn profile) from Making 8 Inc shared his insights on how themes affect SEO:
“Yes, the way websites render affects the way they solve for search engines.
I saw a 26% increase to a large boat group’s overall views and their best years on record due to changes in their themes.
Themes are really important and honest, if one e.g. Using WordPress, one should use Gutenberg-based editors (otherwise known as Gutenberg block builders) for WordPress because they are the purest type of editor that uses the WordPress kernel and will result in a ridiculously fast page speed.
The reality is, even though Google’s Core Web Vitals was not a ranking factor, I would still make it a priority, as I have been doing it for years simply because of how well users respond to fast sites. We are talking more clicks, more calls and generally more sales conversions. Whether it is a multinational site or a local business, the positive response seems to be the same.
That’s why I recommended Gutenberg Blocks-based editors because they use the WordPress engine, resulting in a much faster load time.
Oxygen and Bricks Builder this year are my only two recommendations on themes for those willing to take the time to learn them.
Otherwise just straight up WordPress editor because everything else will not achieve 100 on mobile results in a mobile first world.
Alternative themes load too many scripts, which is guaranteed to result in lower scores.
Less moving parts mean less friction, which is the same for choosing a theme for SEO. ”
Continue reading below
Chris Labbate (LinkedIn profile), Marketing Director at SEOBank.ca, agreed that the choice of theme was critical:
“Changing your WordPress theme can significantly affect SEO rankings if you make a bad 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 site’s speed such as design, page structure, internal links and sometimes changes in architecture.
For example, themes can negatively affect the speed of your site by:
Website architecture is a major issue especially when rebuilding websites, as some themes are configured with custom-built custom post types that force a URL structure that may not match the existing architecture. ”
Choose your site theme carefully
Many themes advertise themselves as SEO-friendly. But this is not always the case. Many themes perform poorly in Google’s PageSpeed Insight tool. Even the demonstration sites for some of the “SEO-friendly” themes work poorly.
Page speed result for an “SEO-friendly” theme
This is an actual PageSpeed Insights score of 35 out of 100 for a theme that advertises itself as SEO-friendly
Adam J. Humphrey has rightly mentioned the Gutenberg Block Editor as a viable option for building a fast-functioning website. Building directly with WordPress Gutenberg site builder is faster because the site is generated directly from the core and does not need to go through additional layers. WordPress has steadily improved the Gutenberg code so that it only loads the files needed to generate a web page.
Continue reading below
It is important to understand that Gutenberg is not quite done. It is being built in four phases, and WordPress is currently well into the second phase, which is embarking on bringing full site editing to Gutenberg.
Four phases of Gutenberg development
Easier editing-Already available in WordPress, with continuous improvements Customization-Editing the entire site, Block patterns, Block library, Block-based themes Collaboration-A more intuitive way to co-author content Multilingual-Core implementation for multilingual sites
As John Mueller suggested, always create a test site for staging your new WordPress theme where you can configure the site to be exactly the way you want it.
Services like WP Stagecoach that I have used make the process easy.
See Google Video
Does a website theme matter to SEO?