Making updates and changing the theme of your WordPress site is often a good idea. It creates a fresh new look and may offer more of the features and specs you desire. However, an update like this needs to be done properly, or it could end up costing you significantly. That’s specifically the case when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization). Does changing theme affect SEO? The short answer is yes, especially if you are not doing everything you can to avoid a few key problems.
How Does Changing Your Theme Impact SEO?The two may not seem like they relate to each other, but changing your WordPress theme can play a role in how well your site performs. In some situations, it can play a significant role, in fact. That’s because your theme directly impacts the design and code of your website. It plays a role in how smooth the site runs – or how slow your site’s speed is. It also can impact things like the formatting of your content and the data present. Each one of these factors is important to SEO. While it is important to consider an upgrade to your theme now and then, especially when your site is hampered with problems, doing it properly is key. Let’s talk about a few of the most common problems that occur when a person upgrades their site theme.
Unneeded Files and ClutterOne of the more common problems with upgrades like this is having too much “stuff” that gets in the way of the site’s operation. Specifically, if you do not delete unneeded files, that is going to cause a significant problem for the new theme to operate. It is somewhat common for our clients to have this problem initially. They have upgraded their theme, but they have two, three, or even more entire theme packages in the file system. That’s a lot of data that you do not need. It directly affects load times of your site. When you add in old stock photos and media, that is going to slow down the site tremendously in some cases. Slow sites are bad for SEO. That’s why file deletion should be one of the first steps. By cleaning up any files present that you do not need, you give the system the opportunity to run smoother, greatly reducing the risk of problems.
Design and User ExperienceAnother potential problem for SEO comes in the form of poor design and user experience. This is critical to good SEO. If the site is difficult to navigate under the new theme, it is going to stop people from moving through it. When that happens, it becomes nearly impossible for your site to rank well. Google will not rank your site well if it is not user-friendly. When choosing a theme then, be sure user experience is a top priority. If it is not, chances are good it will slow you down and cause a number of problems along the way.
Loss of Custom DataWhen setting up your site, you may be using a theme that offers built-in SEO features. This can be a good thing. It can help with things like meta descriptions and page titles. When you switch your theme, though, all of this custom data you’ve set up is also eliminated. That data is helping to directly contribute to your site’s SEO. For this reason, if you are planning to make a switch, plan to use Yoast SEO or a similar plugin. Do not rely on the theme to provide you with everything you need to keep your structured data and SEO metadata in place. This helps ensure the best overall results. Going through and ensuring everything is updated can also be important.
Your ContentOne of the most frustrating steps for site owners looking for an upgrade is finding out what happens once that new theme is in place. It can initially look like a mess. Now, updating the theme itself is not going to affect the content that you’ve created. What it typically does is create problems for how the content is formatted in the new site. It is rather common to have a theme that creates problems with your heading structure, for example. If you choose the right WordPress theme, this problem is often eliminated. If it does happen to you, it is necessary to go through and update your subheadings to be formatted properly, so your content looks great (the way it needs to in order for it to perform at its best for SEO).
Changes to ImagesOne of the other ways a theme upgrade can cause concerns is with images. Specifically, it can modify the default image size and their indexation. Images often make a site, and when there is an upgrade or change to the theme, that can create problems for images. WordPress sets image versions when you upload them. This allows for the use of the best size photo for the task. The site naturally shrinks the image size to speed up the site’s loading. In some cases, the theme change can change that default processing. It could mean that your images do not come through properly or even at all. It may make your photos look odd in each of the posts you have as well. The best solution, then, is to make sure you do not lose the proper formatting of your images. If you choose a quality WordPress theme, it is not likely to be a problem.
What Can You Do to Minimize These RisksDoes changing the WordPress theme affect SEO all of the time? The answer is no, especially if you take a few steps to ensure that the best possible change happens. Here are a few tips to make that possible.
- Make sure to choose an SEO-friendly theme. That’s key to making this transition go as well as possible. It may help to do a bit more research into the theme. Don’t just choose a theme because it looks good.
- Avoid changing out your theme too often. There’s no need to do this often if you have invested enough time to choose an appropriate design for your needs. You don’t want people to have to learn how to use your site too many times, either.
- Test it first. In some situations, it may be beneficial to create your site in a test environment before installing the new theme. This may not take much time, but it can most certainly help you see potential issues before they become a problem.