How Your Website’s Theme Affects SEO And Rankings

How Your Website’s Theme Affects SEO And Rankings | Online Marketing Help.
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The realm of website development offers numerous opportunities, but it also presents a plethora of challenges.

Following a simple 5-minute installation process, one of the initial tasks many individuals embark on is personalising the appearance of their new website.

While the market for themes and templates is vast, it’s crucial to consider how your website’s theme influences its rankings and overall SEO performance.

A big thank you to Vlad Olaru from Pixelgrade and Thomas Usborne from Generatepress for their invaluable contributions to this article.

Their insights into theme development and its relationship with SEO are woven throughout the content.

Table of Contents

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Why and How Do Themes Affect SEO?

Ugly Design Can Scare Users Away

Choosing an aesthetically pleasing design is crucial.

Too many elements on a page can overwhelm readers.

Achieving a balance between ad and content placement, user experience, and visual appeal is essential.

User experience directly impacts rankings, and confusing layouts can lead to a poor user experience, negatively affecting revenue and overall rankings.

Slow Speed Will Bore Users to Death

Website speed is a critical factor. Users despise slow-loading websites, and prolonged load times lead to increased bounce rates, reducing revenue.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) have been introduced as a solution, but they come with limitations.

Users leaving a site before it loads signals a poor experience, prompting search engines to prioritise faster-loading results.

Bad Structure Will Puzzle Search Engines

Search engines “see” websites through code, not visuals.

Poorly structured code, improper HTML tag usage, and bad page loading practices can hinder search engines’ understanding of your site.

Code structure and speed are interlinked, and prioritising the loading of visible content is essential.

Neglecting these aspects can be detrimental to SEO.

What Makes a Theme SEO Friendly?

HTML Markup

The HTML structure is paramount for a theme’s SEO friendliness.

Proper use of HTML5 tags is crucial to highlight important content for search engines.

Incorrectly placed tags, such as title tags at the bottom of a page, can negatively impact SEO.

Awareness of the importance of H1 tags and their weight in search engines is essential for developers.

Speed & Page Size

Website speed is influenced by theme development.

Poorly designed themes can lead to slow-loading pages.

Themes should prioritise rendering the upper part of the website (above the fold) first to create a positive user experience.

Minimising code size, using efficient coding practices, and optimising file delivery contribute to faster page loads.

Responsive Design & Images

Responsive design is a standard requirement, especially with the prevalence of mobile users.

Themes should adapt well to various screen widths, and CSS codes should efficiently handle different devices.

Image optimisation is crucial for speed, and the ‘srcset’ attribute should be utilised to load images appropriate for different screen sizes.

Structured Data markup enhances a website’s visibility in search engines.

Rich snippets, such as review stars and price information, make search results stand out.

Ecommerce sites, in particular, benefit from structured data markup.

Proper content prioritisation and the use of relevant HTML tags contribute to effective structured data implementation.

Content Prioritisation

Themes should guide search engines on content importance and avoid creating duplicate content.

Customisable templates with content tabs should use proper HTML tags, such as <p> for text and <h1>, <h2>, <h3> for headings.

Themes should handle these features during development to simplify user modifications.

API Hooks

While a technical aspect, API hooks are vital for theme compatibility with SEO plugins.

The lack of these hooks may hinder the performance of SEO plugins.

Developers should ensure that themes support the necessary hooks for seamless integration with SEO tools.

How to Choose an SEO Friendly Theme

Choosing a theme that aligns with SEO best practices is critical.

When evaluating a theme:


  • Check the Images: Ensure that core theme images are optimised, and the ‘srcset’ attribute is utilised for responsive design.
  • Check the Headings: Confirm that customisable themes use HTML tags wisely, with appropriate <h1> and <h2> tags.
  • Use the Rich Snippets Testing Tool: For eCommerce templates, validate structured data markup with Google’s testing tool to ensure error-free implementation.
  • Send Them an E-mail: Engage with developers by emailing them about theme features. A prompt response indicates active support and a willingness to address issues.
  • Fix the Theme Yourself: In cases where the chosen theme has shortcomings, users can take steps to improve performance by adding caching, image optimisation, and minification plugins. However, caution is advised to prevent potential crashes.

Why Are There So Many Bad SEO Themes Out There? (+ A Call to Developers)

Developers face challenges in meeting user demands for feature-rich themes at low prices.

Attempting to incorporate everything into a single template can result in heavy, slow-loading sites.

Some developers may overlook SEO considerations, but given Google’s efforts to enhance the internet, SEO-friendly themes are imperative.

Use Less Sliders (or 'Useless', You Can Read It Both Ways)

Sliders, a common feature on many websites, can negatively impact speed and the user experience.

Limiting the use of sliders and opting for a single, impactful image can enhance site performance.

Optimise the Theme's Core Images

Themes often come with default images, like backgrounds and social media buttons.

Optimising these images, even if seemingly irrelevant, can contribute to faster site loading.

Users may not replace these images, making default optimisations essential.

Make Use of the 'srcset' Attribute As Much As Possible

Embracing responsive design is challenging but essential.

The ‘srcset’ attribute for images ensures proper loading on different screen sizes.

Developers should prioritise this attribute to enhance site performance.

Don't Ignore PageSpeed Insights Completely

Despite occasional errors, Google’s PageSpeed Insights offers valuable insights into potential issues that can be addressed.

While speed is relative, the structure of a page is absolute.

A balance between speed and structure is vital for optimal SEO performance.

Minify the Codes If Possible

While aesthetically pleasing code is desirable, speed takes precedence on the web.

Minifying code, though less readable for humans, is understood by search engines.

Developers, and even plugin developers, should consider code minification to enhance site performance.


Themes not only shape a website’s design but also play a pivotal role in SEO.

A poorly optimised theme can adversely impact the user experience, site speed, and overall SEO performance.

Choosing a theme with careful consideration of its impact on HTML markup, speed, responsiveness, structured data, content prioritisation, and API hooks is essential for a successful online presence.

Understanding the technical aspects of themes empowers users to make informed decisions, ensuring that their websites are not just visually appealing, but also optimised for search engines.

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