Many marketers were concerned if a website’s theme affects its SEO ranking. Google published a short video answering the question, with John Mueller being the host. But the short answer is yes, a website’s theme will affect it’s SEO performance. 

“It’s easy to consider website themes as just a splash of color on top of a finished structure. But there’s so much more involved.”

– Mueller 

Google mentions that a good theme will make it easier for the search engine to understand the content of the website. Mueller further confirmed that changing a website’s theme generally does affect its SEO. 

So how exactly does a website’s theme affect its SEO?

The theme will impact how the website displays its many key content elements that are fundamental to SEO, these include:

  • Headings
  • Text
  • Images
  • How pages are interlinked
  • Page load times
  • Structured Data

Testing is key 

Mueller suggested testing out website themes before choosing one. He recommends trying themes out on a test website, adding content from the previous theme, but being sure to block indexing of the staging site, so Google does not accidentally crawl it, and lastly, review the HTML generated by the theme. 

What does the Search Community think about this? 

A few SEO and web design experts were asked if they thought website themes affect SEO. Here’s what they had to say: 

Adam J. Humphrey, search marketing expert of Making 8 Inc says:

“Yes, absolutely the way websites render impacts the way they resolve for search engines. I saw a 26% increase to a large boat group’s overall views and their best year on record as a result of changes made to their themes.

Themes really matter and frankly, if using WordPress for example, one should use Gutenberg-based editors (otherwise known as Gutenberg blocks builders) for WordPress because they are the purest form of editor utilizing the WordPress core and will result in a ridiculously fast page speed.

The reality is even if Google’s Core Web Vitals wasn’t a ranking factor I would still make it a priority as I have for years simply because of how well users respond to fast 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 response seems to be the same.

This is 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 accomplish 100 on mobile scores in a mobile first world.

Alternative themes load up too many scripts which is guaranteed to result in lower scores. Less moving parts means less friction, which is the same for choosing a theme for SEO.”

– Adam J. Humphrey

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Director of Marketing at SEOBank.ca, Chris Labbate, agreed that the choice of a theme was vital:

Changing your WordPress theme can affect SEO rankings, to a significant degree if you make a poor choice.

One of the reasons is because your theme impacts your design (CSS and JavaScript) which in turn can affect site speed.”

– Chris Labbate

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Be cautious while choosing your website theme

There are many website themes advertised as being SEO-friendly, yet that may not be the case. Many themes provide low-performance scores in Google’s PageSpeed insights tool. Even the SEO-friendly demonstration website themes perform poorly. 

(Image Source: Search Engine Journal)

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Looks like Adam J. Humphrey was right to mention Gutenberg Block Editor as a viable option for creating a fast-performing website. Creating a website directly with the WordPress Gutenberg site builder is faster as the website is generated straight from the core and it does not have to go through many additional layers. 

On that note, WordPress has been improving the Gutenberg code so it only loads the necessary files to generate a web page. 

Why you should care

SEO is vital for the success of your website, yet at the same time, you want to make it visually appealing. It is important to keep SEO in mind when deciding on a theme for your website because there is very little point in having a pretty website that is not bringing in consumers due to poor SEO performance. If you are considering changing your website’s theme, the factors that affect your website can be both positive and negative. It is important to ensure that you have a concrete process because it has the potential to impact factors that may affect your rankings. 

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