SEO

seo considerations when choosing a wordpress themeWordPress is a free and open-source content management system (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL. As of 2013, WordPress was reportedly used to power one in five of the world’s website’s.

One of the reasons WordPress is so popular is the huge variety of off-the-shelf themes to choose from. Websites such as Themeforest offer thousands of ready made themes, allowing website owners to make their website look great within a couple of clicks.

Many themes claim to be “search engine optimised”, which isn’t entirely true. There are hundreds of factors taken into account by search engine algorithms that result in a website’s ranking position, thus you cannot expect to simply install a WordPress theme and climb to the number one spot for your target keywords. That being said, there are certain SEO considerations you should be aware of when choosing a new theme for your WordPress site.

Responsive Design

We have previously discussed the importance of having a mobile friendly website if you want to be able to compete in Google’s search results. Google themselves openly recommend the use of responsive design over a separate mobile site. As responsive sites can render differently based on the screen size, this also makes it easier for users to share and link to content with a single URL – which means any authority passed by inbound links will flow to the root domain, rather than an ‘m.’ subdomain.

Google points out that for websites using responsive design, their algorithms can accurately assign indexing properties to the page rather than needing to signal the existence of corresponding desktop or mobile pages.

responsive-design

A responsive WordPress theme will resize and rearrange content for visitors viewing your content on smaller screen devices, such as tablets and smartphones.  You’ll find thousands of great responsive themes available on subscription based sites such as themeforest, as well as a huge range of free themes at WordPress.com.

Page Speed

Page speed is used as a ranking factor by search engines such as Google. Slow page speed means that search engines will be able to crawl less pages within their allocated crawl budget, which could negatively affect the number of pages Google chooses to index on your website.

While your website host will play a pivotal role in how quickly your website loads, choosing a theme that’s quick to load is also important. You should be able to run the live demo of any theme through tools such as GTMetrix or Pingdom’s Speed test to assess whether there are any recommendations that could be tough to fix without a developer, such as minifying HTML, or Javascript.

Pingdom Speed Test: Waterfall view

Pingdom Speed Test: Waterfall view

HTML 5

Most themes are now developed in HTML5, which is better for SEO. For example, all WordPress themes built on the popular Genesis framework use HTML5.

On the topic of HTML, look out for themes that feature multiple H1 tags on a page, which can confuse search engines as to the context of the page in question. For example, homepage sliders often use multiple H1 headings per page, as opposed to the use of just one heading of this type per page, which is common SEO best practice. Most themes advertise free slider functionality via plugins such as slider revolution. However, these should not prevent you from purchasing a particular theme as sliders can simply be disabled at any time.

Schema Markup

Considering the growing impact of Schema.org data on search results, it’d be a wise move to chose a theme that has built in support for Schema.org markup. Again, any themes built on the Genesis framework make it relatively simple to add schema markup to your site.

schema markup

Schema markup on Hallam Internet’s homepage

Finally, Don’t Forget Plugins

WordPress plugins allow you to easily modify, customize or enhance your website in numerous ways. Plugins don’t require you to access raw code or hold any web development knowledge, and there are various plugins that can help you optimise your website for search.

For example, we advocate the use the Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin comes with a range of useful functions that can help optimise your website, such as:

  • Auto-reminders to complete page titles, meta descriptions, headings, and content – including guidance on length of titles and meta descriptions
  • The ability to auto generate an XML sitemap for pages, images, videos, or posts
  • The ability to set the canonical version of a page or post
  • The ability to edit a website’s robots.txt file within WordPress

Conclusion

There are so many options available when it comes to choosing a WordPress theme, from a multitude of developers and marketplaces. By ensuring your chosen theme meets all the requirements laid out in this post, you will have a search engine friendly foundation upon which to build.

After all, search engine optimisation isn’t just about picking the right theme or installing a few plugins – there are a multitude of different factors you also need to be aware of when attempting to improve your website’s rankings.

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