Thanks to some amazing benefits it offers, WordPress is one of the most preferred Content Management Systems that is based on PHP and MySQL. It is a free, open source CMS that offers some magnificent features and tools to the developers.
Getting sound rankings for your WordPress website on the search engines is not an easy task. You have invested your money, time and efforts to rank your website high on different search engines by implementing SEO methodologies such as on page SEO, off page SEO, content marketing, link building, bookmarking, guest posting and others. Hence, maintaining the top ranking position on different search engines is extremely important to write a growth story of your business and you should leave no stones unturned to ensure it.
However, there are many SEO executives and business owners are in favor to change the WordPress themes of the websites at regular intervals. They may have their reasons too, but is it recommended? How can it affect the business and how to do it in the best manner? Nevertheless, one of the most asked questions in the SEO community is this: Will the change in the WordPress theme affect the website ranking?
If you ask this question to your team, some will nod affirmatively and some will shake their heads and disagree. Well, it is a real dilemma that all digital marketing enthusiasts face.
No matter how carefully you change the WordPress theme of the website or you have selected a best SEO friendly WordPress theme, it will unquestionably affect the SEO ranking of the website. However, there may have some other reasons too and a sound SEO audit shall identify real causes.
Website owners who use free WordPress themes change the themes frequently and if they fail to consider possible SEO ranking issues that may arise out of it, it is a subject of serious concern. If you are new in the business, a massive drop in the SEO visibility and traffic may affect you badly. Do you really want it?
If you are a website owner, you will never want your SEO rankings and traffic to go down. Let’s see how a WordPress theme change can affect the website SEO rankings and traffic:
By changing a WordPress theme, you will come to know that the old custom settings are no longer viable. Theme-specific features will be lost and it is a time-consuming practice to do it again. If a new WordPress theme does not have same features, you need to hire a developer for a theme customization and it may cost you a lot too. The best way is to discuss this issue with your development team and choose a WordPress theme that has similar features.
There are many superior benefits of using an SEO friendly WordPress theme. SEO optimized themes are excellent as they offer some unique SEO features such as appropriate heading tags, SEO enabled codes and others. If you have used H2 tags for titles of the content, transcending to a new theme will definitely affect your SEO ranking and the solution is to opt for similar SEO friendly WordPress themes that have superior features. You can ask your SEO team to suggest some good SEO optimized WordPress themes available.
Do you know how Google read your HTML? You can add this question in the question-list for the selection of an SEO executive. Well, the answer is here: Google read the HTML of the website in a linear manner. If you have content boxes and tables, they can be interpreted differently.
Moreover, the Google spiders have different methods to see the content and by choosing a different theme, it might jeopardize a website ranking to a great extent. Let's understand it by an example: if you replace a theme with a right-hand sidebar with an existing one with a left sidebar, spiders will see the sidebar content first. Hence, you will not get leverage from your main text and it will undoubtedly hurt your ranking.
The best way is to check the page coding order in Page Source and you will come to know whether the HTML shows the sidebar content or main text content first.
Furthermore, you cannot forget the importance of keywords in the Google Algorithm too. Keywords and semantic keywords get weighting depending on where they are placed in the main content. If there are tables, algorithms read out the text outside the tables first and then the text within tables. Moreover, introduction text gets higher weighting compared to text that is placed at the end.
As you can see, if a new theme altogether changes the way the search engine spiders read HTML, it will surely affect your ranking position and ultimately, your website traffic.
It is recommended that you keep developers and SEO executives in a loop while changing a WordPress theme for your website. They may help you in the damage control.
Metadata plays a huge role in ranking your position in different search engines. When you go for a WordPress theme change, ensure that you use same SEO plugins that you have used in the old theme. It will ensure that your ranking position does not drop to a measurable extent. Furthermore, you also need to ensure that the Title tags and Meta Descriptions are identical. If you fail to check it, you might witness a drastic drop in the ranking position of the website.
Always use same plugins and widgets in the new theme and you will be able to maintain your ranking position to a measurable extent.
You cannot let your permalinks change while changing a theme as it will certainly change your rankings negatively and that too a measurable extent. What are permalinks? Well, these links are actually the URLs to different posts. In simple terms, the locations on your website.
During the transition to a WordPress theme, it is important that you keep in the mind this challenge. You need to ensure that the permalinks in a new theme and old theme are same and you actually need to check it manually whether these links take you to the same posts or pages or not.
If you fail to do so, all the efforts you had made to create those blog posts and pages will go in vain as Google will decidedly drop those posts. It simply means that all hard work you put will waste without any reasons and it is not something you have desired, have you?
There is an alternative if you can’t create same permalinks. Simply generate a 301 redirect for each post to the old permalink URL and that is all. By doing it, a 404 error will not generate and it is beneficial for your ranking positions.
It is evident that the loading speed of two themes can never be the same and it can become a reason for less traffic when you change the theme. When a visitor comes to your website, he expects excellent loading speed and if he does not get it, he may simply switch to other alternatives that may affect your business.
The bounce rate is also an intriguing concern and it can drastically affect your SEO traffic and you need to ensure that the new theme you opted for has excellent loading speed. You can compare the loading speeds of the old and new themes by using different SEO tools like GTmetrix and PageSpeed Insights. It will give you a clear picture of the loading speed of the themes.
One of the fascinating aspects of Google Algorithms is that it considers everything that is available on your website when it comes to search engine rankings and that includes all the links available on your website.
If you have taken care of your permalinks and are happy about it, let me give you another concern. All the existing links leaving the site must be the same as in the old theme and it is a daunting task.
During the theme transition, you actually need to check out the entire link structure of the website including tag links to images, graphics and other archives, advert links, sidebar links and others. You need to look into them and ensure that they are working.
According to some SEO experts, you don't need to change the WordPress theme for a long time. However, if you feel that your WordPress theme no longer represents your business in a best possible and meaningful way, you can go for a WordPress theme change.
However, you need to take into account that the transition does not affect the SEO rankings of the website and for that, here is a list of suggestions you can practice during the transition.
One of the most crucial things that you need to do while changing a WordPress theme is to take a backup of all the blog database and theme. Once you are done with it, you can migrate this data to an SEO plugin. If you fail to do so, you might end up losing the data.
If you don’t have enough resources to do the theme transition and other related changes, it is advisable to hire right professionals who can help you out in changing the theme. There are SEO professionals you can find on the internet who can ensure that the whole process accomplishes smoothly and effortlessly. You can search for such professionals on the internet. There are many organizations that hire online consultants away from locations. You can hire an in-house professional or outsource the job too. It solely depends on your company policies and other tactics.
Most of the amazingly looking WordPress themes don't have basic SEO features and choosing one of these themes might prove a bad practice for you. However, there are many WordPress themes available with premium features and bug-free codes and it will make the transition smooth and also will not affect the SEO rankings to a great margin.
Once the theme is changed successfully, you need to check whether there are any SEO errors or not. You can use SEO tools like SEMrush or SEO Spider to identify errors. You can make appropriate changes to a new theme.
You need to remember one basic rule in the digital marketing industry. Our ultimate goal is to get more and more genuine traffic to our website and converting them into customers. Your website represents your business and you need to ensure that it does in the best manner possible.
If you really want to move your website to a new theme, you need to ensure that it is taken care wisely and keeping eyes open. However, it is not advisable to change the WordPress themes frequently as it might not look good as far as website branding is concerned.
Moreover, if you have to change the theme, the best way is to choose a theme that is the most identical to the existing one. In addition to that, you also need to ensure that the theme is SEO friendly too. There are many SEO friendly WordPress themes available that can be the perfect replacement for your existing theme.
If the WordPress theme is changed in an appropriate manner, there are fewer chances of SEO rankings going down. Choose a theme that can represent your business in a best possible manner for a longer period of time. In that way, you don't have to change a theme in a recent future.
Keep above-mentioned things in mind while going for a WordPress theme change.