Does changing wordpress theme affect seo

Does Changing a WordPress Theme Affect SEO?

Oskar Nowik

Founder of Website Simplified

Hey, my name is Oskar. I’ve created Website Simplified to help people create and grow their first website. I’ve been building websites online for over 7 years now and this blog is my way of giving back to the internet and helping beginners to create their own site. After reading this guide you will know how a theme change may affect your SEO.

Level of Expertise


Time To Read

8 min

What You Get

Effects of Theme changes on SEO

So you’re here to find out that all-important question: “Does changing WordPress theme affect SEO?”

The short answer is simple, yes it does. That is not to say that I advise against updating your theme, far from it. In fact, there are some fantastic options to choose from and I have recommended some of my favourite WordPress themes in my recent blog.

However, if your website already brings in a lot of traffic, there are some areas that you need to pay attention to if you do decide to change your theme, in a bid to avoid damaging your SEO value.

That’s where I come in. I’m here to help you make the right choices for your website. Starting now…

site speed

Site Speed

Make no mistake, a new WordPress can seriously hamper (or improve) your website speed. If it isn’t optimised for speed, it goes without saying that the page loading time will decrease.

Some themes may look the business, but their complexity can seriously slow your website down. If Google sees that your website is taking a good eight more seconds to load, your rankings are going to take a serious hit.

In fact, 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if the page takes more than three seconds to load. Three seconds may not seem much, but in the instant world of the Internet, it’s long enough to see a potential customer go elsewhere.

On the flip side, a less complicated theme may even boost your site speed. My aforementioned blog takes all this into consideration when recommending my favourite themes.

content formatting

Content Formatting

While most quality themes do actually handle your content formatting themselves when submitting a change, not all of them are so sophisticated.

If you choose a less-advanced theme, it could negatively impact your content formatting.

You want one H1 heading on your page. This is generally where the title fits. Any sub headings in your text should have a H2 tag, with H3 below that, and so on.

As I have said, most of the quality themes out there handle this for you. But not all, so you’ll want to be sure when selecting your new theme.

seo growth

SEO Metadata / Structured Data

Most WordPress themes available actually offer already built-in SEO features that are designed to help you manage your meta titles, meta descriptions, and structured data.

That is great, however, when it comes to changing your desired theme, there is a chance that all of this data will be lost. You don’t need me to tell you that this would be a huge SEO issue.

There are ready-made plugins that help you to manage your SEO and prevent this from becoming a problem. My favourites  are RankMath and Yoast SEO, you won’t go wrong here.


User Experience

User Experience, otherwise known as UX, isn’t as complicated as many people make it out to be. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Put simply, the easier your site is to navigate around and read, the better.

Google is smart, and if it sees that a lot of your visitors are quickly returning to their search results after originally clicking on your site, it assumes that your website isn’t user friendly.

All that potential traffic is all very well and good, but if visitors aren’t sticking around, it’s all for nothing.

Of course, some themes lower the UX value of a website. When selecting a new WordPress theme, make sure the user experience doesn’t diminish, or ideally, make sure that it is improved.

I wish to make it clear that I am not against you changing your WordPress theme. I just want to make sure you are aware of potential issues, and are comfortable in dealing with them.

If you are still set of changing your theme, consider these tips.

How to Change a WordPress Theme Without Losing SEO?

1. Only Choose High-quality Themes Optimised for SEO

I’m hoping that you have clicked through to the previous link with my WordPress theme recommendations. If so, you’ll notice that Astra is a favourite of mine. In fact, it is my absolute number one choice.

Over 1 million agree with me in choosing this theme, and it isn’t difficult to see why. It’s super-fast, easy to use, comes with WooCommerce support, and is extremely simple to customise.

There are plenty of difficulties in setting up your own website, the WordPress Astra theme isn’t one of them.

2. Never Use Pirated Themes

Why are pirate themes called pirate themes? Because they aaaaaaaaaaaaare! Sorry, bad joke!

Anyway, there are plenty of pirate themes out there claiming to offer the same service that you would get if you paid for a premium theme.

Take it from me, that simply isn’t the case. Pirated themes may even be injected with codes that can completely ruin your SEO. On top of that, they don’t update. Genuine WordPress themes automatically update and continue to look slick. Pirated ones do not, meaning that your website can quickly look outdated. What’s more, the eagle-eyed visitors to your site may even notice that you’re using an older version and that is never a good look.

A premium theme isn’t going to break the bank. Believe me, it is worth paying for the real thing.


3. Ensure Your URL Structure Isn’t Affected

If you want your website to rank well, in both the short term and the long term, never ever change your URLs.

Changing URLs confuses the shit out of Google. If you have a page that ranks well and you start changing its URL, it’s very likely to knock it out of the top of the SERPs. When you start changing your URLs across the entire site is asking for a lot of trouble unless you truly know what you’re doing. 

But there are other things than SEO to consider here as well.

In essence, changing the URL structure removes the direct link that a user has to your site. People may have bookmarked a certain page, only for it to become obsolete once you alter it. Or perhaps you have advertising materials on your website that would need to be amended, at a price.

Just don’t do it, guys.


4. Take Your Navigation Menu With You

I get it. You want to change your theme and like the idea of a new navigational menu. In all honesty, I would advise against this.

A new navigation could end up making it more difficult for the Google bot to crawl your pages which, in turn, can negatively impact your SEO. 

In this case, loyalty really does pay off.


5. Only Change Themes if it Improves Your Site

We’re a funny bunch, us humans.

That need to fix something that isn’t broken sits there in all of us. However, when it comes to your website, please, only change theme if it is definitely going to improve your site.

You’d much rather have the same look that performs to the best of its ability than a swanky looking site that is hampering your performance.


6. Test, Test, Test

Before you hit that ‘live’ button, be sure to test every single aspect of your new theme. Site speed, UX, Meta titles and tags… the works.

Once you are happy with everything, enjoy your new and updated theme with confidence.

You’ve got this!

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