WordPress themes can make a big difference to the search engine optimization of a WordPress site. For the most part, any well-written theme is SEO-friendly, including the majority of free themes. In fact, some of the best-selling premium themes aren’t so great for SEO because they’re overloaded with features and offer poor performance.
Choosing a theme solely on its purported SEO capabilities isn’t wise. There are many other factors that should influence your choice of theme, but once you have settled on the ideal theme for your project, it’s sensible to consider whether it’s going to provide the best foundation for future search engine optimization.
As I have already implied, the performance of a WordPress site is taken into consideration by Google and other search engines. All else being equal, a faster site will rank better in search engine results than a slower site. Many factors contribute to site performance, including WordPress hosting, caching, and the use of a content distribution network, but the front-end provided by a theme can cause performance problems, especially if it’s poorly performance optimized and has excessive page weight.
Before you choose a theme, run its demo page through performance testing tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom Tools to get a sense of how much attention its developer has paid to performance optimization.
Although code validity is less important than many other factors, it’s beneficial to choose a theme that is coded well and that is guaranteed to load properly on browsers and search crawlers. You shouldn’t expect perfection, but it’s worth taking the time to run themes through a code validator.
Mobile-friendliness is a key aspect of modern search engine optimization. Google will not rank pages in mobile search results if they aren’t optimized for mobile devices.
Any WordPress theme worth considering will include responsive design, but mobile friendliness includes more than basic responsive design: Flash should be avoided, typography should be of a reasonable size, and pages should not be overly large.
If you want to know whether a theme is mobile-friendly, check out Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Structured Data Support
Schema.org is a standard structured data format that can be used to give extra information to search engines about the content on a page. Rich snippets on search engine results pages depend on Schema.org markup and so does the display of items on many social media networks. The more information you can provide to Google, the better the display and ranking of your pages is likely to be. If you’re unsure whether a theme supports structured data, ask the developer.
It’s important to understand that although a theme contributes to SEO-friendliness, it’s one factor among many. A great theme is worthless if the hosting is slow or the WordPress back-end is improperly optimized. You may want to consider installing a caching plugin and an SEO plugin in addition to choosing an SEO-friendly WordPress theme. And, of course, you should opt for performance-optimized managed WordPress hosting.