A Slow Wordpress Theme, a Slow Business.
As we progress into the new age of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) we are seeing some rankings factors that are becoming much more critical than ever. As Google gets more content, they need new ways to distinguish the quality of a website, in particular when the content is in parity. One of the things that is starting to act as a "difference maker" when it comes to rankings believe it or not, is your theme choice.
But how so?
There are many aspects of choosing a theme that you should consider when choosing your theme, 4 key ones that I am going to be explaining and that you should be taking into consideration when selecting a Wordpress theme.
Speed is becoming everything these days online. The reality is, Google has lots of choice when it comes to serving content to its users. When someone does a search, say for example, "Best way to lose 10lbs in 10 days", it is going to produce results that they feel is the best content that helps their audience. There are a good deal of metrics that determine this, and based on Google Core's recent guidelines , you are going need to create original, unique, and helpful content.
That is what we teach here, and hopefully what you are doing when you create your content. But when Google has content of equal quality, how does it decide on the winner?
It is starting to resort to user experience, and speed is one of these key factors. If your website is fast, it leads to a much better user experience. With technology t
The hosting you have access to here at Wealthy Affiliate is leading the industry in terms of speed, reliability and security. In fact, when you build a website here using the Default that we recommend, you will be getting 99/100 or 100/100 in terms of PageSpeed.
Here is an example of one of my sites and the respective PageSpeed scores it is achieving, viewed within the PageSpeed Insight tab of under SiteManager => Details section.
Not too shabby! Google has given me the highest scores possible, which means that if my website and another website both have great content, yet their website is slower...my rankings will be almost certainly be higher within the search results.
There are themes however that have a lot of bloat within them, and at that point PageSpeed scores become the "themes' issue and completely out of your control. One example theme that we have seen that is operating inefficiently and leading to lower PageSpeed scores is the Thrive theme.
There are others as well, but if you are operating on such a theme you can expect your rankings to start to get hit with each and every Google Core update. The theme itself is can actually be slow, which slows down your website and subsequently your rankings.
So my recommendation after installed or creating any website, is that you do a PageSpeed test on your website. You ideally want to be in the 90s for both your Mobile and Desktop scores.
The Mobile Readiness of The Theme.
In the design world, this is also known as a theme being "responsive". Most themes within Wordpress are responsive by default, which means they take into consider different types of devices, environments, and screen sizes which displaying your website to visitors.
By default, any current Wordpress theme will be responsive.
When you build your website, there are several tests that you can do to make sure a theme is responsive. The first and most obvious test is checking your website on YOUR mobile device. See how it looks, see how it functions, and see how it loads. If you are happy with how your theme performs for you, on your device, then it has passed the first test.
The secondary test is one using Google's free tools. If you want to test the mobile design of your website, Google has a tool that allows you to do this through their Mobile Friendly Test platform. I recommend you check it out and see the results of your mobile score. If there are issues with your theme and/or performance on mobile, Google will offer you some insights as to what the issues are.
Here is a test that I did on my realdealaffiliate.com website.
As you can see this page is mobile friendly, and the mobile friendly test in Google is going to be the key indicator. But again, it is important that you check this out for yourself as well and make sure when you visit your website on your own mobile device, that the experience is a good one.
Navigation and Design.
The design of your theme is becoming ever so important in terms of your rankings. Your design comes down to your overall user experience and if you are providing people with a "poor" user experience, then Google is going to punish you with lower rankings. We are seeing this with most recent Google Core updates.
Typically, the way menus work and the overall structure in terms of columns and width are good out of the box with themes, but there is ONE factor that can serve as a determent to user experience. That is "access to content".
If people to scroll to FIND your content, then this is not a good thing. Many themes have HUGE header images, or many allow for huge header images on their website and this will actually detract from the usability of a website. If you cannot see the content within a page or post within the first FOLD of the page, in other words, the first viewable screen, then you want to choose a different theme.
As you can see, the visitor to this page would have to scroll to get to any meaningful content. This is a design flaw.
As the person in creative control of your website, you want to have minimal vertical height taken from your header. Avoid use of big images in your header, ideally you will have a logo or your we site title in your header and focus on beautifying your website through the "content" itself.
Most themes allow for header customization within the Appearance => Themes => Customize section of a website.
Theme Bloat - Additional Features, Editors and Plugins
Themes often times come with additional plugins that are complimentary to the theme themselves and unlock more functionality within that given theme. One thing that you need to be careful about is bloat within these plugins that may cause your website speed to slow.
A test that you should do after installing any theme recommended plugin (or add-on), is to test your PageSpeed Insights score to make sure this plugin hasn't slowed down the speed/performance of your website. This is the case with a lot of plugins, so just be careful with those.
These are the main things I recommend you consider when choosing a theme and when you assess the quality of your theme. There are many factors to SEO and content is of course one of the key factors, but as time goes on we are seeing Google and other search engines put more emphasis on your website speed and design. It is becoming more important than ever to have a high quality theme and of course, a speedy hosting platform (like Wealthy Affiliate).
By default here at WA, we install all websites on the GeneratePress theme. There are actually a lot of great themes, but we do really like the progress nature of this theme, it is really fast, and there are lots of additional features that you can leverage (some of them within their paid upgrade, which is not a requirement).
If you have any questions about your website speed, about your theme choice, or you have experiences you would like to share in respect to your experiences your themes or website (and the relevance to rankings), leave your comments and questions below.