A Slow Wordpress Theme, a Slow Business.

Last Update: May 20, 2020

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.

Theme Speed.

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.

Google Mobile Friend Test

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.

Here is an example of a theme that does a good job, and one that does a poor job of "access to content".

Wordpress Header Image Too Big

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.

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Anne68 Premium
Checked out my site on Google. The speed score was 83 and it was mobile friendly. They gave me some advice on how to speed up my speed score, none of which I understood or felt able to act on.
Don't think 83 is too bad though, so will carry on with my current site.
Thanks for sharing Kyle. Good to get the Google info. :)
ChrystopherJ Premium
83 is very good. Anything above 50 is considered as average, and anything above 90 (might be 95, I need to double check) is considered as being in the Top 5% of websites. You only need to worry if it is below 50 and in the red.
Anne68 Premium
Thanks for responding Chrysopher. Good to get confirmation that my site is ok and that you took the trouble to tell me. Thank you again. I appreciate it. :) x
shermand2268 Premium
I'm so confused about all this. I'm attaching a screen shot of one of my websites. My theme is obviously the same for every page on my website, yet the scores vary so much. And I do all my posts the same - with text, headings, images, videos embedded. So I don't know where to begin to figure out why some pages are ok and others not. :( Debra
ChrystopherJ Premium
When you go directly to Google PageSpeed and run the test yourself, what does it say the issues are?
psalisbury1 Premium
Are the slow posts the ones with videos? You may need to embed the videos to speed the site up on those posts

shermand2268 Premium
No that doesn’t seem to be a pattern. All the videos are embedded
moonmount Premium
I have a feeling that many people will not completely interpret the results from PageSpeed and will not understand the appropriate steps to resolve the problems
ChrystopherJ Premium
I can appeciate that Ronald, but until we know what the issues are, I am unable to provide any advice on how to resolve the issues. There are different solutions for CSS, JS & Images etc. Those three areas alone also have sub issues that can be worked on. Then, once identified, it can require further troubleshooting, based on the Theme being used and the installed Plugins. Unfortunately, there is no one blanket fix for improving speeds of websites.
moonmount Premium
Thank you. It gets does get complicated from the perspective of the less experienced person to run PageSpeed and interpret the results and make the correct resolution.
moonmount Premium
Yes, that was my point. People will be just guessing how to resolve or come to someone like you with significant expertise. It is great that you are providing some support
isabellaR Premium
Hey Kyle,

My theme dollah has all the mobile loading times in the red scale, although the theme support says it has good loading times and I should try the Jetpack plugin.
I am seriously thinking about changing my theme.
What's your opinion?


Thank you so much,

Warly10 Premium
Hey, I'm not kyle but I just visited your site and it seems ok...

However, I have tasted the speed of your site on Gt metrix and it seems a bit slow... Need to fix some stuff
Check it out below :

sgregcrx Premium
I changed from a rubbish slow theme to generate press, speeds went from 20-30 to 90-99 in October

Google smashed my rankings down by 60-70% in November

I dont think it has anything to do with the speed, its just Google doesn't care about speed. I get outranked by awful slow sites filled with ads ...but lots of backlinks
Zarina Premium
Ouch, that's sour. What niche was it, Stephen? Certain niches got hit hard. And yeah seems like most backlinked websites tend to get ranked higher but I still don't purposely focus on them.
sgregcrx Premium

And it was bad but nothing compared to what was coming in March!

Still hopful traffic and sales will recover from the pandemic decimation...if it ever ends

Yeah I still dont focus on links at all, its just hard to be outranked by the big boys when you know your content is better.

It just seems more and more google asks you to play by the rules but refuses to reward those that do and instead rewards the ones that dont.

Like site speed, they made such a fuss about it, gave us free tools insisted it was ultra important, made it part of webmaster tools to the point of issuing warnings...and then just ranks slow crap ahead of other better sites

Still at the very least, having a fast, clean user friendly site is great for user experience and that afterall is what everyone should focus on, regardless of googles whims ...a fast site cannot be a bad thing
Zarina Premium
Oh yeah, travel industry during the pandemic was hit hard unreal bad.

I agree with you. I think we should still play by the rules and hope that eventually they get that sorted with their best Google update yet.

Although I think they do talk about the importance of backlinks, so if that's the case, then it makes sense why their algo favours backlinked websites. It's a dangerous area to get into, if you're not careful, it might backfire.

And yeah, you're right - we should focus on user experience. I think maybe sharing your site articles in forums that will be useful to folks might help. Sort of a backlink but not the best one really. At least some exposure 🤷‍♀️
Kiranoppa Premium
Oh my, I have far too much experience of slow, bloated themes. And even premium themes I paid for and lost money, because I had to abandon them because they were too slow.

Most premium theme developers say their theme is "speed optimized", but most of them are not speed optimized at all. It's better to check the site speed score of the theme demo before making a decision.

Now I have Astra theme and that IS actually a fast theme while looking beautiful. Many beautiful Wordpress themes compromise speed, but not Astra.

WA hosting helps with site speed, but in my experience, it doesn't help alone when you have lots of content and images on your site. With a new website you might easily get a site speed score 100 without any extra help, but not when you have lots of content on your site.

It's practically impossible to avoid having many plugins, because you need many plugins for your website in a long run. E-mail list plugin, contact form plugin and social share plugin are just a few of the many plugins you need on your site. Not to mention Woocommerce plugin and it's extension plugins, if you want to open an online store on your website.

I do have couple of site speed plugins on my website; I have found my site slows down immediately, if I uninstall them. Despite having WA hosting, and the WA technical support staff saying I don't need site speed plugins, site speed scores say otherwise.

But even site speed plugins don't help, if you have a slow theme and slow hosting, so getting a fast theme is the first step to better site speed scores.
JesusGirl144 Premium
Im trying to find a premium theme now... Thank you for your information. I have looked at Astra and Im also debating to get Soledad or a Studiopress Genesis theme. Its so hard to decide!!