As of 2021, there are around 455 million websites on WordPress – That’s around a 40% market share globally. With such a strong foot on the web, it’s only fitting that we talk about how a website owner can benefit from using WordPress as a CMS and from its vast library of stunning themes.
On ThemeForest alone, there are around 11,000 WordPress themes and the number is just growing every day. With tons of themes suitable for every type of website, a WordPress user has a fair bit of choices for the look and feel of their website.
However, not all WordPress themes are created equal. Some of them have more holes than Swiss cheese.
It’s important to understand that a website theme is not just a splash of color on your website. It does much more than changing its appearance. A theme impacts your website’s performance on different devices, page load speed, navigation, structured data, etc. All these things have a significant impact on search engine rankings. So, choosing the right theme is extremely important.
On average, a WordPress theme costs somewhere around $40. The last thing that you would want after purchasing a new theme is to realize that it’s damaging your website’s SERP Rankings.
If you’re planning to start a new website or change the appearance of your existing one – there are quite a few things you should consider before picking a WordPress theme:
1. Theme Responsiveness
It’s extremely important for websites nowadays to have a responsive design. It simply means that the website should respond perfectly to the device that it is being viewed on. According to Statista, in the first quarter of 2021, 54.8% of the web traffic was through mobile devices, so if your WordPress theme is not mobile responsive, then you’re not reaching half of your target audience.
WebAlive has a great post to learn more about Responsive Web Design, its advantages, and the future.
2. Page Load Speed
Google has started focusing a lot on on-page User Experience. The company has even added a new set of Core Web Vitals. One of the main factors that affect Page Experience is Page Load Speed, which is highly related to the theme that you’re using on the website.
WordPress themes like GeneratePress, Neve, Hello Elementor are extremely fast. If you want to see how fast your WordPress theme loads on mobile and desktop devices, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to get a Performance score for your website.
You should record your website’s Performance score regularly since updating WordPress plugins can sometimes impact the website speed. Here’s a Google Sheet PageSpeed Insights Monitor template that you can use to track the Performance Score of multiple URLs automatically without much effort.
3. Structured Data or Schema Markup
WordPress themes can also affect the Structured Data of your website. Schema Markup (or Structured Data) helps search engines understand the website content and allow for rich snippets to show up in google search.
Rich Snippets provide a boost to CTR as they provide more information to the user and make the listing stand out in comparison to the competitors.
4. Image Optimisation
Ideally, you shouldn’t serve images that are bigger than what is needed for the webpage. Images contribute to the overall page weight and if you’re serving large images then it can reduce your website’s load speed.
Good themes automatically scale down the images and serve an optimized version to the final user but there are a lot of WordPress themes out there that don’t optimize images and for a website owner who is not familiar with SEO concepts, this can be detrimental.
Ensure that the WordPress theme that you choose serves optimized images, using either a plugin or a script, to reduce the overall load speed of the page.
There are a lot of other factors that you can consider before purchasing a new WordPress theme but these are the factors that you should consider first. And if you’re just starting your website, ensuring that you have your On-Page SEO right from the beginning is extremely important. Using an On-Page SEO checklist to ensure that you haven’t missed out on anything is the best approach.