Does Changing WordPress Theme Affect SEO?

Yes, changing your WordPress theme could negatively impact SEO and your website ranking. Especially if you changed the themes the wrong way, your website content could get deindexed, and you lose all your hard work!

And we know that SEO takes a long time!

You don’t want to mess up your SEO ranking by changing a WordPress theme. 

WordPress themes majorly affect how well your website performs in search engines. A sick theme can help boost your website’s structure, technical SEO, and speed, which are all super important factors for ranking higher on search engines. 

But choosing a wack theme can mess up your website’s search engine optimization by causing technical problems, slowing it down, and making it hard to organize and showcase your content. 

That’s why it’s crucial to think about your WordPress theme’s SEO impact and choose one optimized for search engines. That way, you can get more visibility and traffic from search engines!
This article will show you how to change a WordPress theme without affecting your SEO ranking!

To Successfully change the WordPress theme, make sure you follow these steps:

  1. Set up a staging copy of your website
  2. Install your new theme and preview it
  3. Activate your new theme
  4. Resolve errors and replace missing elements
  5. Push your staging website live

Other than these steps, we will cover why changing a WordPress theme could be detrimental to SEO and best practices to avoid ranking issues when changing a theme.

How does changing WordPress themes affect SEO

Messing up your website structure and links

Changing a WordPress theme can impact website structure by altering URL structure, page hierarchy, and content organization. In addition, the new theme may use different permalinks, causing broken links and loss of backlinks. 

It may also have different page hierarchies and content organization options, leading to confusing user experience and decreased engagement. Therefore, ensuring compatibility between the new theme and existing content is crucial to maintain a good user experience.

Let’s look at each problem individually:

  1. URL Structure: The new theme may use a different permalink structure, resulting in broken links and a loss of existing backlinks, which can negatively impact the website’s SEO. It is important to implement proper redirects to prevent this.

If you run into too many redirections, read our guide on how to avoid them and fix your links before they get deindexed.

  1. Page Hierarchy: The new theme may have a different page hierarchy, causing the content to be organized differently, resulting in a clearer user experience and decreased engagement.
  2. Content Organization: The new theme may have different options for organizing content, such as additional templates for posts, pages, and categories, which can affect how content is displayed and interacted with by users.

Changes in Technical SEO

Changing a WordPress theme can significantly impact the technical aspects of SEO, such as meta tags, header tags, schema markup, and sitemaps.

  1. Meta Tags:
    • The new theme may not support or correctly display the existing meta tags, leading to incorrect or missing information in search engine results.
  1. Header Tags: 
    • The new theme may use different header tags or format them differently, which can impact the page’s hierarchy and organization of content, affecting the website’s ranking in search results.
  2. Schema Markup: 
    • The new theme may need to support or properly implement schema markup, leading to incorrect information being displayed in search results and negatively impacting the website’s appearance and functionality in search engines.
  1. Sitemaps:
    • The new theme may have different options for generating sitemaps, which can lead to incorrect or missing information in sitemaps, causing search engines not to properly index all pages on the website.

Therefore, to maintain a solid and effective SEO strategy, it is vital to ensure that the new WordPress theme correctly supports and implements technical SEO elements, such as meta tags, header tags, schema markup, and sitemaps.

Impact on page speed

Changing a WordPress theme can affect website speed due to code, image optimization, plugin compatibility, browser caching, and server resources. To minimize issues, choose a well-coded, optimized, and compatible theme, optimize images, and ensure the hosting plan can handle the new theme’s requirements.

  • Theme Code:
    • The new theme may need better-optimized code, which can slow down the website’s loading time.
  • Image optimization:
    • The new theme may require different image sizes, which can impact website speed if the images are not optimized properly. 
    • Or make sure you compressed your images with ShortPixel and get enough space on WordPress with just one click!
  • Plugin compatibility:
    • The new theme may not be compatible with some of the website’s existing plugins, which can cause conflicts and slow down the website.
  • Browser caching:
    • The new theme may not use browser caching effectively, which can slow down the website’s loading time.
  • Server resources:
    • The new theme may require more server resources, such as CPU and RAM, which can slow down the website if the hosting plan is inadequate.

Loss of existing content and backlinks

Changing a WordPress theme can potentially lead to losing content and backlinks if the new theme is incompatible with the website’s existing plugins or has a different structure or formatting that can affect the content’s visibility or structure. 

Plus, if the new theme does not properly handle the website’s URL structure, this can also lead to broken links and a loss of backlinks. To prevent these issues, it is important to back up the website’s content and test the new theme on a staging site before making it live on the website!

How to change the WordPress theme without negatively affecting SEO?

Changing a WordPress theme can impact your website’s SEO, but there are steps you can take to minimize any negative effects. Here are some tips:

  1. Choose an optimized and SEO-friendly theme: Look for a theme that is well-coded, fast, mobile-friendly, and optimized for search engines.
  2. Backup your website: Before changing your theme, back up your website’s content, database, and files. This ensures that you have a restore point in case something goes wrong.
  3. Test the new theme on a staging site: Set up a staging site to test the new theme and make any necessary changes without affecting your live site.
  4. Preserve your URL structure: Ensure that the new theme maintains the same URL structure as the old theme to prevent broken links and a loss of backlinks.
  5. Ensure proper redirects: If you do need to change your URL structure, set up proper redirects using a plugin like Redirection to avoid broken links and maintain any SEO value.
  6. Update internal links: Check and update internal links to ensure they work with the new theme and URL structure.
  7. Submit a new sitemap to Google: Once you’ve changed your theme, submit a new sitemap to Google using Google Search Console to ensure that your new pages are indexed.

Are WordPress themes good or bad for SEO?

Many WordPress themes are good for SEO. Most popular themes are optimized for websites to load faster and present content in a user-friendly way. Therefore, you should not be worried about WordPress themes harming your website. 

All you need to do is ensure the theme you are installing is reliable, fast, and not corrupted. There is no reason to be too cautious about WordPress themes ruining your website ranking or traffic.

Here is a run-down of why people think a WordPress theme could be inherently bad or good for SEO:

A WordPress theme is good:

A well-coded and optimized WordPress theme can be beneficial for SEO because it can provide a solid foundation for a website’s performance. In addition, themes that follow best practices for optimization, such as having fast loading times and being mobile-friendly, can help to improve the website’s user experience and search engine rankings.

A WordPress theme is bad:

However, a poorly coded or unoptimized theme can negatively affect a website’s SEO, such as slow page loading times, broken links, or a lack of mobile responsiveness. Choosing a reputable and optimized WordPress theme is essential and ensuring that the website is structured and optimized for SEO best practices.

SEO tips before changing your WordPress theme

If you haven’t changed your WordPress theme but thinking of doing it, you should take these steps into account. You have seen that website SEO can be affected after changing a theme. However, these things can prevent damage.

Backup Your Website

Before changing your WordPress theme, it is recommended to back up your current website! You don’t want your WordPress website to crash, so be aware that changing your existing WordPress theme to a new one should start with a backup.

Choosing a theme optimized for SEO with clean code is also essential to minimize the impact on SEO.

Stick with a reliable and popular theme

If you aim to drive traffic to your website through organic search, it is better to stick with WordPress themes already popular on the market, such as Astra, Divi, Hestia, or Kadence

These themes are frequently updated, and you can find endless customer support around them! 

There is no need to experiment with custom themes or newly published (often cheaper) WordPress themes if you need to learn how they work and how they could impact your website.

Thus, we advise you to choose themes that are reliable and light. 

Don’t change your themes too often

Stick with your WordPress theme to ensure that your website gets indexed by Google and provides a consistent user experience. However, changing your theme frequently can cause unknown errors and hurt your site’s reputation. 

With Google’s new ranking signal, Core Web Vitals, you risk losing rankings by continually changing your theme and impacting your website’s technical optimization. In May 2021, Google will display sites’ performance statistics directly influenced by their last 28 days’ historical performance, so run a PageSpeed Insights scan to see whether you pass the Core Web Vital checks.

Don’t over-install plugins

Think twice before you install a new plugin. Even though plugins make your website run smoother, you need to install more of them to avoid ending up with a slow website. One of the many great pieces of advice we’ve got in our SEO round-up for WordPress websites is that the overuse of plugins kills your SEO.

Check External and Installed Scripts

Double-check your external and installed scripts to ensure a seamless website experience. Some plugins deliver 3rd party scripts, while others use script management tools like Google Tag Manager to add scripts like Schema and third-party scripts. However, changing a theme can impact which scripts run on your site, potentially breaking some functionalities and skewing your analytics reporting. A quick double-check can prevent these issues and keep your website running smoothly.

Takeaway: Does changing the WordPress Theme Affect SEO?

Changing a WordPress theme can affect SEO, and it is crucial to follow certain best practices. For example, changing the URL structure, altering the website structure and links, changing the technical SEO, and affecting page speed are ways that changing the WordPress theme could negatively impact SEO. 

Therefore, it is crucial to choose a well-coded, fast, mobile-friendly, and SEO-friendly theme, back up the website, set up a staging site, preview the new theme, and optimize images and server resources to minimize the adverse effects on search engine optimization.

Ani Hoang
Ani Hoang

Ani has been managing WordPress websites and optimizing different affiliate sites. She is also passionate about digital marketing and branding. She joined WPHub to plan and execute the backend operations to support your experience on our site.

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