SEO-ready WordPress Theme? What defines a theme to be SEO Friendly?
Once you have created a website, you will want your page to be found by users on the web. To ensure that, you need to have search engine optimization (SEO) in place. The theme you choose for your WordPress site can significantly affect your SEO outcomes, so you want to choose one that is ready for SEO. In this article, I’m going to help you puzzle out which requirements SEO WordPress themes have to meet.
You’ll Learn About:
- Why SEO is important
- Valid coding
- Upload speed
- Responsive design
- Social Media Integration
- Website structure
- Schema Markup
- SEO Plugins
1. Why SEO is important
New site owners often make the same old mistake. They begin to think about search engine optimization (SEO) after the website has been launched.
Unfortunately, in most cases, it is much too late. Such sites end up being built with many mistakes, which, in turn, makes it hard or even impossible for search engines to find and index the content of the site. As a result, Internet users do not see the sites in search results and do not find them.
A website without search engine optimization is like a roadside motel hidden behind trees with no sign pointing to it. It may be offering a better service than its brightly-lit competitors down the road, but most travelers will never know it’s even there.
How are people going to find you? That is the question you, as a website creator, should ask early on in the phase of website planning and then make it a priority throughout the whole website building process.
Understanding how search engines operate will help create your SEO strategy.
Basically, they work the following way. When a site is launched, the engine bots called “spiders” find it and “crawl” the pages, going from link to link. They try to “comprehend” the information on each page that they can access, after which, that information is stored in the search engine’s index.
When a user searches for something in, let’s say Google, entering a word or phrase in the search field, the search engine analyzes millions of pages stored in its index which contain that word or phrase and gives out SERPs (search engine results pages). The user then looks through the results and follows the links he or she thinks are relevant (usually the top three). That is how sites get organic (free) traffic (visitors). You can learn more about how search engines work in the unbeaten Beginner's Guide to SEO from Moz.
For your site to land on a SERP, it needs to be present in the engine’s index and to contain the keyword.
But its position in the search results (whether it is going to be first of 475th) is determined by a range of factors that search engines “deem” important.
So, first, you want to make the site accessible and understandable to search engine bots, so that they can store the information in the index and present it when a search is done.
Second, your site needs to pass the quality standards that engines set so that, when a search on one of your keywords is done, your site appears higher in search results than the sites of your competitors, who are using the same keyword.
The theme you install plays a role in both of these aspects. Although no template by itself can guarantee good SEO for your site, it is a building ground for your ongoing SEO efforts. It can either facilitate or hinder them.
Let’s see what makes a WordPress theme a SEO friendly theme.
2. Valid Coding
For the site to rank higher in search engines, the theme you are going to use has to be developed according to up-to-date coding standards. Check it to make sure it is compatible with all popular browsers, that it has valid HTML, CSS and that it works well with mobile devices. You can utilize these code validators:
3. Upload Speed
Site load time is one of the essential criteria in Google’s site ranking algorithm because it plays an important role in users’ experience. In other words, search engines favor faster sites.
Make sure your images and other media files are not too large, optimize CSS files (you can use online CSS optimizers like CleanCSS.com or GiftofSpeed.com or install CSS optimization plugins), use hosting with quick server response time and choose a theme that is originally fast-loading. Do everything you can to make your website load in 1.5 – 2 seconds.
You can test the template and your website load speed at:
4. Responsive Design
Why is it important to have responsive design? If Google indicates your website as responsive, it boosts up the site giving it a better result on SERP.
If a user is surfing the web via a mobile device, a mobile optimized site will be higher in his/her search results than one that isn't. Moreover, more than 50% of traffic comes through mobile devices. Would you like half of your visitors to have a bad experience with your website?
Check responsiveness and mobile optimization at:
5. Social Media Integration
When choosing a WordPress theme, remember about social media integration. Strictly speaking, social media is not part of SEO, but it is another very important channel for acquiring site traffic, closely interrelated with SEO.
Make sure the theme has an option to link it to social media profiles like FaceBook, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.
Moreover, being a blogging platform, WordPress has blog posts, so check whether these posts can be shared via social networks using special “Share with …” buttons at the bottom of posts. This way not only you, but also your visitors will be able to advertise your website.
6. Website Structure
Your website architecture - the way pages are linked together - should be an essential part of your website planning. Well-structured navigation, inner links, and content will make it easier for bots to crawl and index your pages, improving their chances of ranking higher in Google’s results. It will also increase the quality of your visitors’ experience, helping them find information more quickly.
So, when choosing a WordPress theme, pay attention to the layout structure - its navigation and logic. Examine the live demo of the template you are going to purchase, for usability, i.e. if the way of finding what you want is intuitive and simple.
7. Schema Markup
Schema markup is a way of enhancing the code of your site to make its content not just visible, but also “understandable” to search engine bots. As a result, the content will be better indexed and presented more attractively in search results, increasing the likelihood that the user will follow the link to your site. This Markup is provided by Schema.org . Check this resource to get a better understanding of how to promote your content with structured data.
How can you see whether a theme has Schema Markup included? Open the template demo, right click the page and click “View Source Code” (“View Page Source Code”). Once you get a new tab with the page source code, click CTRL+F to activate page search and type “itemscope” or “schema.org.” If you find this type of code line: it means that this theme has Schema Markup.
No matter how well a WordPress theme is optimized for search engines, you will benefit from using additional tools. So let’s review some plugins that will help you to utilize the website's full potential to rank better in the search engines:
- W3 Total Cache - increases the upload speed of your website.
- Yoast SEO - an amazing plugin, which helps you to write better content, generate site maps, add social media and much more.
- WP-Optimize - this plugin will clean up and optimize your database.
- Google Analytics by Yoast - helps to add Google Analytics to your website to analyze your traffic.
- WP Smush - reduces image file sizes without losing quality.
- Broken Link Checker - this plugin checks your website posts and pages content to see whether there are any broken links as they harm SEO.
- Google XML Sitemaps - this plugin creates an XML sitemap for your website
- All in One SEO Pack - this one comes with a bunch of tools for SEO: site map, Google Analytics, titles optimization and many more.
Just follow this simple guideline and make sure your WordPress theme is responsive, uses valid coding and schema markup and uploads quickly. Do not forget that WordPress can be upgraded with dozens of plugins that will help you to boost your website and increase your ranking.
Have comments? Feel free to share your SEO tips and tricks for WordPress with us.
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Simon is a TemplateMonster sales operator who helps small businesses and startups by day and passionately rocking on the stage with his bass guitar by night. Simon is a truly creative spirit and idea generator who can draw almost everything he imagines.