Search engine optimization (SEO) really is a broad topic best considered in terms of the various pillars that make it up:
- On-page SEO, which is concerned with keywords/content.
- Off-page SEO, which is concerned with backlinks and building authority.
- Technical structure, which is concerned with how a website is built and the resulting user experience.
Oftentimes, companies will focus on one aspect of SEO while ignoring another. But in order to rank in relevant search, you certainly can’t ignore the impact of your website’s technical structure.
WordPress provides a great foundational content management system (CMS) that follows most SEO best practices, out-of-the-box. Of course, whatever design you build on top of this should also follow SEO best practices in order to provide a solid base for your on-page and off-page efforts.
So how do you effectively pick SEO friendly WordPress themes?
We’re so glad you asked.
Considerations for SEO Friendly WordPress Themes
Page Load Speed
Page load speed is a major Google ranking factor because of its contribution to the user experience. To put this into perspective, according to Kissmetrics, 47% of users expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less!
Design and all else equal, from an SEO perspective, go for the fastest loading WordPress theme.
Before you choose your theme, run its demo page through performance testing tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom Tools, and GTmetrix to verify if the developer paid attention to performance optimization.
Just know that if an otherwise great WordPress theme has a few speed issues, all isn’t necessarily lost.
You can use plugins like Smush or Shortpixel to compress image files (media files are heavy and take a long time to load) and WP Rocket for caching and file minification.
The best compliment to a WordPress theme with a quick page load speed is a performance web host with fast server response times. Liquid Web and Kinsta both have excellent reputations when it comes to managed WordPress hosting.
Websites are consumed by a variety of browsers, devices, and screen resolutions. SEO friendly WordPress themes can scale accordingly and look good no matter what. A responsive theme has a fluid layout that ‘adjusts’ to the screen size, and search engines like it when websites are easy to use and accessible.
Mobile responsiveness is more important now than ever, as Google’s mobile-first index can impact your rankings. Besides, mobile devices are now being used to browse the web in a trend that’s overtaking desktop use.
Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to determine if your theme is mobile-friendly.
Don’t be tempted to discount something as ‘basic’ as website navigation.
Easy navigation positively affects website traffic from search engines because accessibility and ease of use contribute to SEO. A study from Gerry McGovern showed that 70% of people relied on navigation rather than search when looking for something on a website because it’s easier and faster to click on available website links.
67% of people leave a website if they are frustrated with the navigation. Use tools like Google Analytics and Hotjar to figure out where people are dropping off of your website and determine if it has something to do with your navigation.
Developed for SEO
It may be helpful to look for themes on WordPress with the ‘developed for SEO’ label. This helps you know that the theme developer is up to date on the latest SEO best practices and has incorporated them into their theme design.
To give an example, ‘developed for SEO’ themes with Schema.org markup allow search engines to understand your unique content to provide richer search results. This, in turn, helps your content get more visibility in search results.
To avoid SEO problems, it’s important for your theme to be developed according to up-to-date coding standards. In some ways, this relates to page speed — code bloat can slow down load time both for the end user within a browser, as well as search crawlers that are trying to index your website.
In order to pick SEO friendly WordPress themes in terms of valid code markup, check for errors using the W3C Markup Validator. If errors seem excessive, you may want to consider other options.
SEO Friendly WordPress Themes: Top Options
It’s one thing to give recommendations regarding specific aspects of SEO friendly WordPress themes — it’s quite another to share recommendations for tried-and-true WordPress themes that you can download right now.
Here are our best suggestions for SEO-friendly WordPress themes:
Schema is the fastest-loading WordPress theme. Tests show that its loading time of 659 ms is 95% faster than other WordPress themes.
Besides page load speed contributing to its SEO-friendliness, the theme has several additional SEO features. It makes information about your page easily accessible to search engines by having a quality code foundation and support for rich snippets. There is also a built-in review system, ad manager (for embedding third-party ads without the need for a separate plugin), and social media sharing functionality.
Pricing starts at $35 for one website license.
Divi is the most popular WordPress theme in the world, for good reason.
The theme is fully responsive yet highly customizable — it comes with 20 premade layouts that can adapt to any type of business, while still allowing you to create new pages from scratch using the Divi drag-and-drop page builder.
- Over 46 elements for content
- A large community of fans
- Support for several languages
Pricing starts at $89/year for access to the theme and all Elegant Themes plugins (such as Monarch, a social sharing plugin, and Bloom, an email opt-in plugin). Alternatively, you can go all-in with a one-time payment of $249 to receive lifetime access to this high-end WordPress theme.
GrowthPress was designed with one specific goal in mind: converting visitors to customers or subscribers.
GrowthPress is also optimized for speed, is mobile-responsive (compatible on all browsers and retina-ready) and built with clean code. It also offers Cloudflare support, is protected with advanced security, integrates with popular third-party plugins, and best of all, it is optimized for local SEO.
Pricing starts at $79.
Massive Dynamic is one of the most affordable SEO friendly WordPress themes/website builders available on the market.
For $39, it comes with over 30 pre-built sections and over 60 prebuilt website designs. It also comes with a drag-and-drop builder and 6 plugins ($98 value). Despite all this useful pre-built content, Massive Dynamic is lightweight and fast.
Additionally, Massive Dynamic is WooCommerce-ready and comes with access to a dedicated support team. Out of the box, it has a high GTMetrix performance score (99%) and Google Pagespeed Insights score (100%).
Pofo is the perfect theme for creative portfolios and blogs. It comes with over 150 prebuilt elements and 200 prebuilt templates, as well as several pre-configured typography and color options for easy website customization. Pofo is WooCommerce-ready, responsive, retina-ready, and is optimized for SEO (with a GTMetrix performance score of 97%),
Pricing starts at $59.
Hestia. This stylish theme offers a beautiful user-experience without compromising speed. You can check out a detailed review of the Hestia theme at Collectiveray.
Final Thoughts: How to Pick SEO Friendly WordPress Themes
By understanding the various elements that make up an SEO friendly WordPress theme, it’s easier to evaluate available options. You really don’t need any fancy tools to run tests on your top contenders — Google has provided several free options that help you understand exactly how the search giant considers various aspects of a given WordPress theme.
Which SEO friendly WordPress themes do you love and recommend? Tweet us @pathfinderseo and we will share your recommendations!