Can Your WordPress Site’s Theme Be Hurting Your SEO?

Estimated Reading Time: 8 Minutes

By: Brian McCrackenbutton to visit the authors linked profile
High Level Developer

The purpose of having a website for many business is so that it can rank and their customers can find them online.

In order to rank well in search engines, your website needs to have the proper SEO optimizations in place to make it competitive.

Unfortunately, many WordPress themes are built purely for looks, and SEO is not the primary consideration. That leads us to the question…

Can Your WordPress Theme Be Hurting Your SEO?

Yes. Here are eight ways your theme can impact your website’s performance.

  1. Bloated Unused CSS
  2. The Overuse of JavaScript
  3. Using jQuery When & Where It’s Not Needed
  4. Excessive DOM Size
  5. A Lack Of Or Change To Metadata Availability
  6. Changing How Content Is Displayed or Hiding It Behind JavaScript
  7. Adding Excessive Tables or Queries To Your Database
  8. Not Serving Properly Size Images

First we will talk about these things, but towards the end of the article, we can tell you how to avoid these problems all together.

1. Bloated or Unused CSS

When your website loads for your visitors, their cell phone or computer has to download all of the CSS needed to display your website correctly.

If the developer the the theme you use doesn’t take care to remove unused CSS, or duplicate a lot of CSS for displayed elements in your web design that could share much of the same styling, that CSS file the user has to download will be larger.

Additionally, if the developer doesn’t minify their CSS, the file will also be larger than it needs to be.

Large CSS files take longer for someone’s device to load and will negatively impact your website’s overall page speed scores, a verified Google ranking factor.

Using a theme built by a professional developer that uses CSS efficiently and effectively, optimizing it for page load times and user experience, will help improve your odds of ranking for competitive terms in your industry.

fast websites do better
Just like cars, the lighter and more efficient your website is, the faster it will load and the better it will perform in search results.

2. The Overuse of JavaScript

When a WordPress theme overuses JavaScript, it can have a number of performance impacts that can negatively impact the SEO of a website.

  1. Much like CSS, the more code there is, the longer it will take users to load the site.
  2. JavaScript has to be parsed after it is downloaded from the site. Parsing JavaScript takes the browser some time to complete, and often times the webpage can’t be shown until that is complete, also slowing down the perceived speed of the website for users.
  3. Blocking JavaScript doesn’t just take a long time to download and parse; it will also completely stop the webpage from rendering for your website visitors.

In many cases, a WordPress developer can remove unused JavaScript from a theme, or use only what’s required initially, improving the SEO performance of a website.

In other cases, JavaScript can be replaced entirely by more efficient CSS, which will also improve the performance and therefore SEO ranking potential of the site.

The moral of the story on JS is only to use as much as is required and no more.

3. Using jQuery When & Where It’s Not Needed

jQuery is used in WordPress themes for a few reasons, but normally it is for interactivity and display reasons. Before a single piece of jQuery code is written, first it’s library has to be downloaded by a user, which is large and generally very slow to execute.

jQuery’s size and performance implications will greatly slow down a website’s ability to render for a user and therefore its SEO ranking ability. (Are you picking up on the theme here…?)

The second use of jQuery is much more troublesome for SEO.

nervous about jquery performance
jQuery tends to make SEOs very nervous, and for good reason.

In some cases, your website content may be hidden behind a library like jQuery, and in these cases search engines may not even be able to see your website’s content to even consider it for ranking in search results.

4. Excessive DOM Size

When a browser loads a webpage to render, it knows how that webpage should look based a blueprint provided by the website. That blueprint is what web designers call a “DOM” or Document Object Model.

Webpages with very large DOMs are harder to put together than a webpage that is built efficiently, with minimal use of DOM elements – only just enough to get the job done.

If your WordPress theme is one-sized-fits-all theme, or built by a less skilled developer, it will take longer for your customers browser to assemble so they can see your webpage.

Not to beat the drum, but once again, a slow theme = slow website = a negative impact on your SEO ranking potential.

5. A Lack Of Or Change To Metadata Availability

Some better WordPress themes will have certain SEO tools built into them.

This can include meta description fields, indexing options, follow and no follow settings, and more.

But the biggest cause for concern here is when a poorly developed WordPress theme changes things like your webpage’s Title tags, or worse yet, excludes them from the header all together.

In these cases, it can spell doom for you SEO efforts.

Hey, pardon the interruption…

If you already know that you need a professional WordPress developer to build a SEO optimized WordPress site for you, shoot us a message. We think we know just the person. 😉

    6. Changing How Content Is Displayed or Hiding It Behind JavaScript

    This is very similar to the second concern we had about with jQuery.

    In some cases, newer React components are being integrated into WordPress frontends, beyond it’s current use in Gutenberg blocks.

    While most search engine crawlers are able to execute the JavaScript required to render the content, that may not be the case all the time.

    Additionally, the time it takes to execute that JavaScript will again slow down your website, and if anything, you should know what that means by now. A negative impact on your webpages SEO ranking potential.

    7. Adding Excessive Tables or Queries To Your Database

    WordPress, by default, only has 11 tables that it uses in your database.

    As your database grows in size, it can negatively impact the ability of your website to get content from the database to send to website visitors when they are attempting to load a page.

    Some themes add a bunch of tables to your database when you activate them, and if that’s the case with the theme you’re using, the resulting impact on page speed can definitely hurt your SEO efforts.

    8. Not Serving Properly Size Images

    And here we have one of the largest SEO offenders caused by poorly developed WordPress themes – not resizing images appropriately for their use on various parts of the website.

    This ends up causing images that are far to large to be used throughout your web design that would be far better suited by small, appropriately sized images.

    that a big image gif
    When it comes to WordPress themes, the images they use, and SEO… Yes. Size matters.

    How To Ensure That Your WordPress Theme Isn’t Hurting Your SEO

    All of this begs the question of what do you do to make sure these things don’t happen?

    Short of becoming a fully PHP and JS web developer yourself, the answer is to hire a professional to build your WordPress site.

    It would be impossible to ignore the fact that is certainly self-serving for us to say, but what’s important is that you understand the difference between a casual web designer and a web developer.

    What’s The Difference Between A Designer & A Developer And Why It Matters

    There are a lot of tools out there that will help web designers build WordPress sites for clients. Most of the professional designers out there use them to quickly and cheaper put together websites for clients. The Cleveland market is certainly no exception.

    Unfortunately, these tools will often mean bloated themes and slow sites for the businesses that think they are hiring the right person for the job, only later to find out they didn’t get what they thought they were paying for.

    When you are vetting a company to build your companies website, you want to ensure that they are going to truly develop a custom WordPress theme for you, with custom hand-coded templates and blocks just for your website.

    When a developer meets a designer….

    professional developer who knows more
    Web designers can create websites, but web developers are who you want to hire when performance matters most.

    That level of professionalism and detail is a little more expensive upfront, but it’s the only way to make sure your website won’t suffer SEO setbacks that could cost you more later.

    Well you made it all the way down here….

    It seems like you might have some concerns about your WordPress website’s SEO. You know, we can do a quick audit for you and let you know if we agree.

    All you have to do is send us a message. 🙂

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