Without SEO, search engines will have a hard time finding and properly indexing your website’s content. Your site needs to be simple enough for search bots to access it and understand the information on it. It also needs to have the necessary quality standards, in order for it to appear high on search engine result pages. Choosing the right theme is relevant for both of these aspects. While it is a fact that no template can provide you with perfect SEO on its own, it is still important as a foundation for future SEO efforts.

Loading speed

Choosing a theme that doesn’t hinder your website’s loading speed is the first step towards a search engine friendly website. Google considers load time as an important SEO factor because user experience depends on it. A fast loading website is therefore considered as a positive signal by search engines.

In order to make it so, you must optimize your CSS files, optimally size your media files, use hosting that has fast server response time, and, of course, choose a theme that loads fast by default (makes a small amount of http requests, isn’t heavy on media javascript). You can test the speed of your site with Google PageSpeed Insights or with GTMetrix.

Code

In order for a website to perform well in search engines, the theme needs to be developed in accordance to the newest standards. Valid HTML and CSS are essential. It must also be compatible with every browser, and work properly on mobile devices. Without proper coding, your website is bound to encounter errors. To check your code, you can use an online code validator such as The W3C Markup Validator.

Responsive design

In today’s era of smartphones, your website simply has to have responsive design in order to have a high rating. It is a known fact that more than a half of traffic comes via mobile devices. If you don’t get a theme that provides a proper experience for mobile users, about 50% of your visitors will not have a good experience. You can check your website’s responsiveness with Google Webmaster Tools. Luckily, most WordPress website design oriented companies create responsive template exclusively.

Site structure

The theme must also have well organized navigation with working links. Your users must be able to easily find what they are looking for. Furthermore, the navigation menu needs to be logical and placed at a location that is most visible to everyone. Navigation with a good structure, working links, and well-ordered content makes it simpler for search engine bots to crawl and index your site. Furthermore, it improves the quality of the user experience.

Social media integration

Social media integration is another important aspect of choosing a WP theme. While it’s not strictly a part of SEO, it’s an essential way of gaining website traffic, so it’s closely connected. The theme has to have an option to link to all the popular social media sites, such as Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and the like. As WordPress is essentially a blogging platform, check whether the blog posts can be shared on social networks via the “share with” button.

Schema markup

Finally, a very important aspect of your website is that it needs to support Schema markup (rich snippets). Schema markup improves your code in the way that it not only makes the content visible but also comprehensible to search engines. This means better indexing for your content, as well as it being better presented in search results, boosting the chances that someone will click on your link. Schema markup is available thanks to Schema.org. On their website, you can find all that you need to know about rich snippets and how to properly promote your website content.

There is a simple way to see whether the theme that you are using includes Schema markup. What you need to do is open the template demo, right click within the page and choose “View Source Code”. You will be presented with a new tab that shows the page’s source code. Press ctrl+f, and search for “schema.org” or “item scope”. If it is located in the code, then the theme supports Schema markup.

Final words

There are many lists on the web that show some of the best SEO-ready WordPress themes. To choose a high-quality theme, you can also make use of some of the plugins. This includes:

  • Yoast SEO – an extensive plugin that enables you to create high-quality content, generate sitemaps, and more
  • W3 Total Cache – a great caching plugin that improves loading speed
  • WP Smush – a plugin used for reducing your image files without diminishing their quality
  • Google XML Sitemaps – a plugin that creates an XML sitemap for your site (it is made redundant by using Yoast SEO)
  • Broken Link Checker – a nifty plugin that checks your pages and posts for any links that might be broken and bad for your SEO efforts

 

** About the Author:  Blake Davies is an IT writer and support professional.