As long as you own and run an eCommerce website, the last thing you would want is to see it lose its ranking on search engine results. Ideally, the website should either retain or improve its ranking regardless of your actions on it.
For this reason, any changes that you make must cushion the site against such outcomes. It’s important to ask yourself this before you consider changing a WordPress theme. Nevertheless, are your fears regarding this issue justified, or are you better off worrying about something different?
1. Valid cause for concern
The effect that changing the WordPress theme has on website ranking is a legitimate cause for concern. Yes, you are right to worry about how this single act can affect your ranking. In this regard, you are right to feel pressurized that the changes could cause a drop in the ranking.
However, you have every reason for feeling elated when the changes lead to improved ranking. Whatever the effect, the truth is that the changes are capable of bringing glad or sad tidings to your heart, especially where ranking is concerned.
Here, the main topic is the effect of the changes on SEO. While it may be attractive to change WordPress theme, you should only proceed with this move if you are ready to institute all the required SEO changes too. Otherwise, your actions would cause you more pain than pleasure. A significant drop in SEO traffic and visibility could lead to the kind of ramifications and losses from which your business might never recover, as you move forward. Again, take time to study all these possible outcomes before setting the ball rolling.
2. Does the new theme have SEO plugins?
Before proceeding with these changes, you should also look at the available plugins closely. After all, most plugins are capable of handling all SEO-related issues on your WordPress blog or site.
Nevertheless, do not make any assumptions where this issue is concerned. Do your research well to ascertain that your preferred WordPress theme supports such types of plugins. Otherwise, you may have to perform the SEO tasks yourself, which is quite tedious and stressful, as you may have noticed before. Plugins can automate this process for you.
Are the plugins costly? Well, you are free to buy any plugin that you feel could help your blog to perform all SEO tasks efficiently. However, you may not always have the funds needed for such expenses. In such instances, there is no shame in going for the free plugins.
Just make sure that the free plugins deliver what they promise. Nonetheless, plugins and SEO are not the only issues worth giving you a few sleepless nights as you ponder how changing the WordPress theme will affect ranking.
3. Changes in Heading Tags
Are the titles of your posts hyperlinked? Have you filled your WordPress site with H2 tags? If that’s the case, then your worries are justified in feeling worried about the effect that a change in the theme could have on your site’s ranking. Your concern would be more valid if most of your content is hyperlinked too.
However, this shouldn’t be difficult if you select your next WordPress theme carefully. Fortunately, you have access to numerous WordPress themes that feature proper heading tags to make your work easier.
Therefore, do not shift the theme unless you are migrating to one that is as equally good as what you already have. Usually, you should never change the theme unless you are moving to one that performs better than the current one. This way, you will have less to worry about since the new theme is capable of handling all your questions regarding the optimized and hyperlinked heading tags.
For this reason, you should first check the existing themes, especially those that have been in the market for years.
Migrating to an entirely new theme presents its fair share of challenges. For starters, fewer people have tested it. Consequently, there isn’t as much information readily available on the effectiveness of the new options in terms of SEO. Almost all themes you encounter are the works of developers who are highly talented in PHP and CSS.
However, many of these developers aren’t as gifted in the issue of SEO. For this reason, their products will not induce the sort of SEO results that you need to enjoy improved ranking after changing WP theme.
4. Loss of custom settings
As you transition from one WordPress theme to another one, you should also ask yourself questions regarding most of the custom settings that you made on your site. This issue takes on a more prominent role where those settings boosted search ranking. Therefore, go for a theme with similar features to the settings you customized. Alternatively, consider hiring a WordPress developer with experience in the kind of customizations that your theme – and website – needs to enjoy better ranking.
While moving from one WordPress theme to another, you should also ensure that you relocate with all your SEO settings. At this point, it’s worth reiterating the point that no two plugins are similar in how they handle SEO. The best plugins can do this through their import/export capabilities.
For this reason, check that your preferred WordPress theme supports the type of plugins you wish to use for this purpose. Additionally, check if the theme has overwritten your SEO settings too.
What happens if you don’t use a plugin? Here, your focus should be on the new theme’s capabilities. In the past, you probably succeeded in enjoying good search results ranking because of the amount of hard-nosed work you put in. That might not work as effectively when moving forward. Consequently, you should strive to get the best plugins for your new theme. Look for the best free plugins. If your budget allows you, then go ahead and buy the premium versions.
Useful Read: What To Consider Before Changing WordPress Theme?
5. Effect on loading time
In many instances, the newly changed WordPress theme could drastically reduce or increase the loading time. Consequently, this would affect the traffic to your site. As that happens, your ranking could also receive a significant hit. Customers will always complain about and flee from or avoid sites that take forever to load. The time visitors take on your site has a bearing on its ranking. Make it possible and more comfortable for them to spend more time on your website. This way, they will help to improve ranking.
Search engines study customer behavior. These engines use their crawlers to check how much time visitors spend on your website. Your website should deliver or load the content that users need in less than 5 seconds. Anything longer than this could lead to frustrations. Therefore, use tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights to learn more about the time each webpage takes to load. With such a tool, you will receive all the critical information you need using two vital metrics; namely:
- First Contentful Paint
At this point, it is good to mention that free WordPress themes offer several advantages. Speed isn’t one of them, though. Because of this, it would be appropriate to consider working with a premium theme for the simple reason that they tend to guarantee top speeds. Nevertheless, that isn’t always the case either. Therefore, go back to Google PageSpeed Insights to ascertain that the speed of the newly installed theme is just as good – if not better than – what you had. Evaluate the speeds before and after installing the theme.
6. Changes in the URL structure
Study the new WordPress theme carefully to determine if the URL structure is better than before. In most cases, the structure changes, thus affecting SEO negatively. For better results, the structure must be the same as what it was before installing the new WordPress theme. Most critically, you have to check your permalink structure. That is because it is most susceptible changes every time a new WordPress theme appears on the scene. Many times, you might have no option other than to adjust the structure manually to keep the site from dropping in the ranking.
Go through the permalinks in the old and new themes systematically to confirm that nothing has changed. Click them to check that they take you to the same webpages or destination. Failure to do this could leave you with massive losses.
For example, Google may decide to drop all the posts you initially made. Consequently, your site will not rank at all on the content that no longer exists. The result of all that is you will see a significant reduction in traffic to your site, which then leads to reduced conversion, sales, and profits.
7. Effect on bounce rate
Bounce rate can affect your ranking prominently. Reduced bounce rate improves ranking on search engine results. Increased bounce rates, for their part, lead to a drop in ranking. Based on this, you must select a WordPress theme that doesn’t boost the bounce rate.
For best results, you should limit your bounce rate to around 25%-40%. An average of 41-55% would also not be akin to death. Nevertheless, a bounce rate that is above 70 percent is detrimental to the ranking and success of your WordPress website.
Most people never take the bounce rate seriously. Anyone who values ranking should treat it with kids’ gloves. However, it’s worth pointing out that several factors determine the bounce rate. Quality of content, loading time, all-under-one-roof content, misleading meta description or title tag, technical errors, blank page, and lousy backlink are a few of the issues that determine a site’s bounce rate. Therefore, as you migrate to a new WordPress theme, you must evaluate the site based on these determinants.
8. Absence of proper backup
How much backup have you made? How much of your content have you backed up properly in readiness for shifting? Remember, nothing can go wrong during the transition. However, it’s good to be ready for the worst. Anything can happen, thus leading to loss of data that took you eons to develop and publish on your WordPress-themed site. Avoid exposing yourself to such drastic losses. What is more, failure to create a complete backup of your files could lead to severe consequences, which include:
Without a backup, you could lose some of your previous posts. Such a loss could have massive, especially when talking about posts that helped your site to enjoy good ranking. Good backup helps you to access such posts quickly in case you lose them during the transfer. It also reduces the time that you would ordinarily spend on such tasks.
Furthermore, it ensures that your users would have no problem finding what they need fast. Remember, technology will not always go the way you expect, thus the importance of such backup.
9. Non-optimized Images
SEO applies to images too. Therefore, you have to ascertain that the images appearing on your new WordPress theme are of the highest quality. For starters, they affect load time. Large non-optimized photos are notorious for causing sites to load slowly to the frustrations of users. What is more, extra-large images are responsible for creating negative user experiences. On top of that, they convince Google to penalize sites with similar types and quality of images. In such instances, your pictures would help to rank massively if they:
- Are sized correctly in terms of width and height
- Improved resolution quality
- Are simple
- Are not mixed with all types of fonts or other graphical elements
- Are heavily compressed
- Don’t support the rest of the content
- Lack of meaningful context
- Are not saved in the correct formats
It’s sad to note that many people consider images that they include on their sites as decorations. The truth is all images are content. They enhance the quality of the other content that you publish on your website.
More importantly, images boost a web page’s SEO. Additionally, they enhance user experience. Sites with quality images tend to attract more traffic too. That said, none of that would matter if the decision to shift to a new WordPress theme distorts these images in terms of quality of resolution and size.