Part of my job as an SEO analyst is to identify problems with clients’ websites, whether that be issues with coding, images, internal linking structure or anything else that could be hindering their site. Generally when it comes to an HTML built site you can pinpoint problems with relative ease, and for the most part you can figure it out, but there are always those few exceptions. Now it is no secret around the office or even on the blog that I am a huge HUGE WordPress fan boy. I admit it and I am always telling clients WordPress is the way to go when building your sites. I have my own personal sites built in WordPress and I’ll never look back.
The one problem that could come up when using WordPress, however, is that your theme could be hindering your SEO results. It could be the prettiest theme in the world, but if it has some search engine optimization problems it won’t matter. I found this out the hard way recently when I saw a site of mine that had been sitting on the top of page 1 for over a year automatically drop off the Search Engine grid after I went in to make a theme upgrade.
I couldn’t figure out why I dropped from the rankings. I reviewed all the changes I made recently and just couldn’t pinpoint the problem. I did not see a huge drop in traffic, however, so I decided to ride it out some. Recently, I had to go back into said site and do a database upgrade and in doing so it broke the theme, so I thought it was probably a good idea to just change the theme to something else again and see if I could figure out where the problem was coming from. I tried switching to a more advanced theme that allowed thumbnails, but the new WordPress and theme were unable to generate the thumbs on the fly so I would have to go through 200+ posts to change. I did not have the time for that so I decided to just go in and switch to the original theme until I could set aside a couple of hours to work on the new theme. Lo and behold in less than 24 hours I was back in my old top spot. I couldn’t believe it; how could this of happened? So I started thinking as well as looking over what these more advanced/prettier themes offered that the basic theme did not offer that could have caused this issue.
This is what I came up with:
The website was displaying too many broken images – This could have been an obvious choice, because most of the new themes offer thumbnail support I thought this would be beneficial to my readers as my site is 99% images. The problem was that not all of the images were showing up properly and I had to go though and edit each post to get the image to show up, again a time issue.
The title of the posts were “spammy” – Due to the nature of the images I posted I had a general title – Name of the image + “keyword”, and while this worked very well when it was only showing 5-6 posts per pages, when I switched themes it could of looked “spammy” in the sense that from 6 posts per page to around 20+ which very well could be an issue.
Went from a text header to a banner image – For over a year or more I had a simple blog title – keyword in text format and never cared nor felt the need for a banner image as my top blog title. When I switched over to the new theme I decided to have a friend of mine build me a banner image instead of my normal text format. While it did look a lot more professional, it is very possible that it screwed up my rankings even though I did have an ALT Tag and a Title Tag in place.
Site loaded to slow – Recently Google came out and stated that site load time is definitely a factor with how well you will rank – maybe not a huge amount, but it does affect you in some way shape or form. With the new theme the site definitely loaded much slower because of the added posts to the home page, in addition to the image thumbnails that were displaying at the top.
Could it have been all these factors? Perhaps and I’d say a very good chance all these factors played a part in it. The point being that a very nice/fun theme that you may love could very well bring your whole site to a complete halt when it comes to ranking well. The age old saying of “sometimes simple is better” could not have been more true in this situation. So something to think about when building or updating your blog/site, if you do not see results or see your search engine rankings drop think about switching back to the old theme and see if they come back or maybe switch to more simplistic theme and monitor your ranking results. Be sure you utilize Google Annotations inside your Google Analytics account (if you use Google Analytics) that way you’ll have the best idea if it was in fact the WordPress theme that caused the problem/issue or perhaps fixed the problem/issue.