July 18th 2022

Changing your website theme can give your site the much needed design and even functionality update it may need to perform better. Technologies and tastes evolve like language over time, so, it’s important to revisit best practices in aesthetics and usability which may in turn improve your bottom line – that’s usually the main reason for the update in the first place after all.

Before you go ahead and implement that sparkly new website theme, you should always be aware that, yes, updating your theme is very likely going to affect your SEO.

Before you make any changes:

  • Create a benchmark of your site’s current performance (how-to if you’re unsure)
  • Crawl your current website – we use Screaming Frog
  • Install your new theme on a staging site before pushing anything live
  • Crawl your staging site with the new theme and compare it to your current site with the following items in mind…

Here are our 8 top items that could affect your SEO campaign while moving to a new theme:

1. Site Speed

With the way websites are getting faster and faster these days, your new theme needs to be faster than your old one. There’s not really much negotiation or design/functionality trade off to make here. If you are purchasing a theme from a theme store, you can check your new theme’s speed by running the template example website through GTMetrix or Google Page Speed Insights to see if it passes Google’s Core Web Vitals and has a good speed score. Remember, even if the theme example passes Core Web Vitals, once you install it on your website there are still plugins, additional codes, and functions that will affect your site’s speed. You really want to be starting off with an AMAZING score and not set yourself back at all with a poorly, or heavily coded theme.

Once again, check your page speed and Core Web Vital scores on your staging site before pushing this live too. Staging sites are very often slower than live sites due to server and hosting, but check for any issues such as large images, multiple CSS files that should be combined, anything that is making your new theme clunky in any way.


speed checklist

2. Usability, User Experience & Design

If you are changing any usability features of your site when you move to a new theme, this could very well affect your SEO. It’s really important to keep usability in mind, and is very likely one of the reasons you may be wanting to move to a new theme in the first place. Remember to stress test and try out your new theme’s usability while it is on a staging site before you push your new website live. Your users want to find a really easy to use website when you push your new theme live.

ux design

3. Accessibility

Along with usability comes your website’s accessibility too. While your new website theme may look much snazzier than your old clunky theme, you don’t want your new site to be less accessible to those with disabilities. Run a few accessibility tests on both the theme template example site before committing to a theme, as well as the staging site with your new theme installed. If you’re not quite sure how to check this, we can do a Web Accessibility Audit for you to support your move to a new theme or try these Web Accessibility tips for a new site build.

accessibility audit

4. Internal Linking & Navigation

Is anything in your navigation changing? This includes both the links and the anchor text for navigation such as top menus, footer links, breadcrumbs, sidebar menus etc. If any of this is going to be different in your new theme, this could very well affect your SEO and the risk of anything being different should be assessed.

It’s worth noting any changes to internal linking too. Usually there will be little change to the content while implementing a new theme only, but it’s important to bear in mind any changes to internal links by comparing the new pages to the old. The homepage is often the most affected as a new theme often goes hand in hand with a new homepage design.

link analysis

5. Pages

Are there any pages that won’t be live anymore once you’ve pushed your new theme live? If the answer is yes, assessing the impact of this is very important. Have a look at whether these pages are currently driving any organic traffic, and create a redirection plan for these pages.

seo audit

6. Structured Data

Structured data is often implemented and then forgotten about, as it’s not really a visible feature on a website. Often themes and platforms include the most important structured data out of the box these days. But it’s worth checking what structured data your site currently has vs what is included in the new theme. You can do this with Google’s Schema Markup Testing Tools. It should at the very least be the same, but will be a bonus if there is additional structured data included with the new theme. If there is some missing, or you have additional structured data you think will be worth adding, now is a good time to implement it while the site is migrating to a new theme. Have a look at schema.org for available schema mark up.

eat audit

7. Meta Data

Compare your staging site with your live site and check that the page titles are the same! While implementing your new theme you may be losing all of your optimised page titles and meta descriptions, always check this is not the case before pushing your website live. It’s often hard to regain rankings once lost.

web design

8. Header Tags

So you’ve now gone through your site and checked that your content is identical when comparing your current site to your staging site. Or you’re aware of any changes that could affect rankings. Remember to check that the header tags used are similar or still make logical sense in your new website theme – is your new theme using a proper heading structure? If not, make these changes to your staging site before pushing this live.

keyword taxonomy


Many of these tips are very relevant to any site migration such as a complete platform change, and not just a change in theme. If your site is getting any organic traffic before moving to a new theme or platform, we highly recommend including SEO in your migration strategy. Far too often websites lose organic visibility during any kind of big change and there is such a small window with which to regain some of this loss in visibility and traffic. It’s better to assess any risk to your SEO campaign right in the beginning stages of discussing any big change to a website. Chat to us about your project if you are thinking about making a big change to your site, we have over a decade of experience and can assist you in maintaining your SEO efforts.