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What Makes a “SEO-Friendly” WordPress Theme?

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There’s a lot of hullabaloo regarding “SEO” when it comes to WordPress themes. In this series of posts, I’ll go over what most people believe is “good SEO” when it comes to web templates. If your theme doesn’t have it already, I’ll show you how to “correct” it.

  • Content ordering, and how to make sure your content appears before the sidebar no matter the layout
  • Clean, semantic markup, and how to eliminate unnecessary code from your themes
  • Lots and lots of navigation, including the all-important breadcrumb navigation.
  • The “All In One SEO” syndrome, how to integrate a custom write panel to control title and meta tags in your theme

I’ll update this post with links to the articles as I publish them. Think of the above as a dynamic outline of my “SEO friendly” WordPress theme series.

My Thoughts on “SEO friendly” WordPress themes

First up, here’s a challenge: try to find a premium WordPress theme for sale that doesn’t mention something related to “SEO” as one of the benefits. You’d be hard pressed to find a single one that hasn’t hopped on the “SEO friendly” bandwagon. But what does it actually mean?

I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean. It has nothing to do with content, incoming links, outgoing links, you know, the things that actually count for something. That’s part of the reason why I’ve put every single mention of “SEO” in scare quotes, because it’s so much more than the on-site benefits that can be provided by the template you use.

For themes that have a clue, they probably do a lot of the things I’ve listed above very well. Whether or not your pages actually rank is another story, but “SEO friendly” themes can put you at a slight advantage, and that’s what I hope to show you how to do in this series of posts.

If you’re so obsessed with “optimizing” your site that you neglect creating quality content, link building, and the like, you may have a problem. Don’t go too overboard with this stuff, but don’t be completely ignorant to search engines and be so naive as to think, “all I have to do is create good content, and Google will love me!” Even amazing content needs to be promoted.

This post was originally meant to be a response to Alex Denning’s post called “Some Thoughts on SEO” and Jeff Chandlers post “Write For People, Not Spiders” but it evolved into this.

Am I Missing Anything?

Themes can provide the tools to help you, but they can’t hold your hand, make sacrifices to Google gods for plentiful traffic, or anything like that.

If there’s any on-site SEO that a theme is capable of doing that I’ve missed, please let me know and I’ll consider adding it to one of my future series posts.


Leland Fiegel was the original founder of ThemeLab. He is a web developer who loves WordPress and blogging.