Does changing wordpress theme affect seo and traffic from search engines like Google? This is the question that every one should really think about before changing the current wordpress theme. But, many of us do this after losing a huge amount of traffic. I also lost 2/3rd my traffic from Google by a wordpress theme change. So, it is sure that a wordpress theme change will affect your seo and organic traffic from search engines. The next question is “How to regain the lost traffic?”. Let us discuss in detail.
WordPress theme change – My experience
I started with a free wordpress theme. After using it for 6 months, I decided to change it mainly to increase my website seo and get more pageviews. It was then I searched about various wordpress themes over the net and bought a premium theme. I installed and customized it according to my ideas. As I went through the site stats supplied by Jetpack, I was shocked to see the decrease in Pageviews. My site went down in search results. After watching the stats for a week, as it didn’t improve, I reverted back to the old wordpress free theme. After a day, there was considerable improvement on page views. After 4 days, I got almost 50% pageviews(compared to old views). The drop in traffic might be due to poor coding and seo optimization in the new theme. Then I decided to try Genesis/Thesis which is highly recommended by many webmasters and bloggers. I selected Genesis.
Before changing the current wordpress theme
1. Thoroughly check whether the new theme is SEO optimized.
2. Read the reviews about the new theme before buying.
3. Backup your current wordpress theme.
Traffic change on Genesis WordPress theme installation
After installing Genesis Framework and Studiopress child theme, I analysed my traffic stats carefully. The traffic went on decreasing after install. I submitted the sitemap to search engines. On the 3th day, I saw some improvement. After 7 to 10 days, I almost recovered from the traffic drop. Currently techbee.in runs on Genesis framework. I recommend Genesis because if the framework is updated to a newer version, your theme customisations are preserved as all those are done on the child theme.
Steps to Quickly regain your lost traffic
1. Write articles more frequently. That is, after the redesign, try to write articles daily. If you are able to give more posts, then it’s better. By doing this, search engines will surely crawl your site more and there is a great chance to regain your old position in search results.
2. Submit your sitemap to webmaster tools.
If you are using Yoast SEO plugin, you can find the sitemap url by going to SEO>XML Sitemaps. First submit the sitemap to Google Webmaster tools. Go to Google Webmaster tools and select your site. Under ‘Crawl’ option in the left sidebar, click on ‘sitemaps’. Click Add/Test sitemap, enter the url and click ‘submit sitemap’. By submitting sitemap, Google will easily come to know about the changes on your site. Usually the website crawl by Google is done according to site updation. The sites which gets updated more frequently(new contents are added), will be crawled more frequently. If you are getting an average traffic and say, your site is crawled only once in two days, then by submitting sitemap to webmaster tools, your site may get crawled in 4 or 5 hours.
You can also submit the sitemap to Bing Webmaster tools since it has a great influence regarding traffic from Yahoo Search.
3. Check for crawl errors or Soft 404 errors using Google webmaster tools for your site. If there is any error, try to fix it as soon as possible and resubmit your sitemap. Installing broken link checker plugin, is very essential, since it notifies every broken link on the site. Fix the broken links is any.
4. Don’t do theme customizations for many days. If you do so, while search engine crawls your site, it will observe that the website structure changes rapidly and will badly affect your search engine traffic. So, only after regaining traffic, do more customizations especially on the navigations menu.
Update – 15/10/2014
Traffic drop on Layout change/Navigation bar Customisation
Last day, I made some code changes on my header section to display Adsense ads on specific posts/pages only. I edited the code and created another new widget area on my Genesis header. At the end of the day, I was disappointed to see my decreased page views. After analyzing, I got some inferences.
1. These days, search engines like Google are eagerly waiting for changes or updates from our websites. But, they are not happy with huge structural changes. The crawling rates to sites have considerably increased after the latest Google Panda and Penguin updates.
2. Making changes to codes ‘above the fold’ viz header, navigation menu and title area can result in traffic drop. But, this traffic drop will remain only for one or two days. After that, you will automatically regain the lost traffic.To quickly regain lost page views, submit your sitemaps to webmaster tools, to make the crawling faster.
3. Editing website codes while the site is live, can result in heavier traffic losses. To overcome this, I would prefer you create a dummy website and edit the codes on that, after making final changes, put it on the live website. Now, from the crawler part, there is only a single change. Other wise, when a search engine crawl your website, it will notice frequent changes on website and will badly affect your search engine rankings.
Now, what is your experience on wordpress theme change? Feel free to share your views over here.