Like most of you, I’ve repeatedly considered changing the WordPress theme on my site because I sometimes get into the mood to “keep it modern”. I look at the latest frameworks like Genesis and GeneratePress and hear about how they adhere to the latest coding standards and whatnot. But then, when I consider the work involved and its impact on my site, I’ve always held back. Here are some reasons why changing your WordPress theme is a bad idea.
1. Unknown Impact on SEO
From an SEO point of view, unless your theme has structural problems, I don’t see why you should get any benefit from changing it. You can modify items like navigation, font, and appearance, so what are you hoping to get from a new theme?
One benefit could be that a new theme loads faster than your old one. But remember – don’t fall for the marketing hype. Just because your theme is old doesn’t mean it isn’t fast. It might be faster than the new one! And if you’re smart, you’ll use a service like Cloudflare to reduce your TTFB times. With upcoming features like Cloudflare’s Cache Reserve, a new theme’s impact on real-world users could be muted, even if it’s fractionally faster.
2. It’s a Lot of Work and Time
I don’t mean that your website isn’t worth the effort. Of course, it is! But your time and effort are limited, and you need to spend it on what’s best for your site. Working on a new theme is “sexy”, but when you consider the days and weeks you’ll spend fine-tuning it, is it the best allocation of resources for your website? You could spend that time creating new content for your site, marketing, or improving your product.
Changing your theme is more of a “feel good” project that doesn’t generate the benefits you imagine. You might feel good for a while, but its revenue-generating capacity is minimal.
3. You Can Change your CSS Most of the Time
Whenever I get the urge to change my theme, I’ve usually reverted to changing to my CSS instead. You can create a separate file for custom CSS, and I urge you to experiment with that instead. For example, I got rid of sidebars on my website using nothing but theme options and CSS. I changed my background color and element padding, and margins. My site today looks nothing like when I first created it. And I haven’t changed the theme!
If you have a standard layout, I can guarantee you can find a CSS alternative to changing your WordPress theme. It’ll be less disruptive.
Structured Data Changes Can Hurt your SEO
If you’re like me, you’ve probably forgotten over half of the changes you’ve made to your site since it first came online. Over the years, I’ve added so many little things that there’s no way I can remember to duplicate everything. I even maintained a “changelog” file but decided to abandon it.
If you move to a new theme, chances are that you will forget to include some crucial piece of structured data or some other insignificant detail that will affect your SEO rankings. You’ll probably fix it after a while, but SEO rankings can be very sticky, and coming back after your site has gone down is an excruciatingly painful process.
Beware of Neomania
Just because something is new doesn’t mean that it’s better. It can be tempting to look at new “clean” and “fast” themes, but we tend to underestimate the value of what we already have. I’m not saying that a new theme is never a good idea. I’m saying that the reasons for changing your WordPress theme have to go beyond mere feelings and a desire to “move with the times”. Consider changing your CSS as the first response when looking at a new theme. Only if that fails should you seriously think about switching out your WordPress theme.
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!