SEO Stressing You Out? Try One of These SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes

While tackling the subject of how to find trustworthy themes last year, I suggested that SEO-friendliness might be a feature indicative of trustworthiness. That’s because, in addition to looking great and being chock-full of features, a WordPress theme that’s conducive to search optimization is one that was clearly built by a developer that understands your needs. And wants to make your job easier.

Note here that I’m not saying that WordPress themes all need to be SEO-friendly. You can always enhance SEO on your own with WordPress SEO plugins, WordPress SEO tools, as well as general SEO best practices. That said, if SEO is of the highest priority and your client is already talking about being on the first SERP before you even start building the site, the ideal solution is to use a WordPress theme built to be SEO-friendly.

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But what makes a WordPress theme SEO-friendly and why would it be beneficial for your web development workflow? I’ll identify these factors and also give you 8 of the best SEO-friendly WordPress themes you can use in 2018.

What Makes a WordPress Theme SEO-Friendly?

There’s a lot of work that goes into optimizing a WordPress site for search.

  • First, you need to do extensive keyword research to ensure you use the right terms for search success.
  • During the planning stages, you have to think about how your site structure will affect SEO.
  • Visual content like images and videos need to be optimized as well.
  • Each page’s metadata and tags require optimization.
  • There’s also local SEO to think about.
  • plays an important function in search, so that can’t be forgotten.
  • It’s not enough to optimize your site while it’s being built. You have to check that it was done correctly before launching the site.
  • And, of course, any time you want to attempt something more complicated with your WordPress site–like a migration or moving it into Multisite, you have to think about how that will affect SEO, too.

Needless to say, optimizing a WordPress site for search is a cumbersome task. Just think about how nice it would be if your theme helped alleviate some of that work.

When a theme developer touts their theme as being “SEO-friendly”, that’s usually good news for you. I say “usually” since it’s still up to you to verify that the WordPress theme is indeed SEO-friendly and will streamline your optimization workflow. If you’re unsure of how to check for that, here is what you need to look for:


A WordPress theme won’t be able to do much in the way of keywords, tagging, or metadata, but an SEO plugin will. Check to make sure your plugin of choice integrates with the theme.

Content Structure

Readability and accessibility are important considerations when designing for UX. Does the content structure of the theme play well into those? Things to look for are simplified navigation options (with no more than two or three layers in the menu) as well as formatting best practices in the template pages.

Visual Content
If the theme is heavily centered around visual content, does it integrate with an image optimization plugin or YouTube embed plugin to ease the pressure those will put on the site? Also, does the theme support retina-ready images?

Loading Speed

It’s always nice to find themes that come feature-packed with things like pop-ups, galleries, payment gateways, and so on. But what if it’s not executed well and you discover (after purchase) that the theme is bloated and slow?


We know that Google pays attention to the security as evidenced by their push towards HTTPS. Does the theme prioritize security as well?


Again, because of Google’s efforts to make search a better experience for its users, Google will prioritize the mobile experience over desktop very soon. Is the design of this theme fully responsive?


Think about the overall design of the theme as well. Will it go stale this year or does it abide by web design best practices with abundant white space, clear pathways to conversion, an easy-to-find navigation, and so on?

Social Media

Does the theme seamlessly integrate with social media (something which search engines use as a ranking signal)? Widgets, plugins, social share links… Check to see how the theme handles these.


There’s obviously the quality of coding to consider, too. Poorly coded themes can slow down site performance and also be the reason for sites getting hacked. Use the W3 Validate tool to check this.

8 of the Best SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes for 2018

Now that you know what to look for in an SEO-friendly theme, let’s review some of the top picks for 2018.

  • Let’s start by looking at WPMU DEV’s contribution to SEO-friendly WordPress themes: Upfront. With each of the themes included in WPMU DEV’s membership, you also receive the Upfront builder tool. In addition to simplifying the process of designing a website (since it’s all done on the frontend instead of in different modules on the backend), it comes with some features that make creating optimized content a breeze.

    SEO features include:

    • You can turn on the built-in grid functionality in order to receive better guidance on structuring the site in a way that’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but also responsive in nature.
    • The drag-and-drop makes it easy for anyone–you, your team, or your client–to adhere to the mobile-friendly grids established.
    • Within Upfront, you can also switch views as you work. So, if you want to ensure that you’re creating a truly mobile-friendly experience, you can design within an interface the size of a smartphone or tablet.
    • Because most of the styles and elements are already coded into the theme as well as the builder tool’s elements, you don’t have to worry about writing clean code on your end. The work is already done for you.
    • Finally, because the Upfront theme is so easy to use, it means you will never have to worry about the site going stale or falling out of favor with visitors (and search engines) because you don’t have the time or they don’t have the budget to update it.
  • There’s definitely something special about the Avada multi-purpose theme, even at first glance. However, as you drill deeper into what makes it SEO-friendly, you’re going to be impressed at the care they’ve taken to cover their bases.

    SEO features include:

    • ThemeFusion says they use semantical HTML and CSS in order to make it easier for search engines to read your content.
    • To ensure site performance, there is a PHP Compiler behind the scenes that merges all CSS into one file. Javascript is also minified.
    • Whether you use pre-built demo pages or just sections for those pages, you’ll have clean coding practices to base your site on.
    • In addition to each theme design being responsive, you have more control over grids and page width.
    • Never worry about images losing quality once they enter your theme with retina-ready image support.
    • Not only does Avada integrate with high-quality SEO plugins like All in One SEO, but it also integrates with performance-enhancing plugins like W3 Cache as well as social integration plugins like Jetpack.
  • Blogs are a special breed of website. While it’s nice to have images and video to share within the content, you don’t really need all that extra flash that comes with a theme built for an enterprise or e-commerce site. That’s why the lightweight and fast Brixton Blog theme is great for SEO.

    SEO features include:

    • The theme comes with a magazine-like grid, which is great for responsive restructuring as screen sizes shrink.
    • The design itself is minimal and clean, which will keep the backend coding lightweight, the front end running fast, and the content itself easy to read.
    • Visual content used on the blog will be retina-ready.
    • This theme utilizes a number of widgets so you don’t have to download plugins that slow down performance. There are widgets for things like Facebook and Twitter feeds as well as video embedding.
    • Social share icons are included as well to make it easier for visitors to share content and get more visitors coming back to the blog.
  • The Divi theme from Elegant Themes tends to get a lot of praise for how well its made as well as its user-friendliness. But, today, we should focus on how this theme also does wonders for upping your site’s SEO game.

    SEO features include:

    • The Theme Options panel has an entire section dedicated to SEO which gives you more control over homepage and single post SEO settings.
    • Divi offers a builder tool for adding content to web pages. Because of this, you have the added convenience of knowing that your content will be responsive and fit within the grid you’ve designed.
    • Within the builder tool, you can also design within a responsive setting. You can set custom breakpoints and view how your content will look in real time on smaller devices.
    • Divi includes a number of widgets for displaying visual content which will spare you from having to use weighty plugins.
    • Elegant Themes has partnered with Sucuri to test Divi and ensure that it’s following security best practices.
  • This is a good alternative to the Brixton Blog if you need a media-rich magazine-style website. Because this was created to house lots of visual content, it’s been tested for performance-enhancing solutions which play well in search.

    SEO features include:

    • The theme developer used speed testing tools to assess the quality of performance of their theme and reconfigured the code until they found the perfect balance.
    • This theme uses structured data markup (which Google loves), so that search engines can read and index your pages easily.
    • There are dedicated layout options available for media-heavy pages, so you shouldn’t need to create a custom format for these pages nor should you need plugins to get the visual content in there.
    • Social media has been integrated into this theme, so there’s no need to worry about whether visitors can follow your social pages or engage with your content.
  • Salient is a multi-purpose WordPress theme that knows what it’s doing in terms of performance. When you’re designing a website for a business, blogger, or even for your own portfolio purposes, this SEO-friendly theme would come in handy.

    SEO features include:

    • All designs were built primarily to offer users a responsive, grid-like design to start from.
    • Salient comes with over 500 shortcodes so you can add cool features to your web pages without having to weigh them down with unnecessary code, plugins, or media files.
    • Images are retina-ready and will also automatically adapt based on the user’s screen size.
    • Social media is integrated directly into the theme.
    • Despite features like parallax, sliders, and animation, this theme still runs incredibly fast. According to ThemeNectar, they received a 97% page speed score from GTMetrix.
  • Here’s the thing about this WordPress theme: SEO WP was designed specifically to help developers build SEO-friendly websites for online marketers. After all, if you’re selling SEO services, you want your site to reflect that you know what you’re doing, right? However, this WordPress theme would be great for any business or agency that simply wants a strong start with SEO.

    SEO features include:

    • The developer updates the theme often when bugs and other issues with coding pop up, ensuring that the site runs clean and fast.
    • The theme comes with a number of plugins to streamline SEO efforts. Social media is integrated. A slider plugin improves media loading and animation. Responsive menu styling plugins are here too.
    • Then you have non-traditional SEO plugins that provide information on the site’s Google position and that help you research keywords for your content.
    • According to the developer, this theme consistently scores well for performance. It’s passed Google’s mobile-friendliness check and also logged a 1.59-second load time on Pingdom.
  • One of the nice things about using a multi-purpose WordPress theme is that it gives you the power to change up the entire design of your website in a flash (which is a good trick to have when web design trends change so quickly). TheGem manages to give its users all that while still providing a lightweight and SEO-friendly theme to work from.

    SEO features include:

    • Each design is totally responsive. This is helped in part by Visual Composer, which ensures that content stays within responsive breakpoints and grids.
    • Integrates with W3 Total Cache to keep pages cached and loading quickly.
    • Outside of that, the developer has kept the number of plugin integrations to a minimum so you don’t have to deal with bloat caused by unused features and functionality.
    • You have the flexibility to get creative with menu layouts while still keeping them responsive.
    • Retina-ready images ensure they always show up high-resolution and looking sharp.

  • X Theme is an awesome WordPress theme in general. However, when you look at how they’ve deviated from the way others handle performance and search optimization, I think you’re going to be even more impressed with them.

    SEO features include:

    • The developer used HTML5 and CSS3 to code the theme. In addition, the code and performance of sites using the theme have been vetted by SEO professionals.
    • When designing the structure of this theme, they didn’t use responsive breakpoints. Instead, they opted for a fluid layout that relies on screen size percentages, which is more effective in being supported by modern browsers.
    • The theme includes specialized shortcodes so you can “create” any layout or element without having to code it into the page or use a plugin.
    • The iLightBox jQuery plugin is included. This lightbox will not only display your images as retina-ready, but it’ll also ensure they’re responsive.

Wrapping Up

If you didn’t find your current WordPress theme in the list above and are nervous about the SEO-friendliness of it, don’t stress too much. The list above is simply meant to be the best of the best SEO-friendly themes that place a heavy emphasis on search optimization.

That’s not to say that yours doesn’t have SEO-friendly features or that there aren’t others out there that don’t support SEO. Simply run through the list of requirements mentioned above to test the SEO-friendliness of the theme you have or want. If you find that it’s insufficient in this matter, then think about giving one of these WordPress themes a shot to not only improve your clients’ website performance in search but to also streamline your process.

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About the Author: Ritesh Kumar

A web developer & the founder of CodeTheRush. You can follow me on the social media or subscribe the email newsletter for latest updates. I talk about Computer security and mostly publishes news articles about blogging tips, SEO, making money online , affiliate marketing & reviews.

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