Themes are webpage templates that you can use for your blog or website. Extensions are plug-ins that you can install on applications, Web browsers in the present case. We look at how these affect SEO and what you can do with these.
Let us look at WordPress themes and a Firefox extension to see the issues involved. Once you understand these, you will be able to apply what you learn elsewhere.
WordPress offers numerous themes (templates) that you can use for your WordPress blog. These are typically PHP files that you can modify (if you know how) to customize the appearance of your posts. The themes are developed by third parties and offered by WordPress.
Some of the themes are search engine friendly while many others are not. Some even have backlinks to the developers’ websites. WordPress itself offers SEO tools like:
- A page structure that puts the content at the top, and pushes sidebar and footer codes to the bottom. As a result search engines will notice your content first instead of a lot of incidental code.
- Permalinks that create apparently static URLs for each of your blog posts. (Dynamic URLs generated from databases are not very search engine friendly.)
- Blogrolls that link to other blogs adding value to your own blog. If someone else includes your blog in their blogroll, it also creates a backlink for you.
- Pings that notify blog directories that you have updated the blog
- Trackbacks that create two-way links with other worthwhile blogs
SEO-friendly themes will utilize all these facilities. Many themes, however, will go for fancy tricks and eliminate several of these. The post at WordPress Themes and SEO lists six SEO problems with WordPress themes, including:
- Excessive use of header tags (h1, h2) thus diluting their value
- Weak use of the title tag which should ideally be keyword rich
- Putting incidentals like sidebars above the content in the code
- Possible duplication of content in archive and categories pages
The post author suggests using All-in-One SEO Pack for search engine optimization of your WordPress blog posts.
WordPress itself has a tutorial on SEO at SEO for WordPress that includes excellent general SEO advice.
There are many third party plug-ins for WordPress that help you improve title tags, add meta tags and so on, in addition to the All-n-One pack above.
SEO for Firefox is a plug-in for the Firefox browser that helps you monitor the search engine optimization features of websites that you surf. Among others, you can find the following about the websites you are researching:
- Google Page rank
- No of backlinks
- No of .edu backlinks
- No of .gov backlinks
With this kind of information, you can develop a good idea of specific SEO success factors. The plug-in maker advices that you should turn it off during casual surfing, and increase the response time, to avoid annoying search engines. Turn it on only when you are researching a market.
Themes and extensions can thus have significant impact on your SEO success. Considering the intense competition for top search results positions, every little step counts.