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The Benefits of Changing Your WordPress Template: Thesis vs. Yoast

When it comes to search engine optimization, there’s a lot of emphasis put on content – keyword placement, site organization, link building – but what often gets lost in the discussion is site performance.


Issues like your site’s loading time and page errors impact how search engines view your site, and if you’re running a site with a content management system like WordPress, performance is usually closely tied to your template. Change it, and it could have a significant impact on your site’s search rank.


And of course, aesthetics play an important role in how users interact with your website. Does your current theme encourage your users to share your content on social media? Is it easy to find the latest updates to your site? What about searching for old content?


These things all factor into the “performance” of your site. The stickier that your pages are, the more likely search engines are to boost your ranking.  It’s a sign that they delivered a search result that users wanted, which is the ultimate goal.


Trial by Fire: Thesis vs. Yoast


For several months, I have been using a premium template that I purchased from ThemeForest, with the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast. The theme was aesthetically pleasing and functional and I was happy with it when I initially deployed it.


I was pleased with the results, but recently, I undertook an experiment. I had hoped to see some improvement, but I was really blown away by what I found.


My new template was from Thesis. Thesis bills itself as a simplified, user-friendly template that design novices and pros alike can use comfortably. It unites the tools needed for web development inside your browser, allowing you to makes changes and updates in an intuitive point-and-click manner. Thesis also prides itself on its aesthetics; it has a wide range of colors and themes that you can select, as well as golden ratio typography and responsive skins.


However, there is some controversy about Thesis (particularly the 2.0 release). Many find that the backend isn’t as user-friendly as the makers would like you to believe, and the terms used aren’t the standard for the industry (skins, boxes, and packages instead of starter themes, frameworks, and child themes). So for some, the switch to Thesis can mean a bit of a learning curve.


But in my case, the change paid off big time.


The Results: Thesis Wins!


Instantly after the change, my site was loading faster. Instead of falling between 1,000 and 1,750 milliseconds per page, I was hitting record lows under 1,000 milliseconds regularly. Check it out:



Google Webmaster Tools - KB Downloaded
Google Webmaster Tools – KB Downloaded

But I also noticed another immediate result that was just as important: it was making a difference with Google. The search engine was able to crawl more pages in less time. Instead of hovering below or around the 70 – 140 mark for pages crawled per day, the rate was between 140 and 210 pages per day – even regularly exceeding 210, which it hadn’t done before.



Google Webmaster Tools - Time Spent Downloading
Google Webmaster Tools – Time Spent Downloading


The change also cleared up many significant issues for the site. There was a dramatic drop in the number of total errors and page errors.


Errors Fixed
Errors Fixed

But performance wasn’t the only improvement. The built-in tools for SEO in Thesis also beat out Yoast’s by a mile, making changes to META tags automatically.



Thesis SEO Analysis
Thesis SEO Analysis

So, if you’re looking for ways to improve your site’s performance and SEO, it’s worth taking a look at your WordPress template – even if you’re totally satisfied with the one you’re using now.


The key is to track the results. Do you see a measurable difference? You don’t need to only look at the metrics I’ve listed above, but also things like newsletter sign-ups, conversion rates, and time on page. Then compare the before and after, and decide whether you’re happy with the change.


Decide to make a change in your site’s template for the New Year? Send me the results. I’d love to see what you uncover.

2 thoughts on “The Benefits of Changing Your WordPress Template: Thesis vs. Yoast”

  1. Tom, thanks for your very thorough write-up. I run the website for my wife’s blog and we’ve been using Thesis. I’m still learning SEO techniques and I kept wondering if I made a bad choice buying Thesis. You make an excellent point that the speed of a page is very important for SEO.

    1. Thanks Jason! Appreciate the comments. Thesis has a steep learning curve, but I think the framework is very sound technically. In a world where we have tons of cheap templates out there, thesis is a refreshing change… even though it takes more work to get it looking really good.

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