I'm a web designer and I'd like to make a custom wordpress theme for my upcoming blog. The template is already made in photoshop but I need a good starting point. I don't have too much experience with Wordpress but I want something that is SEO friendly which I can edit without risking getting poor search results.

I Know about Starkers and that there are other blank themes out there, but are they good for SEO?

  • I removed the request for opinions on the theme you purchased as that is not allowed here.
    – John Conde
    Aug 29, 2014 at 20:00
  • @JohnConde why not?
    – Damien
    Aug 29, 2014 at 20:02
  • 1
    Opinionated questions and reviews are not on-topic here.
    – John Conde
    Aug 29, 2014 at 20:03
  • And to clarify why opinionated questions are not looked well upon here, they basically just degrade into endless blather. And the reality is a Google search for “favorite WordPress theme” will keep you busy for days. Instead, check out my answer. And perhaps download some themes you see that you like to compare/contrast how people do it. Aug 30, 2014 at 4:15

5 Answers 5


The theme, per sé, does not matter for SEO as themes are not a ranking factor nor a concept that search engines care about. So choosing an existing theme, editing an existing theme, or creating one from scratch really have no meaning here.

HTML/semantic markup is a ranking factor so making sure you optimize that code is important so how well you write/structure your code will potentially affect your rankings. It's too broad of a topic to cover here but it is covered well enough in this question to get you started.

  • But the HTML you are talking about is included in a theme so I guess that gives it some importance. I can write a theme from scratch and include no H1, title and alt and I'm sure that won't rank as good as a theme that already has those in place.
    – Damien
    Sep 1, 2014 at 9:05
  • @Damien Duh. If you know heading tags are important why wouldn;t you add them? Would you try to sabotage yourself?
    – John Conde
    Sep 1, 2014 at 12:44
  • You didn't get my point, I was saying that the theme should be important as it contains things out of the box (SEO related) that someone who writes from scratch may not know about.
    – Damien
    Sep 1, 2014 at 19:05
  • @Damien But you're also assuming whomever wrote the theme had SEO in mind when they wrote it. Not every one does and some who do know nothing about SEO. You have no guarantee that any SEO theme is good from an SEO perspective without inspecting it yourself. But if you can do that you can write your own SEO friendly theme.
    – John Conde
    Sep 2, 2014 at 0:43
  • And that's why I was asking if the theme I purchased is good for this purpose.
    – Damien
    Sep 2, 2014 at 11:51

A theme is simply a pile of code. It’s just a recipe to pull together the content for a web page. Whether it is SEO capable or not is not a factor of whether the theme is custom or not. That concept is meaningless. What is meaningful is your knowledge of how to code in HTML, your understanding of SEO best practices and how you apply that to your theme.

Now if you are still unsure, you might honestly be in over your head already. That’s okay. If that is the case—and heck, even if it is not the case—and you still want to go ahead with this plan I would suggest that instead of coding a theme 100% from scratch, that you simply take an existing theme—such as one of the themes already built into WordPress—copy it and basically deconstruct it, hack it & reconstruct it to suit your needs.

It might seem like a daunting task, but it’s my preference to not really “reinvent the wheel” when dealing with coding as much as look at other “wheels” others have made to see what I need to do to create my own variant “wheel.”

  • That's basically what I've started doing. I've stated that I already purchased a theme and planned to modify it but that bit got erased :( Anyway, I'm planning to leave most of the HTML in the theme and erase all the CSS so I can write my own in order to get it looking like my PSD template.
    – Damien
    Sep 1, 2014 at 9:02

Wordpress is seo friendly CMS and most popular due to ease of use and seo friendly nature.

Creating a template is good idea to re-design site. If template is written properly with wordpress norms and guidelines, then it will be seo friendly.

I recommend when designing theme for wordpress, follow strict guidelines and also use all the elements required to do OnPage SEO. Proper use of HTML tags and attributes such as heading tags, alt attributes is necessary.


sorry but "editing" and "from scratch" don't go together in my vocabulary. Either you design a theme "from scratch" or you edit an existing one.

And yes: depending on how you look at it, the theme matters a lot since it's the template where content and html meet – so all H-Tags and Alt-Tags and even the order, how content is loaded is defined here.

My recommendation: edit an existing theme (of course!) but not 'from scratch'

  • By from scratch I meant erasing the CSS and writing my own. Sorry I should've explained better.
    – Damien
    Sep 1, 2014 at 9:06
  • ok I see – thank you for the clarification. However I would still not recommend "erasing the CSS" but that's of course your decision… Sep 1, 2014 at 12:30

Here it is in a nutshell. First you'd need to save your PSD template as web images and HTML. Rename the HTML files to PHP files. Match the PHP files to the names of WordPress template files (header, footer, index, etc). Insert the WordPress specific PHP code into those files.

Since you don't know WordPress, best start at http://codex.wordpress.org/Theme_Development

As for SEO, most free and many premium templates I've seen have optimization issues, most common is misuse of header tags on each page.

The Home or Front Page should have the site title & description as H1 and H2 tags. Posts listed on the Home or Front Page should use the H3 tag and sidebar titles should use the H4 tag (WordPress uses H2 by default so you have to specify this in functions.php).

Posts and Pages should have the post/page title as the h1 tag, not the site title.

There's quite a bit into writing a proper WordPress theme that is SEO optimized, so doing it your first time by yourself is going to take awhile... :( Maybe I should do a tutorial.

  • Well, I'm noobish when it comes to wordpress but I've worked with it before (editing themes). What I was worried about was properly editing a theme so it doesn't affect SEO, a subject where I really have very little experience.
    – Damien
    Sep 1, 2014 at 9:09

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