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How Bad Is It To Have An Old Theme On Your Most Profitable Money Sites?

Discussion in 'BlackHat Lounge' started by BreaknBrix, Apr 28, 2016.

  1. BreaknBrix

    BreaknBrix Power Member

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    I've seen variations of this question come up over the years and it seems like a topic people don't wanna touch.
    I know I personally don't like answering this question because:

    a) I don't know.
    b) When I was a noob I was told (repeatedly & consistently) that it's bad to make any major changes to an established site.
    c) Half of me thinks it really shouldn't matter as long as the new theme is good. The other half thinks it might be risky.

    We have 2 fairly old sites I'm focused on. One is almost 5 years the others 4+ years old. They share the same theme which was created in 2010. The reason I used it on our 2nd authority site is because the first site ranked much easier than I expected at the time. I was very naive and thought "maybe we lucked out with a good theme?" But it's been 2-3 years since the developer dropped it and stopped updates. So naturally we've paid quite a bit just to add "new" features to the core code.

    But now in 2016 I'm tired of working with these 2 sites. It's a free theme. It gives too many errors during formatting. It lacks too many features. I had a developer look at it a few months ago who said the coding was really bad. And I believe him cause although I don't know coding I can compare it to other sites and the coding is very long and sloppy looking.

    Also, although these sites are "diversified" with 3-4 primary sources of traffic, both sites get more than half their traffic from organic. And one weird thing I've noticed, but NONE of my top 5 organic competitors (in either niche) has changed their theme in all the years I've been in both these industries. So their sites have the same old look and feel to them. It's weird because we know our top competitors make good money. But they will not change their themes. I can only recall 1 who's had a major make over from a design standpoint, but still kept the same theme.

    I guess my real issue is... I just don't know coding well. What I do know is when these sites were young and I use to pay coders on fiver.... at least 4/5 would say "you should really considering changing your theme cause the core code blah blah."

    I'm curious how other marketers look at this. Security isn't an issue as we use securi and they're great. The sites rank great. They convert great. But they do look very outdated. The code looks like a mess. I have frequent problems with formatting everytime I add new pages things don't line up. Then I go back and redo them and suddenly it works (or never does). Many times I update plugins and the site goes haywire. I doubt there's 1 coder on here who'd look at the core code and say "I think you should keep this". With that said, I've delt with these issues forever, they've almost become sentimental in a twisted way and I'm curious how much it REALLY matters to have outdated themes. I keep going back & forth cause these are my babies, I've nurtured them from birth and I'm just afraid to make any major changes.

    What do you guys think? Are there any marketers on here stupid as me using free, outdated themes on their primary money sites?

    -BB
     
  2. kittykut

    kittykut Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    in my opinion you should always keep and up to date theme because
    1. it adds authority
    2. it looks nice and updated
    3. i feel like updating your theme makes users feel engaged
     
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  3. crazy4cs

    crazy4cs Junior Member

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    I've changed a site's theme over the years and it did well. The only care that you would need to take and pay attention to is that it doesn't create any new pages (some themes have some modules and shit, you know bells & whistles) so you'd turn off the unnecessary stuff from the theme's settings.

    As long as the output and code is clean, it should not affect rankings. It might dance 1-3 positions a bit (very rare) as SEs are adjusting to the new navigation and changes but it won't drop as long as the pages on site are good (with same URL structure).

    I also assume that your theme might not be mobile optimized since it's 5-6 years old? As per today's standards, it should be. Not just for the SE benefits but also for lot of mobile visitors.
     
  4. RobinB

    RobinB Registered Member

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    Also, The only care that you would need to take and pay attention.
     
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  5. Zwielicht

    Zwielicht Moderator Staff Member Moderator Jr. VIP

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    I use free themes for a few sites, although I create child themes from them and modify them as I see fit.

    I think many people are paranoid about changing their old themes because they're under the notion that it'll ruin their rankings or it'll be ill-received among their returning visitors. As far as the former is concerned, I've changed themes on established websites many times, although I can't say any of them lost their rankings after the change. However, most of these "established" websites I've worked belong to small local businesses or individuals that weren't doing so well in the SERPs to begin with.

    The latter is understandable, although creating a modern version of the old design rather than a completely new design should be less of a shock to the returning visitors. For example, take a look at the new Black Hat World; it was designed to look and behave like a more modern version of this current forum.
     
  6. roguerabbit

    roguerabbit Regular Member

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    You can even use a splash screen welcoming returning users ( if you track ) to your new updated website, telling them you are responding to several user request to refresh the look. This will make it seem as if you care ( which maybe you even do :) , otherwise you would not have been worried about this right ? )
     
  7. Carlosse

    Carlosse Junior Member

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    Change a theme is kinda lottery if you don´t really know what you are doing...titles, tags, heading, post formatting, all might be so different is the new theme, you can see drop in rankings. Actually, that would be something normal to expect

    some other times, you might get better rankings. that´s common in the long haul tho.

    old themes are light, they load quick and they are not overcoded like new fancy themes.

    That being said, new features and visual effect are way better with new themes, so it´s all about your judgment and the niche you are into.

    You can always give it a shot, keep a backup of your old site.

    Best
     
  8. Conor

    Conor Elite Member

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    If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Or at least in this case, don't mess with a working formula if you can't afford to lose it.

    Just my 2c.
     
  9. Writingman1421

    Writingman1421 Registered Member

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    Also, The only care that you would need to take and pay attention to is that it doesn't create any new pages.
     
  10. Floopa75

    Floopa75 Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    If the code is bad something that may be a possibility is you could get an established programmer to re-create the theme. Have him make it prepped perfectly for SEO and have it interchangeable for when you want to make your own changes in the future. You could also request the programmer to integrate different color schemes, fonts, etc. Whatever you want. It might be a little bit pricey to have it done right, but I'm sure you'll make it back fairly quickly.