Influential, daunting and often mysterious, site speed is on the forefront of every SEO-conscious business owner’s mind. Site speed plays a huge role in the way users interact with/convert on your site and the perceived value it has to Google or other search engines. Choosing the right theme is the first step that any Shopify store owner should take when considering how to optimize their store for site speed and search engines.

What to look for in an SEO-friendly Shopify Theme

Generally, a simpler site will have less code, which takes less time for a browser to read, comprehend and visualize therefore allowing for a faster load time. But this doesn’t mean you need a plain Jane site if you want  to level up your site’s speed. The key that we are looking for here is efficiency: optimized pictures (no more than necessary, with a file size that is just right), clean code with fewer files, and no unnecessary or unused JavaScript. Not sure how to assess these factors on your own? We did a deep dive into Shopify’s themes to identify the best Shopify optimized, fast-loading themes. 

Best Shopify Themes for SEO

Methodology: Site speed insights have been drawn from theme demo pages, which represent a baseline for speed on the theme. Site speed can be further optimized through customization, but it can also be slowed down with over-customization like extra widgets, large category/product portfolios, heavy plugins, or large images. Site speed varies from page to page, but our recommendations are based on the performance of the home page, which often has the most customization. Our team tested themes in Google’s Page Speed Insights and a third party page speed analyzer, GTmetrix. Scores may vary slightly each time a test is run based on external factors. 

Best Free Shopify Themes for Speed & SEO

These free Shopify themes boast impressive desktop AND mobile scores (out of 100) on Google’s very own page speed insights analyzer. All themes listed in this section are offered through Shopify’s theme store. 

Boundless

Boundless Shopify Theme
  • Page Speed Insights Score: 70 for mobile; 92 for desktop
  • GTmetrix PageSpeed Score: 87%
  • GTmetrix YSlow Score: 94%

Summary: This theme is great for businesses with an abundance of photos to showcase. The minimal, photo-first design tells a visual story for users that is easy to digest and very eye-catching. On mobile, this theme was docked for having some unused JavaScript/CSS and not placing the JavaScript/CSS efficiently every time. In addition, Google has suggested that some images be sized down.. On desktop, the text is not visible until the browser has been able to retrieve the web fonts, and scrolling performance could be further optimized.

Simple (Light)

Simple Light Shopify  Theme
  • Page Speed Insights Score: 81 for mobile; 98 for desktop
  • GTmetrix PageSpeed Score: 97%
  • GTmetrix YSlow Score: 95%

Summary: The name says it all; this theme is straightforward and get-to-the-point. Upon landing on the homepage, users are immediately greeted with a showcase of featured products. From a user experience standpoint AND a site-speed standpoint, the Simple theme is #winning with their no-nonsense design. This theme does have a small amount of JavaScript and CSS, however, that could be further optimized. Simple is also plagued by web fonts that take some time to retrieve and load.

Minimal (Modern)

Minimal Modern Shopify Theme
  • Page Speed Insights Score: 80 for mobile; 97 for desktop
  • GTmetrix PageSpeed Score: 97%
  • GTmetrix YSlow Score: 95%

Summary: Sleek, modern and (dare we say) sexy; the Minimal theme is just enough to capture your audience’s attention, but not so much that they can’t focus on the beauty of your product. The minimal design is a great option for businesses who place a heavy emphasis on product and lifestyle photography. Minimal was docked a few points for web fonts loading slowly, non-optimized JavaScript, and a few bad requests like 404’s. However, once this theme has been imported into your site, you should be able to minimize the amount of bad requests, effectively eliminating this factor in page speed. 

Debut (Default)

Debut Default Shopify Theme
  • Page Speed Insights Score: 81 for mobile; 98 for desktop
  • GTmetrix PageSpeed Score: 96%
  • GTmetrix YSlow Score: 96%

Summary: Debut is slightly more text heavy than other themes we’ve seen so far on this list, making it an excellent choice for stores with products that require a little extra explanation. This theme also has a great section for testimonials on the homepage. We highly recommend taking advantage of this, because social proof is real, y’all! Debut has similar site speed blockers as other sites: CSS/JavaScript that could be further optimized, and web fonts that take time to load. 

Narrative (Warm)

  • Page Speed Insights Score: 82 for mobile; 98 for desktop
  • GTmetrix PageSpeed Score: 87%
  • GTmetrix YSlow Score: 93%

Summary: At the intersection of persuasive copy and beautiful design, you’ll find Shopify’s Narrative theme. As you scroll through the home page of this theme, you’ll likely notice what we notice: thoughtful design seems to be woven throughout every nook and cranny of this site. And it’s all done without compromising the speed and usability of the site! It can’t get any better, right? Wrong. Narrative also has one of the most beautiful responsive templates we’ve seen in awhile. No element is left behind on the transition to mobile, making this one of the best Shopify responsive themes for SEO. 

Narrative is another theme that experiences standard page speed issues like unused JavaScript on mobile and web font load time. On GTmetrix, the demo site was penalized heavily for having images served from different URLs, but this is not something that is theme-specific.

Fastest paid Shopify themes

Kingdom (Prince)

Kingdom Prince Shopify Theme
  • Page Speed Insights Score: 86 for mobile; 99 for desktop
  • GTmetrix PageSpeed Score: 96%
  • GTmetrix YSlow Score: 91%
  • Price: $180

Summary: The Kingdom theme uses a state-of-the art block design to guide the user through the page. This design places an emphasis on photography, with a few different areas for text that are built into the default design. Site owners using this design call it “unique”, “ultra-sleek” and “easy to work with”. On top of that, customer service from the developer is known to be top-notch; what more can you ask for? A few small tweaks could be made to further optimize the page-load time, like optimizing scrolling performance with passive listeners and JavaScript. 

Cascade (Bright)

Cascade Bright Shopify Theme
  • Page Speed Insights Score: 79 for mobile; 98 for desktop
  • GTmetrix PageSpeed Score: 97%
  • GTmetrix YSlow Score: 92%
  • Price: $180

Summary: Cascade is a bright, colorful theme full of playful design elements like color blocks and hover effects. While this style isn’t for every store, it’s a great option for those targeting a younger demographic of artfully thoughtful consumers. With an impressive mobile page speed score, you can sleep soundly at night knowing that the 96% of 18-29 year old consumers with smartphones are having a great experience on your site. Make sure to serve all images from the same URL when you import your own pictures, as this site was docked for the same images hailing from different URLs. 

Plak

Plak Paid Shopify Theme
  • PageSpeed Insights Score: 72 for mobile; 94 for desktop
  • GTmetrix PageSpeed Score: 100%
  • GTmetrix YSlow Score: 96%
  • Price: $296-$595

Summary: Plak theme is not sold through the Shopify theme store, but can be purchased at PlakTheme.com. It claims to be the fastest theme in 2020, and while we do agree that it’s up there with the competitors, its score in Google PageSpeed insights make it difficult to draw this conclusion. Nonetheless, the Plak theme does have its pros, including a decent site speed score (just not the best) and an easy-to-navigate design. The theme is designed with conversions in mind, which is another great selling point. Is it worth the money? Potentially. Depending on who your audience is, this could be the perfect site for you. Google page speed insights detects unused JavaScript and CSS on mobile, which is fairly normal. 

Overall Winners for Fastest Themes on Shopify

A brief glance at the sheer number of free versus paid themes might make you think that free themes ultimately take the cake when it comes to site speed — and you would be right! In the sites that we analyzed (not all shown here), the free themes had much higher scores than the paid, especially on mobile. There was one paid theme that stood out, however, which we have included in our overall winners for themes with the fastest site speed on Shopify.

Kingdom (Prince)

We simply could not leave this out of the top three due to its highly impressive mobile score. In a digital world where 4.2 billion internet users are on their phones, mobile is everything! While Kingdom does come with a price tag, it might just be worth it to have a site that is truly mobile-first. 

Narrative (Warm)

Narrative has just about everything you could ask for in a theme as an SEO: optimized site-speed, lots of indexable content, a great user experience on desktop or mobile, and plenty of room for categorization/personalization. That makes Narrative one of our top picks for the best Shopify template themes for SEO. And it’s FREE!

Debut

Debut is another top pick for SEO-friendly themes due to its incredible page speed stats and abundance of on-page content. We love the way that this theme balances imagery and text in a way that is streamlined, functional and elevated all at the same time.