One thing we're becoming more vocal about in 2020 is the fact that running an outdated theme isn't just "not optimal", it's actively working against you.
We recommend signing up for the Feast Plugin so that you can stay up to date more regularly moving forward.
This isn't a penalty in the sense that you're not being docked points for how you're running the theme, but the net effect is the same.
The best way to think about this is that the maximum potential score you can achieve has increased, but your score hasn't.
For example, if in 2018 you achieved a 80/90 score and were ranking, in 2019 the score was changed to 100, but you remained at 80.
So now you're at 80/100.
And in 2020, the goal posts were moved again so now that potential maximum score is 130.
And now you're at 80/130.
In 2021, more developments come along and the score is now out of 200.
And now you're at 80/200.
You haven't actually moved down, but more and more sites have updated and responded to changes and are now scoring 110/200, 150/200, and 170/200.
It's not that you're worse than you were 3 years ago. But there are more people that are better than you at maximizing their score.
This is simply a fact of life, and it's not isolated to digital businesses and themes. If you purchased Florida real estate along the coast years ago, you're going to eventually be flooded out. It's not that your house is worse than it was int he past, but the landscape has changed, and you haven't changed with it.
What is a "score"?
In the digital world, and especially looking at websites trying to ranking in search engines, things that were "tolerated" before but have changed recently include:
- accessibility (not excluding protected classes)
- content relevance (on-topic)
- file size such as images (limited and expensive mobile data)
- pagespeed and response times (valuing peoples time)
- on-site navigation (user experience)
All of this can be analyzed digitally, and broken down in a number that can be used to compare against other sites. If everyone is scoring 80/100, then everyone is equal. But if 1 person is at 90/100 and everyone else is at 80/100, that one 90 is going to get the top spot.
Search engines are simply businesses who are trying to maximize user experience in order to keep users coming back to them. All they care about is ensuring that people (including you) find the answer their looking for, so that people come back to find the next answer. Their business model relies on serving ads to these people on each search.