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There are various different SEO plugins that are popular with web designers and SEO experts, this article aims to determine which SEO plugin is best for WordPress.
The answer is that there is no longer a need to use SEO plugins to rank in Google. Google’s algorithm and RankBrain can accurately determine the topic of a webpage and the most appropriate meta-title and meta-description to show in the results.
This allows Google to tailor the titles and descriptions in the results to exactly match the user intent, resulting in a better search experience and higher click through rates.
This might sound counter-intuitive, so let’s explore it in more detail.
Why Do People Use SEO Plugins?
We feel that people are stuck in the mindset that if they don’t add an SEO plugin then they just won’t rank at all, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The main reason that SEO plugins were popular in the past was that it allowed you to easily set the meta-title and description so that you could control what would be seen on the results page.
However, Google has advanced way beyond that reality and as you’re probably aware will often ignore any meta title or description that you’ve set and will choose what it believes is a more appropriate choice of wording.
This really renders the process of setting these parameters obsolete, since what Google is aiming to do is to match the content on your page to the search intent of the user.
This results in the user finding exactly what they’re looking for, and if your page answers that query, then they are more likely to click through to your webpage than if your rigid choice of title and description doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Since you’re trusting Google to deliver visitors to your site, and Google knows more about its users and their intent than you do, then it makes perfect sense to trust the whole process to Google.
What Problems Can SEO Plugins Cause?
Over time as more and more SEO plugins have hit the market, they have fallen into the age-old trap of trying to win market share by “out-featuring” each other.
That is to say they have added more and more features, more and more options, and more and more bells and whistles to their products to try and make it a more attractive choice than the others.
However, what this has resulted in is a plugin that was very simple to set up and use, that has become bloated, complicated, and very complex to understand and use.
Because of the number of options and settings that are now incorporated into these plugins you can inadvertently choose the wrong options and actually damage the performance of your website.
One obvious example of this that we’ve seen recently was a section in the SEO plugin that had set the archives (category pages) to “no-index”, along with some other sections of the site.
This resulted in Google not indexing any of the category pages, and since these were the only places on this particular website where the posts could be accessed – all of the posts disappeared from Google, taking the number of indexed pages from c.150 to around 35!
One simple mistake in the SEO settings caused a massive drop in rankings and traffic.
There’s no need to take this risk or face this problem if you simply stop using SEO plugins of any kind and let Google do its thing.
What Other Problems Can These Plugins Cause?
We’re not going to say that this is a problem just caused by SEO plugins, it applies to all plugins, but we often see websites where the designer has stuck in literally dozens and dozens of all kinds of plugins.
Sometimes some of them are there just to achieve some tiny, really minor effect that will have no impact on the user experience or the performance of the website, but each one adds to the size of the site, the number of resources being used by the site, and this can seriously impact site-speed.
Site speed is really important today, not just for Google ranking, but more critically for the user experience (discover 3 easy ways to speed up your website here).
There have been many studies conducted about visitor behaviour and overall website speed, and the bottom line is that the impact of slow loading pages is that the slower your website the faster visitors will leave.
Another issue with plugins is that the more you have, the greater the chance that you’ll end up at some point with a conflict which will either stop some of the functionality of your website from working, or worse still it may completely break your website.
Many plugins end up not being supported by the original author and so it’s only a matter of time before they will cease to function as the core WordPress files update.
For these reasons you really want to cut back on un-necessary add-ons, and we feel that today SEO plugins also fit this bill.
Is Schema Important For SEO?
Schema mark-up is relatively new (in the grand scheme of things) and some SEO plugins incorporate schema in their settings, so how important is it?
Well for most websites schema really isn’t going to make a huge difference to your search performance.
If you have a mega-site featuring recipes, or news, etc then schema can really help Google to work out what each section is about and can be a useful tool to structure the information on a page and site, but for a small business website it’s really un-necessary.
Schema is still evolving, and new tags appear quite regularly. Trying to keep abreast of it and understand the correct implementation could itself become a full-time job, so really, you’re spending a lot of time to achieve not much, if anything at all.
Anecdotally we know a few people who run some pretty serious blogs, and others who manage SEO on some fairly sizeable websites, and in their opinion, schema hasn’t really had any real impact even after spending weeks and months working on it.
Google has advanced to a point where it can not only understand the topic of the content on your page, but also the intent of the person making the search.
Rather than trying to give Google a rigid title and description to display to everyone, it is a far better idea to let Google pick the content from your page that exactly matches what the person is looking for.
This will result in a higher click through rate and should translate into a higher conversion rate for you.
For these main reasons we do not believe that SEO plugins are any longer required as part of your WordPress website.