Step Away From the Plugin, or Why You Should Stop Letting WordPress Automate Your SEO
WordPress has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a simple blogging platform. Released in 2003, WordPress powered over 13 percent of the world’s websites by 2011. By 2015, the number had risen to 26 percent. With over 55 percent of websites opting to use no CMS at all, that put WordPress solidly in the CMS lead at a market share of 59 percent.
Today, WordPress is the CMS of choice for powerhouses like Forbes, Vogue, IFC, Sony, CNN and Georgia State University. It’s also the most popular choice for personal websites and small businesses. One of the key reasons for WordPress’ popularity is how easy it is to use, which brings us to the CMS’s most convenient and insidious feature: plugins.
SEO Plugin: Ally or Saboteur?
WordPress plugins have the potential to grant a user with little to zero coding experience the power to customize their website with minimal effort. This is a great thing and its value shouldn’t be underestimated. However, with great power comes great responsibility.
Many plugin users follow the set it and forget it mentality, trusting that their plugins will continue to function flawlessly forever. The thing is, plugins are flawed; some of them get updated infrequently and erratically and some of them simply break, for seemingly no reason. Most of the time these issues are benign and the user is none the wiser, but in some cases, the results can be borderline catastrophic. Especially when it comes to SEO.
Automation Assumption = SEO Struggle
SEO plugins claim to be able to almost completely automate website optimization. Posting content? Just fill in the little boxes as directed until all of the indicators turn green. Instant optimization! Of course you can rely on your plugin to create, implement and update your robots.txt and XML sitemap without failing every time your site is updated. Instant and reliable optimization!
Except, not so much. SEO is based on the desires and actions of living, breathing internet users. This means that what worked in SEO last week may be obsolete next week, depending on how the whims of your intended audience have changed. Even with regular updates, an SEO plugin is going to struggle to keep up.
This isn’t to say that SEO plugins are useless. As a supplemental tool to active SEO, they can be incredibly useful. As with pretty much anything, moderation is key when relying on plugins to make onsite optimization easier and more effective.
Ultimately, the only way to ensure that you’re consistently following SEO best practices is to continuously educate yourself on the latest changes and adjust accordingly. Or, to make the most of your time, hire a reputable agency to do it for you so you can focus on the parts of your site that really matter to you.