WordPress SEO without a plugin is a topic I’ve seen floated quite a bit recently. It’s actually part of a growing trend caused by misinformation and half-truths. If you think that disabling your WordPress SEO plugin in favor of something like this is a good idea, I think you might be a bit misinformed.
Let’s break down the reasons why doing WordPress SEO without a plugin is a really lousy idea.
Code in Themes is No More Efficient than Code in Plugins
If you think that moving away from an SEO plugin is somehow going to improve your site performance, you’re wrong. Unless you’re using an SEO plugin that is poorly coded or loaded with bloated features, switching to a method that runs inside your theme’s functions.php file is not going to help anything.
Our friend Austin Gunter wrote a great post about plugins and site speed. In his post, he dispels some of the myths that have been floating around the WordPress community for years. Basically, the quality of the code is what matters. Where the code lives or how much of it exists are not the problems. If you’re worried about performance, make sure you’re using a high-quality SEO plugin.
If You Switch Themes, You’ll Lose Your SEO Settings
One of the primary reasons that SEO plugins exist is because SEO is not something that should be directly tied to the theme you’re using at the moment. Your WordPress theme should handle only the most basic functionality related to displaying your content. Themes are not meant to be applications and they’re not meant to do tons of complex stuff. That’s what plugins are for.
Most websites switch their themes fairly regularly. Design trends change, company goals change… lots of things change. If you load up your theme with a ton of custom functionality such as SEO or custom post types, it’s going to be that much more difficult (and expensive) to switch themes. Do you really want to create more work for yourself and waste money? No, I didn’t think so.
The Non-Plugin Solutions All Really Suck
So if you somehow get past the first two issues and decide you don’t really care about them, there’s still one big problem. All of the WordPress SEO without a plugin solutions being passed around right now are useless. This one in particular is completely ridiculous. Let’s go through the code and see what each bit actually does…
Meta Keywords? Are you F#)%ing Kidding Me?
That’s right. The first part of this non-plugin SEO solution is for adding meta keywords to your website. Awesome! Apparently we’ve gotten in a time machine and headed back to the year 2002. I wonder why nobody bothered to tell me. Not only that, if you don’t manually set your own batch of keywords, it’s going to pull every tag and category on your site and blast them into the meta keywords tag. Kick ass.
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Oh Joy! Auto-Generated Page Descriptions!
So as we continue through this awesome code snippet, we find that now our site will be automatically generating descriptions for every piece of content on the site. In fact, all of your archive pages will be displaying duplicate descriptions pulled from your global site description in the WP Admin settings. If you know anything about SEO, you know that the meta description is one of the most important parts of your content. You need to hand craft these things to catch the attention of people in the SERPs.
Blasting out auto-generated descriptions with no ability to override them isn’t going to do anything for you. In fact, it’ll probably wind up hurting you. If you’re not going to bother writing unique descriptions, you may as well let Google generate them for you. I can guarantee you they’ve put more thought into it than this.
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NoIndex All The Things! #Winning
This just keeps getting better. Choosing which content to noindex is a very delicate process and needs to be handled by someone who understands the site content, architecture, and audience. This is not something you want to just set and forget. I should also point out that this script has again completely ignored custom post types. If you use this, don’t be shocked if large segments of your site start to fall out of the index…
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Oh Fantastic. Now We’re Automating Page Titles?
I’m seriously glad we’re at the end of this script because I don’t think I can take much more of this. First of all, WordPress will already generate readable page titles out of the box and slapping things like “Tag Archive” into them isn’t going to help you rank. Second of all, if you think that site-wide automated page titles and SEO belong in the same sentence, I think you need to read this. There’s a reason Yoast’s plugin puts so much emphasis on the page title. It’s pretty damn important.
All the options and features in the most popular SEO plugins aren’t there by happenstance or for shits and giggles. They exist because they need to be there in order for you to rank your content. Applying the same options to every page title on your site is even more insane than automating your meta descriptions. Not only do you need to write titles that grab attention in the SERPs, you need to make sure you’ve got your keyword phrase added correctly too.
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Well, I hope that I’ve convinced you to stick with one of the popular SEO plugins instead of trying to implement a WordPress SEO without a plugin solution. I realize this post has been kind of harsh and I honestly hope that the original author isn’t too offended by it, but I think it was warranted.
If people start switching over to solutions like this it could hurt their business. Real people could lose real money and I think that’s worth getting a little upset about. If you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I promise the next post will be less ranty.