I find myself becoming more and more defensive of WordPress SEO plugins, my own in particular. When people make jokes about them I tend to get angry, which is perhaps a stupid reaction, but it made me think: why would people make jokes about them, are they that stupid? What does the future hold for those plugins and what do they really do?
So I went and installed and played with a ton of SEO plugins. My conclusion: hardly any of the new ones are original or truly add value, but they all promise heaven. The more well known free SEO plugins, including my own, have mostly overlapping feature sets, with some of them having features that others lack completely, and code quality varying highly. Some WordPress hosting companies complain about SEO plugins in general, having seen quite a few of them now I understand at least where they got the idea that SEO plugins are slow. I guess the burden is on me to show that my WordPress SEO plugin doesn’t suffer from that slowness.
Luckily, I know some hosts make people move over from other plugins to mine, and I know for a fact that this migration guide on my blog is highly visited because people get complaints from their host about All in One SEO using too much resources and wanting them to move to my WordPress SEO plugin. Some other people still swear by AIOSEO though, which is, of course, fine: to each his own.
I was truly in shock when I saw some of the newer kids on the block though. Squirrly, notably, posted about the best WordPress SEO plugins two days back and wrote:
It should, first of all, be all white-hat and be up to date with the updates that came up post Panda and Penguin (Yoast and SeoPressor for example, are outdated from this point of view).
That’s quite a bold statement to make. When I asked them on Twitter to back up their statement, as it’s close to libel in my opinion, they didn’t really come up with a suitable answer, instead referring to my page analysis functionality recommending 300 words whereas “only 80 where necessary for Google News”.
It’s obvious what the difference is between me and them, just from that statement alone: I don’t just read Google’s guidelines, I actually optimize content and I know that you need a certain bit of content in a post to be able to rank well, even in Google news. How I know? Well I’ve worked with some of the biggest newspapers in the world to optimize their content, in fact, I’m currently working on a project for the Guardian involving a lot of Google news optimization. When asked, they couldn’t tell me what they are basing their analytics on, instead answering me with this:
@yoast SEOs usually don't agree. to this, I hope you can agree :)
— Squirrly SEO Plugin (@SquirrlyHQ) April 6, 2013
But… Of course, I had to look at their plugin. Seems they’ve built a snippet preview (how original, it’s not like I didn’t add that to my SEO plugin like 2 years ago):
It doesn’t even match the look of Google’s search results even in how it looks, second, it doesn’t highlight the target keyword, which they make you put in. Funnily enough, they then do a kind of analysis on your content that looks remarkably similar to what my WordPress SEO plugin does:
The difference between that plugin and mine is that they do this “live”, which is something I’ve been pondering for a while, but the way they do it is by sending all of your data to their server all the time. Now, if they did something on their server that added value, that’d be cool, but they don’t. And after 14 days of doing this for you, they make you pay for the pleasure of doing this. Now you can get the same kind of analysis, for free, by using my WordPress SEO plugin. As far as I know, only Copyblogger’s Scribe actually adds value in what they do by sending stuff to their server, this, on the other hand, is pure nonsense.
The plugin also adds an XML sitemap. Funnily enough, you’d think that if they want to sell something they’d at least have feature parity with what the free plugins do. But their XML sitemap doesn’t even contain custom post types, nor does it support images in the XML sitemap, both standard features in my plugin.
Lastly, they offer the option to add a favicon and apple icon (remember this free plugin? you might not, it’s 5 years old).
All in all, they’re trying to use a funny looking squirrel to sell something that not just my SEO plugin but several other free WordPress SEO plugins can do for you and do better. The most shocking thing? They’ve actually gotten funding, which shows you that some people will fund anything without doing research.
This is obviously not the future, so what is?
I have a whole lot of features planned for my SEO plugin, some of which I plan to add to the free core plugin, some of which will probably be more niche and I will therefore make into premium extensions, like my Video SEO and Local SEO plugins.
Scribe has been taking great steps and been adding more and more features that actually help people optimize their content properly. SEO Ultimate has some features I think people will like a lot, and though I’d implement them differently, I very much welcome competition like that: it forces all of us to move forward.
I’m looking forward to making it easier to optimize websites technically and to optimize content, as well as keep up with all the new things Google, Bing and other search engines put out there. The future of SEO is in integrating it more into all the other stuff we do, that’s exactly what my plugin aims to do.
Would love to hear what you think should be in the future of SEO plugins!
The future of SEO plugins for WordPress is a post by Joost de Valk on Yoast - The Art & Science of Website Optimization. A good WordPress blog needs good hosting, you don't want your blog to be slow, or, even worse, down, do you? Check out my thoughts on WordPress hosting!