Which Is Better: An SEO Plugin or an SEO Optimized Theme?

This past week one of our SEO Fundamentals members asked a question about an issue that confuses many site owners. The question raises an important detail that impacts too many sites. Because of that, I want to share that question and my answer with you.

Member Pete posted: “I am using the Yoast SEO Plugin, and the theme I use has an SEO option for each page. Could there be conflicts? Can they both be used?”

My answer: Don’t use your theme’s SEO settings! SEO features are a great marketing tool for theme designers, but the reality is that you don’t want your content optimization and SEO settings tied together with your theme.

What happens when you change your theme in the future?

All of those meta descriptions and SEO titles that you carefully entered into your theme’s SEO box vanish.

When you use an SEO plugin, your optimizations survive any theme change. That’s why you should always use an SEO plugin in place of your theme’s native SEO settings.

As a side note, I use the Genesis theme framework on most of my websites. Genesis advertises itself as being “Search Engine Optimized,” and it is. However, when Genesis detects that you’ve installed an SEO plugin, it helpfully hides its own SEO settings. I love this approach and wish more theme developers would follow this lead.

While we’re on this subject, I should also address a related issue that pops up with some regularity.

You only need one SEO plugin! Using two or more SEO plugins will not get your website better rankings. In fact, it might do the opposite. With multiple SEO plugins active, you have no idea how they’re interacting or what kind of code they’re generating.

If you aren’t already using an SEO plugin for WordPress, install the Yoast plugin (the free version will do everything you need to get started).

If you’re already using an SEO plugin, but you want to switch to Yoast, be sure to import your settings using the Yoast Import & Export feature. Deactivate your old plugin once you’ve completed the import.

SEO is still a big mystery to most site owners. Many people are looking for a quick fix and installing a plugin (or three) might seem like a simple solution. Unfortunately, it’s easy to go overboard and shoot yourself in the foot without realizing it.

Stick with one SEO plugin and use it.

If you aren’t sure how to get started, my new SEO Fundamentals for WordPress course can help.

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2 thoughts on “Which Is Better: An SEO Plugin or an SEO Optimized Theme?”

  1. May you explain more why you said “Using two or more SEO plugins will not get your website better rankings”? To be honest, I am thinking to use one more SEO plugin for my website, and I am really confuse about it.

    1. Consider what an SEO plugin actually does. It makes alterations to how WordPress publishes posts and pages. It allows you to tell search engines which pages should and shouldn’t be indexed. It allows you to set a custom search title and description. These are all technical modifications to your website. The Yoast SEO plugin accomplishes all of these tasks with ease. There’s really not much an additional SEO plugin could do to improve your technical SEO once Yoast is installed. But, it’s possible that an additional plugin could break things. And if something were to go wrong, it would certainly complicate your effort to debug your SEO problems.

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