We love Genesis. We use it all the time and we encourage people to use it almost daily. Generally speaking, the Genesis framework is the most SEO-friendly WordPress theme framework on the market. It’s got baked-in Schema.org data, semantic HTML5 markup, and a ton of great features that make doing on-page SEO a lot less of a chore.
Now that I’ve pushed that out of the way… I honestly believe it’s time for the Genesis SEO settings to be deprecated. I know, I know… the Genesis settings are great and they helped your site get more visitors. It’s true, the Genesis SEO settings are above average and they’re certainly better than having no SEO options on your site at all. Unfortunately, they’re just not on the same level as WordPress SEO by Yoast and to be perfectly honest, they never will be.
It’s no secret that I don’t think SEO belongs in a theme and Genesis is no exception. In my opinion, the Genesis SEO settings are an inferior product and if you’re using on them on your site you’re missing out on some potential organic search traffic. In fact, depending on how your site is set up, you could be missing out on quite a bit.
I also think that having the SEO settings included in Genesis gives people the false impression that all they need to do is switch to Genesis in order to have perfect on-page SEO. While switching to Genesis is a great first step, it’s certainly not the end of the road and removing the SEO settings would help clarify that a bit more. Now, I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m just spouting a bunch of fallacies, so let’s run through five REAL reasons why the Genesis SEO settings need to be removed.
#1 Genesis SEO is Infrequently Updated
Anyone who does SEO for a living will tell you: SEO changes very frequently. What works today might not work tomorrow and you need to keep your finger on the pulse if you want to be successful. The most popular WordPress SEO plugin, WordPress SEO by Yoast is updated on a very consistent basis to keep up with changes in Google’s quality guidelines.
In contrast, Genesis SEO is almost never updated. The parent theme itself isn’t updated all that often and the SEO portion of the framework receives even less attention. In my opinion, this alone is reason enough to avoid using Genesis SEO.
#2 No Feedback for On-Page Optimization
One of the biggest issues I have with Genesis SEO, and some SEO plugins for that matter, is that it offers no real feedback on how well an author has implemented on-page SEO. The only freely available plugin that does this correctly is WordPress SEO by Yoast.
For someone who is new to SEO and doesn’t understand how to optimize a post, getting a green light in Yoast is something that makes perfect sense to them. For an SEO novice, having the feedback directly in front of them so that they know they’re doing a good job can make all the difference in the world.
Without this feedback, a publisher has to make their best guess on optimization using things they’ve read on blogs and forums or they have to depend on an external tool such as Moz for feedback. Having the data directly in front of them on the WordPress post edit screen is invaluable. Not having this kind of feedback is one of the biggest shortcomings of Genesis SEO.
#3 Improper Canonical URL Handling
One of the most common issues we’ve seen when performing our WordPress SEO audits on sites which are using Genesis SEO is that the canonical URLs are not implemented correctly. Generally the implementation is fine, but there are a few instances where things are not set up quite right.
For example, on paginated posts Genesis SEO does not create the necessary rel=”next” and rel=”prev” links which makes it much less likely that Google will pay attention to the content on the additional pages of the post. Genesis SEO also doesn’t handle paginated archives very well and has no option for no-indexing paginated results. There is an option to add a canonical URL for the archives, but on more than one occasion I’ve seen this fail and cause weird archive indexation problems. At this point in time, a noindex tag seems to be the most reliable way to deal with paginated archive content.
These might sound like minor details, and for many sites they are, but on some larger sites this kind of a mistake can mean the difference between 10,000 visits per month for a set of keywords and 1,000 visits per month. If you’re serious about capturing as much traffic as possible, this minor issue can quickly become a real concern.
#4 No Sitemap Functionality
Having a sitemap is still very important for Google in terms of site crawlability and indexation accuracy. If you want Google to crawl your site correctly and on a consistent basis, you really need an XML sitemap to help guide them through. This is especially true on large, complicated sites. Because Genesis SEO is built into the theme, it doesn’t make sense to include any kind of sitemap functionality…. but this is yet another reason why it makes no sense to include SEO settings of any kind in a theme.
Tying your sitemap to the rest of your SEO data makes perfect sense which is why Yoast has included it in his plugin. By making the sitemap and other SEO data related, it is much easier to control what content is being indexed by Google. By simply changing meta tag settings and choosing options for what is included in your sitemap, you can quickly deal with any indexation problems on your site. Not having the ability to control these things is another huge reason why Genesis SEO should be deprecated.
#5 Limited Support for Custom Post Types & Taxonomies
The final reason why you shouldn’t use Genesis SEO is that it has very limited support for custom post types and taxonomies. Custom post types and taxonomies are essential for any complicated WordPress site and being able to have granular control over their SEO data is very important as well. Not all post types and taxonomies are created equally. While many should be indexed and included within a sitemap, there are also types of content that should be hidden from Google’s view due to their thin and/or duplicate nature.
Let’s use the Simple URLs plugin as an example. Simple URLs creates a custom post type called “surl” to manage redirected links. By default, this post type will be crawlable, indexable, and will show up in Google search results. With Genesis SEO, there’s really not a whole lot you can do about this issue and if you’re using Simple URLs to manage your affiliate links this is definitely no bueno. On the other hand, If you’re using WordPress SEO by Yoast, you can add a setting to noindex the post type. Plus, you can use the “edit files” menu to block Google’s access to the post type via the robots.txt file and you can also remove it from inclusion in your XML sitemap.
This is just one example of the issues that crop up when dealing with custom post types and taxonomies with regard to SEO. There are also lots of other similar problems with things like eComerce plugins, slider plugins, and just about any type of plugin that creates a custom post type or taxonomy.
Does This Mean Genesis SEO Sucks?
No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Genesis actually has one of the best implementations of SEO settings within a theme; it’s just not on par with the best SEO plugins anymore. It isn’t being updated frequently enough, it can’t be easily extended by add-on plugins, and it’s missing a lot of the modern features that people expect in a WordPress SEO plugin.
The creators of Genesis did a great job building out the feature set, but the time for including stuff like this in themes has passed. It’s time for them to deprecate the feature and start moving people over to something like WordPress SEO by Yoast. WooThemes made this move a couple years ago and it’s allowed them to focus on what they do best: building themes and plugins. I think it’s well-beyond time for StudioPress to do the same thing.
So what about you? Are you currently using the Genesis SEO settings? Have you been happy with the results? How do you think they stack up against plugins like WordPress SEO? Do you think they should stay in the framework? Let me know in the comments and let’s get a real discussion going about this!
Photo Credit: mr rudeforth