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Should your SEO be looked after by your Theme or by a Plugin?

Posted on by in Blog

A few days ago WordPress developer Joost de Valk asked his readers ‘Should Themes or Plugins do your SEO?‘. The post was in response to his development of his hugely successful WordPress SEO plugin and how accommodating many theme developers have been in allowing users choosing. Notably, Brian Gardner and Nathan Rice of StudioPress and Headway Developers have been updating their own themes so that users can opt out and use Joost’s SEO plugin to control SEO instead.

It didn’t look like Thesis developer Chris Pearson would follow suit. Those of you who followed the Chris Pearson VS Matt Mullenweg debate will know that Chris does not always agree with other developers.

Chris Pearson Speaks via Twitter

It appears that the Thesis team have now agreed to work with Joost so that users have the option of using the SEO via Thesis or via a plugin, though those of you who read Joost’s blog post about search engine optimisation on themes or plugins may agree with me that the article seemed more to do about Chris not following suit on this issue rather than a genuine discussion about whether themes or plugins should be used for SEO. I enjoy a good debate online though it does seem that when Chris Pearson is involved there is a lot of mud thrown around and less emphasis on the actual debate (those of you who enjoy a good slagging match should check out the comment area on Joost’s post).

So should themes or plugins be responsible for SEO? Personally, I don’t think it matters, as long as the end result is the same. Fans of the WordPress SEO plugin, or any specific SEO plugin for that matter, may prefer using the same plugin over all their sites regardless of the theme being used. Others may prefer for SEO options to be built into the theme they are using.

Theme developers who update their code to allow users to remove the SEO element of their theme should be applauded as it will undoubtedly help a lot of their customers, though I do appreciate that doing this requires a lot of time and effort so it may not be their top priority. Who are we to say that a theme developer must stop spending time developing a brand new theme in order to make an older theme of theirs work with popular plugins.

I’m not sure of the initial reason Chris Pearson felt so strongly about themes controlling SEO not am I a huge fan of the manner in which he shares his views online. However, I believe he has every right to have that view.

What has really become apparent over the last year is that everyone has to sing from the same hymn sheet, which I think is wrong. I fully agree that WordPress has grown to what it is today due to theme and plugin developers working together but it seems that anyone who has a slightly different viewpoint and won’t spend time with working with others will be singled out as the bad guy who is ungrateful for the community which supports their business. Inevitably, it always ends up in a childish slagging match via Twitter or their respective blogs.

Open source developers like Joost de Valk drive the WordPress community and deserve all the kudos they get. I would just prefer it if developers who don’t contribute to the community as much weren’t lambasted by those who do.

As always, I’d love to hear your view on this.

Thanks for reading,

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Comments (5)

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

Firstly, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment J

I have not met Chris Pearson personally however from what I have read, I do get the impression that he does not do himself many favours sometimes with the way he responds to others via Twitter etc. That being said, I donâ€â„¢t understand why other developers would be annoyed with the way he deals with his own customers. If he doesnâ€â„¢t want to work closely with the WordPress community then surely that is his decision.

Donâ€â„¢t get me wrong, if I was a Thesis user and wanted an option to use an external SEO solution, I would be annoyed if they did not even consider upgrading their framework.

Itâ€â„¢s great that Headway and StudioPress etc are working with you in order to provide their customers with an option to use your SEO plugin, though I donâ€â„¢t think others should concern themselves if others donâ€â„¢t. Sure itâ€â„¢s not ideal but itâ€â„¢s his business and he can run it as he sees fit.

Though, I do appreciate why you want to work with developers such as Chris as it means more people can use your product. I just think you should move on if a developer doesnâ€â„¢t want to work with you.

Comment by Joost de Valk says:

To me the biggest issue was not that he didn’t want to immediately update his theme, or even altogether. The issue was the complete disrespect he was showing towards his customers that asked for this feature.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

@tech – there are some good free themes which have that have their own options page. Though,I agree,it tends to be premium themes.

@John – glad it’s working well for u. Once u get to know how a framework works,it can save u a lot of time.

Comment by John Flower says:

yoast’s plugin is so brilliant that I’d gladly let it handle my seo. For me, this is the way to go. I don’t want a theme to handle it. I want my theme to handle the layout of the site, primarily.
By the way, I bought platform pro today. I was wrong about it. It is a fantastic framework, well worth the money. It doesn’t interfere with my seo; it doesn’t collide with my plugins; it makes site creation a breeze for someone who wants to spend time publishing, not tweaking.

Comment by Technonesia says:

I think what could become the turn point between both is which one is going to be less resource hungry. As we know that plugin can affect site’s loading time and increase it if we have too many. If themes built with SEO inside them can counter this side and be efficient, who knows? Perhaps more theme developers shall line up and produce a new standard of WordPress theme. But I guess this service will likely be for premium themes only, though.

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