SEO Plugins: Do they Help or Hinder?

What if the only thing your tax accountant could do was add?

What if the only thing your auto mechanic could do was change spark plugs?

What if the only thing your doctor could do was provide band aids?

I ask you these questions so you can consider how important it is to recognise limitations and to be careful about not getting lulled into a false sense of security. SEO plugins are very popular. Many people believe SEO plugins are all that’s required for SEO success. Although it’s true that SEO plugins are helpful when used properly, there’s a danger they’ll hinder the effectiveness of your SEO, and possibly of your overall marketing efforts.

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SEO Plugins Are Good for Helping with Specific Tasks

Many content management systems, such as WordPress, don’t give you ready access to control the properties of your website that could help you influence your performance in the search results. That’s why there are SEO plugins. They provide you with this extra functionality.

With them, you can do things at the individual page level such as:

  • Implement a title tag that’s different than your page title.
  • Implement a meta description tag without having to go into the html code

Some SEO plugins also provide advanced options such as:

  • The creation of XML sitemaps so search engines can more easily discover your entire website
  • The creation of specific instructions for how search engines are to crawl and index your website

SEO Plugins Don’t Replace SEO Strategy and Actual Work

To create an effective SEO strategy, one needs to understand what potential clients are searching for. This involves an understanding of their needs and how the website’s offerings meet those needs. Then keyword research can be done to bridge the two. Without keyword research, the keywords implemented into your on-page SEO elements are baseless and possibly ineffective. Skipping the keyword process and jumping to on-page SEO elements is like putting the cart before the horse.

SEO plugins often provide feedback, such as scores, that are meant to reflect a web page’s SEO strength. This is fine as long as we remember to recognise the limitations. This tool can’t factor in how the page is meant to fit within an overall SEO strategy. Case in point: People often forget that you not only want your search result to appear in front of a lot of eyes, you also want a lot of people to click through to your website, and to be satisfied with what they get when they arrive. An automated SEO score may give you a poor score for not putting your keyword in your meta description, but the true priority of the meta description is to provide the best possible sales pitch to entice people to click on the search result and move on through the sales process. This can be done with our without the keyword.

There’s something else you need to be aware of.  Be very careful about using the advanced features of SEO plugins. Changing these settings could cause serious unintentional consequences, such as making your website invisible to search engines. If something like this were to happen, and it’s not immediately traced back to the SEO plugin setting, a lot of time and money may be spent trying to resolve the problem.

SEO Plugins Can Hinder Marketing Efforts

As mentioned, the lack of proper keyword research before implementing on-page SEO elements can cause problems. Here are some more:

  • Time gets wasted – If the person who gets tasked with this doesn’t have a decent understanding of SEO, their time will be spent trying anything to get a good score or a green light. This is time that would be better spent doing other marketing activities.
  • Marketing messages get restrained or derailed – the person tasked with this could make changes to page content that will end up disrupting the journey you intend the visitor to make towards becoming a customer.

Nobody wants to see bad scores or red warning lights, even if there’s a reasonable explanation. This, as we can see, can lead to problems. It helps in moments like this to take a step back and look at the big picture. Truly successful companies know that every decision and every action must properly align with the overall mission of the business. If they don’t, then why do them? Will fussing to make all the SEO plugin’s lights turn green contribute to the success of the company? I think not.

So, Help or Hinder?

SEO plugins have the potential to do either, or perhaps both at the same time. Therefore I recommend using them to do specific tasks, but take their “analysis” or “advice” with skepticism. Don’t take it literally, or you may compromise actual quality.

Keyword research is so fundamental to effective SEO, it really ought to be done by someone who knows what they’re doing. In regards to on-page SEO, if you don’t have access to a SEO professional, it’s a good idea to provide your staff with a guide regarding on-page SEO best practices so they can have the proper context for the various tactics.