So, a lot of people seem to ask the question, is it better to use the fields and settings provided by Genesis for SEO or would it be better to install a plugin, specifically WordPress SEO by Yoast. Then a more theoretical question crops up, whether SEO of your site should be handled by the theme or a plugin. Let’s address the greater point in question first.
Should SEO be handled by a Theme or Plugin
Despite what you might have been lead to believe, the fact is, that code as part of your theme or as part of a plugin will have the same impact on your site’s performance. What you must understand from this, is that adding an additional plugin should not impact your site unless it is poorly coded. But then again, since it’s a plugin, you will always have the option to remove or replace it. Options present in your theme may be difficult to override.
That being said, if you have clean code in your theme to handle your SEO needs, you probably do not need to use an additional plugin.
The main advantage of using a plugin for SEO, is that you do not lose any data and settings when you switch your theme. For major theme frameworks, there maybe plugin options to export and import SEO data, but this may not be true for all. The simple reason being, that themes are not meant to handle such details. The main purpose of themes is to handle display of data, any more functionality should be added as a plugin.
But what about Genesis? We heard it can do Magic!
The Genesis framework is well built, well supported and is a popular choice amongst developers for a theme framework. It also provides its own SEO fields and settings. Those who use these settings are quite happy with it and have no complaints. In fact, some say that after using the SEO settings provided by Genesis, the site ranks much better in search results. Now, this may seem as true, to an untrained eye. But there is no evidence to back this. SEO done right will help you, whether you use Genesis settings or a separate plugin.
For several child themes which we built on Genesis, the clients were quite happy with the basic SEO options. It allows you to set the SEO title, and Meta Description, Canonical URL, Redirect URL, Custom Tracking code and Robot Meta Settings. All of which works well enough. But we wouldn’t say that it is the best.
Genesis SEO v/s WordPress SEO by Yoast
The fact is that there are an equal number of people rooting for Genesis SEO and WordPress SEO. The SEO settings by Genesis are lightweight and work well. The WordPress SEO plugin is dedicated only for Search Engine Optimization and thus provides far more options.
Our pick is to use WordPress SEO by Yoast. Mind you, Genesis SEO settings are perfectly fine to use. But the main reasons why we would pick WordPress SEO are:
On Page SEO Analysis: For those of you using the SEO plugin, on page SEO analysis, is a huge advantage you gain. It gives you an overview of the SEO elements on the page and is a sort of guide for novice users.
XML Sitemap Creation: WordPress SEO plugin adds a site map, which makes it easy to control what data should or should not be indexed.
SEO fields for Custom Post Types: Although custom post types may not be used in every site, having SEO fields for custom post types is important. This options is provided by SEO plugin by Yoast and not by Genesis framework. (To learn how to add SEO support for custom post types in Genesis, read: Add Support for Layout Options and SEO Settings for CPT in Genesis)
The bottom line is, it is better to have some SEO data, than nothing at all. We feel SEO is best handled by a plugin built for the very purpose, rather than a theme. And WordPress SEO by Yoast is by far the best plugin out there. For those of you looking to move your SEO data from one platform to another (Genesis to Yoast or vice versa), you can always try the plugin SEO Data Transporter, developed by StudioPress and Nathan Rice. Genesis automatically deactivates its SEO fields and settings, once the WordPress plugin is activated.
So let us know about your views. Are you using Genesis? Do you use an SEO plugin or the default settings? And what are your experiences?