To answer my own question…
Yes. I do think they are overrated.
Now, pump your brakes. I’m not saying they are completely worthless, I just think some people assume they are THE definitive answer to some massive search engine ranking increase.
SEO plugins can be useful when they provide additional reporting features, display errors, reminders or if they help you utilize and understand basic SEO markup, build sitemaps, etc.
For example, Yoast allows you to create breadcrumbs to help people navigate through your site. This feature is not just beneficial for SEO, but for the user experience.
Yoast happens to be free, but there are a couple of plugins on the market that are not. To be honest, I’ve never spent too much time researching them. No interest.
All I can say is I suppose there could be value if they provide additional reporting, tracking, etc. and do not make unrealistic claims about what they can do for your traffic.
But whatever you do, please do not install an SEO plugin (free or paid) and expect the search engine heavens to part while flooding you with traffic overnight.
Today SEO is largely driven by social media shares, the quality of your backlinks, your Google Authority and content. So waiting for a plugin to dramatically influence your rankings is unrealistic.
Why I Uninstalled My Plugin
I don’t have an SEO plugin installed on this blog anymore. Yoast was causing a conflict with my theme, which already has some fundamental SEO settings and options. And to be honest, I never really used many of the additional settings that Yoast provides anyway.
Actually, I was a tad bit overwhelmed by all the choices. The only settings I ever changed can be updated in my current theme, so I had redundant markup and some issues saving a few settings. Since disabling the plugin several months ago, I’ve seen no negative impact. As long as my posts are still getting indexed and I have the option to edit basic SEO settings that my theme provides, that’s all I need. And I just did another check…. My organic traffic is actually a bit higher than it was last winter when I had Yoast installed.
Now, I don’t want to get into cause and effect because I think it’s really hard to know what is specifically influencing SEO today. All I’m saying is it didn’t seem to make much of a difference having a plugin installed or not.
And for the record, I wasn’t too terribly concerned with what would happen to my Google traffic after uninstalling Yoast. Right now, only 35-40% of my blog’s traffic comes from Google… thankfully.
The rest comes from referring sites, email, social media, RSS, etc. And I’d love to get that SE percentage down to 25-30 and raise the other to 70-75. So if this blog was more dependent on Google traffic, maybe I would have been a little more reluctant (A.K.A. afraid) to make such a change. Having said that, I’m not convinced a plugin was making a big difference.
What About Sitemaps?
Now I do like the XML Sitemaps plugin. I have used this since the beginning and do feel it’s necessary to keep your sitemap updated and submitted. Most SEO plugins already has a sitemap feature, so you may not even need an additional plugin.
Yes, There’s Still Some Value
Hear me out. I’m not suggesting you run to uninstall your SEO plugin.
I just feel they are overrated when it comes to the traffic expectations — especially today. I also think you need to be very careful when you claim or assume some tool is drastically improving your rankings when Google now uses more off-page signals like social media and select backlinks to influence SEO.
And finally… multiple plugins are not going to give you any greater benefit. If anything, they can conflict with each other and cause a host of other problems such as duplicate tags, sitemaps and other markup issues. Now, if you can confirm the features don’t overlap that’s one thing, but be careful of installing plugins that perform similar tasks.
What Say You?
I’m really looking forward to hearing what you have to say. I can imagine some of you cannot even THINK of parting with your beloved plugins. 🙂 Am I the only one who feels they are overrated?
Love ’em or hate ’em, I want to hear from you!