Fail in One SEO Pack

I think its fair to say the most commonly used SEO plugin for wordpress is the All in One SEO Pack written by “HallsOfMontezuma” – it been downloaded over 5,000,000 times from wordpress.org, and no doubt its also been used countless times by wordpress installers. I’ve probably used it a few thousand times, having only downloaded it four or five times.

Grab a copy here – but read this post first.

So its fair to say the All in One SEO Pack plugin is a bit of an industry standard.

But what if I said using the All in One SEO Pack with default settings was actually SEO suicide? “Hello, what? How dare he!”

SEO Guru’s swear by it, SEO Companies swear by it. Which makes them all idiots!

The problem is summed up with this simple picture.

Fail in one SEO Pack

By default, your category pages are “no-index” and your archive pages are “no-index”

All in One SEO Pack is trying to solve the problem of duplicate content. That is, a post will appear in a category page, as well as an archive page and once on each tags page. But the content on these pages will only be duplicated if there is only one post per category, per archive or per tag. If there is more than one post, the content on that page is unique to other pages, even if large chunks duplicate elsewhere.

Even if the category only contains one post for instance, it still links to the original location of the unique content.

But the All in One SEO Pack (with default settings) creates two problems – first of all it massively reduces the crawl path to older posts, to the point where a major proportion are de-indexed and lost.

If you need to click on more than 3 links to find any post, chances are Google won’t bother indexing that post. (obviously this isn’t the case for massive authority sites) – so by destroying the category and archive crawl paths, Google’s only option is to crawl through tags (often only the top 25 or so are displayed) and then crawl through pagination.

So if a post doesn’t share a common tag, or if enough new posts are added, the post effectively ceases to exist.

Categories aren’t a perfect solution, because you may push any post onto the fourth page of posts in that category, but at least there is a shorter crawl path to every post.

Archives help fill the hole by creating a crawl path into the past.

While its still not a perfect solution, by using all three methods (Tags, Categories and Archives) you massively increase the chance any particular post can be found at a shallow crawl depth.

The other problem introduced by the All in One SEO Pack for wordpress is potential link juice loss. If you link to a page on your own site, which you then instruct Google not to index, chances are that link juice is lost. I don’t care to attempt to prove it, but it is logical, and it’s also congruent with my experience.

The solution couldn’t be any more simple – simply un-check those two check boxes. I’ll eat my hat if you experience anything other than positive results.

Something is dire in an industry with so many big egos, but where issues like this still go unpublished.

12 thoughts on “Fail in One SEO Pack

  1. Enzo on

    Thanks for the heads up – you have been right in the past, so I am testing this with one of my sites that has 500 ish post. I will leave an update on the changes I see. Cheers

  2. Jez on

    The reason this “issue has gone un published” is because there is no issue.

    No Index pages are read by google and can both accumilate (all be it invisibly) and pass page rank (juice).

    You just posted a load of incorrect assumptions without even bothering to read up on what the tag does.

  3. I can honestly say that I have never heard this before, even though I used to be a member of an internet marketing club where the all in one seo pack was constantly discussed as a vital tool for use in your wordpress blogs.
    This is an important little nugget of info you mention here, and I thank you for bringing this to our attention, I am going to mention this post around the internet myself.
    This info could be very useful for any new internet marketing products reviewed sites that I setup.

  4. Jez – my post is written based on experience. noindex has been said to flag a page as suspect (cloaking is often masked with no-index) and it is daft to propose that crawl paths and seo-value flow through no-indexed pages as if the tag doesn’t exist.

    Since “duplicate content” is so unimportant (and would rarely exist within wordpress anyway) in my experience the default settings are bunk.

  5. Just moved to word press and started using the plugin not and expert about seo but i found this topic very interesting and will featured it in my next post”Monthly Round Up” thanks for the heads up on this one.

  6. I think there is no need to add no-index for categories and archives. Google understands the structures of blog very well. I somewhere read that whatever be the way of crawl whether it is through archives or not, the content is unique as far as the (full-story) of the post is unique or different from other posts.

  7. Jez on

    So you still have not bothered to read up the subject…. more fool you.

    You would see a benefit in All In One settings to index categories, but not for the reasons you cite.

  8. Jez, rather than sling abuse etc, why not actually explain yourself?

    If I’m wrong – or if I’ve missed an angle, I’ll happily hold my hands in the air and I’ll be grateful for having filled a gap in my knowledge.

    So let’s hear it.

  9. Jez on

    Hi Vince, sorry for being grumpy…

    The info on this page can be found elsewhere:

    askapache dot com/seo/robotstxt-mattcutts-noindex.html

    Matt Cutts explaining how G handles tags.

    No Index
    No Follow
    Robots Deny are all different

    For example, a page blocked by robots can still be indexed by links pointing at it (which is a real nusance). The listing in G will show up with the title from the link, and not content… I have had this issue on pages I did not want G to see.

    No index on the other hand is crawlable / readable (it has to be for no index tag to be read), it seems to be treated like a normal page up to the point it is shown (or not) in the index.

    No Index is crawlable, can accumulate PR.

    Cloakers use No Index to mask a cloaked 301 from competitors. So, a competitor looking at a cloaked page wondering why it is not in the index would see no index tags, which would explain its absense from index, however, the real reason for its absense would be that it has been 301′d on the cloaked page (that G sees).

    I cannot think of an instance where a cloaker would want to show Google a no index tag, so the stuff about cloakers using it is a back to front. Cloakers do use it, but not on the page they server to Google… only on the page they serve to users…. as a ruse.

    In terms of All In One SEO pack, no indexing your category pages assumes that your main content will rank in place of the category pages. That is an incorrect assumption. Category pages are a mash up of other pages so can grab additional longtails on weird phrase combinations… and accumulate PR because of the juice they get from the category structure.

    No Indexing them will not necessarily promote one of your main pages in their place, so all you really do is lose the traffic from your categories without getting much, if anything back in return.

    A better approach is to tart up the category pages so that they draw visitors into your site / capture leads etc.

  10. Jez – you quote a post from October 2007 – at the time I had massive silo sites built with no-follow links, so that there was only one do-follow on each page. The intention was that every page would receive maximum PR flow, and it worked a treat…

    It stopped working in 2008 and Matt Cutts clarified in 2009.

    With that in mind, I wouldn’t trust a single word from a 3 year old post in which we know some key things have changed massively.

    Everything I write is based on current experience, and often is purely speculative. Other times I’m doing tests to discover for myself what X means, and what Y means.

    Further – I don’t parrot what Matt Cutts or Google say – they have vested interests and their aim is partially to deter SEO’s from having unnatural and unfair success.

    Also, are we talking about No-Cache for cloakers, No-Index for cloakers , or both? Also cloaking occurs not just for SEO, but also for PPC, and in a whole number of different ways. So unless there is hardcore evidence that using no-index on your cat/archive pages has a measurable positive effect, best practice is to turn these “Features” off. As you said yourself, no-indexing cat/archive pages reduces the number of visitors a site receives from SEO – how is this a good thing and doesn’t it help to prove my original point?

  11. Jez on

    Agree completely with your comments about Cutts and the age of that post, there are other similar sources… but like you say things change.

    I do not think no index has changed personally… the pages are crawlable, and as such I dont see why PR would not flow through them.

    I never bought into the page rank sculpting thing with no follow… there are other ways to achieve the same thing.

    The cloak thing was referencing your earlier comment:

    “noindex has been said to flag a page as suspect (cloaking is often masked with no-index)”

    It is normally the page served to the user that is no indexed, to throw competitors off the trail. I cannot think of an instance where the version of the page served to Google would be no indexed.

    I agree with your original point about use of this plugin. I think de indexing category pages is a mistake. Better to use small excertps and thumbnails to draw users landing on those pages into the site. As I said, the whole no follow no index assumes that one of your other pages will pick up the rank of your categorie, but that just isnt the case. i.e. de indexing a category page that ranks does not mean it will be replaced in the SERP with one of your main pages.

    Anyway… gone on too long about this… its academic as we both index our cat pages!

  12. I have used the All in one SEO pack several times in different sites with different settings. While it is true that the default options are not the best, I don’t think the categories and archives pages are the biggest issue.
    Both of those pages do not bring any extra value to the site, so I am happy for them to be noindexed…

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