5 Reasons Why Genesis SEO Needs to Go Away

We love Genesis, we use it all the time and we even encourage others to use it. But we've come to realize that Genesis SEO is no good. Here's our top five reasons why.

by robn

SEO | WordPress

Reading Time | 7 min

We love Genesis. We use it all the time and we encourage people to use it almost daily. Generally speaking, the Genesis framework is the most SEO-friendly WordPress theme framework on the market. It’s got baked-in Schema.org data, semantic HTML5 markup, and a ton of great features that make doing on-page SEO a lot less of a chore.

Now that I’ve pushed that out of the way… I honestly believe it’s time for the Genesis SEO settings to be deprecated. I know, I know… the Genesis settings are great and they helped your site get more visitors. It’s true, the Genesis SEO settings are above average and they’re certainly better than having no SEO options on your site at all. Unfortunately, they’re just not on the same level as WordPress SEO by Yoast and to be perfectly honest, they never will be.

It’s no secret that I don’t think SEO belongs in a theme and Genesis is no exception. In my opinion, the Genesis SEO settings are an inferior product and if you’re using on them on your site you’re missing out on some potential organic search traffic. In fact, depending on how your site is set up, you could be missing out on quite a bit.

I also think that having the SEO settings included in Genesis gives people the false impression that all they need to do is switch to Genesis in order to have perfect on-page SEO. While switching to Genesis is a great first step, it’s certainly not the end of the road and removing the SEO settings would help clarify that a bit more. Now, I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m just spouting a bunch of fallacies, so let’s run through five REAL reasons why the Genesis SEO settings need to be removed.

 #1 Genesis SEO is Infrequently Updated

Anyone who does SEO for a living will tell you: SEO changes very frequently. What works today might not work tomorrow and you need to keep your finger on the pulse if you want to be successful. The most popular WordPress SEO plugin, WordPress SEO by Yoast is updated on a very consistent basis to keep up with changes in Google’s quality guidelines.

In contrast, Genesis SEO is almost never updated. The parent theme itself isn’t updated all that often and the SEO portion of the framework receives even less attention. In my opinion, this alone is reason enough to avoid using Genesis SEO.

#2 No Feedback for On-Page Optimization

One of the biggest issues I have with Genesis SEO, and some SEO plugins for that matter, is that it offers no real feedback on how well an author has implemented on-page SEO. The only freely available plugin that does this correctly is WordPress SEO by Yoast.

For someone who is new to SEO and doesn’t understand how to optimize a post, getting a green light in Yoast is something that makes perfect sense to them. For an SEO novice, having the feedback directly in front of them so that they know they’re doing a good job can make all the difference in the world.

Without this feedback, a publisher has to make their best guess on optimization using things they’ve read on blogs and forums or they have to depend on an external tool such as Moz for feedback. Having the data directly in front of them on the WordPress post edit screen is invaluable. Not having this kind of feedback is one of the biggest shortcomings of Genesis SEO.

#3 Improper Canonical URL Handling

One of the most common issues we’ve seen when performing our WordPress SEO audits on sites which are using Genesis SEO is  that the canonical URLs are not implemented correctly. Generally the implementation is fine, but there are a few instances where things are not set up quite right.

For example, on paginated posts Genesis SEO does not create the necessary rel=”next” and rel=”prev” links which makes it much less likely that Google will pay attention to the content on the additional pages of the post. Genesis SEO also doesn’t handle paginated archives very well and has no option for no-indexing paginated results. There is an option to add a canonical URL for the archives, but on more than one occasion I’ve seen this fail and cause weird archive indexation problems. At this point in time, a noindex tag seems to be the most reliable way to deal with paginated archive content.

These might sound like minor details, and for many sites they are, but on some larger sites this kind of a mistake can mean the difference between 10,000 visits per month for a set of keywords and 1,000 visits per month. If you’re serious about capturing as much traffic as possible, this minor issue can quickly become a real concern.

#4 No Sitemap Functionality

Having a sitemap is still very important for Google in terms of site crawlability and indexation accuracy. If you want Google to crawl your site correctly and on a consistent basis, you really need an XML sitemap to help guide them through. This is especially true on large, complicated sites. Because Genesis SEO is built into the theme, it doesn’t make sense to include any kind of sitemap functionality…. but this is yet another reason why it makes no sense to include SEO settings of any kind in a theme.

Tying your sitemap to the rest of your SEO data makes perfect sense which is why Yoast has included it in his plugin. By making the sitemap and other SEO data related, it is much easier to control what content is being indexed by Google. By simply changing meta tag settings and choosing options for what is included in your sitemap, you can quickly deal with any indexation problems on your site. Not having the ability to control these things is another huge reason why Genesis SEO should be deprecated.

#5 Limited Support for Custom Post Types & Taxonomies

The final reason why you shouldn’t use Genesis SEO is that it has very limited support for custom post types and taxonomies. Custom post types and taxonomies are essential for any complicated WordPress site and being able to have granular control over their SEO data is very important as well. Not all post types and taxonomies are created equally. While many should be indexed and included within a sitemap, there are also types of content that should be hidden from Google’s view due to their thin and/or duplicate nature.

Let’s use the Simple URLs plugin as an example. Simple URLs creates a custom post type called “surl” to manage redirected links. By default, this post type will be crawlable, indexable, and will show up in Google search results. With Genesis SEO, there’s really not a whole lot you can do about this issue and if you’re using Simple URLs to manage your affiliate links this is definitely no bueno. On the other hand, If you’re using WordPress SEO by Yoast, you can add a setting to noindex the post type. Plus, you can use the “edit files” menu to block Google’s access to the post type via the robots.txt file and you can also remove it from inclusion in your XML sitemap.

This is just one example of the issues that crop up when dealing with custom post types and taxonomies with regard to SEO. There are also lots of other similar problems with things like eComerce plugins, slider plugins, and just about any type of plugin that creates a custom post type or taxonomy.

Does This Mean Genesis SEO Sucks?

No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Genesis actually has one of the best implementations of SEO settings within a theme; it’s just not on par with the best SEO plugins anymore. It isn’t being updated frequently enough, it can’t be easily extended by add-on plugins, and it’s missing a lot of the modern features that people expect in a WordPress SEO plugin.

The creators of Genesis did a great job building out the feature set, but the time for including stuff like this in themes has passed. It’s time for them to deprecate the feature and start moving people over to something like WordPress SEO by Yoast. WooThemes made this move a couple years ago and it’s allowed them to focus on what they do best: building themes and plugins. I think it’s well-beyond time for StudioPress to do the same thing.

So what about you? Are you currently using the Genesis SEO settings? Have you been happy with the results? How do you think they stack up against plugins like WordPress SEO? Do you think they should stay in the framework? Let me know in the comments and let’s get a real discussion going about this!

Photo Credit: mr rudeforth

robn

75 Comments

  • JonBellah 9 years ago

    Good read, sir. Appreciate the insight.

    • Robert Neu 9 years ago

      Thanks Jon! I’m not sure if this article will actually change anything about Genesis, but if nothing else I hope it gets the point across that you should use a plugin for your SEO data.

    • Robert Neu 9 years ago

      Ha! Glad to hear I’m not the only one out there. Wait… I think I just called myself a Genesis fan girl. :

      • Rebecca Gill 9 years ago

        I knew you had a softer side!

  • Chris Langille 9 years ago

    Couldn’t agree more that SEO options shouldn’t be in any theme or framework—period. Leave it up to a plugin so you can take it with you when you change themes. Thesis does the same thing, although in 2.2, they will make it fully compatible with WordPress SEO which in my mind is huge.

    I think WordPress should go as far as to make it a requirement in their theme review process to not include any kind of SEO functionality natively. Furthermore, I think like Akismet, WordPress SEO should be included in the WordPress core download.

    All that said, I’m sure Studiopress has thought about removing it too. I could definitely see them doing that in a future release, especially when a shop as big as Woo does it.

  • Nathan Rice 9 years ago

    I certainly appreciate the kind words about Genesis, and I’m always glad to see Genesis users/fans give us helpful feedback so we can make the framework even better. Let’s face it, no other theme has the community that Genesis does … you guys always impress me.

    So, let me address a couple of things that you brought up.

    Genesis is, always has been, and always will be a less power “SEO tool” than a dedicated SEO plugin. People seem to think this should surprise us … but we already know 🙂 We did that intentionally. It was never meant to be the FINAL solution for anyone wanting to do SEO.

    But let’s make a distinction between “Genesis doesn’t do that as well as WordPress SEO” and “Genesis SEO is doing something wrong”. We can handle not being the BEST SEO solution. But we consider an SEO bug just like any other bug in our code. As a matter of fact, there have been entire Genesis maintenance releases dedicated to solving a problem with the way our SEO works.

    If there’s something wrong with the SEO logic in Genesis, let us know. We’re agile 🙂

    As for the idea that Genesis SEO doesn’t support custom post types, I typed “genesis seo custom post type” into Google and this was the second result. Anything you can do with a post or page, you can do with a CPT with Genesis.

    Finally, I’ve heard it tossed around that we can simply “choose” to remove Genesis SEO from our core codebase. That’s simply not true. I feel like anyone who says this really doesn’t understand how many Genesis users are out there. Hint: it’s a lot.

    We simply will not pull out a useful and critical (for people who are currently using it) feature of Genesis to comply with a conceptual ideal (“SEO shouldn’t be in ANY theme!!!!”). If we were having this conversation in early 2010, things might be different.

    But at this point, we have to keep providing solid basics while at the same time continuing to recommend that people use SEO plugins if they need more than Genesis provides. Which is why, since nearly the beginning, Genesis SEO simply disables itself if it detects an SEO plugin.

    We think that approach works best for everyone.

    • Robert Neu 9 years ago

      Thanks for this comprehensive response Nathan. I considered submitting some information about how the SEO settings could be improved, but because I think the best thing to do would be to deprecate them, I decided not to. I don’t really see the point in contributing to something that I feel shouldn’t continue to exist.

      The problem with CPTs and custom taxonomies isn’t so much that there’s no way to add support for them, but that the amount of control you have over them at a global level is limited. It’s also an issue that anyone who doesn’t understand PHP wouldn’t be able to add support for their custom content at all, whereas with Yoast they can control everything directly from the admin dashboard.

      As for the issue of not being able to remove features, obviously straight up ripping things out with no warning would be crazy and I don’t think anyone is suggesting that… I know I’m not. I just don’t understand the argument against deprecating the feature and gradually phasing it out. Other things in Genesis have gone the way of the dodo and the framework is better off for it.

      In any event, I know at the end of the day you and the rest of the StudioPress crew will do what you think is best and I’m perfectly fine with that. I just felt the conversation around this issue was worth having and I hope some of my fellow Genesis users get something useful out of it.

    • Jason 7 years ago

      Nathan,

      Great stuff here. However, when I install Yoast Premium, Genesis doesn’t remove its SEO section on pages / posts.

      How can I resolve this?

      Full disclosure, I’m the Marketing Director at a digital agency.

      Thanks!

  • W
    Walter 9 years ago

    It is recomendable to use Drag and Drop themes like Divi from ET since you don’t think SEO belongs to a theme?

    • Robert Neu 9 years ago

      Hi Walter! Personally, I don’t recommend that people use Divi, mainly for reasons unrelated to SEO, although it does load a lot of scripts and styles which can hurt your page speed score. The primary issue that I have with Divi is theme lock-in.

      Divi’s page builder uses a system of shortcodes that get left behind after you switch themes. This means all of your site’s content will be mixed together with an unintelligible mash-up of shortcodes. For more information on the issue of shortcodes in themes, check out this post by Justin Tadlock: http://justintadlock.com/archives/2011/05/02/dealing-with-shortcode-madness

      If you’re concerned about SEO, you can still safely use any of the Genesis child themes and just avoid using the built-in SEO settings. Instead of using the built-in settings, use WordPress SEO by Yoast to handle all of your SEO functionality and everything should function normally.

        • Joey Barker 8 years ago

          He doesn’t know what he’s talking about…anyone who reco’s Yoast is either a newb, an affiliate skirt or both of the two combined…

        • Robert Neu 8 years ago

          Regev,

          Sorry for the delay getting back to you on this. What you’re describing is a pretty common situation for a lot of people and why I think Divi and other similar themes have become so popular recently. The user experience of the page builder is quite nice, but the way it works is not so good.

          In the scenario you described with the first site, an AdWords site with no real purpose other than PPC, I think Divi is a great option for someone who can’t code. Any site that needs to be made quickly and inexpensively by someone who can’t code can be done with a tool like Divi. There are also some other options out there that may ore may not be better depending on the situation. The two that come to mind are:

          https://thethemefoundry.com/wordpress-themes/make/
          http://siteorigin.com/page-builder/

          The second is a plugin and actually can be used with Genesis, although I’ve had mixed results testing it.

          If you’re working on a site that is meant to be around for a while, needs to perform well in organic search, and could be a major part of your business on the web, I’d personally recommend that you avoid these types of solutions and go with something more solid like Genesis and custom code.

          There are lots of developers out there who can build things for you at a reasonable price. We even do some of that here at WP Site care. In the future, I think we’ll see a more polished version of the page builder that both works well from a user standpoint and is built to perform well on the code side.

          Until that happens, I think your best bet for a “money site” is going to be a proven framework and a trusted developer. Obviously in the end the choice is up to you, but if I were in your position that’s what I would do.

          • Regev Elya 8 years ago

            thanks a lot bud. how reasonable is the price for the custom coded pages you’re talking about?

          • Robert Neu 8 years ago

            If you drop us a note about what you’re looking for, we’d be happy to give you a quote. If it falls outside of what we can provide, there are also a number of other developers we could recommend you to.

            https://sitecare.com/contact/

  • J
    Jackie D'Elia 9 years ago

    Hi Rob – This was actually a topic I’ve been thinking about. We’re faced with so many options that our first impulse is to use what’s included with the theme. Installing WordPress SEO by Yoast – is it necessary to remove Genesis SEO? and if so how do you that?

  • S
    SIMONEmadeit . 9 years ago

    Hi. I use Genesis and have been thinking of using the Yoast plugin to improve SEO. My problem is that when the plugin is installed, all my previous Genesis SEO info disappears. Is there a way to transfer it over to the plugin rather than have to go back and complete redo each post/page? thanks!

    • W
      WP Site Care 9 years ago

      Hey there, there’s a really handy plugin for that here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/seo-data-transporter/

      The steps to follow are
      1) Activate WordPress SEO by Yoast.
      2) Install and activate the SEO Data Transporter plugin
      3) Choose Genesis to WordPress SEO (see screenshot)

      Then all of your settings from Genesis will be migrated to the the plugin!

  • C
    Crawlerguys 8 years ago

    But still many are still using it!

  • N
    Ndb Publishing 8 years ago

    In summary: Genesis SEO should be Toast, bring on the YOAST

  • A
    Abdul Muiz 8 years ago

    I am using Divi by Elegant Themes along with SEO by Yoast. Can this combination produce maximum results?

    • W
      WP Site Care 8 years ago

      I’m not entirely sure how Divi handles the Yoast plugin, but I do know that there are several markup issues that Google doesn’t love within the Divi theme, mainly because of how Shortcodes are used. To ensure SEO best practice are being used I’d probably look an alternative theme.

      • A
        Abdul Muiz 8 years ago

        So, which theme you recommend then?

  • jeffg88 8 years ago

    The fact that Genesis utilizes the meta keywords tag (which hasnt been used by engines in over 7 years) shows just how lousy and outdated the Genesis SEO features are.

  • Titanium Creative 8 years ago

    Thanks for this write up. I have been building off the Genesis framework using custom child themes for quite some time and have used a few different SEO options. Because of the attention I need to give to other aspects of the code an construction, I have leaned heavily o the built in SEO options.

    I have been looking into whether or not to go with Yoast or a similar plugin and your article has convinced me to install Yoast on one of my site so I can orient myself to it.

    I’m not so sure the built in SEO should be deprecated and wish you would offer the suggestions for improvement you mentioned. It has been very useful to me until now and I am glad to see I will be able to import my settings to Yoast. As it was mentioned, when Yoast is installed, the Genesis SEO will simply step out of the way. Seems like a good thing for them to keep for others who may have to take things one step at a time or who have so many other steps going on, Yoast may have to be a second tier effort.

    Thanks to both Yoast and to StudioPress for great functionality and great information.

  • Giovanni Sacheli 8 years ago

    Hi Robert, I found this article looking for a good solution about the Canonical Paginated Archives in Genesis – that points canonical to the first page. It really sucks, if I de-select that option Genesis SEO places a noindex tag to all paginated archives.
    I don’t understand why StudioPress doesn’t update that line of code…

    I always used the Genesis SEO because it is light, very light compared to Yoast and it has all I need. BTW you are right, if this wouldn’t be fixed soon I will move to Yoast. Do you know a way to fix that canonical problem?

  • Gary Jones 8 years ago

    It’s now over a year since this article was first written. Genesis released 2.1, 2.1.1 and 2.1.2, and nothing related to SEO (other than fixing a bug in the title element) was changed in those releases. In the meantime, SEO has moved on and SEO plugins have adapted and got better.

    I’m a contributor to Genesis core, but I’ve been using WPSEO instead of Genesis SEO for several years now, and there’s no way I’d switch back.

  • Jay Myers 7 years ago

    Great stuff and comments – a real “evergreen” post it appears.

    I found this article because I am just switching to Genesis and I too noticed these SEO settings seemed a bit archaic. Same type of stuff I was using on Thesis more than 5 years ago. But my question is this…

    If just starting a new site and already convinced I am using Yoast from the start what settings in Gensesis should I disable, ignore or put a check mark on to basically remove Genesis from doing any SEO or causing bloat in the code or interfering with Yoast?

    • Ryan Sullivan 7 years ago

      Great question, Jay. By activating the Yoast plugin, you actually disable the Genesis settings entirely. So as long as the Yoast plugin is active you’ve got nothing to worry about! Hope that helps!

        • Ryan Sullivan 7 years ago

          Hey Neil, thanks for stopping by! The Previous and Next buttons in the Genesis theme should be using the proper rel tags. If not, you may need to upgrade to the latest version of the theme. I’d check with StudioPress’ support on that.

          As for related posts, this plugin is the one we use on our site and it works really well: https://www.relatedpostsforwp.com/

    • Ryan Sullivan 7 years ago

      Hey Oscar, WordPress SEO by Yoast should work with most WordPress themes for sure. I don’t want to say “all” because there are always exceptions but for the most part it shouldn’t be a problem. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Jacob Jones 7 years ago

    Thanks for the useful information. I was surprised to hear that Genesis SEO is not as good as Yoast SEO because the reason I moved to Genesis FW was that I heard it’s the best SEO theme. My question is, if I’m going to use Yoast SEO, is there any advantage in staying with Genesis from an SEO standpoint? Otherwise, I might return to my old theme which was prettier.

      • a
        amy 7 years ago

        I looked at seo-data-transporter, and Yoast is not in their list of supported plugins? Do you know of any others that support both genesis and Yoast?

        • Ryan Sullivan 7 years ago

          Hey Amy, I think that’s just an issue with the plugin description. Yoast SEO used to be called WordPress SEO, but SEO Data Transporter hasn’t updated their description. We’ve used this plugin with Yoast with no issues!

  • Michael David 7 years ago

    BRAVO! I just spent 1 hour trying to wrestle with a client’s broken Genesis install. I would rather eat glass.

  • Garen 7 years ago

    Hey Rob,

    This is some evergreen content you’ve written. I really had my doubts about Genesis and their SEO settings. I have a website that that has two different sections. There are two different WordPress installs and one of them shows up better in Google than the other.

    The one that is not using Genesis SEO settings is using All In One SEO Pack. I am going to be switching to All In One SEO Pack for the one using Genesis SEO.

    I should be able to report back to you within 2-3 weeks and see if there are any noticeable changes. It would make perfect sense that there would be lots of errors which Google wouldn’t take lightly.

    Have you seen any similar case studies with Genesis SEO? I would be willing to contribute to the cause if you wanted me to.

  • Matt Whiteley 7 years ago

    Solid article and great points. I develop 90+% of my sites on the Genesis framework and although the SEO is reasonable, I find myself defaulting to Yoast SEO as it is certainly a more robust and stable option.

    Your point about CPTs & Taxonomies is right on the mark and one of the biggest factors on why I use Yoast over the generic Genesis SEO.

      • MaAnna Stephenson 7 years ago

        Thanks Rob. I agree with you about plugins doing a better job with that part of the on-page SEO functions. But would like to see any data backed research on the schema markup not being that big a deal in the rankings or with what Google indexes. From what I’ve seen, Google goobles that stuff like candy.

  • Amanda Rush 7 years ago

    Thanks for writing this post Rob. I use Genesis almost exclusively for my sites, for both practical and political reasons, but if I had to criticize it, I would do so over the SEO settings. I’m really strict about that whole “keep functionality and display on their own sides of the fence” thing, and I think Genesis SEO settings violate that rule.

  • Rama 7 years ago

    Sorry to disagree with the above mentioned points ( not affiliated with genesis by any means) as I managed to customise my websites to meet every single requirement. Been heavy user of genesis frame work for years now and my sites ( with ~ 90,000 to 170,000 sessions / month) are absolutely doing good.

    I believe it all comes down to how well you customise the product to suit your needs as there is no such as thins as off the shelf.

    • R
      Rob Neu 7 years ago

      There have been quite a few really REALLY annoying changes to Yoast since this article was written. I even contributed to a fork of Yoast for a little while, but the original author gave up on the idea due to lack of community support on the project. I was basically the only one contributing any code and WordPress SEO is a pretty massive plugin. :

      I haven’t had a chance to fully review it, but there is another SEO plugin called SEO Framework that would be worth checking out before you abandon things and go back to the built-in Genesis settings.

      The team over at Roots recently switched from Yoast over to SEO Framework and they seem happy with the results so far.

      I don’t have any properties that I’m willing to risk the change on right now to test a switch, but at some point I’d like to do some kind of actual evaluation of what a switch-over might look like.

      • Bill Hibbler 6 years ago

        I added SEO Framework and when I activated the plugin, it took my entire site down. Just clicking the activate button was all it took.

        Fatal error: func_get_args(): Can’t be used as a function parameter in /homepages/21/d638980155/htdocs/BillHibbler/wp-content/plugins/autodescription/inc/classes/query.class.php on line 1200

  • Austin SEO Consultant 6 years ago

    Still a good read in 2017. Thanks for the content.

  • J
    Johnny 6 years ago

    I agree with all the points but not the premise. Genesis SEO is great for developers and folks who know what they’re doing and don’t want an SEO plugin nagging them every step of the way. My site is GREAT (dare I say perfect, even) and the entire site loads fast as hell.

    Also +1 for SEO Framework, it’s a great plugin IF I was to use a plugin.

    • N
      Niall Flynn 4 years ago

      Use the Hide SEo bloat plugin Yoast becomes like it was 3 years ago, better even you can remove all the nonsense.

    • Mitch Bartlett 5 years ago

      THIS! 1,000 times this! Yoast has gotten so bloated over the past few years. My sites do better without it.

    • G
      Giovanni Sacheli 4 years ago

      Exactly 😀 if you need feedback for On-Page optimization, it is not Genesis that should help you.

  • S
    Sreehari Sree 5 years ago

    Awesome article.
    Thanks for sharing it 🙂
    As a beginner to Genesis Framework, I was confused on the SEO settings.

  • S
    Sam 4 years ago

    If we have another option, then why we will go to the one that is not as useful as another. WordPress Yoast SEO plugin has all what we need to make the post good. So completely agree with the removal of Genesis SEO.

  • Nicolas guerinet 4 years ago

    It is now 2019 and I decided to move away from Genesis framework. Something strange happened. One website used to receive 120 visitors everyday from Google search. After replacing genesis with another theme found on themeforest, it jumped to 400 visitors per day.
    I think that there are maybe other issues related to media attachements, code inside the pages, canonical or compatibility with wordpress SEO plugins.
    Also before moving away, Google failed to discover new pages on my website even if there was a sitemap.xml.
    I have found that in 100% of the cases, my websites that use genesis didn’t perform well.
    I wonder if other people faced the same situation

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