Is WordPress Good or Bad for SEO


Earlier this week there was a post on SEOBullsh*t that talked about how WordPress was inadequate for anything more than a personal blog. Since I’m a big advocate of WordPress and use it more than any other platform, I thought I’d provide a little balance to the argument.

Let’s get to the core of the argument. Can WordPress scale to handle high volume sites with lots of traffic? I can say that, yes, it can … as long as you are careful about how you implement it. The plugins are one of the biggest issues with using WordPress. They can solve a lot of problems; however, sometimes they can create just as many problems as they solve. Sometimes this even happens with savvy programmers/developers, such as when Alex King’s Popularity contest jumped off the rails. So as your website grows more and more popular, you have to be careful about which plugins (if any) you run. I’ve seen WordPress sites handle between 80,000 to 100,000 uniques a day without a problem–as long as you keep an eye on things.

The next big issue is the permalinks numbers/categories debate. To be honest there was a grain of truth in Robert Rolfe’s critique of  permalinks with only category/pagename set ups; however, Dan lost the ability to make an effective critique since he came out with a guns blazin, damn the torpedoes full speed ahead approach. Is there some performance benefit to putting a date/post-ID/number in the URL? Yes. However, that advantage becomes meaningless with things like caching.  You can make a real improvement by using a better htaccess setup instead of the one that WordPress does by itself. The details are available on this excellent thread on WebmasterWorld. For small low traffic sites the increase will be negligible, but when you get into those high traffic numbers, it becomes more important.

Another limitation of wordpress is the number of pages. When I say pages I mean actual pages not posts. There’s a mounting body of evidence that WordPress doesn’t do such a good job of handling lots of pages (like 1,000’s ). Using the modified htacess configuration above can help, but you’ll still have issues. A better solution is to configure WordPress to put posts in a straight URL configuration and ignore directories (something SEOBullsh*t talked about recently) .

So with all of these disadvantages, why would anyone want to use WordPress as a CMS on a project with heavy SEO considerations?

Most people who choose to use WordPress as a CMS do so because they are making compromises and tradeoffs. Let’s be honest: it takes very little skill level to set up a WordPress blog. In fact, some hosting companies offer it to you pre-installed with your hosting order. WordPress is also tremendously easy to administer. If you want to run Drupal or Joomla, you’re going to need a higher skill level and be more involved. Me, I’m lazy efficient: I strive for low maintenance projects. I can keep high double digit websites running on WordPress with a bi-weekly sweep through. That’s not something I could do with the other systems while keeping the same time investment.

Another advantage is the access to wider range of writers. If you run a multi-author project, using something like WordPress allows you to add/change authors with zero training, as most of them have worked with it before. If you use another platform you get a learning curve or the possibility of needing an editorial staff.

You also have access to large library of pre-existing customizations. Are there tutorials and how-to’s for Joomla and Drupal? Sure. Are there more for WordPress? Absolutely. You really should pick a platform and stay with it, since doing so allows you to leverage the knowledge and scale very effectively. I’ve written a bunch of tutorials on WordPress and Thesis, and I leverage them on new projects. I’ve gotten really good at taking Thesis and making it not look like an out of the box Thesis install without much effort.

So is WordPress the ultimate CMS platform for an SEO’s website? No, probably not. But it does solve a lot of the problems and issues with setting up, running, and maintaining a website. At the end of the day, it’s a trade off, but if WordPress allows you to publish more websites in less time with less man power resources and less technical skill, then it’s a pretty easy choice to make. Especially if you take a little time to make WordPress search engine friendly. However, if you are on a database intensive application, have the technical skill, and have very high loads, it might not be the right choice.

To make an analolgy, you can bang in nails with the back of screwdriver, but if you use the right tool for the right job you’ll get better end results. If you know the problems you are trying to solve  and under what conditions you will be solving them, you are better equipped to choose the right tool for the right job, whether it’s WordPress or some other CMS.
photo credit: geishaboy500 runs on the Genesis Framework

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