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I'm using the All in One SEO plugin for my site. The extra fields and options it supplies seem like they could be handled via a theme, possibly negating the use for a plugin.

Should SEO considerations be handled by a theme, rather than delegating the work to a separate plugin? It could reduce maintenance issues, takes up less space, and be more integrated.

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Ideally, SEO should always be handled by the theme. Actually, most plug-in behavior that impacts the front-end of a site should be handled by the theme. Plug-ins like All in One SEO are quick solutions for people who don't want to invest the time required to re-code a theme they built, downloaded from a free site, or purchased from another developer.

Putting the functionality in the theme itself gives you more control, makes WordPress faster, and means you don't need to worry about upgrades potentially breaking your site if they introduce new bugs that conflict with other systems you're using.

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Here's an answer from a slightly different perspective.

Personally, I would love it if the theme handled all of the SEO issues itself, instead of an external plugin. But whenever I build a custom theme for a client, I include the All in One SEO plugin even though my theme is already packed with SEO goodness.

The reason is because my clients aren't always tech- or SEO-savvy. Having the ability to change title formats across pages, or meta description tags on each page, is something they want (even though not many actually use it in practice). It also saves me the work of adding custom fields to the WP admin to surface this kind of functionality, which is really nice.

(There's also the peace of mind it gives to certain clients. Completely perceptual, but hey.)

The Google XML Sitemaps plugin, on the other hand... that's one piece of functionality I wish was bundled with the WordPress core.

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In response to EAMann:

means you don't need to worry about upgrades potentially breaking your site if they introduce new bugs that conflict with other systems you're using

If you DON'T use a plugin, you potentially risk the complete loss of functionality when you change your theme. If you use AIO, or Headspace, you can change your themes without fear of losing your valuable title and description tags that you so carefully (hopefully) created.

They also save the meta data in a unique custom field, such as _aiodescription so that other plugins won't step on its toes. Most custom themes with SEO meta panels added in store the value with a generic description post meta key that can get weird if other plugins use the same key.

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I agree 100%. Granted, that most serious bloggers won't change their theme every week, but the all in one seo pack doesn't slow you do down as much as say any of the "share this" javascript things out there. –  Vid Luther Aug 11 '10 at 22:57
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"complete loss of functionality when you change your theme" the same could be said if the plugin author stops developing the plugin –  Ash G Aug 11 '10 at 23:10
    
This is the flip side of the issue, all right. Chances are I'll keep building my own themes so I'm not likely to run into it, but the issue still exists. –  Grant Palin Aug 12 '10 at 1:56
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