The SEO Framework Plugin – Review
Date Published: 6th March 2019
SEO Plugins = Serious Business
Many people like to bestow a mythical “search-engine-friendly-out-of-the-box” status to the WordPress CMS but this is simply untrue.
Sure WordPress does a few good things well such as permalink management and automatic www/non-www redirects within its default settings, however this doesn’t explain why SEO Plugins are serious business.
At the time of writing, the most popular plugin, Yoast SEO, has 5+ million users and the second most popular All in One SEO Pack, has 2+ million active installations.
You’d think the market for SEO Plugins had pretty much been consolidated but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Enter The SEO Framework with a modest 80,000 downloads…
I haven’t got any massive issues with Yoast besides I think the adverts are far too aggressive and the premium version of the plugin (which locks away some key functionality) is in my opinion massively overpriced.
Shit, I’ve already started talking about Yoast.
Basically if you’re talking SEO Plugins, sadly you need to talk about Yoast…and any review or comparison of different Plugins will unfortunately be judged against the functionality it offers 🙁
The reason for reviewing The SEO Framework in the first place was that we were trying to speed up a massively slow WordPress backend at work.
One of the new developers advised that they use it on their freelance sites and suggested we try it out.
Sadly it wasn’t very high up on the priority list/development queue and I’ve since moved jobs, so I may never find out if it’s quicker…
However anecdotally it does seem lightweight compared to Yoast. The zip file is 354kb compared the relatively monstrous 4MB of Yoast.
It would be foolish to infer too much from this and the impact on performance, but nevertheless, it’s certainly an interest titbit.
So moving on to features, here’s a very quick overview of what The SEO Framework does:
- Title Tag Management/generation
- Meta Descriptions
- Homepage Edits
- on-page traffic light type stuff
- Social Sharing Meta Data + Open Graph
- Social Profile integration
- Schema generation (Breadcrumbs, Sitelinks, person/company)
- Indexation settings e.g no-follow, no-index etc.
- Webmaster verification e.g Google Search Console + Bing Webmaster
- XML Sitemaps
- Blog Feed
- Redirects – post/page level
Note: this is my very abridged summary from the back-end, each area I’ve listed contains multiple settings and there’s an estimated 100 options in total to play around with.
And here’s in my opinion what it lacks compared to Yoast:
- Breadcrumbs – An actual PHP function to output these in HTML, not schema
- Bulk Editing – Couldn’t see this anywhere; Yoast’s default Bulk Editor isn’t great either to be fair
- Robots.txt – I don’t think you could preview this (and edit)
- .htaccess – You 100% shouldn’t be editing .htaccess in the backend of WordPress anyway but it can be useful to take a quick glance sometimes.
- Redirects (Premium) – I don’t think there’s an option to set up ANY redirects you want ala Redirection Plugin…you need to do it on a one to one post/page level. Offering this in the first place still beats the free version of Yoast.
Note: Again this is what I think is missing. at the time of testing (8th March 2019). I could well have missed where some of this functionality is!
What I like
I like how The SEO Framework makes a conscious effort to blend into the native WordPress backend. You won’t be spammed with notifications and pops-ups when you’re going about your business; it’s quiet and unassuming, plus it treats you with a base level of respect…
“Oh you must know how to manage the basic on-page elements of your site, I’m going to STFU and get out of the way”
I like the fact that it offers one to one redirection as well by default. I don’t think I’d personally ever use it, however I like to have the option to decide…sometimes you just don’t know until you’re working on that one random client site with that one random request.
Regarding the whole traffic light grading system…I have to say I think I prefer it to Yoast. When you browse the list of posts or pages in the backend you’re greeted by 6 cubes that are very clearly labelled thanks to a tooltips/hover effect.
The actual options box you see on a page by page level also has a much clearer layout compared to Yoast. Each tab is clearly labelled and you know what you’re clicking on/what to expect whereas the icons Yoast uses confuse me to this day, despite having used the plugin for many years now 🙁
Lastly, as I’ve already heavily implied, there’s no up-sells or pointless graphics.
Fun fact: did you know that there’s a whole niche of Plug-ins out there to specifically hide Yoast advertisements?
What I don’t Like
There’s honestly not much I can legitimately criticise The SEO Framework for, I think the Plugin is genuinely fantastic and is easily on par with Yoast and other SEO Plugins out there.
This is my feedback/subjective ideas to improve:
- TSF Logo – I don’t like magnifying glass search icon in the backend. I actually think it’s very poor UX (that icon usually denotes search, so I do sort of get it…) as well as a lost opportunity to brand the plugin a bit better. Just don’t go overboard 😛
- General Settings – The main options tab is cluttered and not laid out very well. The actual post-meta is better than Yoast whereas the actual sitewide options are worse. Clicking the top level tabs doesn’t hide all of the layout options for example, and I’m sure it could be grouped together better (by someone smarter than me).
- Breadcrumbs plz – I use the Yoast breadcrumbs function for the majority of my sites and I suspect quite a few other people do as well. I know I could get another plugin to do it but I have a weird obsession where I like to use as few plugins as possible, despite not empirically testing this notion for speed :-/
- Sitemaps (pedantic) – This last one doesn’t bother me and I agree with the creator of the Plugin, but for many people, the way Yoast does xml sitemaps will probably be considered “best practice” – not that there’s actually any technical best practice! For anyone wondering what this means, Yoast chops of the main sitemap into several smaller ones e.g one for pages, one posts, one for categories etc whereas SEO Framework doesn’t.
The SEO Framework is undoubtedly a worthy adversary to Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin, and its creator Sybre Waaijer certainly deserves a ton of praise for his efforts.
The biggest problem with the plugin is not the plugin itself, simple the expectations and functionality which Yoast has for better or worse defined.
If the creator literally matched Yoast feature for feature including everything the Premium plugin does, I firmly believe it would take significant market share.
However it’s ultimately unrealistic to expect one person to devote their entire existence to being a fast follower of Yoast (a big company), just so me and a bunch of other freeloading SEOs don’t have to put up with the annoying adverts in the backend!
TL;DR If you don’t use anything unique to Yoast then I wholeheartedly recommend you give this plugin a go
For now I will personally continue to use Yoast but with one or two tweaks I will most definitely look to jump ship for new websites.