I'm hoping to get some assistance in verifying information provided by an SEO expert / web developer my employer is looking to contract work to.
We've recently launched a new website, and due to various reasons, are looking to change to a new provider for these services.
The feedback we have had on the (WordPress) site (with Bridge Child theme) is as follows:
1. In terms of functionality and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the current theme installed on your website is poor and negatively affecting your SEO.
2. The WPBakery page builder plugin installed also negatively impacts SEO.
3. There are unnecessary features in the ‘background' and undesirable ways of achieving the functionality required – these slow your website down which in turn damages your SEO.
4. Great SEO results such as those specified in your document will be practically impossible to achieve for competitive search terms, if you're to move forward with the website as it is.
5. To achieve excellent SEO results, the website needs to start with solid foundations – the current setup is restrictive, dysfunctional and not effective.
The proposal is to rebuild the website with a more functional theme, using Elementor Pro, as well as replacing Yoast with The SEO Framework
Is anyone able to provide some general feedback on the above, based on your experience? By the looks of the feedback, the company has clearly been a tad burned by the first website rebuild and so I want to do some due diligence before proceeding any further!
Thanks in advance…
10 👍🏽10 27 💬🗨
You'll probably accomplish more with less effort by dumping your huge image files.
You also have a lot of CSS and JS files. There are plugins that will combine them all into single files for you – that will speed up sites considerably (far fewer requests).
I have no opinion on the impact that WPBakery has on Website performance or optimization, but in general the best way to optimize site performance is to reduce the number of resources that are fetched per page load and to keep the fetched resource files as small as possible.
Hi Michael – please can you advise which site you were looking at?
Michael Martinez 👑 » Treen
The only one I found associated with you is linked in your Facebook profile. If I found the wrong site, I'll be glad to look at the correct one and give you an opinion.
Treen ✍️ » Michael
Thanks so much – I believe the one in my profile is for my business rather than my employer.. may I DM you the correct site?
Michael Martinez 👑 » Treen
Michael Martinez 👑
Okay, Treen shared the correct site with me. It's got some issues.
I make no judgment about the quality of WP Bakery as a development platform. Each of us plays to our strengths and we all have biases and preferences. So there's more than one way to cook this meal, as they say.
Would changing themes help? Sure. Most likely. But that's a lot of work, in my opinion.
Before changing themes I would first run the site through Google's PageSpeed Insights tool. Link provided below. Now, the report lists a lot of things and if you're not a coder you may not make much sense of what it says.
The site has one overly large image file (the PNG). PNG files are unnecessarily huge and replacing that with a JPG will help.
It may not be enough. There are other issues that switching themes may eliminate. Some of the issues are systemic (baked into WordPress itself).
Some issues are created by 3rd-party resources, like the use of ReCaptcha. Changing themes won't fix these issues.
As a rule of thumb, the more complicated and visual a page layout is, the more likely it will have speed and performance issues. Good developers can optimize many of these issues, but they can only do so much. The bottom line is that the more you ask a Web page to do in terms of presentation and facilitating user engagement, the more difficult it becomes to make the page fast. It's an uphill climb, although it's not necessarily a Sysiphean task.
Hope that helps. Whether the theme should be replaced is a business decision, in my opinion. But probably it comes down to which is the more expensive option (in both time and money) and what it will take to maintain the visual experience the site is trying to achieve.
Thanks so much for taking the time to respond – so greatly appreciated! Will check out the image for a start – not sure why there's a rogue large file in there…
Mihir N. Mirani
I wouldn't go with this guy. There are better options (oxygen builder, rank math, etc.) than Elementor pro & SEO framework if you really want to improve the website.
You can go ahead if he's okay with payment after results.
If your niche isn't very competitive, lot can be achieved by optimizing current website as well.
We're in quite a competitive industry and are competing with some much bigger players, all of whom have full marketing teams and much bigger budgets than we do…
You say there are better options – please can you elaborate?
And just as an aside – FYI, both the original web dev and person we're looking to take on are women..
Mihir N. Mirani » Treen
Good suggestions have already been added below i.e. to spend on digital marketing if it's very competitive industry. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) takes time.
I guess the new team won't be okay with payment after results, so you can ask for references and talk to them about their results.
Regarding better options, as already said below, a tool is only as good as the hands that wield it.
But IMO, you'll get cleaner code, bloat free website with oxygen builder rather than Elementor. And for ecommerce website, I would prefer rank math over SEO framework.
I believe a good agency should be able to work with themes/plugins provided by the client.
Can you share the website address? I would like to have a look.
Treen ✍️ » Mihir
Thanks – it's not ecommerce.. as we're a specialized industry, our site is more informative, and has product info but doesn't have any shopping options.
Happy to DM you the website if you like?
Brenda Malone 👑 » Mihir N. Mirani
As Martinez wrote above, most theme frameworks and builders can be PERSONAL decisions. I optimize sites all day and have found the new code improvements in Elementor make it a contender. As Michael says, developers play to their own strengths, and Oxygen is your particular strength, but maybe not their developer's jam. The best choice in WordPress is simply using Gutenberg with a lightweight base theme like Generate Press–which is even faster than Oxygen. But it all depends on how a page is over-loaded with features and outside api connections.
Mihir N. Mirani » Brenda Malone
Agree as I said above – "a tool is only as good as the hands that wield it"
As I know the first versions of Bridge only supported WPBakery. There are many custom shortcodes in Bridge that were designed to be used with WPBakery as a result.
"these slow your website down which in turn damages your Search Engine Optimization (SEO)" It means they want to get a big budget instead of optimizing your site. As a WordPress developer I prefer to use our custom theme, and it doesn't mean that I would recommend changing theme. I didn't review the site, but the image optimization is enough in many cases.
Also the speed of a website is overrated. It is a minor ranking factor. A competitive industry means you should focus on the marketing strategy and content.
You do not know what weight Google is placing on Page Experience, especially in their niche. It is incorrect to dismiss it.
Buth » Brenda Malone
John Mueller himself said this about Core Web Vitals:
"…relevance is still by far much more important.
So just because your website is faster with regards to Core Web Vitals than some competitors doesn't necessarily mean that …you will jump to position number one in the search results."
Google published a Core Web Vitals FAQ that also lowered expectations of the CWV ranking factor.
The FAQ stated:
"Page experience is just one of many signals that are used to rank pages.
Keep in mind that intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page with a subpar page experience may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content."
Also, I doubt that Google assigns weight of Core Web Vitals (CWV) for niches.
"It is a ranking factor, and it's more than a tie-breaker, but it also doesn't replace relevance.
Depending on the sites you work on, you might notice it more, or you might notice it less.
As an SEO, a part of your role is to take all of the possible optimizations and figure out which ones are worth spending time on.
Any SEO tool will spit out 10s or 100s of "recommendations", most of those are going to be irrelevant to your site's visibility in search.
Finding the items that make sense to work on takes experience."
So, it is a good idea to optimize images, JS/CSS code, server requests, etc., but it can't boost website ranking. OP's site have to have a strong marketing strategy to win. That is my point.
I'd like to point out that WPBakery or any other page builder aren't really a problem on their own. It's in knowing how to use them. I worked on a site a few years back where I took my first look and cringed when I saw all the WPBakery classes in the code and I instinctively cringed. Then I looked at the code itself and realized that there was really nothing all that bad (SEO-wise) in the code.
The person who built the site with WPBakery was an expert at using WPBakery and did the right things with it. The problem comes down to the fact that if you want to change someone, you need to find a specialist who is just as skilled at WPBakery as the original person was. (WPBakery is typically considered the worst – not because it's actually the worst, but it's the one that allows you to do things poorly most easily. You don't HAVE to do them poorly, but it's easy to do it that way. And, IMO, if you have the skillset to use it properly, you don't have far to go to have the skillset to do it without using it at all).
The team you have looking at it has their team (seemingly) skilled at using Elementor, instead. While Elementor doesn't make it as easy to make poor choices that can negatively affect things, you can still do things poorly – and to fix them, again, you need someone skilled at Elementor.
Even Elementor can make crap code in unskilled hands. We had a site we looked at the other day that had some code that looked (basically) like this:
<h2>Here was the heading</h2>
<p>Here is the copy that supposedly goes with the heading above, but the section tags here send a signal that this is actually part of a different section and not related to the heading above at all</p>
Clean code. Check. Good code? No check.
Now… here's the trick.
If this team now does a great job of converting the WPBakery garbage code into decent Elementor code, then you're ahead. But then next year when you want to add something new or redesign something, you'll need to make sure to keep using them OR make sure the next design team is skilled in using the same tools. If not, they're going to want another new rebuild. It won't necessarily be because the code is bad, but because they're skilled with another tool and to get the same results you had with the old team, they'll want to be working with their own tool of choice.
This is why I, personally, prefer to just stay away from page builders altogether. Most of our sites still default to the Classic Editor but we have it set to allow switching some pages over to Gutenberg if you wish to do some design stuff on the page that doesn't look and work exactly like the standard setup. For blog posts, there's no need to get fancy and make sure the people you have posting content use this specific block here and this specific block there and so on. They come in, paste directly from a Word Document (which isn't as much a nightmare these days as it used to be), right or left align a few images, slap in a few Call-To-Action (CTA) shortcodes in the right place and the post is done.
All the alignment and styling is done when I build the site and when you put in good clean HTML code it just sort of automatically looks good – using proper web standards, no extraneous six lines of code just for an h2 tag, and no muss, no fuss. And then – since it's clean standard HTML code – when you do a redesign, you can apply just about any theme you want and it'll snap into place and look halfway decent right out of the box. Sure, you'll want to redefine a few CSS tags, but… no need to go through every page and make tweaks. And if you hire someone else to help next year, you're handing them a site built to official HTML and WordPress standards, not one built to the standards of a specialized tool.
Another drawback of the page builders (and the "I can do ANYTHING!" themes like Divi and Avada and that lot) is that they do try to do everything. In reality, though, you are only going to use a couple of those things. So now you have to make sure you turn off all the crap you don't need (which isn't always 100% possible), and even then it's likely loading page after page of extra CSS you're never going to use.
For me, a good clean theme with proper semantic markup and labeling is the way to go. Need a specific feature – grab a plugin that does that specific job. (Many of those themes and some of the builders are probably bundling that same plugin in them anyway – which means that if security issues come up, you need to wait for that plugin developer to update and patch, then wait again for the theme or page builder developer to patch it, and then finally get it on your site).
So again… the point here is that it's not REALLY the page builder (WPBakery or otherwise) that is the problem. The problem is that those tools need to be used by someone who is skilled at using them. When our team gets a job with a site that uses one of those and there's a lot of cleanup to do… we tend to give the client a few options.
1) We put something together that looks very much like the proposal you have – but one that doesn't bash or make your previous design team or the tools they use look bad. There's no good in making a client feel like they got ripped off. They may have made an uninformed choice and it's going to cost them a bit, but it's not nearly as bad as an outline like the one in the OP here makes it look. And, our plan wouldn't be to switch to another page builder, it would be to switch to pure WordPress (with only necessary specific plugins to get the function and effect we need) and proper standards.
2) We offer to let them keep the page builder plugin and we'll simply find and subcontract someone who is an expert at using whatever builder it happens to be and we can rebuild that way. The downside to this plan is that it ends up costing just as much as plan one. First you have the extra person involved. And then, fixing bad code from page builders whether you're using the same builder, a different one, or just going old school and using the tools that came with WordPress, all take the same amount of time. So while this costs the same, you still end up in the same position in 5 years when it's time for the next site refresh. The team is going to come in and want so do it over from scratch rather than just reskinning with a new theme and having 80% of the site just look good and work right out of the box.
IMO, the proposal you have there is typical, reasonable, and not really a bad way to go (if they deliver the things promised, anyway). It may not be the absolute BEST way to go, and it's not the way I would go, but it appears to be a reasonable plan. I use the "built on a solid foundation" term in almost every proposal I've written.
Thanks so much for your detailed reply!
The team we're looking at will be for both web dev and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and potentially Google Ads.. the team has been given back end access to do an initial assessment of the site.
So as I read it, we have a couple of options…
1. Opt to go with the team we have in mind, and go through another complete rebuild, costing a significant amount of $$$, knowing the site is then built in a way that they can then work with..
2. Find someone who specializes in WPBakery, and keep the website as is, just build on what has already been done.. hoping that the initial build hasn't been completely crap
I have been selective about the parts of the proposal that I have included – I've removed the warm fuzzy bits that take the edge off the issues presented..
Our organic reach is still tanking 4 months after the new site launched – despite paying an agency $2k per month to work on our SEO – so there's lots of work still to be done!
Keep in mind that if their assessment is that the code is crap, it probably is. They're blaming it on WPBakery, but the problem is more likely just the limited skills of the person who wielded it. Blame doesn't really matter here, though – doesn't matter who is at fault, it matters that the faults are there.
So.. for #2… yeah, you could find a team that specializes in WPBakery, but it's still going to mean that they go through and rebuild most everything from the ground up. Same tool, but better result. Option one means new tool, but same better result.
The cost, therefore, shouldn't be much different between the two plans. Either way, there's the same amount of garbage that needs to be hauled away and the same amount of Spider Friendly Goodness that needs to be brought in. If there's a major cost differential between the two options you've described, then there's likely a result differential in there somewhere, too.
Granted, I'm coming at this from looking at a proposal and making some fairly large assumptions. I haven't seen the site in question. You could very well be starting in a place that is far better than the information I have on it makes it seem. Or you could be starting from somewhere far worse.
As such, I'm not really trying to give you advice on what to do here so much as I'm trying to give you a bit of perspective and understanding of the processes involved to help you make your own (somewhat) informed decision.
The main advice I have for anyone looking to do work on their site is to make sure that whomever you hire isn't going to make you absolutely dependent on them. A well built web site is one where we build it and then in a few years ANY other decent team can come in and build off of what's there. If you're in a situation where every time you do a little reset you need to start over again from scratch (like it seems you may be in now) it's hard to grow.
When I get a client with a decent (but maybe dated) web site and they're looking for work to be done, I LOVE LOVE LOVE to be able to say, "Here, I want you to give me $10,000 so that we can make your web site do more and make you more money." I absolutely loathe having to say, "Here, I want you to give me $10,000 so that we can simply make your site do what it should have been doing all along."