SEO Smart Links For WordPress: Dangerous?

Katherine Stott    By under SEO Auditing.

SEO Smart Links Might Not Be So Smart After All

SEO Smart Links Google Penalty
We love a bit of debate, relishing in the opportunity to discuss the latest in SEO news and Google know-how. Something that's been floating around the Internet ether of late is the dispute around the use of WordPress plugin, SEO Smart Links. In a rather subjective article on the matter, SEO Braintrust made some valid points that were completely opposed to the use of this plugin. They believe it has led to sites being penalized by Google. While they've substantiated their claims with some supporting evidence, this could very well still be a case of poor craftsmen blaming their tools.

Why is SEO Smart Links (Apparently) Bad for SEO?

SEO Smart Links is supposed to be a clever little WordPress plugin that automates a few basic, yet tiresome, SEO tasks for the user by inserting internal links into posts where keyword rich anchor text is found, based on the titles of your posts. It links these keywords and phrases to corresponding pages and posts on your site, while remaining case sensitive. Nofollow attributes can be set, as can the matching of URLs and opening pages in new windows. While this may sound like a great time saver , it has been claimed that SEO Smart Links in fact stuffs content with innumerable, unnecessary, and repetitive keywords that aren't necessarily placed in accordance with optimal user experience; maybe not so smart.

There's a free version of the plugin as well as a paid or premium version; and while the paid version offers the user a more intuitive, customizable experience, the free variant is more limited in its contributions. The claim made by SEO Braintrust is seemingly based on encounters with the free variety, stating that a site in question experienced a vast drop in rankings, as would be the case if a site had been penalized by Google. SEO Smart Links had recently been installed and used on the site, so it was removed, a reconsideration request and apology were sent to Google and the penalty was lifted.

While it does seem that SEO Smart Links had a part to play in the penalty being placed on the site, it could very well be a coincidence, as no reasons are given where penalties and reconsiderations are concerned.

What's our Conclusion?

We think there are a great many more factors at play here and a situation such as this is never as cut and dry as it is made out to be.

  • The SEO Smart Links widget, is a tool not a solution.  As was briefly highlighted in SEO BrainTrust's critique, and hit of heavily by commenters - it can be used for black hat and white hat, but it's very easy to fall into the trap of the former when adding this time-saver to the mix.
  • The user had only recently installed the plugin and started using it, so lack of experience in using the plugin could have played a part.
  • Every plugin has its teething problems and more so when considering the free versions versus the premium. It's safe to say that if you're using the free version of a product, you're guaranteed to be receiving an abridged adaptation of the full glory it can offer. If you want the full spectrum, fishing out those extra dollars will ensure you get it.
  • It's also pretty clear that all plugins are built according to multiple needs and you need to fine tune those uses to fit in with your expectations. A newbie user might not have begun to explore the scale of benefits, riding on default until he or she has figured out what works best. Basically, if you don't know what you're doing with your tools, you could very well be making a complete botch up of your site.

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter whether you're a master of your tools or not, whether you're using free or premium versions, customized or default. If you're going to automate your search engine optimization tactics, you're never going to get as great results as you would by doing it yourself. Technology is smart, but it only works because it's in accordance with our specified needs. There are some things that will never be smarter than us... and perhaps SEO Smart Links is one of those things, but it doesn't necessarily make it liable for penalties.