Genesis is one of the most, if not the most prominent WordPress theme frameworks out there at the moment, hence this Genesis Theme Review. It boasts quite a few options, comes with a built-in update functionality that works well and is SEO optimized to boot. On the basis of that, you’d expect me to be a fan and I’ll be honest: I am. Let me elaborate on that below and give you some tips for optimal SEO on your Genesis based site.
Genesis Theme Options
The “core” theme of Genesis comes with a good set of options to choose the layout of your site:
When I started coding for WordPress, a “layout chooser” like that would have been unimaginable. Admittedly, there are far more WordPress themes that have these kinds of options these days, but I think the way Genesis has built them in is one of the best ways yet.
Genesis Themes also come with a bunch of easy to use widgets, most importantly their Featured Posts and Featured Page widgets that I use on just about any site I have that runs on the Genesis WordPress Theme Framework. They make it very easy to customize a design and to turn widgetized area’s into great looking intro’s for pages.
Just as most other WordPress theme frameworks, Genesis comes with a whole bunch of hooks, way way more than the default WordPress hooks, to easily change the design of a page. You can easily use those in your own child theme to customize the way your site looks.
If you browse the code of Genesis you’ll be pleasantly surprised by mostly very clean code. The only “bad” thing I can say is that every now and then you’ll find a hack to get around a core function of WordPress, for instance an output buffer when a function doesn’t returns but always echo’s. I don’t mind find hacks per se, but I do mind if there’s no Trac ticket to make sure that WordPress core is improved upon and the hack is no longer needed.
As for the HTML output: since this is a Theme Framework, most people will use a Genesis child theme and not the core theme within to create their site. I can’t vouch for individual child themes as they may “screw up”, but the core theme is well done in terms of SEO with not much for me to complain about. I fully intend to review Genesis child themes on this site as well and check their SEO options.
Genesis Theme Support
The Genesis support and their tutorials are top notch. This is where you really notice the size of their community as a lot of problems you might encounter have been encountered by other people before. This probably means that they’ve been addressed on the forums as well as in blog posts, both on the Genesis blogs and elsewhere. The only thing I’d wish for is for the StudioPress / Genesis team to maintain a public custom search engine to make it easy to search through all of these URLs.
SEO Options for Genesis
Genesis comes with a set of built-in SEO options that make 95% of the SEO plugins out there look bad. Luckily it doesn’t beat my own WordPress SEO plugin, but it’s most certainly adequate, allowing you to set titles and meta descriptions for posts, pages and taxonomies specifically, as well as create templates. It also has settings for noodp and noydir and other more specific meta tags.
There’s one option that just plain shouldn’t be in there: the option to canonicalize a paginated archive back to the first page of that archive. That’s bogus and won’t work, it might instead cause all kinds of issues with getting your archive indexed:
I still recommend using my WordPress SEO plugin, as with any other theme, because it’ll help you in writing better content as well, something Genesis doesn’t do.
Compatibility with WordPress SEO
As soon as you enable my WordPress SEO plugin, Genesis hides all of its SEO settings and lets WordPress SEO run the SEO show. I think that’s awesome and really like the way it’s handled. There’s one slight issue that I’m currently looking at addressing, on taxonomy pages, Genesis has these awesome options:
As soon as you enable my SEO plugin these are not visible anymore.
Whether that’s caused by my code or by Genesis code is currently undetermined, but it’ll be fixed soon regardless. This will be fixed in the next release of Genesis.
Genesis SEO Tips
As soon as the above mentioned issue is solved, you can use tip #1 and check both of those boxes. Of course this requires you to write a proper description for those categories, but that shouldn’t be too hard.
Tip #2 has to do with archives as well. On the general settings page of Genesis, use the following settings for your content archives:
By displaying excerpts you prevent most duplicate content issues. To display the image is a matter of taste and really depends on the site. The third option is the most powerful one though: by switching it to Numeric you no forego the need for a pagination plugin and allow search engines to reach deeper pages within your archives easily.