All-In-One-SEO Update Extremely Dangerous!

by Ben Cook on July 14, 2009

Warning: Upgrading the All In One SEO plugin may be Hazardous to your Blog!

Update III: Read my review before buying the All In One SEO Pack PRO plugin.

Update II: Just so we’re clear, this post only applied to the 1.6.2 version of the All In One SEO Pack. However, I believe new installations of the plugin noindex category and tag pages by default which I highly recommend against.

Update: There is another update to the All In One SEO plugin that I am told will maintain the settings.

However, if you made the previous update and have not yet made sure your category pages are indexable by search engines, the newest update will maintain the noindex tag on your category pages.

Basically, if you updated the All in One SEO plugin prior to today (July 14th) this post still applies to you.

With the release of WordPress 2.8.1 last week, several of the most popular plugins are being updated as well.

And, just like upgrading WordPress’ core files, upgrading plugins has become an automated process as well, most requiring only a couple of clicks.

Upgrading All In One SEO Plugin

Unfortunately, if you’re not paying attention, the recent All-In-One-SEO plugin update could wind up costing you BIG time.

After upgrading to the new version you’re informed that the plugin is not active and you’ll need to adjust your settings to activate it.

All In One SEO upgrade processThat’s unusual for a plugin, but not a big deal. I jumped over to the plugin’s admin page. From there I was told that I needed to update the database options.

All-In-One-SEO Plugin Update DatabaseAgain, not a big deal. I clicked the button (since I’d already backed up the database prior to upgrading to WordPress 2.8.1), and everything went smoothly. I clicked the checkbox to activate the plugin and very nearly made a critical mistake.

Had I left it at that, and assumed everything was fine, I would have instantly put a large percentage of my traffic at risk. For one of sites, I would have lost 90% of my traffic when Google noticed the noindex tag and began dropping my category pages from their index!

What was the problem?

All In One SEO Plugin Category SettingsApparently upon upgrading the plugin, All In One SEO decided that it would be a good idea for me to put a no-index tag on my category archives!

Now, as I mentioned in my SEO Guide for WordPress, many SEOs recommend putting the noindex tag on archive or tag pages. I vehemently disagree with that approach and to carry it over to your category pages is completely ludicrous!

Worst of all, since updating the All In One SEO plugin apparently overwrites your previously selected options without alerting you, thousands of blogs that are using the plugin could be losing organic search engine traffic as we speak.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Harsh Agrawal Shoutmeloud July 14, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I know this is so weird and moreover did you mentioned the advertisement under settings panel and self shameless promotion..
Glad I was using Thesis on one of my blog and I was not using All in one SEO. but on my other blogs it become an issue..,

Ben Cook July 14, 2009 at 3:48 pm

I don’t mind the ad or self promotion. Plugin developers, IMO, deserve to try and get paid for their work.

However, overwriting my settings is NOT kosher and in all honesty would have KILLED search engine traffic for several sites I own.

Milan Petrovic July 14, 2009 at 5:08 pm

That’s why I use Headspace2 plugin. All In One SEO gave me to many troubles last year.

DavidW July 14, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Thanks for the heads up on that. I find HeadSpace2 to be every bit as good, if not better, than All-in-One. I may move all my sites to it.

Dana Lookadoo July 14, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Thanks Ben for pointing this out. I caught it by accident, thinking I had accidentally left that checked. Now, at least I know it was All-in-One’s fault.

I do index the category pages, but I’ve not indexed the tag pages. Heading over to http://wpblogger.com/wordpress-seo-guide.php for more info.!

Michael Torbert July 14, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Ben,
I know that you want all the great traffic from this post, but don’t you think it would have been more helpful to have informed the developer if you think there’s a bug so that he can fix it?
Anyway, 1.6.4 is out now that fixes this issue.

Peter July 14, 2009 at 6:12 pm

ba-jeezus..thank you for mentioning this.. I just made the change to my site..

-peter

Ralph | Vertical Measures July 14, 2009 at 6:18 pm

My brother, http://millarian.com, just transferred his blog to WordPress and we were just discussing this very issue. He had asked me to look over his site for SEO issues and I immediately noticed that his category and tag pages were noindex nofollow. I was really surprised that this is the default value for the all-in-one-SEO plugin. People need to know about this, so thanks for sharing.

fthead9 July 14, 2009 at 6:26 pm

I just found the error last night on a blog, figured it was an accident. Wow, that is really bad overriding the original settings without any notice. Thanks for the tip, need go check some more blogs.

Ben Cook July 14, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Micheal, first of all you don’t allow comments on your plugin page etc.

Secondly, your plugin jacked up thousands of blogs and they needed to be warned. I’m sorry you looked bad but it needed to be publicized.

Michael Torbert July 14, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Do you feel that the links to my contact form and support forum weren’t prominent enough?

Ben Cook July 14, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Michael, to be honest I didn’t see the contact but how would emailing you help all the people who inadvertantly noindexed their category pages?

And will your update keep the settings that now have noindex on the categories or will it revert to previous settings? My guess is the update is only going to help people who hadn’t updated yet?

I’m not saying you did this malicious anything but you act like I did something wrong by bringing it to peoples attention to the problem.

Joi July 14, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Thanks for pointing this out – I wouldn’t have caught it on my own.

I love the all in one seo plugin and use it on many blogs. I am going to uncheck the box, however.

One Fine Jay July 14, 2009 at 9:23 pm

You call yourself WP Blogger and yet you don’t even know one whit of development ettiquette. The first thing you do when you encounter a bug is to go to the developer, open a ticket at the forum and frickin’ wait for the diagnosis and fix. Asking politely and giving as much detail as possible helps a lot.

Posting things on your blog, screaming about the update being “extremely dangerous” serves no real helpful purpose. Aside from trolling for traffic, this coffee klatsch hatefest doesn’t help the developer iron out any issues. A major update in an attempt to futureproof the plugin as it scales deserves as much support from its users before the plugin was updated. AIOSEOP has helped a lot of users with their SEO, making it easier for them to execute. (I personally tried to hardcode a version for myself and gave up after looking at what the plugin can do.)

Now is exactly when he needs the most support from all of us. Open source development relies on community feedback, the kind that actually helps towards resolving actual issues. You can grumble all you want, and post all sorts of poorly anti-aliased Photoshopped warning signs and get pats on the back from some sheep, or you can do the right thing and post the issue on the support forum, or even participate in beta testing.

Tyler Hayes July 14, 2009 at 9:33 pm

I’m new to this trend. Why do you disagree with it? And why do you disagree with carrying it over to your categories? Would love to get more info!

Roy Morejon July 14, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Just did an update for a blog, and noted the extra steps to upgrading. All went well, hats off to wordpress – thanks Ben.

Ben Cook July 15, 2009 at 1:22 am

Jay, believe it or not I do know about development ettiquette.

However, alerting the developer does no good to the thousands of blogs that have already updated the plugin and have their settings messed up as a result.

Also, in researching the issue since I posted, I’ve discovered that the issue WAS raised up to two days ago and Michael published a blog post that a) doesn’t detail the dangers of the bug and b) was obviously not enough for people (myself included) to be alerted to what was going on.

So, while I’m sorry that you feel this post wasn’t helpful, I would argue that in fact it HAS been valuable for many bloggers. And, as I’ve already mentioned in the Update I published on the post, the update will only solve the problem for people that HAVEN’T updated yet. If people have already updated, and didn’t notice that it overwrote their settings, their blogs could very well still suffer.

Chromoz July 15, 2009 at 3:31 am

They just rolled out two quick update..and now I’m afraid to update it..
What do you suggest?? Should I update it or not?

Ben Cook July 15, 2009 at 9:01 am

Chromoz, don’t be afraid to update, just make sure you double check your settings so that you don’t accidentally noindex pages you want to keep IN the search engines.

Kelly August 23, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I just looked at my setting and categories is set to noindex.

I’m not really clear on this. What’s the big deal if categories is no index, why would it reduce traffic?

If the single posts are all indexed, wouldn’t that mean that all the main posts are available for indexing so why would you also need to index categories? Wouldn’t that just lead to duplicate content?

Ben Cook August 23, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Kelly, by no indexing your category pages you remove any chance of those pages ranking. If you display your full posts on those pages it could cause duplicate content issues but if you only use snippets or teasers it’s not an issue.

Jeff October 1, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I was looking in Google’s Webmaster Tools (GWT) and saw that my site was not being indexed. After reading you post, I checked the All-In-One SEO settings (which I just installed this week ver. 1.6.6.2) and saw the “noindex for categories” was selected so I unchecked it. Now I’m going to monitor GWT and see what happens. Hopefully my site will get indexed.

Jeff October 1, 2009 at 1:25 pm

I forgot to mention regarding your post:

It was good that you shared your experience/issue with the plugin for the community to know about. I certainly benefited from it!

I have to say however that IMO you went a little overboard with the title and inflammatory graphic with skull and crossbones. To me it seems like a self-promoting post to get traffic – which could of been crafted differently.

But hey, it’s your blog…just my two cents.

Ben Cook October 1, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Jeff if your entire site is not being indexed you might want to check your Privacy Settings. This would not be something that A-I-O-SEO would impact but it sounds like that’s probably your issue.

Jeff October 1, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Ben, thanks. I checked and it’s set to be visible.

gokudv October 6, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Jeff, have you checked for duplicate content issues. If not i can show you how.

Ben Cook October 7, 2009 at 4:49 pm

@gokudv, unless Jeff’s site is 100% duplicate content that shouldn’t keep it from getting indexed.

Jeff October 7, 2009 at 4:56 pm

All, Google finally started indexing my site thanks. I specified the sitemap.xml file and a few days later it was indexed.

Thanks,
Jeff

Joel October 21, 2009 at 1:17 am

Hi I had this problem with the All in one seo pack for my blog I have lost a huge amount of traffic and am only now fixing it. Mine had the no index for categories. Might try HeadSpace2

Ben Cook October 26, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Joel, the issue was fixed shortly after this post was published and is no longer a problem. I always recommend keeping your plugins up to date as well so when issues are discovered, you benefit from the fixes that are included in new updates.

Ahmed Abdelbary November 8, 2009 at 4:38 am

Hello

Thanks for the informative post..

I have a problem with my blog I don’t know if it’s related to All in One SEo or to changing my permalink structure

I purchased this blog recently from a developer with some content on it that was already indexed in Google, I checked the content on copyscape to avoid being a duplication of other content.

I changed my permalink structure and installed permalink migration plugin..
I posted some new posts, submitted them to Digg, Mixx, Reddit…etc to get indexed, got some backlinks, waiting for them to be indexed..

The social media submissions of my post were crawled, but not the posts themselves on the blog!

The blog seems to be not indexed by Google lately, about a week now and no update for the cache of the blog, even the old posts appear with the old permalink structures..

I don’t know how to get these posts indexed faster, I got backlinks, links from social sites..rss submissions..all what I could think about..
Google crawls all my promotion pieces, but not my posts!

Any suggestions?

slamradio December 3, 2009 at 3:54 pm

good grief, give this guy a break! Ben, your post is informative and well written. Thank you so much for taking the time to add screen shots showing the exact update process, the messages received, and the proper settings to avoid/fix this issue. You have helped a lot of people, including me (i’m in the middle of the update right now…).

Linda Lee January 4, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I cannot thank you enough for this post. I am mortified to discover this.
I have spent half the day going into all my clients blogs and unchecking the noindex button. I agree with you completely.
What a stupid setting to create as a default.
I am furious right now.

Ben Cook January 4, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Linda, it is a dumb setting but it was even worse when the plugin didn’t maintain your settings when upgrading. Thankfully that issue has been fixed. The noindex setting is still set by default but at least once it’s changed it stays that way.

stefhanus January 25, 2010 at 4:35 pm

I am using all in one seo, I have tried headspace2, my home page tittle become very long because headspace2 use blog title in general setting together with home page title from headspace2.

[EDITED: Don't Keyword Stuff Your Comment Name] March 6, 2010 at 1:03 am

Hi,

Thanks for sharing this. I am horrified to learn that my website has dropped out totally of the search rankings and the reason could just be this!! I was wondering why for the past few weeks and found it very strange as I still see googlebot crawling my website. Now I will uncheck the setting and hope it at least comes back on the serps!

Ben Cook March 8, 2010 at 1:00 am

To the Edited Keyword Stuffer,
Again, this issue was only with the one version of the plugin that is mentioned in the post. This would NOT be the reason your site has dropped out of the rankings recently.

Also, seriously, give up trying to get keywords in your comment name. A large majority of blogs out there nofollow links from their comments so it’s not going to do you any good & will only piss people off. Work on making your site more useful or creating content that will attract links naturally, deal?

Charles Forster May 10, 2011 at 10:22 am

You really need to add dates to your posts or articles, since updates are happening all the time. I have no idea when this was put out so it’s difficult to know how up-to-date this is all is.

Ben Cook May 10, 2011 at 10:29 am

Charles, I’ll consider adding dates back but I do mention the version number in the post to help users keep track.

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