Why are template websites bad for SEO?


Why are template websites bad for SEO?

The funny thing is, they actually aren't - in fact there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a template website as a low cost alternative to a custom design while you are getting started and don't have the budget for a full blown custom. Users often operate under the mistaken assumption that because the source code (The html not the content) is the same, you can run into duplicate content issues. Not try at all, search engines are concerned with the content contained within the html, not the html itself.

A better question would be "Why do most SEO's say that template websites are bad?" - The answer to this question is "Because they are!"

Confused yet?

Here is (From an SEO perspective) why many search engine consultants advise against using template websites.

Poor coding: Most templated real estate websites were created on a framework quite some time ago and not with any regard to search engine optimization. They are chalk full of very poorly formed (And many times just incorrect) html, are very bloated (Which makes for a slow loading website with high html text ratio and can cause issues with proper spidering) and their architecture is just plain bad. Plain and simple - you will never be able to do a great job optimizing your website if you are starting with a poorly coded non-search engine friendly platform - But what about all those templates that rank well even with really bad code? It is true that you can achieve "decent" rankings with the main page and perhaps a few sub pages even with a poorly coded website - however the effort required (And the amount of extra links you have to get) means a much harder job and your time is worth money - in the end you will realize that you need to drop your poorly coded site for something with higher markup standards and it is better to start right from the beginning than to have to switch later after putting all that extra work into a bad site because a lot of it is wasted time you could have spent selling real estate.

Lack of flexibility: Most templated real estate websites (In fact all that I know of) come with content management systems in order to add and modify your content. Now this in of itself is not a bad thing if the CMS is robust enough to allow you to do all the things you need to do to achieve great rankings, however most of these systems are take it or leave it and the operators of the template sites are not going roll out a custom change to their entire network of customers just because you needed the CMS tweaked to allow for some new SEO technique, or because you needed more control over certain elements.

Inadequate access to create and change content and meta data: In the last point, we talked about how most template providers are unwilling to change their systems to accomodate your needs, which you would never need them to do in the first place is they had all they needed from an SEO perspective out of the box - but remember these sites (And the content management systems that power them) were made for mass production and I can guarantee you when version one rolled out, they did not have a tallented search engine consultant there giving them advise on what needs to be built into this thing, and how to plan for future SEO considerations.

Duplicate Content: This is a pretty big one. So many template providers try to sell their websites as "complete websites out of the box, including all the content you will ever need!" - Guess what folks, forget the SEO - if there is content on a site that is so generic that it can be equally applied to any Realtor in any market, you can bet your ass it is going to be of zero value to the consumer and is not going to reflect well on you. Now granted most template providers provide you the ability to edit or delete the canned stuff - but why would you want to start with a website that you had to go in and completely gut before you could start optimizing it? This just means more learning curve and more work for you.

They make bad decisions: And because typically they don't know a thing about SEO, they are usually bad SEO decisions. I have seen many times over the years entire networks of tens of thousands of sites get banned from the likes of Yahoo, and Google. Do you want to leave your hard work at teh mercy of someone who knows less about SEO than you do?

Here are some more reasons I don't like most template providers:

Their templates are UGLY! - Find me an out of the box Advanced Access website that looks good and I will edit all that duplicate content for you - not gunna happen.

Technologically incompatible: Want an advanced search engine friendly IDX integrated into your website? How about a blog installed directly into your domain? Want your system to tie directly into your CRM? Good freakin luck! If they won't tweak their CMS to your needs, you can bet your bottom dollar there is no hope of any custom coding being available.

Poor support: Once again coming back to the this is what it is deal with it mentality - even if there is some hope of tuning these puppies for a little better performance, and there is an unlikely workaround that you are trying to wrangle - most of the time you are on your own - I can remember working for a customer many years ago on their framed template website, and their provider came out with this new NF crappy URL system to create non framed pages - So I call up customer service and ask them how to do it, and they basically told me to go !@#@! myself. I ended up having to find another site that already figured it out and reverse engineer (At the clients expense) the URL structure wheeeeeeeeeee!

Ok, Ok enough bagging on template websites - after reading this, you would think I have a serious hate on for template websites but the funny thing is, my company sells templated real estate websites as an entry level product for those customers looking to get started with a low budget - but if you ever try to compare my websites to the likes of the providers I am referencing above - seriously, I will punch your face :)


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Morgan Carey

Incidentally, other than Real Estate Webmasters, there are a few quite good website template providers out there - But I ain't gunna tell you who they are because you wouldn't like them anyways ;)

REW Nick

The title of this post scared the bejesus out of me. Thanks for clearing that stuff up though! Good post.


GREAT post! It's so true. YOUR "templates" aren't even templates, they're "foundation sites" (tm;) and beautiful. Those that purchase template just need to throw them away and start over when it comes to SEO, but rew sites have everything needed. Perfect article.

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