I made that switch a ways back to using Rank Math on several of the websites I admin, interested to try a plugin so much of the SEO community was talking about.
For awhile it was fine, and I liked that some of the baked-in features meant I could slim down my plugins list.
Recently, though, the whole experience took a serious turn for the worse.
A Rank Math Bug Caused Major Indexing Issues
It started with a new client I took on with a newly designed WordPress website (using Rank Math). Very quickly into the project we noticed Google was absolutely refusing to index the site, no matter how well optimized it was or how many times we manually submitted URLs.
Search Console also kept saying the sitemaps were unable to be crawled.
Site:domainurl.com commands also kept revealing that Google and Bing were straight refusing to grab hold of the site.
This was a career first for me. Sure, sometimes ranking can take awhile, but I’ve never had any issues getting a site indexed quickly.
I tried just about everything I could think of to rule out what could be causing indexing problems, and ran the issue past a few trusted peers in the SEO game and nothing made a difference.
(Trust me; if you are thinking of a suggestion, I bet you I tried it.)
As far as I could tell, everything was correct and set the same as I’d done a hundred times, and there was no reason that made any sense why this was happening.
I wasn’t able to resolve the issue in time, and the client understandably pulled their business. After all, how could I justify continuing to charge for SEO when none of the site was even indexed after 30 days?
That is, until one evening doing some reading about Rank Math throwing 404 errors on the sitemap URLS unlocked the whole puzzle for me.
The solution I found for resetting Rank Math’s sitemap cache, and then resetting WordPress’ permalink setting indeed magically made Search Console successfully read the sitemaps.
But even more importantly, performing these fixes immediately allowed that site to index properly.
But the problem, as I quickly saw, went deeper than that.
How long had this issue actually been creating problems I hadn’t fully noticed? Could I even trust my livelihood to a plugin that randomly borked 80% of my sites?
Rank Math Had Created 90 Day Ranking Issues For Every Site I Had It Installed On.
Normally my standard procedure after publishing a post is to submit the URL to Search Console and move on. I rarely double back to check that the URL indeed indexed because it’s never been necessary.
Anything I’ve ever published and submitted has always been indexed.
As I went back through a few websites I manage and checked the last 4-5 blog posts added on each, I saw that after 45+ days none of them were indexed.
That explained a lot in terms of slow growth I’d been noticing on some of my sites.
Compared against similar sites that still had The SEO Framework installed instead, and The SEO Framework sites were fine and everything was properly indexed.
I stayed up late that night switching a dozen websites away from Rank Math back over to The SEO Framework and re-configuring everything.
After 2-3 days, all of the indexing issues vanished and every single one of my websites were fully indexed.
I mean, this could’ve jeopardized my entire business.
Apparently The Issues With Rank Math Go Deeper Than This Indexing Problem.
I started delving into SEO forums and Reddit threads about Rank Math, now very curious how many other people had noticed these issues.
What I didn’t expect to find were a half dozen threads with people sharing stories about how Rank Math has, for years now, been exposed for publishing fake/manufactured reviews about their plugin and other shady behavior.
The big buzz in the SEO community when the plugin first hit the web? Yeah, apparently a big chunk of that was fake. The plugin authors even got nasty and went after people for trying to expose them for it.
And the reviews that were real were likely inspired by the fake ones. Meaning, if you’re an SEO pro and see what seems to be half the internet praising a tool, you try it too. And if it seems solid, you praise it as well. It may never have showed up on your radar without all the buzz.
Aside the shadier aspects of what people say about Rank Math, other threads had stories where the plugin was apparently buggy and caused people major issues even early on — far before my own issues discussed here. One user even claimed looking at the plugin’s code shows some pretty spyware-esque things going on in terms of data collection and phoning home.
My bad, I thought in a huge way, for not doing more due diligence when this plugin was first presented to me. Hype or not, this crap could’ve tanked my business.
My honest recommendation to anyone working a website: don’t let the hype fool you. Don’t use Rank Math. I personally prefer The SEO Framework and have used it to great effect for many years, but at this point I’d say you probably can’t go wrong switching to any of the other major SEO plugins as an alternative to Rank Math.
Even setting aside for a moment the shadiness of the founder, nobody doing SEO ever wants to be at the mercy of a random plugin update the destroys everything they’ve worked for.