In a follow-up to his earlier SearchEngineWatch article, Gary-Adam Shannon is claiming again that Google may be penalizing sites for using WordPress:
If you ask me, it makes perfect sense that Google could potentially penalize based on a site footprint.
This time he offers two kinds of evidence for this:
I’ve talked with a few SEOs who also claim that moving away from WordPress has helped their rankings.
and in what I take to be indirect evidence:
Did you know Google uses the WordPress generator tag to fingerprint your site? If you run old versions of WordPress, Google Webmaster Tools will actively check your sites and keep you informed, letting you know you’re out of date and need to upgrade WordPress.
Now hold on a minute.
While it’s an intriguing suggestion that some people have had better rankings after switching away from WordPress, there are no numbers or examples given, no context about these switches (what other factors may have contributed, etc.). Plus it doesn’t automatically follow that if this happened it was because Google was penalizing the site for being on WordPress.
The second point hinges on the word “fingerprinting.” The use of this word, rather than “reads” or “records” is a weak attempt at implying there’s a penalty, when in fact all we’re told is that Google Webmaster Tools provides a valuable service by alerting people that their WP installation is out of date.
The big question that Shannon has not addressed in either of his articles is:
Why would Google penalize a site simply because of the platform on which it’s built?
It already penalizes sites for doing/not doing things that can happen on any platform (not having meta descriptions, poor quality titles, no quality content)… what would be the purpose of looking at the platform, unless perhaps one could show that the platform itself is trying to game ranking results, inserting hidden code, etc.
Showing that a platform is doing bad things by default, without users knowledge, or exposing Google for penalizing sites irrationally – these would be useful goals in an article.
To simply say ‘maybe it’s possible that perhaps Google is penalizing WordPress for some possible reason’ is just fear-mongering.
To his credit, Shannon has made some useful points in this second article which actually have to do with possible (though debated) issues of WordPress security, such as hiding the version number or (not debated) protecting administrative folders on the server… but that’s an article on security, not search engine penalties.