The team behind the Rank Math SEO plugin released an update that includes full support for the block editor on December 18. The update includes around two dozen features, improvements, and fixes. The biggest feature update was the inclusion of a new plugin sidebar for the block editor.

Some of the new features include a filter for unlimited focus keywords, an email notification each time the plugin is automatically updated, and a warning when using the review Schema type. It also improved compatibility with the Elementor plugin’s sitemap module and added Advanced Custom Fields integration to the sidebar. A full list of features is available in the plugin’s public change log.

The team has a public demo available for end-users to test the plugin without having to install it on their sites.

Bhanu Ahluwalia, co-founder and CMO at Rank Math, said that everyone on the team had been experimenting with the Gutenberg plugin since the first beta was released. “We had some experience with Gutenberg, but working on Rank Math has taught us so many things and helped us on so many levels,” he said.

It was not always a smooth journey. Ahluwalia said the team wanted to keep the plugin lightweight and not sacrifice speed with new technologies. “We had to learn React, Webpack, ES6, etc.,” he said. “In essence, we had to re-learn patterns, practices, and pitfalls of Gutenberg, and we had to do it all with little-to-no documentation available. We had to dive deep into the code and get ourselves familiar with every line of code to ensure nothing interfered with the existing functions of our plugin.”

Testing the Block Editor Sidebar

rank-math-sidebar Rank Math SEO Plugin Adds WordPress Block Editor Support design tips News
Rank Math sidebar as seen in the block editor.

Immediately upon activating the update, I noted the Rank Math button at the top right of the editor. Admittedly, I was not happy with the space the button took up or its difference in design when compared to other plugin sidebar buttons. Instead of a simple icon, the button includes both an icon and an SEO score. As more and more plugins and themes begin adding sidebars of their own, this space could become cluttered quickly. I would like to see this scaled back to simply be an icon and not take up precious screen real estate.

The plugin manages to pack a ton of options and information into a tight spot. Once viewing the plugin sidebar, it presents four sub-tabs (General, Advanced, Schema, and Social), each with custom panels or sections. While I am not generally a fan of complex SEO plugins and prefer solutions such as Slim SEO, the plugin handles the interface gracefully.

In comparison to the old meta boxes, the interface is a huge step up. The meta box system used in previous versions of the plugin or with the current Classic editor is cumbersome at best. The team had to get more creative to pull off a solution for the sidebar, which forced them to tighten up the interface.

Not all users were happy with the narrow space provided by the new sidebar. The Rank Math team was ahead of the game and included a filter hook to disable this feature. Disabling will return the old-style meta box at the bottom of the post-editing area.

“Supporting both the Classic Editor and Gutenberg at once with a single plugin is hectic to say the least,” said Ahluwalia. “We would rather put our energy into a single editing experience, but seeing how WordPress is evolving after Gutenberg, we have to double our efforts to offer a consistent user experience.”

At the moment, the team plans to continue supporting the classic editor until at least 2022. “Depending on the user feedback and the acceptance of the Classic editor, we can continue to support it even further,” said Ahluwalia.

The Rank Math also team shared a video of block editor support on Twitter: