WordPress is a great CMS and it’s reasonably well geared up for SEO tasks. However to really get to grips with SEO on WordPress you’re going to need a plugin to help deal with your title tags, meta descriptions, canonical urls, robots directives and more.
There are a lot of great plugins for SEO on WordPress. It doesn’t just necessarily come down to Yoast Vs All in One either! Whilst these are great plugins, they don’t always cover everything you need.
So this post will take a look at Yoast, All in One and other general SEO plugins in addition to other more niche plugins that you may want to use.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
The Yoast WordPress SEO plugin is the work of Joost De Valk, who is of course well known in the WordPress world for his extremely popular plugins and themes.
Amongst his other popular plugins are Video SEO, Local SEO, News SEO, Yoast WooCommerce SEO, Google Analytics, Google Analytics Premium, eCommerce Tracking and other plugins for comments, short links, taxonomies and more.
The free version of WordPress SEO is powerful and great for beginners, but we’ll be looking at the premium version which includes extra features and access to their support team.
- Set Titles and Meta Descriptions – including the handy ability to reduce duplication and auto-populate fields using sensible variables including page number, post title, site name and more.
- Handle canonical URLs – something that’s extremely important if you have a substantial e-commerce catalogue, as content duplication can easily stack up otherwise.
- Edit robots.txt and .htaccess files. This feature is incredibly handy as it saves you configuring FTP access and logging on just to change a few lines. As long as the files have the correct permissions on your server you can simply edit them in WordPress.
- The Yoast XML Sitemaps feature goes a little way beyond the standard ‘one sitemap with everything in’. You start with a sitemap index, which tracks all of the individual sitemaps. You can then enable/disable different sitemaps as required for posts, pages and other elements you might have on your site.
- Meta Robots configuration is also easy. On each page or post you have an advanced tab and here you can issue individual settings such as noindex, follow or NO ODP etc. Excellent for making changes to the few pages that need something different to the global robots defaults.
All In One SEO
The All in One plugin, that other giant of SEO on WordPress, is the work of Michael Torbert, who also has a host of great plugins to his name including: SimpleMap Store Locator, FT Calendar, WordPress Debug and more. It is his All in One SEO plugin though that is the real runaway success amongst his work. It has been downloaded over 20 million times. By comparison Yoast is trailing with only (only!) 14 million downloads.
- It claims to be the only SEO plugin with support for WP eCommerce. So if you’re using this – and several million are – you pretty much need All in One SEO for your website.
- Submit your XML sitemap to Bing and Google from within the plugin. You probably have got Google Webmaster Tools setup (you should), but might not have Bing, so this is an easy way to ‘ping’ your sitemap to these search engines as and when required.
- It allows you to fine tune page navigation links.
- With its built in API if you are a developer you can extend the functionality available and integrate the plugin with others.
- It aims at beginners and advanced users – for a beginner it should just work ‘out of the box’, for advanced users there’s not much you can’t customise. This was my first experience of an SEO plugin for WordPress and I can agree that it does meet those aims.
Other Notable SEO Plugins:
With WordPress being as popular as it is (more than 74 million websites run on this platform!) there are a multitude of available plugins (more than 30,000 and continually growing) that will do some or all of the SEO tasks you require.
Other notable plugins include: SEO Ultimate (1 million+ downloads, average 4 star rating), SEO by SQUIRRLY (for non SEO experts, nearly 700,000 downloads and an average rating of 4 stars) and an honorary mention goes to Lazy SEO which says it will automatically optimise your site for a set of given keywords. Lazy SEO has 40,000 downloads and a 3.5 star rating – it’s a bit of curiosity but we’d warn against using automation in this way, it could easily do more harm than good. Still, it could be used as an interesting experiment on a lower risk site or to quickly set sensible defaults on a group of satellite sites (not in a spammy sense of course).
Other Plugins Helpful to SEO
Whilst All in One or Yoast are great coverall plugins for most websites, occasionally you’ll find there’s something a little lacking. Take a look over the results from your preferred SEO tool, be it Advanced Web Ranking, Moz, Search Metrics etc, and see what errors or warnings are still troubling you.
A recent example for us on a property management website was an excess of warnings about images missing ALT tags. ALT tags are a handy way of using keywords to describe an image – search engines may be getting better at processing images, but it’s very intensive and not as accurate as you might like.
This property website had in excess of 1000 images – exterior house shots, garden pictures, rooms, included appliances, the local area and more. Whilst adding the tags is an important task, to do so ‘by hand’ would have probably consumed not only the client’s time for the month but also all the other clients’ time and more besides! To aid this we found a plugin called ‘SEO Friendly Images’.
With an easy installation – as with most WordPress plugins – we were up and running in seconds, setting sensible defaults to be used for the image ALT tags in the absence of pre-set ones. Just as Yoast allows you to do this for title tags and meta descriptions on your posts/pages, SEO Friendly Images can cover your image ALT tags. In seconds – as opposed to years – we had cleared the vast majority of missing ALT tag warnings. The remaining few were down to theme items and can be edited in a few minutes in the theme editor, or just left as the gain isn’t that great from setting these.
WP Social SEO Booster is another great plugin for any site with a large social component. It will handle microdata for Google rich snippets, authorship markup (largely defunct due to recent changes, but could be useful in the future), Facebook Open Graph, Twitter meta tags and more. Helpfully it will also play nicely with Yoast and All in One, so you should be able to add this plugin without any headaches.
SEO Auto Links will help you by automatically adding links for keywords to other pages, posts, categories or any URL of your choosing. This should help you with your internal linking by tying related content together.
That completes our round up of SEO plugins for WordPress. What do you use? Have you moved from one to another and if so, why? Let us know in the comments!