Today, we’re going to jump into WordPress a little bit. For those of you who use WordPress, it’s either one of two things – a fantastic platform that makes building websites and blogs easy OR a real pain in the ass!
People who know coding and web design usually love WordPress’ open-source community for its flexibility, customization ability, and easy blog integration. Those who don’t know code or web design so well often have trouble making updates to their site’s design and structure outside of the main stuff in the WordPress CMS.
Now, optimizing a WordPress website is more than just downloading plugins. In many ways, it is just like optimizing a normal website – and in some ways, it’s not. If you know code, you can do such things as:
- Changing your ‘Single Post’ Headings to H1’s.
- Add dynamic ALT attributes to all post thumbnails.
- Tweaking your site’s design and structure to ensure that it’s SEO-friendly.
- Create a good internal link structure by ensuring that all categories and archives are easily crawlable.
- Add social sharing buttons to promote social media sharing and link building.
If you don’t know code, I would hardly say you’re screwed. The WordPress Community has done a great job of creating plugins that make many aspects of performing SEO on your website very easy.
So without further adieu, here are the 6 plugins that you shouldn’t forget to use when optimizing your website.
The Main SEO Plugins That I Use
Here are some of the main plugins that I like to use to help out with my site’s SEO objectives.
#1. The All-In-One SEO Pack
The All-In-One SEO Pack is probably the most well-known SEO plugin for WordPress. I currently use it for my blog, and its functionality allows you to do several things that you can’t do within WordPress’ native functionality (without much effort and a knowledge of WordPress coding):
- Create a Different Title Tag for your Homepage & Interior Pages
- Create an Optimized Title Structure for Dynamic Interior WordPress pages such as Archives, Categories, and Search Results pages.
- Create a unique Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, and Meta Keywords for all posts & pages of site (some are generated dynamically but most can be controlled by user right in the post admin page).
- Displays character space usage for titles and meta on internal pages that you set up.
- Set up a Canonical URL structure to help search engines understand which version of a page to index.
- and more…
This is truly one of my favorite plugins and not too difficult to configure. An important note to remember is that the All-In-One SEO Pack makes certain things possible, but doesn’t solve all the problems (i.e. simply installing the plugin doesn’t mean you site is SEO’d).
You’re still responsible for writing good title tags, good meta descriptions, and solid content. And in posts/pages, it is up to you to fill out the titles and meta or WordPress will use its native structure to handle it.
#2. Google XML Sitemaps
The Google XML Sitemaps plugin makes the process of creating an XML sitemap much easier and quicker. In addition, it also makes the process of keeping your XML Sitemap up-to-date much easier as it is dynamically rebuilt everytime you add a new post, page, tag, category, etc.
Once you’ve created your sitemap, the Google XML Sitemaps plugin will automatically ping the search engines each time its updated. In addition, you can submit your sitemap to Google or Bing through Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Tools. This should speed up the indexing of new pages within your site.
#3. Broken Link Checker
The Broken Link Checker plugin will check your posts, comments and other content for broken links and missing images, and notify you if any are found. Basically, this plugin helps you keep your content clean and user-friendly.
If your site has too many broken links, it is highly likely that over time users will trust your site less, which will inevitably lead to less trust in search engines and lower search rankings.
If done manually, checking your site’s pages to ensure that there are no broken links is almost impossible. However, the Broken Link Checker plugin makes it very easy to find and fix your site’s broken links – and make sure that all of your old and new articles have a clean and friendly link structure.
* As you can see below, I’ve got quite a few broken links that I need to fix from some of my older articles.
#4. Yoast Breadcrumbs
I’ve been using this plugin on my site for a while, and it makes the process of add breadcrumbs navigation – something that would be very difficult otherwise within WordPress – very easy. It’s as easy as enabling the plugin and checking the “Try to add automatically box.” If you’re not using a template that is friendly to adding it automatically, you can add it manually by inserting one line of code to your template files.
The Redirection plugin to manage 301-Redirects, keep track of 404-Errors, and generally tidy up any loose ends your site may have.
From an SEO perspective, this plugin serves several functions.
It can be used to help you migrate your site to the WordPress platform without blowing up your search rankings by helping you migrate old website pages and point them to their new counterparts.
If you somehow lose a page and it shows up as a 404-error in search results, you can quickly redirect it to avoid any sort of ranking penalty for having too many 404’s indexed (which can be bad for SEO).
#6. Ultimate Google Analytics
Now this isn’t an SEO plugin per say. However, monitoring website traffic SHOULD be part of every SEO campaign.
If you don’t know your WordPress framework well enough to plug your Google Analytics code into your WordPress footer.php include (assuming you use the same footer on all pages of your site), the Ultimate Google Analytics plugin makes it much easier to add.
Simply plugin in your UA code and your site’s analytics will be ready to roll!
Bonus SEO Plugins
Here are some bonus plugins that I’ve not yet tried, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about.
#7. WordPress SEO by Yoast
Joost de Valk is probably one of the industry’s most foremost experts on SEO and its relation to WordPress. He’s developed tons of plugins and has come up with what looks to be a very feature-rich WordPress SEO management plugin called WordPress SEO by Yoast.
This plugin gives you the ability to:
- Post title and meta description meta box to change these on a per post basis.
- Taxonomy (tag, category & custom taxonomy) title and meta description support.
- Google search result snippet previews.
- Focus keyword testing.
- Meta Robots configuration.
- Improved canonical support, adding canonical to taxonomy archives, single posts and pages and the front page.
- RSS footer / header configuration.
- Permalink clean ups, while still allowing for, for instance, Google Custom Search.
- Breadcrumbs support, with configurable breadcrumbs titles.
- XML Sitemaps with Images, Configurable removal of post types and taxonomies, and the ability to control pages or posts that have been noindexed (will not show in XML Sitemap (but can if you want them too)).
- XML News Sitemaps.
- Edit .htaccess and robots.txt files.
- Basic import functionality for HeadSpace2 and All in One SEO.
A word of caution. This plugin looks to be a little more complicated than All-In-One SEO, so I may not recommend it for novice SEO’s. For advanced Search Engine Optimizers, it should be right up your alley. I’m considering a switch to this plugin myself.
#8. Scribe SEO
Scribe SEO is probably one of the most innovative and intuitive plugins I’ve ever seen for WordPress. The only reason I don’t use it currently is that it is a paid tool.
The concept behind Scribe SEO is that it focuses on helping you write you site’s content in a more well-optimized fashion. It uses its proprietary technology to help you identify the keywords that people are likely to search and find your site for, and then makes suggestions to you to help you tailor your content around those keywords – while keeping your content user-friendly.
I’m a huge proponent of writing user-friendly content first, then optimizing it for search engines – so this plugin really appeals to me.
In addition, Scribe SEO also helps you build inbound links from other sites, cross-link the content within your own site, and identify influential social media users who want to share your site’s content.
If you have the extra money, and really depend on your site to generate revenue, then Scribe SEO may be a good investment.
#9. Automatic SEO Links
A somewhat similar plugin to Scribe SEO is the Automatic SEO Links plugin. Although it doesn’t make suggestions for content writing, this plugin does help you link up your site’s most critical keywords in order to enhance your site’s SEO value and crawlability.
For example, I might use this plugin to link to every instance of the word “SEO” within my blog and point that to my ‘About’ page. Over time and with enough internal links pointing to a specific page, this may serve to increase the relevance of particular pages of your site – thus increasing the ranking ability of that page.
This plugin is something I’ll probably use in the future, but I would warn users not to go crazy with it. Use it as a way to maintain efficiency, and remember that links that look and occur naturally tend to be more valuable to users and search engines.
Begin using some of these plugins, and you should be on your way to a pretty well-optimized WordPress website. Word to the wise, don’t rely on the plugins too heavily, and just because you’ve activated the plugins doesn’t mean your site is optimized. You’re the one that needs to come up with and maintain the keywords strategy, and don’t forget that fact!