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The Complete WordPress SEO Plugin Mastery
Search Engine Optimization

The Complete WordPress SEO Plugin Mastery

March 22, 2024

SEO is essential to dominating the internet, and as the digital climate becomes more and more saturated, it is becoming more important than ever before to make sure that you are making every effort to get seen online. One of the easiest ways to give your websites a little extra boost is by incorporating the right WordPress plugins.

The Problem:

Wait ... I thought that finding the best SEO plugin was my problem?

You're close. Everybody wants the one plugin that is going to single handedly cuddle their site up against that ever-desirable Google search bar. Although this result is possible, the fact is that the SEO market is becoming an increasingly competitive and saturated one. This context makes it more important than ever before to have a better structured and optimized website with a search engine friendly hierarchy so that you can set yourself apart, and be ranked above your competition. Much to your dismay, that might involve a bit of a plugin stack.

The Essential SEO Plugin Stack

Whether you're developing sites for clients, or your own business, mastering SEO will be the key to growing and sustaining a strong online presence. The good news is, we know how to get you there.

There are 7 critical pieces to the SEO puzzle. To start, you NEED an overall on-site SEO plugin to cover the basics, such as: meta tags, sitemaps, robots, and so on. Then, there are an additional 6 corresponding sections for plugins that will provide that competitive edge that you're looking for:

  1. On-site SEO
  2. Mobile Optimization
  3. Broken Links
  4. Speed
  5. Security
  6. Image Optimization
  7. Rich Snippet

It is true that it's a bit of a catch 22 when it comes to plugins and website speed, being that the sheer amount of plugins being used will have an impact on the site speed. However, by using the right stack to build your SEO, the benefits will outweigh the harms.

Let's dive in.

1. On-site SEO Plugins

An on-site SEO plugin will be the foundation of your infrastructure. For your convenience, we narrowed it down to just 2 contenders, Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack.

These 2 plugins have both been around for a decade already, and are still on top of the food chain.

Yoast SEO

Price: Free with Paid Premium Option

Elevator Pitch:

Through walk-throughs and advanced settings, Yoast is the one stop shop for beginners and experts alike. Including sitemaps, title and meta descriptions, and the ability to connect Google Search Console, this plugin does everything to please users and search engine spiders alike.

With built in content and SEO analysis, Yoast can also ensure that your content is always killer (in Google's eyes as well as prospect's eyes). By upgrading to premium, you also gain access to a local SEO extension which adds a local schema markup to your web pages. Other premium features include video and news extensions.

Key Features:

  • Most used SEO plugin on market with 5M+ active installs
  • Thousands of daily downloads
  • Successfully combines content and SEO
  • Uses JSON_LD for local
  • 5 star-rating across nearly 20,000 reviews on WordPress.org

All in One SEO Pack

Price: Free with Paid Premium Option

Elevator Pitch:

All in One SEO Pack is the original SEO plugin that works out-of-the-box for beginners with advanced features for developers. XML sitemaps, and overridable meta descriptions/keywords allow users to optimize their SEO efforts.

This plugin is also very durable being that it is translated into 57 languages and works well with a number of other plugins. All in One provides local SEO recommendations and keyword ranking for users also.

Key Features:

  • The ONLY free plugin to provide SEO Integration for e-Commerce websites, including WooCommerce
  • Over 3M active installs
  • 4.5 star-rating across 500+ reviews on WordPress.org

The On-site SEO Winner

Yoast SEO. Industry experts and Vendastians all concur that Yoast is basically the modern-day standard when it comes to WordPress SEO plugins. The free version will accommodate users of all levels of expertise and ensure all of your bases are covered.

2. Mobile Website Optimization Plugins

This SEO factor earned itself a priority seat due to the fact that Google is now favoring outlets that are operating on AMP code. Google announced just last month, January 2018, that it would begin prioritizing pages with fast mobile loading speed in their search algorithm. What this means is that mobile optimization will now be a high ranking factor in every website's overall SEO performance on Google.

This makes it more crucial than ever before to have your sites optimized for mobile. Considering that the majority of searching these days is conducted from mobile devices, it just makes sense.

AMP for WordPress

Price: Free!

Elevator Pitch:

Ever get frustrated when you're trying to look something up on your phone and it takes 3 whole days to load? We all lead pretty busy lives, and just don't have time for that nonsense.

By utilizing AMP for WordPress, you can ensure that your potential customers never lose hope as a result of a slow mobile site. By creating AMP content, which Google is now factoring into SEO rankings, this plugin satisfies the needs of major AMP consumers such as Google Search.

Key Features:

  • Developed by WordPress, not a third party, so compatibility is not a concern
  • Many 1 star reviews, and a 3.5 star overall rating on WordPress.org
  • 200,000+ active installs (best in class)

AMP for WP

Price: Also free!

Elevator Pitch:

These people also spared no creativity in regards to naming themselves, but I guess that there's no harm in getting to the point either ...

AMP for WP is pretty straight-forward, and simply adds AMP functionality to your WordPress site to increase mobile site speed through search engines (like Google!).

Key Features:

  • 100,000+ active installations
  • 4.5 star user rating on WordPress.org (best in class)
  • Yoast (and other SEO) plugin integration

The Mobile Optimization Winner

AMP for WP (the latter-- these 2 are damn confusing). The reality is that both of these plugins are going to satisfy your mobile optimization needs, but it just seems like AMP for WordPress (the loser) has not put as much effort into customer satisfaction. Installs are declining and 1 star ratings on WordPress.org almost pair those of the 5 stars; which may be cause for some concern, ex:

Not what you want to see...

3. Broken Link Plugins

Links are sort of like family pictures-- sometimes they just go bad. Pages can be erased, a site that you link to might vanish, or somebody may relocate a post or page without updating others. These actions can all result in broken links.

And there is absolutely nothing worse than hitting a "404 Page not found" when you're searching for a new photographer for your family pictures.

By managing broken links on your website, you can alleviate user frustrations, questions of credibility, lost conversions, and damage to your SEO ranking. Yes, broken links factor rather heavily into your SEO ranking.

Broken Link Checker

Price: Free!

Elevator Pitch:

Broken Link Checker scans your posts, pages, comments, blogs, and custom fields to find links that do not work, images that might be missing, and link redirects. This parsing can take some time as it verifies each and every link connected to your site. Once completed, it will provide you with a list of broken links so that you can manage redirects and prevent prospects and customers from losing interest or losing track of you.

Key Features:

  • Has not been updated in 6 months ... customer service?
  • 500,000+ active installs (by far best in class)
  • 4 star rating across nearly 400 reviews on WordPress.org
  • Provided in 30 languages

The Broken Link Winner

Just one candidate, and just one winner. Use this plugin, it will save your customers and potential customers a lot of frustration, and it will help optimize your overall SEO.

4. Speed Plugins

Page speed is a huge factor in search rankings because it is a huge factor in user experience. Google recommends web pages load in less than a half second, and that's not always easy to accomplish.

To tie into the above AMP category, this element has actually never been more important with Google recently revealing that web page speed is now a ranking factor for mobile browsing (where most searches take place).

I have provided 2 site caching alternatives that will have a substantial impact on site load times, especially with high volumes of traffic.

WP Fastest Cache

Price: Free, the best price.

Elevator Pitch:

With most of the functionality automated, and active page stats, the WP Fastest Cache plugin is really easy to use. It creates a static html file so that high amounts of traffic do not cause slow render times on your site, and provides numerous options for handling cached files. It also includes minify html and css options so that customers can reduce the size of pages and css files.

Key Features:

  • Does not yet support WordPress Multisite
  • 5 star rating and over 500,000 active installations
  • Offered in 17 languages

W3 Total Cache

Price: Free, always

Elevator Pitch:

W3 Total Cache improves SEO and user experience by minimizing download times and increasing performance. W3 comes with a host of caching options, minification features, as well as various security features. It also offers improved server performance to help weather those high traffic times.

Key Features:

  • Only 9 out of 108 issues fixed in the past 2 months
  • 4.5 star rating and over 1 million active installs (best in class)
  • Used by several big companies such as AT&T

The Speed Winner

This is actually a really tough one. I am going to crown W3 Total Cache as the victor for now because of the sheer volume of active users and the number of industry experts that swear by it. However, WP Fastest Cache is a great caching plugin, and is growing in popularity and downloads, so it would also make for a great option should you choose it.

5. Security Plugins

Security is a factor that has varying degrees of concern. If you are a financial institution or a related field of business, security will probably hold a much greater precedence in your site infrastructure.

The main impact of a security plugin for other business demographics is in regards to an SSL certificate (https). This certificate helps your website preserve rank on search providers and is rumored to become a necessity for google sites in the near future. An SSL certificate can also directly translate to growth in rank, while also encrypting user information-- a crucial element on a lot of sites.

Besides, who wants to be hacked by some sneaky black hat spammer?

Wordfence Security

Price: Free with Premium Option

Elevator Pitch:

Wordfence Security was built for the specific application of WordPress sites. It includes an endpoint firewall and malware scanner, along with a Threat Defense Feed that makes sure that Wordfence is always up to date with the newest firewall guidelines, malware signatures, and malicious IP addresses it needs to keep your site secure.

Key Features:

  • 2M+ active installs (best in class)
  • 5 star rating across over 3000 reviews on WordPress.org
  • User friendly feeds to monitor performance

The Security Winner

We decided to keep it simple on this one being that Wordfence Security is all around best in class. This plugin is a favorite by industry pros worldwide, so it will definitely meet your firewall and malware needs in the free version-- with the option to pay for premium as you grow.

6. Image Optimization

The images that you utilize on your site build can have a huge impact on user experience as well as click and conversion rates. However, it is crucial that you do not forget to utilize an image optimization plugin to reduce photo sizes (often as much as 50%), and also therefore page sizes, to increase your SEO rankings by considerably increasing page speed and user-friendliness.

There are hundreds of compressors, but really only a couple in the runnings.

Smush Image Compression and Optimization.

Price: Free with Pro Option.

Elevator Pitch:

Smush, seems like a fitting name right? This plugin does the majority of the heavy lifting for you, so you really don't need to stress about a high learning curve. Smush automatically cuts the size of all of the images on your website to provide speed and quality. It also now allows for image resizing and is compatible with various other plugins available.

Key Features:

  • 5 star rating and over 1 million active installs (best in class)
  • Huge benefits for mobile speeds
  • Highest performance reserved for paying customers only

Short Pixel

Price: Free with Paid Premium

Elevator Pitch:

Short Pixel is on this list as a result of its more affordable premium option in comparison to the other image optimizers available. This plugin will achieve relatively the same as Smush, but nearly all of these image optimization plugins are significantly limited in the free versions.

Therefore, if you find yourself expanding, and looking for something more than what these free versions can offer, Short Pixel has one of the most affordable paid rates available, and will still get upwards of 60% optimization.

Key Features:

  • They have fixed every single issue that has been reported to WordPress.org in the past 2 months (can somebody say customer service?).
  • 4.5 star rating across almost 300 reviews.
  • Also provides major benefits for mobile website speeds.
  • One click bulk optimization (major time saver).

The Image Optimization Winner

Being that I recognized each of these plugins for different benefits, they are both winners in their own light. Smush is a near unanimous favorite for basic free image optimization, and ShortPixel is a great option if you are ready to take that first step into the realm of "paid plugins," but do not necessarily want to invest the money that Smush or a lot of others require.

7. Rich Snippet Plugins

What is a Rich Snippet?

Rich snippets are the fields that spice up your search result listing. You know those websites that have images and external ratings linked into their descriptions? There is less sorcery involved than you may have assumed.

What's special about this plugin is that you don't have to write any code what-so-ever (and if your coding is anything like mine, this is a major blessing). Rich Snippet plugins present fields that you fill in, and the plugin automatically creates the code and tags for you.

Many website developers might not consider rich snippets an important tool in regards to SEO, but I'll tell you why this communication is important. Although rich snippets do not directly help you rank, they do offer increased visual appeal to your SERP result as you move toward that first page of google. This visual appeal will likely improve your click through rate (CTR) which will then cause you to rank higher in terms of SEO.

It's as simple as that.

All In One Schema Rich Snippets

Price: Free

Elevator Pitch:

Want to include review, event, product, recipe, video, article, or other schemas to your website snippet? All In One Schema Rich Snippets makes it possible in a very user-friendly layout so that you can make your website more interactive and improve your click through rates.

Key Features:

  • 70,000+ active installs (without a doubt best in class)
  • 4.5 star rating across 100+ reviews on WordPress.org
  • Helps Facebook display correct information when users share your links on Facebook

The Rich Snippet Winner

I know, I did it again ... to date, All in One Schema Rich Snippets has essentially monopolized the market, and is your best choice if you want to master every one of the categories of SEO on your WordPress build.

Conclusion

Seven is the amount of plugins you are going to need to have a world class SEO optimized site:

  1. Yoast SEO
  2. AMP for WP
  3. Broken Link Checker
  4. W3 Total Cache
  5. Wordfence Security
  6. Smush or ShortPixel
  7. All In One Schema Rich Snippets

And one is the page number of Google results that you will likely find yourself on the keywords that matter most if you use this plugin combination.

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