In a world where we Google pretty much everything, SEO is becoming more and more popular and competitive. It’s easy to pay for an ad to show up in the SERP’s, but it’s much more valuable if a user searches for “iPod touch case reviews” and you’re the top organic result, rather than the top ad spot. Users place a lot of faith and trust in Google and its search results, which is why Google still hold the title of #1 search engine by a clear margin. Users are more likely to find your site if you rank higher, as well as have more trust in you – after all, you come recommended by Google!
Over the years SEO tools, blogs, books, forums and more have grown and grown – meaning the SEO community has too. Whilst SEO is certainly no new trick, it’s a key tool in improving your sites popularity, visibility and brand. Nowadays, SEO is becoming easier and easier thanks to the abundance of tools available. It’s not all easy though, since more and more people have become aware of SEO and ramped up their efforts, search engines such as Google have laid down rules and regulations on how a site should go about their optimisation efforts. Whereas years ago it may have been common to see a link farm helping sites gain popularity, the same efforts nowadays are more likely to result in a ban (or slap, as they’re known).
So, it’s important that you optimise your site for the search engines properly (especially the big ones) to ensure you’ll receive more traffic and traffic of a higher quality than typical paid traffic. Thanks to the fantastic plugin engine that WordPress features, there are various SEO plugins we can drop in to place and configure to help us out with our optimisation efforts, but which to choose? Below, we’ve reviewed five of the most popular free plugins available that you can drop in place today.
All in One SEO Pack
All in one SEO pack is the most popular SEO plugin available for WordPress at the moment, currently holding on to spot #3 of the WordPress.org Plugin Directory’s Most Popular. With over 7 million downloads, you have to figure that they must be doing something right.
Upon installation, there is the option to customise options that are site wide, such as; home title, keywords and description. What makes All in One SEO Pack a very handy tool is the fact it allows for the titles of individual pages to be customised, all from one settings page. It’s possible to change the titles for post, page, archive and more.
Some SEO buffs will jump in here and tell you to change the default settings straightaway, removing your site title from the title of pages such as single post pages, to make your title keywords more prominent. It’s important, as with all SEO software, to customise it to your own personal wants and needs rather than leave it as default and hope for the best, although in fairness to the developers, the default settings of All in One SEO Pack aren’t all that bad.
When you’re editing your posts, pages and such, you’ll notice that a bit further down the editing page there is a new box that All in One SEO Pack has created. This handy feature allows you to overwrite the globally set SEO settings for this specific post/page. This is great when you’re trying to get a particular post or page ranked highly in the SERP’s as an entry point to your site.
Overall, installation is easy and usage is a breeze. There are no complicated menus or frustratingly cryptic acronyms, everything is explained and laid out in an easy to use flow.
As a side note, if you use and like this particular plugin, there is a pro version available with added functionality and features.
Link: All in One SEO Pack
Some SEO plugins work by simply ‘adding on’ to your site, or simply working around what you’ve done in a passive kind of way. Headspace 2, whilst sharing the general functionality of most SEO packages such as changing titles and keywords, has features that make it a bigger, more direct part of your WordPress site.
It’s highly likely if you care about how many visitors you’re getting and so on, that you’re tracking where they’re coming from. Another handy feature of Headspace is the support for adding tracking codes in from Google Analytics (both old and new), Crazy Egg, StatCounter and more. Whilst it’s not a difficult task to implement tracking codes on your own, Headspace extends this functionality by allowing you to not display the tracking code for registered users. This is more useful on smaller sites, as it allows the tracking results to be explicitly about your visitors without the addition of you and any of your writers/editors etc that may be browsing the site.
If you’re serious about SEO and want to modify different aspects of your site rather than just try and optimise what you’ve already accomplished, Headspace is a great plugin for you. There’s more to learn than some of the more basic plugins, Headspace has a large set of dynamically generated meta-data tags you can use across your site as well as page specific modifications such as custom code, appearances or widgets.
Link: Headspace 2
Platinum SEO Pack
With no offence intended, I personally see Platinum SEO Pack as a kind of All in One SEO Pack on steroids. Essentially, Platinum SEO Pack takes care of everything that All in One SEO Pack does, but adds a few more features that make it slightly more tempting, it’s important to note that whilst some SEO plugins will run side by side, that these two will not.
Something that makes Platinum SEO Pack stand out is how it handles permalinks and 301 redirects. Duplicate content is a problem, a problem that the search crawlers dock a lot of points for. If you update your permalinks in the usual way (by using Settings -> Permalinks in WordPress) on a blog that’s been online a while, then some sites may carry on pointing to the original, obsolete link. Platinum SEO Pack has a great little workaround for this, by forwarding to the new version using a 301 redirect (if you don’t understand the significance of this, a 301 redirect is the code that specifies the page has moved to a new location).
As shown above, there is a striking resemblance to All in One SEO Pack, with the addition of a few options. Platinum SEO Pack allows the setting of index/noindex, follow/nofollow and more to your post or page. If you plan on using this plugin, be sure to look these tags up before you go changing everything.
A separate options page allows for the setting of noindex, nofollow and similar tags to links such as the comments RSS feed, again this is better used as part of an overall SEO plan and structure than a simple click and hope approach.
Platinum SEO Pack seems almost like the version of All in One SEO Pack that didn’t get released, if you know how tags work and want to use them, then this is an ideal plugin to install and use. It retains the basic SEO software principles; custom titles, tags, descriptions for individual pages/posts as well as globally – whilst allowing more advanced options where you need them.
Link: Platinum SEO Pack
As the name implies, the developer of this plugin aimed for a simplistically laid out and usable plugin for the common blogger, it allows for the basic essentials such as modification of titles for specific posts and pages. The main goal of Simple SEO is to modify your meta keywords and description and title, which although are important, many SEO enthusiasts will argue that this level of basic modification is just the beginning and isn’t enough to have a severe impact on rankings and the like.
The old phrase “it’s better than nothing” comes in to play here, although you can only edit a small amount, it does that well. Simple SEO was designed to fit in nicely WordPress, looking less like a plugin and more like an actual part of the WordPress core. A small gripe I personally have with Simple SEO is that like the picture above, it places the options above the content box on the editing page. Although not a big problem, I like to click edit and instantly have access to the content box, especially as I work mainly on a smaller laptop screen. Personally I’d like to see this moved to below the content box, but this plugin is still quite young and still seems to be in the phase of getting comfortable.
Link: Simple SEO
WordPress SEO by Yoast
From the feature list alone, WordPress SEO seems to be the cream of the crop. Yoast have gone the extra mile with this particular plugin, going for a complete package that deals with everything you need to think about with regards to SEO. Features such as; breadcrumbs, robots/htaccess editing and XML sitemaps eliminate the need to use other plugins along side, simply managing it all from one central hub.
Yoast have definitely put some effort in to the layout and design of their plugin, and it shows throughout. In the image above, you can see the SERP preview for Google. This is a great feature, it really helps you lay out your description and title properly and instantly – rather than waiting to see what it looks like in Google itself and then deciding. Further down, WordPress SEO also checks your keywords are visible in different areas of your site, as well as offering an option to find related keywords.
WordPress SEO takes individual page/post settings a bit further by implementing more options in to their editing page settings. Hidden away under an advanced tab, you’ll find options to let you hide a page, post or an entire section of your WordPress installation from the search crawlers.
A feature not many other SEO tools offer is breadcrumbs. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, breadcrumbs show a trail from the home page to where the current user is, for example; ‘Home > Reviews > WordPress SEO by Yoast’. A lot of premium themes, such as those available at ThemeForest, already use Yoast to power their breadcrumbs. Of course, breadcrumbs aren’t just there to look pretty and offer SEO value as well as user functionality.
There are a lot of XML sitemap plugins available, but Yoast eliminates the need for an external one by providing its own. The good thing about using an XML sitemap generator that fits in with your SEO plugin, is that when you set an individual page, post or section as nofollow or such, the plugin knows to generate a new sitemap. Using separate plugins to set tags on pages and generate your sitemap can create inconsistency throughout your site, which is always general bad practice regardless of SEO.
If you’re looking for an all in one solution, WordPress SEO by Yoast will definitely satisfy your needs. Personally, I think it works, looks and feels like a quality plugin so much so that I’m surprised Yoast doesn’t charge. WordPress SEO might be a bit much for the common blogger, but for anyone serious about ramping up their rankings, this is the one to get.
Link: WordPress SEO by Yoast
Which SEO Plugin Do You Recommend?
As I have not tested each plugin extensively and compared SEO results to each other (which would be very difficult), I cannot say with conviction if one plugin is better than the next from a SEO point of view. They all extend the SEO functionality of WordPress so I doubt there is a major difference between them.
All plugins offer features that others don’t so the choice comes down to what you need the plugin for and the way you like the plugin integrated into your website. I encourage you to try out all of these plugins to see which one you prefer.
Thanks for reading :)