Performing a search on WordPress.org or Google for SEO plugins returns a significant amount of useful information including lists, reviews, comparisons, and of course the plugins themselves. Nonetheless choosing the right WordPress SEO plugin remains a headache.
This guide takes a different approach and goes into a bit more detail than many other lists. The purpose here is to inform you of the more important considerations that you should keep in mind for each plug-in.
Every plug-in discussed in this article has been checked out by me, downloaded thousands of times and has been updated within the last six months. In other words, there is significant social-proof making each plug-in a relevant player in the WordPress SEO plug-in market.
How to choose an SEO Plug-in
Before I begin the reviews, if you’re reading this to choose a plug-in, then it’s important to take into consideration the present and future SEO needs of your WordPress website. If SEO is not a priority for your website, then using a simple, lightweight solution might make more sense than installing a plug-in with all the fancy features, particularly if you don’t know how to use them.
SEO is not necessarily a big part of every blog’s life. From my experience, specifically when dealing with clients who aren’t tech-savvy, sometimes less is more.
All-in-One SEO Pack
This is probably the most popular SEO plug-in for WordPress. It has been downloaded at least a whopping 14 million times. That’s no joke.
The All-in-One SEO Pack (a.k.a AIO) is free though there is a premium version with more features. However, the free version already offers a lot including manual and automatic meta tag writing with a preview snippet, Google analytics support, website verification with Google, Bing and Pinterest, canonical URL generation, support for custom pages, and more.
Interestingly, in the latest version (2.0.1) you can also modify performance settings including raising your PHP memory limit and raising your PHP execution time. In the pipeline, they’re planning on adding an XML sitemap generator to help with indexing.
All in all, this is a great plug-in with an easy to use interface. I did notice that they have a 3.8/5 rating which is noteworthy because it’s a bit lower than the other more popular SEO plugins below.
I also found a few mentions that certain hosting companies may have issues with the usage of the AIO plug-in. If you’re investing in a big website and using AIO, it might be a good idea to ask your host whether they have a policy against this plugins’ usage. Generally speaking, I don’t imagine this is an issue though.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
Another widely used plug-in is WordPress SEO by Yoast. This plug-in has been downloaded over 4 million times and enjoys a loyal community of users. Created by Joost de Valk, admittedly this is the plug-in that I most often use.
Similar to AIO, the free version covers many fundamental SEO details. A nifty feature it has is the SEO checklist which indicates how you can better optimize your posts and pages. You can also rewrite specific post descriptions for Facebook & Google+.
Notwithstanding its richness in functionality, the best thing about WordPress SEO is the fantastic amount of helpful documentation that is available. Apart from a tour feature that helps you get started, you can find articles about anything from migrating to Yoast, WordPress hosting, and of course, a definitive guide to using the plug-in itself.
The high level of functionality and support provided by Yoast, combined with its ease of use, make this a fantastic plug-in not just for advanced SEOs but also for those still starting out in the field.
Although not as popular as the above two plug-ins, SEO Ultimate still boasts over a million downloads.
My first impression of the plug-in is that it’s not as user-friendly as either WordPress SEO or AIO. It uses the concept of modules which can be enabled and disabled so the plug-in can work with other SEO plugins.
Once I had a closer look at the functionality offered, I was quite impressed at how accessable it was. For example, SEO Ultimate lets you easily specify which tags you want to noindex using a checklist. This is particularly useful when you use tags in ways other than their normal function, like when using tags to indicate which posts to show in a page.
Other useful features that stood out include a 404 monitor, the ability to mask links (a form of modern Pagerank sculpting), and the ‘Deeplink Juggernaut’ which helps you improve the internal linking in your website.
Due to the interface being a bit intimidating at first sight and due to the limited support documentation, this is not the best plug-in for someone who is new to SEO. For more advanced SEOs it does the job. I believe the team behind the plug-in is dedicating more resources to developing SEO Ultimate and we should expect some interesting developments coming our way.
SEO Plug-in by Squirrly
This plug-in has a certain feel-good factor surrounding it and it’s clear that the creators work hard to develop and maintain a strong brand. Apart from a design which breeds confidence into the product, Squirrly emphasize their “excellent customer support” and the fact that the plug-in is updated on a weekly basis with “the latest in search engine optimization”.
The downside is that the free version only allows you to update 2 articles per month. Otherwise, it’s $19.99/month (ouch!). So outright, for prolific bloggers this might not be what their looking for if they want to keep costs down.
It does offer some nifty features like an in-built keyword research tool, a live SEO checklist and a tool to find copyright free images. In terms of more advanced functionality, it’s still a bit lacking. For example, even though it creates an XML Sitemap, this doesn’t support images or contain custom post types. The plug-in also doesn’t offer access to the .htaccess file nor does it have features relating to breadcrumbs editing.
All in all, SEO Plug-in by Squirrly is fun and good for a casual blogger. But for more serious bloggers who want to access advanced SEO functionality whilst keeping costs low, there are better options.
Greg’s High Performance SEO
The first impression I got of this plug-in is that it is powerful though not necessarily the most user-friendly. However, it’s been downloaded over 200,000 times and enjoys a high rating of 4.4/5 on WordPress.org. So the team behind it are doing something right.
Greg’s High Performance SEO impressively provides you with 100 separate on-page characteristics to modify. Other plus points are that it loads less than 700 lines of code per page view (i.e. its fast and doesn’t load the server) and reportedly it plays nicely with other plugins.
The Plug-in comes with an instruction manual that covers features and SEO-related stuff, though unfortunately, the manual is quite long. Actually, using the plug-in involves a lot of reading for first time users and this is why I wouldn’t suggest it for casual bloggers or beginner SEOs.
HeadSpace2 is a very interesting plug-in and the 600,000+ downloads are proof of that. Beyond the common SEO features like editing meta tags, this plug-in includes site modules that integrate it with Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools as well as services like the Crazy Egg Heat Map Tool, Piwik, HitTail and others.
Another noteworthy feature is the ability to implement messages to first-time visitors to your blog, which is useful for relationship building with your readers.
In terms of usability, HeadSpace2 is relatively easy to use though I did find it a bit cumbersome compared to other plug-ins. Good for beginners and advanced users, a good plug-in overall.
When I found out about Scribe, it intrigued me. Although it can be classified as an SEO plug-in, its primary focus is content marketing.
I did experience some trouble testing it as I didn’t have a compatible theme, but a few features I did access were original and useful. For example, their site connections feature allows you to find external sites and social media users related to your keywords. It will also show you a score of how your site compares to other authoritative sites. Nice!
Scribe also has an integrated keyword research function, and as well as a link-building function that helps you identify guest-post opportunities, identify relevant authoritative sites and more. It’s most important feature though is its evaluation tool, which allows users to “how to gently tweak your content so search engines will view it as ideally relevant for your target topical words and phrases.”
Unfortunately, Scribe starts at $97/month so it’s really a positioned to be a plug-in to provide serious bloggers with a competitive advantage, rather than a “nice to have tool” for hobbyists.
Other notable mentions
After reviewing the seven WordPress SEO plugins above, there are still others which deserve a mention. Although I haven’t tried them out, two noteworthy plugins are SEO Pressor and Easy WP SEO Plugin (they are both premium plugins).
Interestingly, they both provide you with a score of how optimized your post is and they indicate your keyword density. One feature from SEO Pressor that caught my attention was the ability to add rich snippets to your posts, which is very useful if one wants to improve one’s click-through rates. On the other hand, Easy WP SEO Plugin offers Copyscape integration which is great for checking for plagiarism (useful for when you outsource content creation).
These plug-ins show that there are features that even the more popular plug-ins lack. Plugins don’t share a common direction for how they develop but instead they focus on different features to appeal to different people.
So which SEO plug-in is the best?
In the end, the best plug-in really depends on what your needs and preferences are. Everybody will have their own personal favorite plug-in and that’s okay. The variety on offer brings richness to the market.
Although the plugins weren’t reviewed exhaustively, I hope this article helped better inform you of the different options available when choosing an SEO plugin for WordPress.
Going forward, it is exciting to see how the competition in this field develops. Already there are plugins that provide features relating to Video SEO, Local SEO, over-optimization, microdata, further integrations with third-party software, and more.
My question to you guys is: what function would you like to see in your WordPress plug-in, that you don’t already have?
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