You’re certainly not alone if you’re using WordPress to power your website: as of 2014, 74.6 million sites were using this CMS platform. WordPress is a popular choice in part because it’s relatively intuitive for non-developers. Unfortunately, just having a WordPress site doesn’t mean that your pages are automatically optimized for search engines. The good news is that there are many WordPress plugins that will help you improve your on-page SEO and organic search engine rankings. These plugins can make your life easier by letting you make changes to your website without having to manually change a large amount of code, but if you’re not already fairly familiar with WordPress, it can be overwhelming to wade through the 29,000+ available plugins to find the ones that are going to be best for your site.
Many of our clients at Leverage Marketing have WordPress-supported sites, so I talked to our SEO team to get their recommendations for some of the best WordPress plugins. Here are ten that they’ve found particularly useful.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
Cost: The basic version is free, and Yoast SEO Premium starts at $69 for one site. Premium comes with several extra features, including tutorial videos, a 301 redirect manager, and Google Webmaster Tools integration.
With over one million active installs, Yoast SEO is easily one of the most popular plugins for WordPress. It’s an SEO management tool that’s pretty easy to figure out even if you don’t have a background in online marketing. With Yoast, you’re able to add title tags, meta descriptions, and sitemap.xml (which helps search engines like Google crawl your site) to all your web pages and blog posts. Yoast will even let you know how well you’re doing: after you enter meta information, they’ll tell you whether your SEO value is good, okay, poor, or bad, and they’ll offer tips to improve your on-page SEO if it’s not looking so great. You can also see a search snippet preview so that you know what your page will look like in the Google search results.
Cost: The Starter Plan is free. You’ll need to request a quote for the Enterprise Plan.
A/B testing your headlines is a valuable SEO strategy; by pitting headlines against each other and seeing which gets more clicks, you can choose the more successful headline and drive more traffic to your site. If you run these tests manually, you’ll need some coding know-how, but Optimizely has a plugin that helps you do A/B tests on any WordPress-powered site, no developer experience necessary. There are several different plans at different price points, but all plans let you run unlimited experiments. Some of the more expensive plans include extra features such as visitor segmentation, geo-targeting, cross-browser testing, and multivariate testing.
Simple 301 Redirects
If you’ve recently migrated your website to WordPress and changed your URLs, you’ll need to make sure that people who have previously visited or bookmarked your original site are redirected to the new one. You’ll also need search engines to figure out that your old URL has changed so that the new URL can be properly indexed, preserving the SEO value of your old site. The Simple 301 Redirects plugin lets you do this seamlessly just by entering your old and new URLs. The basic version of this plugin is effective for most smaller sites that don’t require a lot of redirects, but larger sites should use the Bulk Uploader add-on.
Like Simple 301 Redirects, Redirection is a WordPress plugin designed to set up (you guessed it) 301 redirects. However, it also does a good job of tracking how many people who try to visit your site are getting 404 errors (those ominous messages that say a webpage was not found). This can help you find problem areas on your site and redirect users who are getting 404 errors.
Cost: The basic plan is free, and the Enterprise plan is $50 a month. The Enterprise version can be used on unlimited sites and comes with 100,000 monthly checks.
Allowing comments on your blog posts is a great way to encourage reader engagement, but your credibility will take a hit if most of your comments are spam. Because manually deleting a large quantity of spam comments can be labor-intensive, many WordPress users let the Akismet plugin do the work for them. Akismet automatically checks comments and filters out ones that look like spam, helping you maintain your credibility, save disk space, and keep your site running fast. You can also review the comments that were caught or cleared and see the number of approved comments for each user. Newer versions of WordPress already have Akismet built into them, so you may not even need to download the plugin.
Social sharing is a small but significant SEO ranking factor, and a high amount of social engagement can drive more traffic to your site. To get more people to promote your content, you need to make it as easy for them to share as possible. ShareThis lets you create small and large social sharing buttons for 120 social media channels. That’s probably way more buttons than you’ll ever need, but it’s nice to know you can easily add buttons for all the most popular networks, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, plus some niche networks that might appeal to your target audience, such as Tumblr and Reddit. Additionally, you can get analytics reports from ShareThis and use a feature called CopyNShare to track when a visitor copies your page URL.
Cost: The basic Blogger package is $80 per year. It backs up two sites and includes 1GB storage space.
If you’ve ever experienced the pain of losing something you put a lot of time into because your website got hacked or your server crashed, you’ll want to add the BackupBuddy plugin. Even if you haven’t experienced this pain, you should still add BackupBuddy so that you never have to worry about losing anything on your site. BackupBuddy is quick to set up, and you can schedule backups to an offsite storage destination as often as you want so you don’t have to remember to do it manually.
Cost: The Basic plan is $199.99 a year, and the Pro plan is $299.99 a year. The Pro plan is PCI and SSL compliant, which is especially important to online businesses that store credit card information.
Sucuri is a website security plugin that includes features such as remote malware scanning, security blacklist monitoring, and website integrity monitoring (essentially making sure there’s not any weird behavior that might be an attempted hack). If the plugin detects something suspicious, they’ll notify you immediately via your preferred communication channel. They also provide fast customer support if you do have any security issues that need resolving.
Cost: The basic version is free, but photo file sizes are limited to 1MB. Smush Pro starts at $19 per month and can compress images up to 32MB.
What happened the last time you tried to go to a webpage that was loading at an excruciatingly slow rate because of a large image file? If you’re as impatient as me (and the average internet user), you probably bounced from the page. And chances are, that’s what’s happening on your own website if images are slowing down your page load time. In addition to losing traffic, you may also be hurting your SEO value, since site speed is a factor in rankings. Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice your visual content to reduce your load time—you can just add the WP Smush plugin. This image optimization tool lets you condense images as you upload them or ‘bulk smush’ images that are already slowing down your site. As mentioned in the cost section, the free version of the plugin should be sufficient if most of your photo files are under 1MB. If you have a lot of large photo files, you may find it worthwhile to pay $19 a month for Smush Pro’s 60% average compression rate on image files as large as 32MB.
Jetpack was created by Automaticc, the same company that created WordPress, and it’s not so much an individual plugin as it is a bundle of useful plugins. With its dozens of features, there are probably some tools that you won’t really need (not everyone needs to be able to post mathematical expressions on their blog, for example). However, there are some features that will appeal to a wide range of website owners, such as the Aksimet-backed contact forms, concise analytics with no additional load on the server, the option to create email subscriptions for blog posts and blog comments, and alerts as soon as downtime is detected. If you’re looking for a lot of features that you can control from one space, Jetpack is a good choice.
Have any questions about the plugins described above, or need help improving your site’s SEO? Contact us!