WordPress SEO Plugins for Better Google Rankings

WordPress SEO Plugins for Better Google Rankings

In this post we would like to show you which WordPress SEO plugins will help you achieve better rankings and make your visitors happier.

WordPress is still the content management system with the widest distribution. According to current trends, every second website with CMS uses WordPress. If one wants to make a negative point here, the large distribution makes WordPress interesting for attacks, which, however, can be easily avoided by regular updates and the right plugins can be avoided. Much more interesting is the huge community, which provides an enormous number of helpful plugins (according to estimates over 50,000). Thereby, you can often reach your goal with free plugins. Many plugins that take advantage of the freemium model are also worth a look in their premium variant!

Let’s talk about WordPress SEO

Let’s turn to the actual topic: WordPress SEO. We can sort SEO into two elementary categories: OnPage and OffPage optimization. The plugins in this post all fall into the category of OnPage optimization. That is, all the changes that take place directly on your own website to positively affect your position or ranking. Simply installing WordPress does not yet provide you with the features you need. You supplement these with the help of plugins. In doing so, I would always try to install as few plugins as possible. Ideally, a plugin already covers several necessary functions. It is much less error-prone to keep three plugins up to date (especially if they are well-known, well-maintained), than 10 pieces, each covering a small range of tasks. Less is more!

Let’s start with a basic SEO plugin. This gives us the possibility to set our SEO title and description. We can also set Open Graph settings for Facebook and Twitter and control the indexing of content (so you can influence whether Google may include a certain page, category or post in its index. If not, this content will not be found later via Google search). In addition, a sitemap is generated (if you call it up, you can later also check whether it really only contains content that should be indexed).

There are 2 major WordPress SEO plugins: Yoast SEO and All in One SEO

We have used All in One SEO frequently over the years, simply because it was the first SEO plugin we had actively in use and it still covers all the important aspects. Now, however, we are increasingly using Yoast SEO. The reason is that Yoast SEO makes a very complete impression overall. I really liked the clear options and setting possibilities in the backend. Especially from the point of view of a rather inexperienced user, it is extremely helpful that almost all options are described very simply and in layman’s terms. In addition, hundreds of helpful articles in the Yoast Blog a comprehensive collection of knowledge for beginners and advanced users. For this reason, I have chosen Yoast SEO in this post.

WordPress SEO made easy – with Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO Meta Box – When editing pages, posts or even custom post types, this is displayed below the editor. Thereby the smileys show you (in real time) if your page is optimized for your chosen keyword.

Yoast SEO is an all-in-one WordPress SEO plugin from Dutch developer Joost de Valk. Developed since 2010 and called Yoast SEO since 2012, the plugin is free and covers most of the basic WordPress SEO settings. As mentioned above, the plugin shines for me through its user-friendly operation. After a short training, everyone should find their way around the settings. Of course, you always have to invest a little work. SEO is a topic that can only bear fruit through sustained work. For this it is very important that you take the topic seriously and invest the necessary working time. Believe me, after some time it will be worth it!

Yoast SEO also offers a premium version. This version may well be worth it for you if you want to actively work on your WordPress SEO game. Most interesting is the focus on content. The following features (partly premium) will help you to write the right texts:

Optimize for focus keyword and related keywords

The free version offers you the possibility to set a focus keyword or keyphrase. So you have to decide what you want to optimize your text for. In the premium variant, you can also add related keywords. Let’s say you optimize for the keyword “eyeglasses”, you can also optimize for “vision aid” as a related keyword. For example, for cake, at the same time for pie, etc. If you are looking for related keywords, you can use services like OpenThesaurus or Semager can be used. However, we will write a separate article on the topic of keyword research in the future, as the topic would go beyond the scope now. The goal of related keywords is to reach a wider audience with a post or article.

Internal link suggestions (Premium Feature)

A good internal link structure is extremely important, as it helps search engines to grasp and understand your website structure. From my point of view, especially for web presences with a smaller size (less than 100 pages) there is no need for automatic suggestions. Especially if you write and know your content yourself, it should be no problem to link to matching content on your website. But if you use the Premium version anyway, this feature analyzes your text and automatically suggests links to related posts (as you write). So you have to think a little less! Nice feature that makes real sense especially for magazines and in conjunction with multiple authors.

Schema.org code to determine the content

Since April of this year, Yoast has made a big update made in the direction of “structured data“. Structured data helps the search engine not only read your content, but also understand it better. So now you can tell Google that your website is an article of an organization. Other combinations like this are also possible. Currently, Yoast is the only plugin that processes and offers this information in this way. Other plugins only pass on to Google whether it is a website or an article. This does not link content together in any meaningful way. The more complete your information is, the higher your chance of increasing your traffic.

Google Snippet Preview

Of course, the plugin offers a preview of the search result in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). In the Premium version, you can also see the preview for display on Facebook or Twitter. However, this is not a reason to buy. You can also display an OG preview with a browser plugin. I use for example Open Graph Preview.

Readability check

This test is to increase the chance that your article will be read at all. In doing so, you need to know how today’s reader proceeds in the first place, because many users don’t read, they scan! In a world where we are bombarded with information on a daily basis, we need to quickly check content for relevance without wasting a lot of time. We sometimes decide in a few seconds whether we are in the right place or not.

Therefore, it is important not to be too long (which is sometimes very difficult for me) and to divide the content into meaningful subheadings. This way, the interested reader has the possibility to omit everything that is completely uninteresting for him right now. Therefore, it is often helpful to start with a short summary. Then the visitor already knows what it all boils down to. Yoast SEO Premium also displays the Flesch Reading Ease Score. This is a numerical value for readability that can be calculated from a text. The higher the value, the easier the text is to understand. Well understandable SEO texts have a value between 60 and 70.

Avoid duplicate content

In some circumstances, your website may display the same content under different addresses, this case would cause duplicate content. Yoast SEO solves such problems by choosing one address as the original source. The technical term for this is “canonical link“. In this way, the plugin ensures that your content is found at the web address (URL) that you want it to be. Generally it is important to avoid duplicate content in any case!

Works with any WordPress editor

According to Yoast, the plugin works in combination with any editor. This can be the classic WordPress editor or even Gutenberg. But it also works if you build your pages using a page builder (Divi, Avada, Visual Composer, etc.). Of course, it makes sense to provide the most compatibility as a plugin developer anyway, but it’s also good to know as it makes a plugin extremely future-proof.

Better WordPress SEO through content insights (Premium Feature)

This feature lists the five words or word combinations that appear most frequently on your page. This way you can easily check if the keywords you want to rank for in the search engines match what you actually write about. In the free version, you have to check your content yourself. From my point of view a nice extra, but not essential for the success of your content. If you have a good text structure and take care not to digress completely, you should rank for the keywords you are targeting. If need be, check the number of keywords and phrases that appear later on with the good CTRL + F yourself. Always remember: high-quality, serious and well-researched articles will always do well with your readers.

Redirect Manager (Premium Feature)

This feature is actually quite cool, as in case of a change in a page URL, a 301 redirect is now automatically created. This ensures that visitors are automatically redirected from the old address to the new one. The 301 redirect stands for a permanent move of the page. You definitely want a redirect so that visitors coming through the old link will still find the right content. This way, the page also retains its value. What you usually don’t want are 404 pages! This is what a visitor gets when the content at the address is no longer available. As a rule, however, this should not happen so often. Choose a meaningful URL even before publishing new content.

What does a good URL (permalink) look like?

This should not be too long, but also not too short. Up to 5 words are ideal, as this is considered natural by Google. Do not use underscores but instead use words that separate them with hyphens (lowercase). Also, avoid duplication of words within a URL. Ideally, the visitor can tell exactly what the site is about just by looking at the address. From Google’s point of view, it’s about describing a “resource” as accurately as possible. In this case, the resource is your page with specific information about a topic. This should of course appear in the URL (main keyword). By the way, permalink is the short form for a “permanent link”.

Regular WordPress updates, optimized for the current Google algorithm

Yoast SEO brings an update about every two weeks. If you’ve heard of Google updates, it was most likely about a major update like the Panda or Penguin update. Apart from those, Google changes its algorithms in smaller changes throughout the year. So with Yoast’s regular updates, you can be sure that you’re not missing out on anything as a website owner.

Tip: Install only WordPress plugins that are actively maintained

If you install plugins, always make sure that they get regular (not necessarily frequent; this also always depends on the application purpose) updates. WordPress as a CMS is constantly evolving, which sometimes leads to changes in the WordPress core and related functions. If plugin developers do not follow up quickly after so-called major updates, it can possibly lead to problems with your website.

Wait for the plugin developers

WordPress updates: Pay attention to the confirmation on the compatibility of the author

In general, you should never install a major WordPress update until all plugins are compatible with the major version (major updates can be recognized by the two-digit number, the last one with the code name “Kirk” was 5.3). Minor updates, on the other hand, look like 5.2.3 (which was the last minor update before 5.3). These minor releases are now installed automatically by WordPress!

WordPress SEO: Website Caching with WP Fastest Cache

With WP Fastest Cache the visitor gets a previously created static HTML version of the respective page delivered. This eliminates the need for server-side rendering! In addition, the plugin combines CSS and JS files. This ensures that fewer HTTP requests are sent to the server. Important note: If your server supports HTTP/2, it may be better for performance not to combine files. This is because HTTP/2 allows simultaneous downloading of files. If in doubt, play around with the caching settings a bit and do some Website Speed Tests.

Not only the quality of the content is important, but also your Loading speed. Optimizing your website load times and SEO are closely related. However, page speed is to be evaluated as a stand-alone ranking factor. If you can improve your times by up to two seconds through active caching, you will benefit significantly and improve your ranking. However, loading times are not only about Google, but also about your visitors. Nobody wants to wait long for content, yourself included! From the second on, you will lose massively in accesses and therefore also in relevance. Because if not only the bounce rate is high, but also the dwell time is extremely low, your content cannot match what Google is looking for and will therefore perform significantly worse in the future. Google, as a search engine, is only interested in providing users with your answers. The more accurate the result, the better!

The plugin WP Fastest Cache helps you in a simple way to make your website faster. In the process, the compatibility of other plugins is becoming greater and greater, because it is now firmly expected that WordPress users install one of the well-known caching plugins. In this case, we chose “WP Fastest Cache” because we actively use it ourselves and have never encountered any major problems. An alternative to WP Fastest Cache is WP Super Cache, for example. Both plugins serve the same purpose!

WordPress SEO and structured data

Example of a Google Rich Snippet. Structured data helps Google better understand data on your website and thus promotes the display of complementary content via Rich Snippets in Google search results.

Schema.org (often referred to as Schema) is a special vocabulary of tags (or microdata) that you can add to your HTML to improve the way your page is displayed in search results.

As mentioned above, Yoast SEO has done quite a bit to improve structured data this year. However, by far not all possibilities are exploited.

Commonly used schema types include the following:

  • Reviews
  • Local companies
  • Article
  • Services
  • Products
  • Courses
  • Recipes
  • People
  • Job ads
  • Software
  • Books & eBooks
  • Events
  • Videos

Depending on the schema type, different contents can be specially marked. This then ensures that these can appear in the Google search results as so-called rich snippets. It is now already the case that Google can output content from tables under your search results, provided that these are relevant for Google. For different data there are also different contents that you can deposit.

WordPress SEO: The Google test tool for structured data

The main point of using structured data is to help Google analyze the content by giving explicit hints about the importance of your website. Google does not always rely on standardized formats to do this. It also displays rich snippets with content that has not been specially classified. For this, according to its own statement, complex processes take place during the search. Google offers its in-house Test tool for structured data for verification.

Unfortunately, the whole schema and rich snippets story is not particularly accessible. I haven’t found a single free schema plugin that hasn’t caused problems for users. We don’t use an extra schema plugin ourselves yet, but plan to change that next year. All structured data currently either comes directly from the theme or Yoast SEO or was manually awarded by us. The topic is definitely way too important to leave out. That’s why promoting Rich Snippets is high on our priority list for 2020!

The WordPress SEO plugin “Schema Pro*” makes a solid impression. I will definitely take a look at the plugin! According to the well-known SEO Neil Patel, next year half of all Google searches will result in no external website call anymore. He also predicts that rich snippets will gain significant importance for this very reason.

During my research on the topic of schema I came across another super article that brings you closer to the topic of structured data.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, I would love to hear from you!

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Rob Nash

Rob Nash is a tech writer with a comprehensive focus on technology, productivity, and overall success in life and business.

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