Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a key part of any content marketing system. Not least because this is the process by which you can ensure that pages are optimised, for the best ranking position in the search engine results.
In response to this important role that SEO plays, many software developers have created tools and plugins to try and make the job easier.
However sometimes as bloggers and especially marketing bloggers, we can become a little too dependent perhaps on these tools, and want them to do many of the routine and manual tasks for us.
Perhaps at this point we need to ask two important questions.
- Have we can become a little bit too reliant on tools and plugins?
- Do we expect that these tools will do all the work for us?
These questions are especially important when we look at things such as SEO, which needs to be done right in order to be successful. So in this article I want to look at some of the SEO plugins available to WordPress users and explore what the main gaps might be, in using them.
WordPress is an amazing platform that has been used by marketing businesses for a number of years. One of the biggest advantages it offers is the wide array of tools and plugins that are designed to make our life easier.
The only real challenge then is to determine which are the best plugins for the job required.
SEO – What to Look For.
Before I actually look at the individual plugins for SEO, it is perhaps important to understand what a plugin will be giving you, in order to enhance your SEO content writing skills.
Most plugins focus on the technical SEO or on-page SEO techniques. The following list highlights features that are common to the main SEO plugins.
- Meta Description and title
- Google search snippet
- No-follow / no-index options
- Ability to verify Google and Bing Webmaster tools
- Xml. sitemaps
There are other options but these become more specific to each different plugin.
It is perhaps in these other areas that the true differences between the tools starts to emerge.
WordPress Plugins Yoast Versus All-In-One SEO
Although WordPress does offer a number of plugins to assist in different aspects of SEO (more about those later), the two main plugins that cover all the basic elements of SEO are WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast and the All-in-One SEO plugin.
Most reviews of these two products go head to head, but the one word of advice I would give at this stage is that experienced content marketers will do their SEO optimisation manually, regardless of the plugins on the site.
So neither plugin should replace SEO work. Both offer slightly different approaches to enhancing or supporting that work, depending on your own strengths in this field.
The All-In-One SEO plugin is what I use on this site, but I will be honest I don’t tend to take too much notice of it on a day to day basis.
The screenshot below shows some of the features that you can easily alter to adjust your display and description (Meta Tag), that appears with your search result. However just because you specify a description this does not guarantee that Google will use it, since the search engines adjust descriptions to match individual search queries.
The main advantage that I find with All-in-One is the ease at which you can add site maps and analytics tools, but this is a personal preference. I have heard complaints and arguments against both types but I must confess that I have never had a problem to date with it.
An article on the two plugins in Website Magazine outlines some of the differences between the two (albeit with a slight bias towards Yoast), they also published a response from the All-In-One support team.
I started my blogging career using Yoast, and I know from discussions that these two plugins are strongly contested.
Originally I quite liked the colour co-ordinated assistance which showed which areas are SEO complete. At the bottom of the WordPress editor this is the screen you will see.
As you can see the colour coding highlights areas that are SEO good (green) through to areas that need to be amended (red). There are some difficulties though with this system as I later discovered.
- It can become very distracting and the temptation is to be guided completely by the plugin, instead of focusing on the quality of content being written and the reader’s experience.
- There has been criticism that the plugin is not always up to date with Google’s (or any other search engine’s) requirements for ranking. This means that striving to achieve all green buttons can be counterproductive, since they don’t all affect ranking.
I have also read a lot of complaints about setting up site maps with Yoast and many All-In-One users who convert to Yoast often revert back due to complications. All-In-One has the advantage of automatically informing Google and Bing when new posts are published, which in turn often results in quicker crawls and ranking.
However for a new user starting out, Yoast does have a lot more detail on its page analysis that many beginners find useful.
Which SEO Plugin to Use?
In the Yoast versus AlIn-One debate it depends on your experience level and how much technical support you feel you need. The main disadvantage of Yoast is the limited site map facility which as you become more experienced is important for quick page ranking.
The main disadvantage of All-in-One is it has a less technical layout and functionality, which is better suited to slightly more advanced SEO writers.
Other SEO Plugins
There are a number of other plugins that you can use to enhance your SEO value, this can include managing your social media shares, enhancing web site comments or quickening web site speed. These are some of the main plugins that I use on this site.
- Hupso Share Buttons – [hupso] I use these to provide the social media links above and below each of my posts, except in this one because you can move them to wherever you want in your text (I hope you will try them out!).
- WP Smush – This plugin optimises your images to increase site load time. It has good reviews but this is a new plugin for me so I haven’t had a chance to try it out fully. However, as I have now got a number of Google warnings all related to site speed I have decided to see if this is as good as it sounds (will keep you posted)
- WP Spamshield – is an anti spam plugin that does away with captcha, and makes comments easier to leave for readers, but still blocks spam from your site. I changed to this a while back and love the easy user interface. In SEO terms engagement is an indicator of an active site and a valuable opportunity to keep content updated, so making life easier for readers is a good SEO tactic.
There are numerous other plugins available on WordPress that I haven’t tried yet but might seriously consider reviewing in more detail in the future, three of them I have found are;
- SEO Friendly Images – which automatically adds alt text and descriptions into your images.
- SEO Ultimate – is another SEO plugin that provides many of the features mentioned in Yoast and All-In-One
- SEO Wizard – managed by SEO.co.uk it is another generic SEO tool suitable for WordPress
Conclusion SEO Plugins
SEO is a learned skill and ultimately there is no one SEO plugin that will do everything for you. As you progress and develop new skills different plugins will provide different attractions, so it isn’t a one off process.
The two main plugins I considered for SEO were Yoast and All-In-One.
- Yoast – great for beginners and people that prefer a little more support and reassurance, however it shouldn’t be relied on totally as it isn’t always up to date with search engine changes.
- All-In-One – a simpler format and probably preferred by more experienced SEO writers who don’t want too much distraction. Sitemaps are better structured with this plugin making it easier for Google and Bing to respond to new posts.
The other plugins are useful but there are literally hundreds more at WordPress, so keep trying them out and see what works best for whatever you need.
Remember to check for compatibility with existing software, as not all plugins work together.
Further Reading on SEO
You can read more about search engine optimisation and Google ranking in the following articles.
- What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?
- An Introduction to SEO – podcast
- How Site Rankings Work in Google
I hope you enjoyed this article and please do share it on your social media networks, thanks Marie.