You can’t optimize a site for natural search if your platform doesn’t give you the tools. That’s why WordPress continues to be the most popular blogging platform, with a huge developer community and many search engine optimization plugins.
Have a look at some favorite SEO plugins for WordPress. And the good news is that every one of them is free.
All Purpose SEO Plugins
These plugins are the Swiss army knives of WordPress SEO, which is why most articles on plugins for SEO in WordPress mention a couple of these. Each offers a different array of features, though all accomplish the basic blocking and tackling. Determining which is right for you really comes down to whether you want to use a tool that combines multiple features, and which interface and set of features you like.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast and All in One SEO Pack are the reigning favorites for all purpose SEO plugins, with good reason. Both offer the ability to manage a multitude of technical and on-page SEO elements with a single plugin. Tweak title tags, meta descriptions, and other on-page content optimization elements, as well as generating XML sitemaps, managing canonical tags, and other technical bits to assist with optimal indexation. The Yoast plugin includes a nice preview function that predicts what your listing will look like in the search results. All in One SEO Pack claims to be the only plugin to provide SEO Integration for WP e-Commerce sites.
- SEO Ultimate isn’t as well known as the first two, but its Deeplink Juggernaut is an interesting feature. It searches the content on your site for the keyword phrases you specify and automatically links them to a URL. This would easily be over-used to generate spam, but used judiciously it’s an interesting feature.
- Platinum SEO Pack includes the ability to auto-generate meta data, though I suggest reviewing and tweaking anything auto-generated if you’re serious about SEO.
- HeadSpace2 SEO allows you to change themes and plugins on a page-by-page basis, which may not help your SEO much but is an interesting differentiator. It also provides the ability to add tags for Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and others.
SEO Plugins for Indexation
Most of the all-purpose SEO plugins will do the things that this next set of plugins do on a one-off basis. But sometimes you really just want a plugin that does one thing without all the other bells and whistles cluttering up your interface.
First up, there is managing 301 redirects — which I addressed in “SEO: Traffic Changes When URLs Change.” Two plugins are commonly used to create and edit these critical SEO tools without needing to understand Apache .htaccess files and regular expressions. Redirection and Simple 301 Redirects both allow you to 301 redirect any URL on your site. Simple 301 Redirects also has an add-on that enables bulk upload via a .csv file, which is extremely handy for mass URL changes, platform migrations, and redesigns. If you want to convert 404 file not found errors into 301 redirects to your home page, try 404 Redirection.
Another set of single-purpose plugins makes creating XML sitemaps easier. (I addressed sitemaps in “SEO: Understanding XML Sitemaps.”) Google XML Sitemaps covers the basics of creating and posting updated XML sitemaps on a regular basis. For larger sites or multi-site installations, try BWP Google XML Sitemaps. In addition to multi-site support, this plugin offers sitemap index support to handle sites with more than 50,000 URLs. If you’re just starting out, Google Sitemap makes things easier by creating your XML sitemap, walking you through the process of verifying your site in Google Webmaster Tools, and submitting your XML sitemap.
SEO Plugins for On-Page Optimization
The all-purpose SEO plugins also cover on-page optimization, those SEO elements like title tags that change page to page, quite thoroughly. But if you just want to edit all of your title tags and meta descriptions in one swoop, try SEO Title Tag. Rather than working through your posts and pages one by one, this plugin allows you to edit just the title tags and meta descriptions, all within a single interface. It’s very useful when you’ve done your editing in an Excel spreadsheet or Word document and just need to paste the edits into the right fields quickly.
Blog Introduction and Sticky Post are especially handy for optimizing category, tag, and archive pages that would otherwise only contain lists of posts. In order to send a strong keyword relevance signal, each page needs a bit of permanent descriptive text. WordPress offers the ability to make posts “sticky,” permanently stuck to the top of a list of posts, but sticky plugins like Blog Introduction give you more flexibility and options around number, order, thumbnail use, and more.
SEO Plugins for Internal Linking
WordPress internal linking and navigation plugins benefit SEO by strengthening the network of links through which link authority can flow and by highlighting the contextual relationships between individual pages.
A couple of plugins make standard navigational elements more effective or efficient. Breadcrumb NavXT does just what you’d expect – inserting breadcrumb links into your site’s pages. Gecka Submenu takes the pain out of adding submenu links into custom navigation menus by adding them automatically when you create a new pages. It also allows you to use a chunk of your navigation anywhere in your site to strengthen internal linking.
Other types of internal linking plugins focus on order and priority of posts, allowing you to create internal links to posts that are very popular already or that you need to funnel link authority and readers in to. My Posts Order and WordPress Popular Posts both accomplish that goal.
If you want more control over tag cloud navigation, give Taxonomy List Widget a try. Multiple lists or clouds can be created, each with its own set of options, so you could have uniquely relevant tag clouds for different sections of the site.
Google’s recently increased focus on context as a relevance signal makes this next set of plugins especially important. In addition to better SEO, you may also see an increase in the number of articles read per visitor. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP), Microkid’s Related Posts, and Contextual Related Posts all create links to other related posts on each post page. Some differentiating points: YARPP puts logic into its plugin to produce a relevance score for each related post so you can see how related they are. Microkid uses a cool AJAX feature in the post admin that allows you to easily search for and add links to posts that you think are especially relevant, in addition to being able to add them automatically.
SEO Plugins for Encouraging External Links
Last but not least, there are quite a few plugins that encourage visitors to share your content, which in turn increases its visibility among a wider network of people. Some of those exposed to the shared content will visit, some will buy or sign up for your email list, and others will reshare or link to your content. It’s an indirect path from sharing to increased links, but there is definitely a connection. Especially on Google+, where high numbers of +1s correlate strongly to higher rankings — see “SEO: 5 Reasons Not to Ignore Google+.” — and on Facebook. Sharing and natural search performance go hand in hand. So make it easy for customers or readers to share.
Many sites prefer to design their own sharing widgets to best suit their branding. But these three widgets will get you started with the basics. Shareaholic packages up the traditional horizontal row of sharing icons with the ability to add related content and log in to access basic social analytics. Sharebar provides a vertical or horizontal module of sharing widgets that follows the customer as he scrolls down the page.
ShareThis and AddToAny both offer a universal button that opens when clicked to offer sharing options to pretty much any social network your customer prefers. Some dislike the way that these buttons open to cover the content on the page. But if the customer has chosen to click and share, it’s not likely he’s reading your content at that exact moment anyway.
Hopefully you’ve found some new SEO plugins to try and confirmed that some of your old favorites are still actively used by the SEO industry. What are your favorites? What did we leave out? Let us know in the comments.