If you run a WordPress site (or any site for that matter) that isn’t SEO friendly, you are certainly missing a lot of opportunities for traffic and conversions. Organic search traffic was defined by marketers as the key metric for defining content success in 2020 (76%). SEO was also highlighted by the majority (67%) as the best way of improving content performance, based on statistics from the most recent Semrush Content Marketing Survey.
But how do you make sure your WordPress site is optimized for search engines, especially if you are a beginner to SEO? On the WordPress plugins directory, you can find a range of SEO plugins to help you take your site to the next level, regardless of SEO ability.
This was the subject of discussion in last week’s #Semrushchat, where we focused on the very best plugins SEOs use on WordPress. In this guide, we will detail the advice and savvy insights given by our special guest, Jono Alderson, and our knowledgeable SEO community.
What are WordPress plugins?
Plugins for WordPress are tools that can be added to your WordPress site to improve its overall look, functionality, and efficiency. It is possible to have more than one installed, and they can help to dramatically improve the user experience on your site if used correctly. Even better, you can use these plugins on your site without needing to know any coding at all.
With over 55,000 WordPress plugins available on the official WordPress repository, the quality of each plugin can vary. Some might slow your site down; others may not be best for your website based on your individual preferences.
In addition, not all WordPress plugins are free, with some being premium products you pay for, available from third-party firms and developers. Many of these are freemium, meaning they are free WordPress plugins with a paid option for users to access additional features.
How to Install An SEO Plugin in WordPress
Let's take a look at three different ways you can install WordPress SEO plugins. These are:
Installation via the WP dashboard.
Installation through admin Plug Upload for plugins not in the directory list.
Manual installation using FTP.
Pro Tip: Issues can always arise when uploading plugins to a WordPress site. Make sure you have a backup of your site before the upload and before activation in case something goes wrong and you need to get your site back up quickly.
If you have a dev server set up for your site to test changes, you can always upload and active plugins there first to ensure there are no issues that will hurt your site or site speed.
Installing a WordPress Plugin via the Dashboard
To install an SEO plugin for WordPress, this can be the easiest method:
1. Go to the “Plugins” section of your WordPress dashboard.
2. Click “Add New”.
3. Search for the WordPress plugin you want to install. As you can see in the snippet below, we searched for SEO plugins, and it gives you a number of options you can pick: featured, popular and recommended plugins too
4. Click on the chosen plugin and select “Install Now”.
4. Select “Activate”.
6. Your plugin is now ready to use.
Install a WordPress Plugin Through WordPress Admin Plug Upload
It isn’t possible to install paid plugins through using the above method as they are not on the WordPress plugin directory list. This installation process is as follows:
1. Download your chosen plugin (which will be a zip file).
2. Next, go to WordPress and select “Plugins”.
3. Click on the “Upload Plugin” box at the top of the page; this will take you to the upload form.
4. On the Upload Plugin form, click the “Choose File” button and select the plugin file you previously downloaded.
5. Click the “Install Now” button
6. Once the installation process has finished, select the “Activate Plugin” link
7. Once activated, you may need to configure the plugin settings
Manually Installing a WordPress Plugin through FTP
You will need to install a WordPress plugin manually through FTP if your WordPress hosting provider has file restrictions; this can make it difficult to install a plugin through the dashboard.
Download the source file for the plugin (a zip file).
Extract the zip file.
The extraction of the zip file creates a new folder, which needs to be manually uploaded using an FTP client.
Open the FTP client and connect your site via the login details given to you by your host.
When you are connected, go to the /wp-content/plugins/ folder on your site.
Upload the folder that was extracted from the zip file to the /wp-content/plugins/ folder on your webserver.
Once uploaded, visit your WordPress dashboard and click on the “Plugins” section.
If the plugin is successfully installed, it will appear on the Plugins page.
Click the “Activate” link.
Once activated, you may need to configure the plugin settings.
The Top SEO Plugins for WordPress
Wondering which SEO plugin is the best for WordPress? There are many excellent SEO WordPress plugins available, and the one you choose should depend on your individual WordPress needs. But it is important to know that not all SEO tools are equal; some are definitely better than others.
We know that choosing isn't easy, so we asked our community in #Semrushchat for their favorites and broke down all of the plugins below. Due to the number of plugins suggested, we broke them into categories: free, technical management, paid, and images.
Free WordPress SEO Plugins
This list will include plugins that have both a free and paid version.
WordPress SEO by Yoast (Free/Paid from $89)
Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin is available at both free and paid subscription levels. It’s often recommended because it provides you with an extensive range of features, including:
- Powerful integration with Semrush to target highly relevant keywords
- Readability analysis to help you optimize your content more naturally
- Helpful page analysis features
- Automatic creation of XML sitemap
- Excellent redirect feature
- Internal linking features
- Automatic structured data features
- Seamlessly connects your site to Google Search Console
The Yoast SEO WordPress plugin featured prominently in last week's #Semrushchat:
One of the things that I simply love about @yoast is its readability features. Great for altering you when sentences get unnecessarily long.
I'd have to say @yoast. It's user-friendly and is helpful when it comes to optimizing content. It'll help you see simple tweaks you can make before publishing.
One of the best on-page SEO plugins for WordPress is our SEO Writing Assistant. It provides instantaneous SEO recommendations for optimizing content based on the qualities of Google’s top 10-ranking pages for your given keywords in a given location. It also offers:
A readability score and recommendations for improvement.
Target keywords and recommended keywords.
- A tone of voice score to ensure writing is consistent with the desired level of formality.
- Plagiarism help to make sure the writer has submitted original content.
- Linking recommendations to check your links for possible errors and problems.
I tend to use SEMrush Writing Assistant a lot. I really love the content templates, the recommendations.It just makes my job easier.
Google XML Sitemaps (Free)
This is a handy free auto SEO WordPress plugin created to generate a sitemap for search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. An XML sitemap will help search engines see the areas you want indexed and help them crawl these areas of your website. It is considered one of the best SEO plugins because of the following:
It automatically updates the sitemap whenever you publish new content.
It is easy to understand and use.
Once installed and settings have been adjusted, you will not need to do anything else.
SEO Ultimate (Free/Paid from $49)
This fantastic all-in-one SEO plugin is known for its data flexibility, and other stand-out features of SEO Ultimate include that it:
Can automatically set up keywords.
Generates internal links on your site.
Automatically creates open graph for posts and pages.
Has a file editor that means you can modify robots.txt in the dashboard.
Squirrly SEO (Free/Paid from $29.99)
SEO Squirrly has been designed with SEO beginners in mind, making it one of the best on-page SEO plugins for WordPress if you want to create a successful SEO strategy. There is also a Squirrly SEO Premium WordPress plugin with additional features for more advanced users.
Ability to optimize site content using the Live assistant.
Easy-to-follow method when it comes to navigating Google’s ranking factors.
Rank Math (Free)
Rank Math helps WordPress users efficiently optimize their sites for both search engines and social media. It is widely considered one of the best SEO plugins available.
Super easy to follow, setup, and configuration wizard.
Integration of Google Schema markup included (support for 13+ types).
Option of optimizing unlimited keywords.
Time saver thanks to Google Search Console Integration.
The SEO Framework (Free)
The SEO Framework is a plugin that optimizes your site following white-hat SEO guidelines, as well as adhering to those implemented by WordPress and search engines.
Highly organized on post overview pages through color-coded guidelines.
Can generate critical SEO meta tags in any language, saving a lot of time.
Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin (Free/Paid from $199)
This SEO plugin for WordPress is highly-rated thanks to its ease of use by enabling users to seamlessly check their Google Analytics whilst on WordPress.
Google Analytics WordPress plugin can be viewed from the WordPress dashboard.
Provides link tracking (outbound and internal).
Easy to track traffic and user engagement.
Interest reports and demographics access.
This is one of the most popular schema markup plugins available for WordPress. Rich snippets are an important part of SEO, providing a more interactive summary of your post or page in the search engine results. This has been shown to positively impact organic click through rates.
Easy to implement a range of schema types, including Products, Article, Recipes, Evens, and review.
Particularly useful for e-commerce sites.
Broken Link Checker by ManageWP (Free)
The Broken Link Checker plugin is one of the best SEO plugins on WordPress as it helps with the management of broken links or missing images on your site. Lots of broken links or missing images can signal that your website is low quality to search engines, impacting your ranking. This WordPress SEO checker plugin has a number of great features:
Notifies you when your WordPress site has broken links or missing images.
Plugin recognizes all links that aren’t working.
Can prevent search engines following broken links.
All in One SEO Pack (Free/Paid from $79)
The All In One SEO plugin for WordPress is known for being easy to use while offering users a wide range of tools to help boost their website. Top features of this WordPress Plugin include:
Easy integration with WooCommerce.
Can efficiently add SEO title and meta descriptions, open graph tags.
Generates XML and image sitemaps.
Allows you to have control access to different settings through a feature manager.
SEOPress (Free/Paid from $39)
SEOPress is a popular yet simple WordPress SEO plugin tool amongst users thanks to:
Being a low-cost yet high-quality SEO plugin with a comprehensive set of features.
Powerful all-in-one plugin allows you to quickly optimize all of your WordPress site (meta descriptions, sitemaps, broken link checker, etc.).
Good for both beginners and more advanced users thanks to easy setup and option of advanced controls
Free Site Management WordPress Plugins
There are several technical issues that impact SEO, and there are plugins that can help. Here are a few our community recommended.
W3 Total Cache (Free)
This free SEO plugin for WordPress checks the speed of your WordPress site and is often highlighted as one of the best Wordpress cache plugins available. Site speed is hugely important for SEO, with Google indicating it plays a key role in ranking. The major benefits include of this plugin include:
The ability to dramatically improve overall site performance when fully configured in WordPress.
Reduces page load time.
Improved conversion and site performance.
Up to 80% bandwidth savings.
Redirection is a redirect manager plugin that helps you to easily keep on top of 301 redirects and other loose ends on WordPress. The plugin will help minimize errors and improve site ranking and is often considered the best WordPress redirect plugin as it:
It is simple to keep track of 404 errors and implementing 301 redirects.
Provides support for 4XX status codes.
Gives support for other kinds of 3XX directs.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin YARPP (Free)
What makes this plugin great? The YARPP plugin shows related posts, pages and custom post types to users while a user is viewing a page. The idea is to keep readers on your site for as long as possible, with low bounce rates boosting SEO. This plugin will help with:
The ability to control how display results appear through a templating system.
The choice between thumbnail or list view of related content.
A customizable algorithm that means you can make sure your best posts are shown.
Rel NoFollow Checkbox (Free)
This lightweight SEO plugin for WordPress is useful to those with affiliate links on their site, as Rel NoFollow Checkbox creates a checkbox to tick when adding links in WordPress. In turn, this plugin helps with your ranking.
No need to use a code editor to add “nofollow” links.
Easy to install and use.
This is one of the leading WordPress security plugins, as it provides advanced security for your site, ensuring that your user experience is protected. Your ranking can be negatively impacted if this isn’t the case. It is highly-recommend thanks to:
The security points score feature showing you how secure your site is.
The comprehensive plugin can identify if there are vulnerabilities on your WordPress site.
Stop user enumeration, meaning bots nor users can discover your personal details via author permalinks.
Paid WordPress SEO Plugins
WPML (Paid from $29)
If your website needs to be in multiple different languages, then you should check out WPML. It is an excellent multilingual plugin on WordPress with a number of advantages:
Allows you to completely optimize site for SEO in multiple languages.
Can set SEO meta information for translations.
Sitemaps pass Google Webmaster validation and include correct pages.
Drives the right traffic in the correct languages.
Premium SEO Pack (Paid from $44)
This WordPress SEO Optimization Plugin comes with a range of SEO features for WordPress users, including SERP tracking and image optimizing. Key benefits of this plugin are:
Page speed insights of each post or page for both desktop and mobile.
Can easily monitor 404 pages.
Automatically updates all images with suitable alt and title attributes.
SEOPressor (Paid from $9)
SEOPressor stands out as a plugin as it has been developed in accordance with the latest Google algorithm trends, unlike many competitors. It is highly regarded thanks to:
Useful over optimization feature: the plugin monitors if you are ‘over-optimizing’ on your site, which can lead to Google penalties.
Provides control over the way search engine crawlers go through your site.
Can add links and keywords automatically to reduce bounce rate.
WordLift (Paid from $59)
This super-smart SEO WordPress plugin uses AI to help users grow their audience through more advanced SEO. The plugin has some excellent all-round features, including:
Automation of structured data markup through natural language processing and knowledge graphs.
WordPress SEO plugin for Google Analytics integration.
Tracking of content performance and provides optimization strategy through WooRank’s technology.
WPtouch Mobile Plugin (Free/Paid from $79)
This WordPress plugin helps to make your site mobile friendly in just a few short steps. Don’t underestimate the importance of a mobile-friendly site — not having one hinders your search engine rankings.
This uncomplicated plugin allows you to customize the mobile appearance of your WordPress site.
Simple yet sophisticated mobile theme version instantly created for mobile visitors of your site.
Mobile site passes the Google Mobile test.
WordPress SEO Plugins for Images
ShortPixel Image Optimize (Free 100 credits a month/Paid $4.99 for 5,000 image credits)
This useful image optimization plugin improves website performance through image size reduction, impacting your ranking in SERPs. Our SEO community likes it because:
It compresses images and stores your original images in a separate folder.
It allows you to compare the original file with the compressed version to see the quality difference.
TinyPNG (Free/Paid from $0.009 per image)
TinyPNG is a WordPress plugin that helps to compress JPEG & PNG images.
I personally like the plugin made by @tinypng - although I find it easier to compress images before uploading them on my sites (with the TinyPNG website)
TinyPNG is the go-to plugin.
Curious as to why TinyPNG is a favorite SEO plugin on WordPress and in the SEO community? Reasons include that it:
Dramatically optimizes images: JPEG images on average compressed by 40-60%, PNG by 50-80%.
Compression doesn’t affect visible quality.
Saves bandwidth and speed on your site.
Jono also recommended other options alongside TinyPNG for individual images:
TinyPNG (“Compress JPEG & PNG images”) and Cloudflare. Or for individual images if you want to micromanage, https://t.co/7NjFEd6Z7F. If you’ve big budgets, Cloudinary and Imgix can be interesting! And WP Offload Media to move everything to Amazon S3.
Other options mentioned in our #Semrushchat include:
This image optimizer reduces the size of images (JPG, PNG as well as GIF) based on advanced algorithms.
Allows you to choose the optimization level for your uploads.
Includes bulk image option.
Optimize 5MB of pictures for free.
I use Smush. It's user-friendly and doesn't require anything from my end except for an install of course.
EWWW Image Optimizer (Free)
Another powerful image optimization plugin to help increase page speeds is the EWWW Image Optimizer.
Unlimited file size.
Automatic SEO plugin for WordPress that optimizes your images as you upload them to your site without impacting quality.
Can optimize previously uploaded images.
On the subject of image optimization plugins, one of our SEO community provided an important tip worth remembering:
The best WordPress SEO plugin for you will come down to your individual needs. When choosing, always consider the on-page and technical SEO features plugins provide— some may be more useful to your site than others. Check reviews to see if there are any common complaints, like site speed issues. Also, remember that too many plugins can impact site performance, so choose a plugin that will provide the features you need.
Are there any we have missed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.