This article is a WordPress Beginners Guide to SEO Plugins and which ones are the best options for your WordPress blog. Included will also be some tips about what are 3 important SEO html tags and what they mean for your blog.
WordPress by default has little to no SEO Optimization built into the core functionality of WordPress. There is no META Description, TITLE or META Keywords HTML tags set by WordPress when you write and publish an article in 99% of all Free WordPress themes that exist. Some paid WordPress themes like Thesis do have excellent SEO capabilities built into the Theme and in this case as long as you configure the SEO options in the theme you should be fine.
For those of us who don’t have a WordPress theme that has SEO configuration built in, you need a WordPress plugin. Not just any plugin will do either, there are 3 that people trust and use the most:
All in One SEO Pack
All in One SEO Pack is by far the most common and popular at over 7 million downloads since its release in the WordPress extension library. I no longer use the AIO SEO plugin because though it worked it doesn’t offer the features of WordPress SEO by Yoast and this is the plugin that most commonly will cause your hosting provider to see PHP Memory utilization spike and cause issues in performance.
Platinum SEO Pack
The Platinum SEO Pack is very popular and some claim it is better and more easily configurable than All in One SEO Pack, I have only looked at the plugin in my sandbox and haven’t made a switch but at over 490,000 downloads this is the 2nd most downloaded WordPress SEO plugin.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
The WordPress SEO by Yoast is a newer SEO Plugin written by Joost De Valk but already has over 3.2 million downloads at the time of this writing update, in 2012 I switched all of my WordPress blogs to using WordPress SEO by Yoast and now this is my #1 recommended SEO Plugin for WordPress. Not only does it SEO optimize your articles, but it provides analysis of your articles to teach you and show you how to SEO optimize them properly. It also adds a SiteMap and RSS Footer information so you can remove any other plugin you were using for XML SiteMap and to customize your RSS Footer.
Now, when you have these plugins you need to spend some time learning how to configure them properly, though there are different instructions for each plugin the basics are the same. You want to make sure each plugin includes the following 3 HTML tags in your articles, pages and homepage.
3 Most Important HTML SEO Tags
This tag is the title of your article that displays on the Google Search results page and also on the top bar of your browser tab/window. This should be keyword optimized and by default many SEO plugins will include | “yourblog” in the title so your blog name always shows up in the title of every page. This is also a good thing for when people see the Google results they see which blog the page is hosted on without having to look at the URL itself.
This is very important and is the description under the Title on the Google Search Results page, the description should include the keywords you are targeting. Google will bold what keywords were searched for and as you can see from the above image, my search for Warhammer and Dragon Blogger are in my Title and Description tags.
Meta Keywords is not really being used by Google to rank pages according to Google themselves, however some search engines can still use keywords and since you don’t know what may or may not factor Meta Keywords it is important to have it listed. I would rank the Keywords as being the least “important” of the 3 major SEO tags, but I would still make sure you have 5-10 keywords for every article.
Now, besides leveraging the HTML tags for SEO there are other configurations that WordPress SEO Plugins should be configured to do. These include canonical URL’s which basically are an HTML tag that tells a page where the original source of the page is. This is ideal for search results, archives, category pages that may just be reprint pages for the original article. Some SEO Plugins will also make edits to the robots.txt file on your blog so that you can exclude Archives, Tags from being indexed by Google at all which is very important.
My Experience with SEO Plugins has told me that once you choose an SEO plugin and start configuring it you should stay with it for at least 6 months, if you don’t feel you are satisfied with it’s performance switch plugin and give another 6 months to compare traffic difference. It takes around 20-30 days before various indexing and such will get factored, and you can see when I switched from All in One SEO Pack to Greg’s High Performance SEO from July 2010 – September 2010, you can see the Negative SEO Impact was tremendous!
This graph shows you that I was averaging around 800-1000 visits per day until around August, then my traffic dropped by 70% to only about 180-200 visits per day, it remained this way until I switched back to using All in One SEO Pack in late September, and it took until Mid October for my blog traffic to start climbing again. You can see now my blog is back on top with averages of over 1200 visits per day but when looking at my Google Analytics from a yearly view, it is a huge decline in traffic for that 2 month period. This is why I don’t recommend Greg’s High Performance SEO Pack and I was hesitant to switch from All in One SEO Pack to any other WordPress plugin. I will report that after 6 months of using WordPress SEO by Yoast there was no traffic loss and everything was much smoother when migrating off of All in One SEO Pack.
So it is important which SEO Plugin you use for WordPress, and I highly recommend you put some time and thought into choosing one. I also recommend you take the extra 10-15 minutes to keyword optimize your Title, Description, Keywords and make sure your targeted keywords are evenly scattered and listed in your article. Search Results matter, and making sure your article is optimized for SEO is imperative to ranking well in the Google Search results as well as other search engines like Bing.