The sheer volume of WordPress plugins is massive, and the list grows every day. For a first-time site owner this may be overwhelming as it can be difficult to know which plugins truly are the best of the bunch.
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Plugins are designed to improve some aspect of your site, such as minimizing image sizes to improve speed or adding additional information to the code to further inform Googlebots about who you are.
Google Analytics is a critical platform for all touch-points of a site, and is useful enough to be top-of-mind throughout the strategy and implementation stages of SEO.
Useful for bypassing Google Analytics set up through source code, Monster Insights allows you to connect Google Analytics to your site through the plugin itself.
An informative (and customizable!) real-time dashboard keeps you up to date on the performance and traffic statistics of your website without having to access Google Analytics directly:
Available as both a free and paid plugin, Yoast is arguably one of the most popular plugins out there – and for good reason.
This plugin is a staple for SEOs and webmasters of all experience levels and streamlines some of the most important SEO tasks to optimize your site.
Yoast makes verifying various Webmaster Tools an absolute breeze. From within the plugin itself you can verify your site with platforms like Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, Yandex or Alexa.
Deindexing pages or posts on your site can be accomplished from within the Yoast plugin. By checking the “noindex, follow” option, you can block specific areas of your site from being indexed by any search engine.
Keep in mind, however, to do this with caution, as you generally want as much of your site to be indexable as possible. Some exceptions to this rule may include pages that may trigger duplicate content penalties or “Thank You” type confirmation pages.
Every page features a Yoast block that allows you to identify a focus keyword, directly add the title tag and meta description, and view optimization recommendations (e.g. keyword is added too many times in the body content, need to add keyword to H1, etc).
This is a great way to ensure most aspects of a page are properly addressed and optimized and not miss any crucial steps.
Highly Recommended Alternative:
I have recently started using Rank Math for a variety of projects based on recommendations from a few people and this is becoming one of the best plugins you can use for any web project. With the simple fact that I can use Rank Math to run Redirection, Schema, AMP, 404 monitor and do the same process with title tags and meta descriptions all from within one plugin.
I’ve been able to remove 3 to 4 plugins just based on the fact I can use Rank Math to cover a lot of what I need for any SEO client with the help of Rank Math. Currently the plugin is free and does not offer a paid version (yet).
Cleaning up broken links is a crucial task that can improve both your site’s SEO as well as your user’s on-site experience. Pretty much everyone who has used the internet has run into a 404 Error page before; it’s frustrating.
So frustrating, in fact, that approximately 73.72% of people who arrive at a 404’d page will leave your website permanently. Think about the value of one conversion of your site – that is a ton of revenue slipping through your fingers!
The Redirection plugin makes rectifying these broken links easy and fast. This tool allows you to identify the broken link and create a redirection to a live URL.
This way, whenever a SE or human user navigates to the previously-broken link, it will instead take them to your desired page, eliminating the annoying roadblock.
WP SEO Structured Data Schema
Schema markup can be an incredibly powerful SEO tool if you use it correctly. This “structured data vocabulary” consists of various descriptions that further define your site to search engines.
While not visible to people, structured data markup can be extremely helpful with expanding the amount of information presented to search engines regarding a specific page or post.
You can look at all of the different types of schema available and figure out the code yourself, or simply use the WP SEO Structured Data Schema plugin and input all of the necessary fields in a few minutes.
Once you have all of the necessary schema added through the plugin, you can use an external validation tool like Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to verify that the schema code has been added and that there are no errors:
W3 Total Cache
Site speed is one of the most important SEO factors for any site in any industry. This metric directly relates to user experience and can greatly impact how Google ranks your site against competitors.
Many webmasters fail to put the necessary emphasis on site speed (or errantly focus primarily on desktop speed vs. mobile speed) and their site’s traffic and bounce rate suffer greatly.
W3 Total Cache is an essential plugin for those who aim to improve their site speed. If you are not well-versed in web dev speed optimization tasks, W3 Total Cache can be a lifesaver.
Regarded as “the most powerful caching plugin,” W3 Total Cache applies web performance best practices to juice up your site’s speed, such as:
- Lazy loading of site images
- HTML minification
- CSS/JS minification/concatenation
One of the most popular image optimizer plugins, Smush, is a must-have for sites who are especially image-heavy.
Shave seconds off your load time by implementing this plugin and reducing the size (and loading needs) of each image across your site without having to manually do it.
This can save SEOs, webmasters and site owners hours of work so they can focus on other important tasks (such as creating a successful content strategy).
Smush also utilizes lazy loading and defers images below the fold from loading upon initial visit. This can drastically increase your loading speed across both desktop and mobile and help retain visitors to your site.
Plugins and Website Security
WordPress has thousands of plugins available to make managing your website as easy as possible. You can install as many plugins onto one site as you like, but you should be wary of adding more plugins than you need.
There is the possibility that a vulnerability in a plugin can trigger a security vulnerability, and has even resulted in hackers gaining access to sites.
This is why it’s incredibly important for you to properly vet the plugins you utilize – read reviews and articles to ensure it is safe to use.
Similarly, it’s important to make updating your plugins a regular (one a quarter) task to avoid unseen or outdated vulnerabilities in the code.
Much like other site maintenance tasks such as finding broken links on your site and checking your forms/click-to-call prompts, updating your plugins is an integral part of website upkeep.
A well-optimized and high-performing website is the cornerstone for finding success on the Internet.
By properly setting up your brand with all the necessary optimizations and technical building blocks, you create an enjoyable and convenient experience for your human visitors, and an informative (& rankable!) resource for search engine robots.
Ultimately, you could save hours on your daily and weekly tasks with the right set of plugins on your site.
All of the top SEO experts utilize some, if not all, of these plugins to help streamline their task list and ensuring accuracy & completeness.
What is your favorite plugin – is it a new favorite, or an oldie-but-goodie? Let us know in the comments!