There are over 49 pages of WordPress SEO plugins. That’s nearly a thousand SEO plugins to choose from. But you don’t need that many to make your website “SEO friendly.”
So today, I’m going to show you how to build the perfect SEO Setup on WordPress with just six free WordPress plugins. Stay tuned. What’s up SEOs? Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the SEO tool that helps you grow your search traffic, research your competitors and dominate your niche.
Now, as I’m sure you know, there are numerous categories in SEO like on-page, technical and off-page SEO. And WordPress plugins can help a ton to master on-page SEO tasks like titles, meta tags, and other content-optimization-related things.
Now, plugins are also amazing for technical SEO tasks, like page speed optimization, redirects, canonicals, and hreflang to name a few. So rather than listing off 101 plugins, I’m going to show you only the cream of the crop and the exact setup you can use to make Google and your visitors happy.
Let’s get to it. The first SEO plugin I recommend is Rank Math. You might be more familiar with household names like Yoast SEO and All-in-one SEO pack. These are two great options, but in my opinion, a newer plugin called Rank Math beats both of them hands down.
Rank Math is an all-in-one SEO plugin that can help you with a ton of on-page and technical SEO tasks. Now, something I love about this plugin is that they’ve basically integrated a lot of features from smaller one-trick plugins.
Let’s go through some of the features that you’ll use in your day-to-day SEO tasks. So I’m editing a post right now which is clearly targeting the keyword “SEO tips” you can tell by the title and URL.
If we scroll down below the post, you’ll see a preview of what the page will look like in Google’s SERPs. You can click on either the title or description and easily edit your own custom text in there. Now, an awesome feature I like is that you can add Rich Snippets super-easily.
So let’s say this post was a review I had written. I’ll change the Rich Snippet type to Review, add a score, and save it as a draft. You’ll then be able to see your updated SERP preview. Some features like these are awesome for people who don’t want to deal with structured data like this.
Another feature in the editor is that you have the option to add the rel=”nofollow” tag without adding additional plugins or manually entering it yourself in the HTML editor. This is a great way to quickly add nofollow tags to affiliate links or others you don’t fully trust.
Now, from a site-wide perspective, Rank Math’s plugin will do a few common tasks like automatically generating sitemaps, automatically adding the target=”blank” attribute to your links so they actually open in a new window, and they also have a feature for 404 monitoring.
This is a cool feature because if a lot of people are hitting a dead page, it would be a good sign to redirect that page to a relevant one rather than leaving them at a dead end. There are a ton of other features for controlling redirects, site architecture, and editing your robots.txt file.
Now, the next 3 plugins that I’m going to talk about are all meant to improve page speed. And the reason why I want to emphasize optimizing for page speed is that:
- it’s a ranking factor
- it improves user experience.
So before we get to that, let’s run a page speed test in Google PageSpeed Insights on this dummy website. And it looks like our PageSpeed score isn’t so hot with low mobile and desktop scores. I’ll also run the same URL using Pingdom’s Speed Test tool.
And it looks like our speed isn’t great there considering this is pretty much a blank WordPress installation. Let’s optimize them with a few plugins and see what kind of results we can get. The first PageSpeed tool I’ll be using is A3 Lazy Load. This plugin adds lazy load to images and other media like videos.
This basically means that an image or media item won’t load until the user scrolls to it, allowing the page to load much faster. It’s literally plug-and-play as long as you don’t have any other conflicting scripts or plugins.
Now, if I run a Page Speed Test on the same URL, the three things you’ll notice is that the page size has shrunk a lot, the load time has gone down by around a full second, and the number of requests sent is just 1/7th of our initial test.
Alright, the next page speed tool is ShortPixel. This tool compresses images, making large image files smaller and the result is going to be faster load times. To set it up, just sign up for a free account at ShortPixel and then enter your API key in the settings.
And with a free account, you’ll get 100 free image compressions each month or you can pay for credits if you need more. Here you’ll have a few options for compression type. Using Lossy will offer the best compression rate, while Lossless will give you the best quality photos.
Now, Glossy is somewhere in between, which is a nice balance in my opinion. If you already have images uploaded on your site, just hover over media, and select bulk ShortPixel. You can then optimize all images on your site with the click of a button.
Alright, so images should be handled with these two plugins, so now we need to get into an important matter and that’s caching. The tool that I prefer to use for caching is W3 Total Cache. This tool is all about optimizing your website’s performance.
Let’s go and check our speed metrics. So on PageSpeed insights, it looks like we have both a near-perfect mobile score and desktop score, which is a huge improvement from the default setup. And as for the actual Page Speed Test, it looks like we’re under a second now. Not too shabby for a few minutes of work.
Now, it’s important to note that I’m using the default theme here and I don’t have external scripts installed like Google Analytics. So these scores don’t account for additional scripts. But I have used this exact same setup with a few custom modifications on fully functional sites.
And yes, I was able to achieve similar sub-one-second load times. Alright, so we got our all-in-one tool running and our page speed is lightning fast. Let’s talk about a couple of user experience tools. A super lightweight and easy-to-use plugin is Easy Table of Contents.
This plugin allows you to create a table of contents for each post or page in just a few clicks. Once you’ve installed the plugin, go to your post and scroll down to the Table of contents section. Just hit the “Insert table of contents” checkbox and publish or update your post.
It’ll then automatically include a table of contents based on your heading tags. Now, if you have a super-long post like this with a bunch of headings and subheadings, you might want to clean this up a bit. So this time, I’ll set it to only create a table of contents based on H2 tags.
And I’ll update the page. And as you can see, it looks much cleaner and more user-friendly for visitors to navigate around the page. Now, since a table of contents makes long pages look less daunting, it can help improve things like time on page, bounce rate, and dwell time.
Plus, it can help you win jump links in the SERP, which may help increase your CTR. Now plugins are great because it allows you to do complex things without any coding. In fact, we’re creating our own free WordPress SEO plugin, which I’m super-excited about.
So if you want to be updated when it’s released, sign up at ahrefs.com/wordpress-seo-plugin, and just replace the spaces with dashes. Now, as I mentioned before, WordPress SEO plugins are great for on-page and technical things, not off-page SEO tasks like link building.
Backlinks are almost a necessity to rank for any competitive keywords. Also, effective on-page SEO requires a solid foundation in keyword research. So I’ve linked up some tutorials and playlists for you on how you can up your link building and keyword research games, so I highly recommend watching those now.
Now, if you found this tutorial to be helpful, make sure to hit the thumbs up button. And if you have any questions, leave one in the comments below. I’ll see you in the next tutorial.