WordPress SEO (also known as Search Engine Optimization), a term used among webmasters, is a process that affects the visibility of a web page on the search results page.
If you follow all the good SEO practices it can have a positive SEO impact and your web pages will rank higher. On the other hand, negative SEO can make your web pages rank lower.
In this article, I will focus on some of the important aspects of WordPress SEO,
- Key concepts of SEO
- Today’s SEO and Its impact on your site
- Why SEO plugins are not reliable
- What SEO practices I follow
SEO and WordPress SEO
Standard SEO rules apply to any website whether or not it’s running on WordPress (mainly because a web page always renders in HTML). What you see when you open a page is not what a search engine bot will see when it comes to crawl your site. As long as your site follows proper HTML you have nothing to worry about. Thanks to WordPress as it already comes with built-in good SEO. You don’t even have to manually change anything every time you publish new content.
Major Search Engines like Google has become more efficient and smart at analyzing content. Before webmasters could do a lot of things to optimize their sites. Nowadays there are only two or three things and you may not need to optimize anything because of how WordPress is structured.
Create Great Quality Content
Google doesn’t want you to spend too much time optimizing content. You’re welcome to follow good SEO practices but your ranking will be determined based on the quality of the content (There are many other factors but this is the main one).
Meta Title (also known as SEO Title) is the title of the web page shown on the Search Results page. By default, Google will take the title of post/page in question. But you have an option to suggest a different title using the meta title tag.
Meta Description is an element that describes your page to Search Engines. By default, Google will probably take an excerpt of the page (up to 156 characters from the start of the page). But you have an option to suggest a different description using the meta description tag. This also gives you a chance to include keywords that you want this page to rank for.
Link relation attribute or “rel” allows you to define the relationship between your page (the source) and the page you are linking to (the destination). In HTML the “rel” attribute may contain a different value based on the type of link. But you only need to look out for the one that is linking to a different site. All outgoing links should contain a rel=”nofollow” attribute in it. This tells the Search Engines that your link shouldn’t affect the ranking of the target URL as you are not passing any page rank with it.
All this information is outlined in the official Google SEO Starter guide.
WordPress SEO Tools/Plugins
I like both plugins and they do offer similar functionality in terms of SEO. But I have been using Yoast SEO on my other site for a very long time. yoast SEO had a unique UI that would show a snippet of how the actual page would look like on the search results page. It still does but it’s not the same. I was also a big fan of its content analyzing technique based on the focus keyword (keyword that I want a particular page to rank for).
Just like any good WordPress plugin, I think the time has finally come for this plugin as well. In the last two months, WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin changed significantly. With lots of updates and feature removal, this is nothing like the plugin that we all liked before. If you check the Reviews you will see how many sites it broke since version 3.0 including mine. I got so upset I contacted WordPress to make sure that he is still the author of this plugin. And here is what they replied,
Joost has not sold his main plugin. He has a development team.
If they’ve made mistakes, well, don’t update. Complain on their support forum. Looks like you’re not the only one to complain. They do read those.
I noticed that it’s missing a core feature like 301 redirection. It turns out this feature was removed from the plugin and is now being offered as a premium extension. Unfortunately, It’s not just missing features, this plugin has become really annoying as soon as you activate it. It keeps nagging in the admin dashboard telling you to upgrade and they keep popping up even if you click the close icon.
This situation with WP SEO has made users really desperate to find a different plugin like All in one SEO. I, however, am running an experiment with my site to see if can get rid of SEO plugin once and for all.
SEO Plugin Alternatives
Even though WordPress SEO by Yoast was my favorite plugin I mainly used it for these features:
- Meta title and meta description customization
- XML Sitemap
- Google Search Console (Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools)
What is XML Sitemap
A sitemap is an XML file that lists all the posts/pages of your site. This helps search engines find content on your website and index easily.
What is Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that allows you to monitor your site’s performance in Google search results. When you verify your site with Google Search Console you will have access to important data like Search Analytics (Total Clicks, impressions, CTR, Average position), Index Status (when your website was last crawled), Search Appearance (how your site appears in Google search results and if there are any HTML improvements you can make).
SEO Impact on My Site
When I analyzed everything I found that I could still run my site without using a big SEO plugin,
- I normally use the title of the post/page as the meta title. So there is no need for me to customize it using an SEO plugin.
- Meta Description has a limit of 156 characters. But a page can rank for various keywords (even keywords that I don’t know about). So I can’t really focus on one keyword and make a description out of it. I think the key is to include the keywords that I think are relevant to an article. If I want a web page to rank for a particular keyword I should at least include that keyword in the first paragraph (which search engines will automatically take by default). So there is no point in creating a separate description.
- Please note that meta description is just a suggestion. Google will decide whether or not your meta description appears in the search results page. Sometimes Google generates a meta description by taking various excerpts from a page and it changes based on the keyword the page is ranking for.
Jetpack is a multi-purpose plugin developed to offer all the cool features of wordpress.com on a self-hosted WordPress site. As you may already know WordPress.com allows you to create blogs/sites for free.
Jetpack plugin has many utilities like stats, social sharing, related posts etc. Recently I have turned on these features in Jetpack to replace my existing SEO functionality,
- Site Verification Tools: It allows you to verify your site with Google (Google Search Console), Bing and Pinterest.
- Sitemaps: When you enable this feature Jetpack automatically creates two sitemaps for your site – one is for search engines that lists all the posts and pages, another for Google News and is called news sitemap.
- Sharing or Publicize: When you enable one of these options Jetpack automatically adds open graph meta tags to your web pages. Open graph meta tags are similar to meta tags which social networking site like Facebook uses to gather information about the page. Google can also read these attributes like normal meta tags.
These features that Jetpack offers are enough to maintain good SEO. In fact, when my site was hosted on the wordpress.com server I didn’t get to use any plugins. And it still ranked quite good. So what I’m doing right now is already a big improvement for my site. I think the key concept still goes back to the previous discussion, which is to create quality content and don’t worry about anything else.
If you have any questions or thoughts on WordPress SEO, feel free to share it in the comments.