What is the best free SEO plugin for Wordpress?
If you have created a blog or website using Wordpress, you must be knowing about plugins. These are not part of the core Wordpress code but are third-party codes that add to functionality of the blog/ website created with Wordpress. Plugins are also available to bloggers on Wordpress.com blogging platform, but only after upgrading the free plan to business plan.
There are dozens of plugins for SEO or search engine optimization. Perhaps the most popular of them is Yoast. It has been installed millions of times on Wordpress sites. But there are many more. Some of them are nearly as good, even better. All in One SEO, Rank Math, SlimSEO, SEO Framework and SEOPress plugins are among the most popular. I have done research on behalf of bloggers and website owners who are not tech savvy, and will shortly tell you which SEO plugin suits a small website/ blog and why.
So many articles on SEO plugins for Wordpress. Why this post?
There are hundreds of websites that have already written on Wordpress plugins and compared them. So, what's so special about this article?
I have seen that many of these articles go by popularity of the plugin and are seen to recommend those with whom they have affiliation or arrangement of commission. For this reason, most articles compare the paid versions of plugins and discard the free plugins. Comparison sites on SEO plugins also assume that the reader already has good knowledge of SEO. I think that if he is so knowledgeable, he will himself experiment with all the plugins available and make a choice.These articles thus do not properly and fairly guide small website owners and bloggers who are not tech-savvy.
This post is meant to discuss free versions of SEO plugins for Wordpress websites/blogs.
Who benefit from such (=free) plugins?
One, learners. Those who have just started blogging, those who hate doing tech tweaks on their blog, those who want SEO to work on their websites/ blogs without much hassle. In short, for those who want extremely easy SEO.
Two, those not wanting to spend money on plugins. When you open a new blog or a small business website, there are already many items on which you spend money: web hosting, purchasing domain name, sometime also hand-holding, transferring an existing blog's contents to the new blog, purchasing a theme and so on. So, you will not want to spend on plugins if you could manage without them.
Three, bloggers who have upgraded their free plan on Wordpress.com (the free blogging platform - and not Wordpress.org, which is CMS or website builder), but who have not much knowledge of SEO.
That means, you are looking for an SEO plugin that should do most of the job for you in the background and give you some easy-to-do tips to optimize your posts. You need not be bothered about jargon or hundreds of confusing numbers.
Does a Wordpress site need SEO plugin?
We all write as thoughts build up in our mind. The better ones among us write logically and their prose flows into well-crafted paragraphs. That becomes good, readable, writing. But most of us - web writers and bloggers - are not trained in writing SEO-ready copy. So, we ignore putting the right keywords in our copy, and we forget to put them optimally into the post's title, description and image-descriptions. There are more such actions that optimize the article/ post for search engines. Un-optimized posts, however well written they are, are likely to be lost in the heap of millions of articles/ posts being written every day. The chance of a web page coming on the first page of Google search results becomes much higher when it is search optimized, other factors being equal.
On Wordpress CMS/ platform, there is no automatic way of knowing whether the post being composed follows the best practices as far as search optimization of the content is concerned. So, these third-party codes - SEO plugins - are useful for search otimization of the content.
Almost all SEO plugins have paid versions. Which is the best FREE SEO plugin?
I find the following two as the simplest and yet feature-rich free SEO options on Wordpress:
Rank Math and Yoast. Both are easy to apply: you select and activate the plugin and it becomes available on-screen on each post. The plugin tells you how well your post is SEO-friendly and what all you need to do to optimize it further for search engines. A number of optimization tips are available real time. If you put 'focus keywords' (keywords for which you want to optimize the post) into the plugin, it gives more tips relating to this focus keyword.
In addition, both the apps help you make the post social media friendly, so that when someone shares the post on Facebook, Twitter, etc, they come out well.
Yoast and Rank Math, both do the job beautifully. Rank Math is better in that it has more features in the free plan as compared to Yoast as given below.
Rank Math gives a numerical value to the extent of optimization in terms of percentage. So, if your post gets a ranking of 100%, the post is fully optimized. In addition, free version of Rank Math plugin can analyze the post for five focus keywords at a time. When you register, Rank Math also suggests focus keywords based on the topic of the post.
In addition, this plugin is lighter on the website as compared to Yoast about which there are reports of being resource intensive. Yoast's latest versions are compatible only with recent Wordpress versions. So the plugin becomes incompatible if you forgot to upgrade the Wordpress CMS by any chance.
Can we really do SEO without spending money?
There is no doubt that SEO plugins and tools have hundreds of features that help in optimizing web pages - and many of them are not available on free plugins and tools. SEO experts carry out many changes on the website and individual web pages that are beyond the routine SEO. As such, it is worth discussing whether free SEO plugins deliver.
Many successful bloggers and website owners do their own SEO without bothering to buy paid plugins and paid tools or hiring an SEO expert. Common sense itself gives many ideas for making a post/ article worthy of attention by search engines. The free plugins help by reminding some actions that one might have ignored.
SEO is a big business and like the proverbial cat that taught all tricks to tiger but did not tell it to climb trees, the SEO plugin makers give only a limited number of content optimization tools in their FREE versions. In addition, they only give SEO ideas, and most of optimization is to be done manually. There are many more - mostly technical - aspects of website obtimization that are available in their paid plans. However, you need not worry too much about them because they involve a lot of technology, number-crunching and a good understanding of SEO. For small website owners and bloggers, the gain is not much considering the time and energy involved.
Another point you should remember that good SEO is no guarantee that a web page would come on the first page of search results - not to speak of the first position. Google has said in one of its articles that even it cannot guarantee top position to a web page for a normal keyword.
Though search engine optimization increases the probability of the web page coming high on search pages, there are dozens of other factors that matter, e.g. competition for keywords for which you are optimizing your posts, website's overall ranking and reputation, backlinks to your site from other websitess, signals from social media, location and so on.
I will like to close this article with a word of caution. Please do not spoil the user experience just for the sake for SEO. Do not stuff keywords, do not use them in a way that they look unnatural. Do not write expressions that do not contribute much but serve the purpose of SEO. When you take such accessive actions, plugins such as Yoast may sometimes find your web page / post adequately optimized but readers will not like it. In addition, such pages might catch the attention of new search algorithms of Google, which will hurt the SEO instead of improving it.
You can visit this link for more articles with information, latest developments and tips on SEO especially keeping in mind the needs of bloggers and small website owners.