An Introduction to SEO for WordPress

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There’s a joke in the world of SEO (just the one), and it goes:

“An SEO expert walks into a bar, bars, pub, public house, Irish pub, drinks, beer!”

However, it’s a joke that’s become a bit dated. SEO changes rapidly, and in recent years using a list of keywords like shown above would actually not benefit your sites rankings in the least. Instead, search engines now only look for these “keywords” in the actual written content within your sites pages. Simply putting them in the head of the HTML like it used to be done won’t do anything for your SEO anymore. However, this is a good thing. It means people can’t “cheat” or “trick” search engines anymore by listing keywords unrelated to their site simply to get visitors.

If you’re wondering how a plugin can help your SEO then read on. I’ll be covering two of the most popular plugins around:

Before I go on, I just want to state that this article is for all levels of WordPress user. You won’t need to know anything about SEO or either of these plugins. I’ll go through it all.

Which Should You Use

There are a few factors to take into consideration here.

  • Is the site for yourself or for a client of yours?
  • If it is for a client, are they going to maintain the SEO?

Those are big questions, but, for me at least, it breaks down to one plugin or the other. If it’s a site for a client and they are going to be doing the SEO (or at least some of it) I go with AIOSEO. The reason for this is it has tooltips beside each of the configuration settings which are perfect for helping a client understand what each setting does. For sites where I’ll be doing all of the SEO myself I go with WordPress SEO by Yoast. The reasons for this will become more apparent as you read on, but generally AIOSEO is slightly more “beginner friendly”.

The way I see it, All-in-One-SEO Pack is for people who just want to get the SEO “over and done with” quickly. WordPress SEO by Yoast is for people who realize the importance of strong SEO enough to go and do a small bit of research. I’m assuming because you’ve read this far you’re the latter.

Difference Between the Two

I was tempted to do a “Pros and Cons” on both but really their both very good. They both cover the essentails and allow customization for users with the right knowledge. So instead I’ll cover a few of the main the differences between both.

XML Sitemaps

WordPress SEO by Yaost has a built in XML sitemap generator. XML sitemaps are hugely beneficial to SEO. They create a “tree” of the pages and content within your website which search engines can then “crawl” through and index or categories the pages in your site quickly. This means if you add a few pages then search engines need only search your XML sitemap to detect the new pages. While All-in-One-SEO doesn’t currently have XML sitemaps built in, as of version 2.0.2 the XML sitemap feature is under development and will be included in a future release.

NOTE: XML sitemaps are not the same as built in sitemaps which come built into some themes. If it’s created as a page first in WordPress then it’s not an XML sitemap. XML sitemaps sits within your site simply for search engines.

You can find out more on XML sitemaps here.

Permalinks

WordPress SEO by Yoast has Permalinks Settings. Generally I only use two of these settings: “Strip the category base from the URL” and “Redirect attachement URLs to parent post”. The settings page explains them in part but I’ll clarify here anyways.

The category base is set in the settings of WordPress. You’ll find this at Settings > Permalinks. By default this puts “category” before post categories. Usually this is fine but sometimes you want a page to display only topics from one category. The drawback of this is your URL wouldn’t be the “best it can be” for SEO. If your page is about monkeys you want you’re url to be ‘http://my-website.com/monkeys’ not ‘http://my-website.com/category/monkeys’. This option changes it from the latter to the former.

Redirect attachments to parent posts is useful when someone finds an image (or any attachement) of from your site on a search results page. When they click open the image from the search results page they are brought to the images page, NOT the post that image is used on. This setting fixes that so when someone clicks an image which should link to your post, they get there as expected.

Google Analytics Tracking Code

All-in-One-SEO inserts the Google Analytics, however, WordPress SEO by Yoast doesn’t. This one is a strange one. I won’t lie that when I first used WordPress SEO by Yoast I went through the settings page after page numerous times looking for this. It’s simply not there. Instead you have to get the Google Analytics by Yoast plugin as well. For “simple” SEO this is a bit more effort than many people want to go through. AIOSEO has it built in, but you get less extra features to do with Google Analytics. Still, it is handy to have it in with everything else. This is another reason this plugin is more straight forward for beginners.

Page Analysis

WordPress SEO by Yoast has Page Analysis. The Page Analysis features are what makes this plugin stand out above the rest. Essentially, the page analysis features are almost like plugins for the plugin. Most of these tools are links to external tools available from the admin bar when viewing the site. The Header Check is an external app known as Quix app. It’s another development by Yoast. It scans through your site and displays the important elements regarding SEO such as Page Titles, Description, header tags, links, images and social links. The Keyword Density by David Naylor is along the same lines. However, I find Keyword Density a bit easier to read and also doesn’t require WordPress to work.

The most useful page analysis tools are those available when viewing pages from the Dashboard. On the General tab you get a view of how the Title and Meta Description will look on search result pages. The Focus Keyword is really useful. Firstly, this is nothing to do with meta keywords. the focus keyword is a key pharse or keyword which you want to be associated with that page. You enter it in here and it checks if it’s in your page in the right places and how often. To learn more about focus keywords you can read this post.

The Page Analysis tab is where it’s really at. This single feature taught me alot about general SEO concepts. This feature provides you with a list from red to green of the good SEO within the page and the bad SEO and points out how to improve on or fix what’s wrong. If you use none of the other Page Analysis features make sure you use this one. And if you get everything to be green tell me how you did it leave a comment on how you did it.

There are other differences in these two plugins but many of them fall outside of SEO. The Performance Settings of AIOSEO is a great feature for debugging and tweaking the servers settings. I’d leave it alone if you don’t know what you’re doing though. Then the Breadcrumbs feature in Yoast is useful for themes which do not have breadcrumbs (and is some use to SEO). The ability to edit the .htaccess file from within Yoast is also incredibly useful, but again, if in doubt leave it out.

Final Thoughts

So hopefully this article has given you enough information to make that daunting decision of which SEO plugin is best. The answer is either of these will work extremely well. I’ve achieved 1st place rankings after only a few weeks of either plugin. As long as you don’t try and use both at the same time for some crazy reason then either of these plugins will help your SEO efforts immensely.

For more reading I’d recommend visiting the official Yoast website.

I’m unbiased in the use of each plugin but Yoast is certainly the best website on good WordPress SEO and SEO in general. It’s also very up to date. An impressive feat in the everchanging world of SEO.


This post was written by Luke Watts, a Web Developer from Ireland. We are very grateful that Luke has written this post for us, however, the views expressed here belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of wpContent.

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About Author

Founder and Lead Developer at Affinity4.ie, a web development agency in Galway, Ireland. Develops mosty with WordPress, Laravel, PHP, MySQL, Git, Github, Sass and Compass.

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