Search Engine Optimization, better known as SEO, is one of those things you need to use, but the search engines wish you wouldn’t — or, more accurately, the search engines wish you would use it correctly.
However, it’s hard to know what is correct and what is not because the rules change a few times a year.
At its most basic, SEO helps people find what they’re looking for by focusing on key phrases. It works, but it’s also been highly abused over the past ten years. Remember when every search turned up junk pages and spam? When search results for a topic search prioritized low-quality articles on high-volume content sites?
That was all the result of people and companies utilizing SEO in ways that were beneficial to them, but bad for the search engine users.
Whether you’ve noticed it or not, search engine results have become much less spammy in the last few years. It’s become much more difficult to “game” Google using SEO tricks. And whenever a new trick is discovered and inevitably abused, the algorithms change.
How, then, can you make SEO work for your blog without falling into a trap? Two words: WordPress Plugins.
Why should I use WordPress Plugins?
- They’re easy to use and understand
- They update with the algorithm changes
- No SEO expertise required
- They help you to adopt good article writing habits
A good article starts with quality. Search engines love quality. They want their users to find the best pages out there on page one, so never scrimp on quality. Once you’ve crafted your amazing article, it’s time to check it for SEO.
If you don’t have these three wordpress plugins, my question to you is this — why not? I’ve listed each one below, along with their description and how they can help you on your website.
Yoast WordPress SEO
Yoast is the most-downloaded SEO plugin on WordPress, and for good reason. It’s free, available right from the WordPress Dashboard, and is user-friendly.
Once installed, you’ll find extra options on your New Post page. You can paste or type in your content, add your title, tags, and keywords, and it will analyze the post. The analysis includes:
- Keyword analysis: Does the focus keyword show up in the title? The content? The page URL? Is the keyword density good?
- Reading Ease: Automatically analyzes the text using the Flesch Reading Ease test
- Links: Did you include at least one outbound link? Did you include too many?
- Images: Did you include an image? Did you use alt tags with your focus keyword?
- Length: Is your post an optimal length, or should you add or remove text?
This plugin is good for bloggers who generally know what they’re doing, but want to make sure the content is optimal before posting. It doesn’t walk you through the process, but it makes it much easier to spot problem areas. And, if you have a habit of overlooking little things like adding alt tags on images, it will remind you before you hit Publish.
Yoast also allows you to create custom descriptions for Facebook and Google+, can clean up your permalinks and code, and can create XML Sitemaps for you. There is no limit on how many times you can use the plugins/features.
Squirrly WordPress SEO
Squirrly offers a free WordPress Plugin that helps create optimized blog posts as you go, from keyword selection to final touches. Squirrly encourages users to create type posts directly into wordpress, so they can correct issues as they go — you’ll know, for example, whether your blog title is effective immediately as you type it, and will be given suggestions if it’s not.
Squirrly features include:
- Keyword Research and Analysis Tool: Keyword research can be the most complicated step in good SEO. This tool simplifies it by instantly showing you the keyword’s stats — and whether or not it’s a strong keyword choice.
- Photo Selector: Once your keyword is chosen, Squirrly displays a selection of related stock photos you can use in your post and guides you through captioning. This is a massive time-saver if you regularly use stock photos.
- Content optimizer: As you type, you’ll see advice on the sidebar, with areas turning green when they’ve been completed. When all areas are green, your post is 100% optimized.
- Analytics: Easily see your traffic, social media impact, and rankings for each blog post.
- Audit: See how your blog is doing and where you need to improve. Generates “to-do” lists to help you meet your goals.
Squirrly is great for bloggers who know next to nothing about SEO — it walks you through everything and puts everything at your fingertips. More advanced bloggers might find the interface intrusive, but the plugin delivers results, especially for new bloggers who’ve been flying blind. A great tool for getting your head around basic SEO.
The free plan offers service for up to three WordPress sites, with a monthly audit and up to five keyword researches per site, and 5 assisted content optimizations per site per month.
Scribe Content WordPress SEO
With search engine algorithms evolving at such a speed, you might want to consider a premium plugin that is constantly changing with them, instead of waiting for updates after a change. Scribe promises top-tier optimization with a patent-pending algorithm of its own.
This premium service isn’t free. The monthly investment for its most economical plan is moderately high for a plugin — but compared to hiring an SEO Expert, the cost is very low. You might get an hour or two of an SEO Expert’s time for the cost Scribe’s monthly fee.
Scribe focuses on three functions:
- Research: Scribe helps users find obscure but effective keywords (or “under-served content opportunities,” as they call them). It researches your audience demographic to identify potentially effective keywords using semantic phrases
- Optimization: Both your page and your site are analyzed and scored every time you create a new post. Suggestions are offered to improve your content if it needs it, and you can even see how your site will rank on the page when your keyword is searched.
- Relationship Building: This unique feature identifies other sites and social media users who share your audience and helps you build a “content alliance.” You can find content contribution opportunities and build bridges, all within the most current SEO best practices
Scribe is best for businesses that are serious about networking and building beneficial business relationships online, but don’t have the time to find like-minded blogs. For the money, you get SEO help that is on par with an Expert (and is no doubt better than and out-of-date expert).
Scribe for WordPress is available for self-hosted WordPress.org only — it is not compatible with WordPress.com. While this might be a dealbreaker, we strongly recommend that your business site have its own domain, its own host, and uses WordPress.com. It’s more versatile and more professional (and not as expensive as you might think).
If you blog for your business, do you use an SEO plugin? Which do you find works best for you? Is it worth it to pay more for a premium plugin? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
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