It seems that I have turned into a salesman for a free plugin that I didn’t even write. This plugin is Joost de Valk’s WordPress SEO Plugin. I’m honestly tired of writing all the benefits in chat to friends, or in email to clients whenever the subject of the best WordPress SEO plugin comes up, so I might as well write a plugin review to just link to.

What does an SEO plugin do?

Most WordPress developers think an SEO plugin just lets them set the title and description, maybe even some templates for them as Headspace2 allows. If you are savvy and know a bit about SEO, you then proceed to install separate plugins like Robots Meta, RSS Footer, Google Sitemaps for WordPress, Yoast Breadcrumbs, and Google Integration for webmaster tools verification etc.

Since many of these plugins were written by Joost, it only makes sense that he would roll them together into one tool that can do some of the gruntwork of optimizing a WordPress website for search engines. Yoast has done this, as well as provided a useful post/page edit box to help authors create SEO friendly pages and posts.

Yoast WordPress SEO features

  • Multisite Network settings, set a master control site.
  • Control meta tags and indexation per page, and per page template.
  • Google, Yahoo, Bing webmaster tools verification.
  • XML sitemap generation.
  • Title and description templates for post types and archives.
  • Facebook OpenGraph meta data.
  • Controlled indexation and directory snippet tags.
  • Advanced permalink controls.
  • Canonical SSL support.
  • Custom breadcrumbs.
  • RSS header and footer link templates.
  • Export settings and import from All-in-One SEO, and Headspace2.
  • Robots.txt and .htaccess file editing.
  • Rich post edit page options with snippet preview.

Plugin feature highlights

I think almost all of these settings are useful, but some of them are less obvious, and can offer some real benefit. Here are my favorites:

Multisite Network Settings

WordPress multisite gives us flexibility, and control over user permissions and access. It’s important to make sure we don’t have users messing with our SEO settings, especially if admins aren’t necessarily the actual site owner. For this reason, you can limit SEO settings to Super Admin users.

You can also choose a site whose settings will be used as default for new blogs on the network, and reset the settings of a blog individually from the network admin.

Facebook OpenGraph Integration

This is pretty new, and recently added to the plugin. OpenGraph uses metatags to give Facebook information about your site or page for display in profile pages of users who choose to “LIKE” your posts or pages.

Advanced Permalinks Options

For those of us who like our url structures to be “just so”, Yoast has added some advanced permalink options. You can remove the category base, enforce a trailing slash, and redirect your attachments to the parent post. I never liked how WordPress will insert an image, and make it a link to just the image, taking the user off the page and squandering a precious link. This will take care of that issue.

Yoast Breadcrumbs

The more complex and hierarchical your website architecture becomes, the more beneficial it is for your users to have a breadcrumb trail like the one above the post you are reading. I keep this blog pretty flat, but in cases of multi-tiered websites, these are also a way to increase your internal linking in a usable way. The crumbs work in many themes automatically, or you can add them manually from your theme functions file.

RSS Footer Links

Is your blog getting syndicated on autoblogs and news mashup sites? Are you angry that “SOMEONE IS STEALING MY CONTENT!!1”? Relax. Take a deep breath, and realize that this is an opportunity to create inbound links automatically using the websites that syndicate your content. Just set it up to link using the blog and postname, and the syndicators will help you rank. With some creativity and good targeting, this can be leveraged and optimized.

Import / Export Options

I don’t think this needs much explanation. I love backing up settings, and being able to reduce setup time on future projects. Being able to import All in One SEO and Headspace2 options also lowers the barrier for entry for many. Have no fear, you don’t have to rewrite all your titles to try Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin.

If you have read through this, and still think that your other SEO plugin in just fine for you, more power to you. My hope is that at least you know that not all are equal, and there is more a plugin can do to optimize a WordPress website than just set titles and descriptions.