If you want your WordPress site to rank well in search engines like Google, you need a WordPress SEO plugin.
Out of the box, WordPress does a lot of things well…but SEO isn’t one of them.
That’s why some of the most popular plugins at WordPress.org help with SEO.
But…how do you choose an SEO plugin? And does it matter which plugin you choose?
Let’s find out, with a look at 5 of the best WordPress SEO plugins. Then, at the end, I’ll recommend specific plugins based on some use cases (like whether or not you’re an SEO beginner).
But first – a quick disclaimer on why SEO plugins are hard to compare
SEO plugins are hard to compare because there are just so many small features that go into them. And, unlike most plugins, even the little features can be important.
So, here’s the deal:
If you’re a blogger first and an SEO second (e.g. you’re just doing SEO because you know it’s important for your blog), you probably won’t find any major differences between any of these SEO plugins. That is, they all do a good job at the SEO basics.
So, I’d recommend that you kind of approach this post like this:
- If you’re not heavy-duty into SEO, focus more on the interface and how the plugin approaches analysis. For example, some plugins will help you analyze your content and give you suggestions, while others will just get out of your way.
- If you are heavy-duty into SEO, you might want to pull open each plugin’s full feature list to see if it can do all the nitty-gritty things you might want to do because it’s just not possible for me to cover everything without writing a book.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in…
1. All in One SEO Pack
All in One SEO Pack is the second most popular SEO plugin out there. According to WordPress.org, it’s active on over 2 million sites while keeping up a 4.4-star rating on over 400 reviews.
One of the things that you’ll either like, or maybe not like, about All in One SEO Pack is that it doesn’t come with any analysis features.
That is, it gives you the settings that you need, but it doesn’t make suggestions for how you use those settings.
All in One SEO Pack also goes with a modular approach, which means that you can activate or deactivate certain features based on your own needs.
Combine those two approaches and you get a pretty lightweight, straightforward plugin.
So what can it do?
Well, first off it gives you a meta box on each piece of content that lets you control titles/meta description (as you’ll see, every single plugin utilizes this same basic approach).
Beyond that, you also get other options to noindex or nofollow individual pieces of content.
You also get one long General Settings page where you can configure all the SEO basics for your site. Putting every single setting into one list is a little overwhelming at first, but in the long-term, it’s pretty convenient to be able to control everything from one spot.
From these settings, you can:
- Control the basic title/description format, including using variables.
- Choose which content types to use All in One SEO Pack on.
- Connect to Google Search Console and other webmaster tools.
- Configure basic sitewide schema.
- Noindex certain content types.
Finally, All in One SEO Pack gives you a Feature Manager area where you can activate individual features. If you want it to, All in One SEO Pack can:
- Create an XML sitemap for you.
- Let you edit social metadata to control how your content looks on social media.
- Let you edit your .htaccess file or robots.txt file right through your dashboard.
2. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is the most popular WordPress SEO plugin out there. It’s active on over 5 million sites according to WordPress.org, where it’s also maintained a 4.9-star ratingon over 23,000 reviews.
One of the unique things about Yoast SEO is its focus on analysis. That is, beyond just letting you control your site’s SEO information, Yoast SEO also tries to give you suggestions to improve your content. There are two main focuses for this analysis:
- Focus keyphrase – how SEO optimized your post is for a target keyword.
- Readability – how “readable” your post is for human visitors.
You can see the results of these analyses with some helpful color-coding and emoticons in the Yoast SEO meta box (which is also where you control titles and descriptions):
This meta box also lets you:
- Control how your content looks on social media
- Noindex or nofollow a post
- Add a canonical URL
As for settings, Yoast’s are a lot more spread out. There is a setup wizard to help you configure most of the basics, which is great for beginners.
After that, you’ll need to poke around to find the various areas where you can:
- Control default templates for titles/descriptions
- Connect to Google Search Console
- Add your social profiles
Unlike All in One SEO Pack, Yoast SEO turns on most of its features by default. For example, it creates an XML sitemap for you automatically.
But if desired, it does still give you the same modular approach where you can turn specific features off:
One thing some people don’t like about Yoast SEO is its many dashboard “nags”. Sometimes it feels like Yoast SEO is always using the WordPress dashboard to try and make you do something, which is why the Hide SEO Bloat plugin is active on over 10,000 sites.
3. The SEO Framework
Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack are the two giants in WordPress SEO. These next three plugins aren’t nearly as popular, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as good.
That’s definitely true with The SEO Framework, which has quickly grown to become active on 70,000+ sites with a 4.9-star rating on over 175 reviews.
If there were one overall adjective to describe this plugin, it would be lightweight. Everything about it is trying to be as optimized and unobtrusive as possible.
Like the others, the SEO meta box lets you control:
- Social media settings
- Visibility (nofollow, noindex, canonical, etc.).
The SEO Settings area lets you configure all the important settings, including settings for:
- Basic schema markup like breadcrumbs and Google sitelinks
- The automatically-generated XML sitemap
- Social media
Then, there are also a variety of free and premium modular extensions that can help you add:
- Focus keyword analysis like Yoast SEO
- Local SEO features
- Structured data for articles
Finally, one other helpful feature is the quick-look SEO optimization column in the Posts list. Using colors, you can quickly see how optimized each post is, including tooltips that list the specific issues:
Get The SEO Framework
SEOPress is another newcomer that’s quickly building a name for itself. It’s also running a 4.9-star rating on over 175 reviews and it’s now active on over 20,00 sites.
One thing you’ll notice right away is the well-designed interface that does a good job of:
- Letting you control exactly which features are active
- Keeping things streamlined
- Giving you access to deeper settings if desired
These settings let you control:
- Titles and metas
- Various sitemaps
- Social networks
- Google Analytics
- Advanced options, like redirecting attachment pages to the post parent.
Unlike the other plugins, SEOPress gives you two different meta boxes.
The first one is what you’d expect – title and meta, social/open graph tags, nofollow, etc.
Below that, you also get a separate meta box for Content analysis. You can enter one or more keywords and have SEOPress analyze your post for those keywords.
The analysis is pretty deep – beyond analyzing your actual content for keyword usage, SEOPress can help you catch configuration issues and image alt text:
Another unique feature worth pointing out is SEOPress’ Google Analytics functionality. Beyond just helping you add the tracking code, SEOPress can help you enable event tracking to track external link clicks, downloads, and more.
You can also quickly set up custom dimensions for Google Analytics.
5. Rank Math
Rank Math is the youngest WordPress SEO plugin on this list. But while it is a relatively new offering, it comes from an established player in the WordPress space (MyThemeShop) and also has some unique twists.
Some of those most unique twists are:
- Built-in Google schema/rich snippets support for 14 different data types
- Built-in keyword suggestions from Google
- 404 monitoring
- Detailed site-wide SEO analysis
Like Yoast SEO, Rank Math starts you off with a user-friendly setup wizard to help you configure all of the important basics:
From there, you can further turn on or off various features thanks to Rank Math’s modular approach.
The General Settings area also lets you set up various settings, including the ability to edit your robots.txt file and .htaccess files right from your dashboard:
Each piece of content gets its own meta box, where you can configure title and meta information, as well as social media and other settings.
There are a few specific things worth pointing out here.
First, like Yoast SEO, Rank Math analyzes your content for both SEO and readability. One nice thing is that you can optimize for multiple keywords even in the free version(though you will need to link to your MyThemeShop account):
Another unique feature of this meta box is the built-in Rich Snippets functionality. From that tab, you can choose from one of the 14 included data types to add schema markup.
For example, if you’re writing a review, you can choose the Review data type, include your rating, and get those eye-catching review stars in Google without the need for a separate plugin:
To my knowledge, no other WordPress SEO plugin offers such a detailed way to add WordPress rich snippets for free, so this is definitely a big point in Rank Math’s favor.
Rank Math is still pretty new, so right now there’s no premium version. However, I imagine that will change over time.