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The Complete WordPress SEO Plugin Mastery

SEO is the key to conquering the internet, and as the digital climate becomes increasingly saturated, it is becoming more important than ever to make sure that you are making every effort to get seen on the web. One of the easiest ways to give your sites a little extra boost is by implementing the right WordPress plugins.

The Problem:

Wait… I thought that finding the right SEO plugin was my problem?

You’re close. Everyone wants the one plugin that is going to single handedly cuddle their site up against that ever-desirable Google search bar. Although this result is possible, the reality is that the SEO market is becoming an increasingly competitive and saturated one. This context makes it more important than ever to have a better structured and optimized website with a search engine friendly hierarchy so that you can set yourself apart, and be ranked above your competition. Much to your dismay, that may involve a bit of a plugin stack.  

The Essential SEO Plugin Stack

Whether you’re building sites for clients, or your own business, mastering SEO will be the key to growing and sustaining a strong online presence.  Fortunately, we know how to get you there.

There are 7 critical pieces to the SEO puzzle. To start, you NEED an overall on-site SEO plugin to cover the basics, such as: meta tags, sitemaps, robots, etc. Then, there are an additional 6 complementary sections for plugins that will offer that competitive edge that you’re looking for:

  1. On-site SEO
  2. Mobile Optimization
  3. Broken Links
  4. Speed
  5. Security
  6. Image Optimization
  7. Rich Snippet

It is true that it’s a bit of a catch 22 when it comes to plugins and website speed, being that the shear volume of plugins being used will have an impact on the website speed. However, by using the right stack to build your SEO, the benefits will outweigh the harms.

Let’s dive in.

1. On-site SEO Plugins

An on-site SEO plugin will be the foundation of your infrastructure. For your convenience, we narrowed it down to only 2 contenders, Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack.

These 2 plugins have both been around for a decade already, and are still at the top of the food chain.

Yoast SEO

Price: Free with Paid Premium Option

Elevator Pitch:

Through walk-throughs and advanced settings, Yoast is the one stop shop for beginners and experts alike. Featuring sitemaps, title and meta descriptions, and the ability to connect Google Search Console, this plugin does everything to please users and search engine spiders alike.

With built in content and SEO analysis, Yoast can also insure that your content is always killer (in Google’s eyes as well as prospect’s eyes). By upgrading to premium, you also gain access to a local SEO extension which adds a local schema markup to your web pages.  Other premium features include video and news extensions.

Key Features:

  • Most used SEO plugin on market with 5M+ active installs
  • Thousands of daily downloads
  • Effectively combines content and SEO
  • Uses JSON_LD for local
  • 5 star-rating across nearly 20,000 reviews on WordPress.org

All in One SEO Pack

Price: Free with Paid Premium Option

Elevator Pitch:

All in One SEO Pack is the original SEO plugin that works out-of-the-box for beginners with  advanced features for developers. XML sitemaps, and overridable meta descriptions/keywords allow users to to optimize their SEO efforts.

This plugin is also highly durable being that it is translated into 57 languages and works well with a variety of other plugins. All in One provides local SEO recommendations and keyword ranking for users as well.

Key Features:

  • The ONLY free plugin to provide SEO Integration for e-Commerce sites, including WooCommerce
  • Over 3M active installs
  • 4.5 star-rating across 500+ reviews on WordPress.org

The On-site SEO Winner

Yoast SEO. Industry experts and Vendastians all agree that Yoast is essentially the modern-day standard when it comes to WordPress SEO plugins. The free version will accommodate users of all levels of expertise and ensure all of your bases are covered.

2. Mobile Website Optimization Plugins

This SEO factor earned itself a priority seat due to the fact that Google is now favoring outlets that are running on AMP code. Google announced just last month, January 2018, that it would begin prioritizing pages with fast mobile loading speed in their search algorithm. What this means is that mobile optimization will now be a high ranking factor in every sites overall SEO performance on Google.

This makes it more critical than ever to have your sites optimized for mobile. Considering that the majority of browsing these days is conducted from mobile devices, it just makes sense.  

AMP for WordPress

Price: Free!

Elevator Pitch:

Ever get frustrated when you’re trying to look something up on your phone and it takes 3 full days to load? We all lead pretty busy lives, and just don’t have time for that nonsense.  

By using AMP for WordPress, you can insure that your prospects never give up hope as a result of a slow mobile site. By creating AMP content, which Google is now factoring into SEO rankings, this plugin caters to the needs of major AMP consumers such as Google Search.

Key Features:

  • Built by WordPress, not a third party, so compatibility is not a concern
  • Many 1 star reviews, and a 3.5 star overall rating on WordPress.org
  • 200,000+ active installs (best in class)

AMP for WP

Price: Also free!

Elevator Pitch:

These guys also spared no creativity in terms of naming themselves, but I guess that there’s no harm in getting to the point either…

AMP for WP is pretty straight-forward, and simply adds AMP functionality to your WordPress site to improve mobile site speed through search engines (like Google!).

Key Features:

  • 100,000+ active installations
  • 4.5 star user rating on WordPress.org (best in class)
  • Yoast (and other SEO) plugin integration

The Mobile Optimization Winner

AMP for WP (the latter—these 2 are damn confusing). The reality is that both of these plugins are going to meet your mobile optimization needs, but it just feels like AMP for WordPress (the loser) has not put as much effort into customer satisfaction. Installs are declining and 1 star ratings on WordPress.org almost pair those of the 5 stars; which might be cause for some concern, ex:

Not what you want to see…

3. Broken Link Plugins

Links are kind of like family photos—sometimes they just go bad. Pages can be deleted, a site that you link to may vanish, or someone might move a post or page without updating others.  These actions can all cause broken links.

And there is NOTHING worse than hitting a “404 Page not found” when you’re trying to find a new photographer for your family pictures.  

By managing broken links on your site, you can mitigate user frustrations, questions of credibility, lost conversions, and damage to your SEO ranking. Yes, broken links factor quite heavily into your SEO ranking.

Broken Link Checker

Price: Free!

Elevator Pitch:

Broken Link Checker scans your posts, pages, comments, blogs, and custom fields to detect links that don’t work, images that may be missing, and link redirects. This parsing can take some time as it verifies each and every link tied to your site. Once completed, it will present you with a list of broken links so that you can manage redirects and prevent prospects and customers from losing interest or losing track of you.

Key Features:

  • Has not been updated in 6 months…customer service?
  • 500,000+ active installs (by far best in class)
  • 4 star rating across nearly 400 reviews on WordPress.org
  • Offered in 30 languages

The Broken Link Winner

Only one candidate, and only one winner. Use this plugin, it will save your customers and prospects a lot of headache, and it will help optimize your overall SEO.

4. Speed Plugins

Page speed is a huge factor in search rankings because it a huge factor in user experience. Google recommends pages load in less than a half second, and that’s not always easy to achieve.

To tie into the above AMP category, this element has actually never been more important with Google recently announcing that page speed is now a ranking factor for mobile searching (where most searches occur).

I have offered up 2 site caching alternatives that will have a substantial impact on site load times, particularly with high volumes of traffic.

WP Fastest Cache

Price: Free, the best price.

Elevator Pitch:

With most of the functionality automated, and active page statistics, the WP Fastest Cache plugin is very user friendly. It creates a static html file so that high quantities of traffic do not produce slow render times on your site, and offers numerous options for managing cached files. It also comes with minify html and css options so that users can decrease the size of pages and css files.

Key Features:

  • Does not yet support WordPress Multisite
  • 5 star rating and over 500,000 active installations
  • Offered in 17 languages

W3 Total Cache

Price: Free, always.

Elevator Pitch:

W3 Total Cache improves SEO and user experience by reducing dowload times and increasing performance. W3 comes with a host of caching options, minification features, as well as various security features. It also offers improved server performance to help weather those high traffic periods.  

Key Features:

  • Only 9 out of 108 issues resolved in the past 2 months
  • 4.5 star rating and over 1 million active installs (best in class)
  • Used by many large companies such as AT&T

The Speed Winner

This is actually a really tough one. I am going to crown W3 Total Cache as the victor for now due to the sheer volume of active users and the number of industry experts that swear by it. However, WP Fastest Cache is an excellent caching plugin, and is growing in popularity and downloads, so it would also make for a great alternative should you choose it.

5. Security Plugins

Security is a factor that owns varying degrees of concern. If you are a financial institution or a related field of business, security will likely hold a much greater precedence in your site infrastructure.  

The primary impact of a security plugin for other business demographics is in regards to an SSL certificate (https). This certificate helps your site maintain rank on search providers and is rumoured to become a requirement for google sites in the near future. An SSL certificate can also directly translate to growth in rank, while also encrypting user data – an essential component on many websites.

Besides, who wants to be hacked by some sneaky black hat spammer?

Wordfence Security

Price: Free with Premium Option

Elevator Pitch:

Wordfence Security was built for the specific application of WordPress sites. It includes an endpoint firewall and malware scanner, as well as a Threat Defence Feed that insures that Wordfence is always up to date with the newest firewall rules, malware signatures, and malicious IP addresses it needs to keep your site safe.

Key Features:

  • 2M+ active installs (best in class)
  • 5 star rating across over 3000 reviews on WordPress.org
  • User friendly feeds to monitor performance

The Security Winner

We decided to keep it simple on this one being that Wordfence Security is all around best in class. This plugin is a favorite by industry experts worldwide, so it will surely meet your firewall and malware needs in the free version—with the option to pay for premium as you grow.

6. Image Optimization

The images that you utilize on your site build can have a huge impact on user experience as well as click and conversion rates. However, it is critical that you don’t forget to use an image optimization plugin to reduce image sizes (often up to 50%), and therefore page sizes, to boost your SEO rankings by greatly increasing page speed and user-friendliness.

There are hundreds of compressors, but really only a couple in the runnings.

Smush Image Compression and Optimization

Price: Free with Pro Option

Elevator Pitch:

Smush, seems like a fitting name right? This plugin does the bulk of the heavy lifting for you, so you really don’t need to stress about a steep learning curve. Smush automatically cuts the size of all of the images on your site to provide speed and quality. It also now allows for image resizing and is compatible with numerous other plugins on the market.

Key Features:

  • 5 star rating and over 1 million active installs (best in class)
  • Huge benefits for mobile speeds
  • Highest performance reserved for paying customers only

Short Pixel

Price: Free with Paid Premium

Elevator Pitch:

Short Pixel is on this list as a result of its cheaper premium option in comparison to the other image optimizers on the market. This plugin will accomplish relatively the same as Smush, but nearly all of these image optimization plugins are drastically limited in the free versions.  

Therefore, if you find yourself growing, and in need of something more than what these free versions can offer, Short Pixel has one off the most affordable paid rates on the market, and will still reach upwards of 60% optimization.

Key Features:

  • They have resolved every single issue that has been reported to WordPress.org in the past 2 months (can somebody say customer service?)
  • 4.5 star rating across nearly 300 reviews
  • Also offers huge benefits for mobile site speeds
  • One click bulk optimization (major time saver)

The Image Optimization Winner

Being that I recognized each of these plugins for different benefits, they are both winners in their own light. Smush is a near unanimous favorite for basic free image optimization, and ShortPixel is a great alternative if you are ready to take that first step into the realm of “paid plugins,” but don’t necessarily want to invest the capital that Smush or many others require.

7. Rich Snippet Plugins

What is a Rich Snippet?

Rich snippets are the fields that spice up your search result listing. You know those sites that have pictures and external ratings linked into their descriptions? There is less sorcery involved than you may have thought.

What’s special about this plugin is that you don’t have to write any code what-so-ever (and if your coding is anything like mine, this is a major blessing). Rich Snippet plugins present fields that you fill in, and the plugin automatically generates the code and tags for you.

Many website developers might not consider rich snippets an important tool in terms of SEO, but I’ll tell you why this interaction is important. Although rich snippets do not directly help you rank, they do provide increased visual appeal to your SERP result as you approach that first page of google. This visual appeal will likely increase your click through rate (CTR) which will then cause you to rank higher in terms of SEO.

It’s as simple as that.

All In One Schema Rich Snippets

Price: Free

Elevator Pitch:

Want to add review, event, product, recipe, video, article, or other schemas to your site snippet?  All In One Schema Rich Snippets makes it possible in a highly user-friendly format so that you can make your site more interactive and improve your click through rates.

Key Features:

  • 70,000+ active installs (by far best in class)
  • 4.5 star rating across 100+ reviews on WordPress.org
  • Helps Facebook display proper information when users share your links on Facebook

The Rich Snippet Winner

I know, I did it again…to date, All in One Schema Rich Snippets has more or less monopolized the market, and is your best choice if you want to master all of the categories of SEO on your WordPress build.

Conclusion

Seven is the number of plugins you are going to need to have a world class SEO optimized site:

  1. Yoast SEO
  2. AMP for WP
  3. Broken Link Checker
  4. W3 Total Cache
  5. Wordfence Security
  6. Smush or ShortPixel
  7. All In One Schema Rich Snippets

And one is the page number of Google results that you will likely find yourself on the keywords that matter most if you leverage this plugin combination.

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What Social Media Monitoring Can Teach You About Your Business

Intro to Social Media Monitoring

Have you ever been at a party and caught a person or a group glancing at you while whispering covertly?

What’s up with that? Is your fly open? Does someone have a crush on you? Does someone want to throw a drink in your face?

You’d want to know, wouldn’t you?

The online universe is a lot like that party; It’s a system of digital communities in which people are gathering and discussing a wide variety of topics, including YOU. In your personal life, you may or may not care to find out what they’re saying, but in business, it’s essential to your survival that you know.

At the party, you may never get the answers you seek without shaking someone down. However, online, you can use social media monitoring to track mentions of your brand, competitors, product and any other keywords that are applicable to your business.

Monitoring your social media channels is about more than just listening.

The information you accumulate can help you make major decisions about your marketing strategy, the products and services you offer and how people regard your brand. Plus, it can help you identify leads, build relationships, stay on top of trends, learn about your competitors, protect your brand and more!

Note: This post is outlining organic social media monitoring tips, as opposed to paid social campaigns. Organic social media is more geared toward building brand awareness and connecting with your target audience. Paid social is typically centered around driving targeted actions like content downloads, webinar or appointment signups, and other specific goals.

Here’s more on why it’s so important that you monitor what people are saying about your business online.


Why Should You Use Social Media Monitoring?

1. To gauge social sentiment

What do you know about your brand’s reputation? You can get a feel by reading your reviews and speaking with customers, but you’d be missing a wealth of more informal brand or product mentions.

Plus, you need to be there to respond! In a recent survey, Sprout Social found that 89% of social messages go ignored. That’s a problem—and an even bigger missed opportunity.

People use social media to discuss the topics they care about within the communities they choose. That’s where you need to listen to truly discover how people regard your business, the issues they’re having, and the things they love.

2. To find leads & build relationships

Are people searching for your products and services? You’ve seen those calls on Facebook for recommendations, or the plaintive cries for help on Twitter: “I want pizza!” When you monitor your brand’s keywords or phrases, you can jump in and answer these requests (Just mention your current Monday 2 for 1 pizza deal!). NOT selling anything can be really effective too. Be a part of the conversations that are happening online about your industry.

3. To stay on top of trends

When you’re closely monitoring discussions in your niche, you may be able to catch new and evolving trends as they emerge. For example, when Instagram launched its “Stories” product, Snapchat growth took a major hit (growth slowed by 82%). In response to news like this, you may decide to alter your marketing strategy to be one of the first to dive into a new social channel or try a new tactic.

snapchat statistics

Image source: Techcrunch

Why is this important? In an over-saturated market, doing the same thing as everyone else can get you lost in the crowd. Finding ways to stand out will help you get noticed and stay relevant in your industry.

4. To perform competitor research

Has your competition launched a product similar to what you offer, but at a lower price or with a few more bells and whistles? Did they just launch a marketing strategy that your customers are loving? Did they just screw up royally using a tactic you’ve been considering? Keeping your finger on the social pulse will alert you about these types of scenarios and unforeseen issues that may have huge repercussions for your business.

5. To protect your brand

Building your brand’s reputation takes a lot of time and effort, but it can all be lost in seconds.Monitoring your social channels allows you to identify any issues customers have and jump on solutions before they blow up.

Stuff happens. It’s inevitable.

It’s how you respond and how quickly you respond that matters. In fact, we’ve found that if a business resolves its issue quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy customers return to you.

Listening, identifying the issue and showing your customers you care and are taking steps to resolve the issue is what can turn them from a brand killer into a champion for your business.


What to Do With Your Social Media Monitoring Insights

So once you’re set up with the tools you need for monitoring, tracking, measuring and analysis, what do you do with the information? This is the key moment where you determine how to act on the knowledge you’ve received.

Shift Social Strategy

Is your strategy working? Are you truly getting traction on your primary social channels? You may discover that it’s time to re-evaluate the resources and effort you put into certain channels.

For example, maybe you discover that your people are super engaged in Quora. Devoting more time and resources there would be worth pursuing, even if it’s at the expense of another social channel.

Results from monitoring your competitors on social media could also yield some interesting insights as well. You may find that a new video tactic has people in your area or industry buzzing about a close competitor. Why let them go unchallenged?

Work on Developing Relationships With Leads & Influencers

If you can jump into conversations and authentically solve problems for people, do it! This tactic can be especially relevant when it comes to people’s frustrations with your competitor’s products or services. When you do this, it’s essential that you come from a really genuine place and offer tips or advice geared around helping people. People don’t want to be spammed, and sensitive topics like plastic surgery should be off-limits.

However, in many industries you should feel free to have real conversations with people around the topics they care about (which also happen to be topics YOU care about as a business owner!).

Spotting and reaching out to influencers in your industry as outlined in this post (Salesforce) can have an amazing amplification effect for your brand as well. People look to influencers to help them make purchasing decisions all the time, and if you can develop strong relationships with key influencers you can expect better results for much less work.

salesforce built relationships

Image Source: Salesforce

Develop New Products/Services

Listening to the needs of your target audience is a smart way to refine your solutions and develop new ones. If enough people are saying they hate a product, or wish they could tweak it, it’s probably worth looking into what the issue is and try to determine what could make that product better.

For example, Natalia Chrzanowska of (Brand24) notes that GoPro did exactly that when they introduced their new camera – GoPro Hero4.

“We analyzed the social media discussions regarding both releases – Hero3+ and Hero4. The insights gathered during the Hero3+ premiere included lots of suggestions for features that could improve customer experience, which then appeared later on in the succeeding model – GoPro Hero4.”

On the flip side, if your customers LOVE one of your products, there may be an opportunity to develop similar or complimentary products or services.

You can then turn around and apply all this awesome feedback as testimonials for new campaigns. Think ad campaigns, email campaigns, social campaigns and beyond!

Update Customer Service Policy/Process

Social media has led to a major shift in how customer service is carried out by many companies. People want instant answers, and are less likely to put up with call centers. Many won’t even pick up the phone when they have a problem; They’ll just tweet about it! According to a new report from Conversocial, 54% of customers prefer customer service via social media and SMS. The upcoming generation of millennials will only amplify this trend.

People are sticking to their favorite social media platforms to air out their complaints, and you need to know if this is happening in your industry (and be ready for it).

In Jay Baer’s book Hug Your Haters, author and consultant Dave Kerpen notes that:

“If a customer calls you on the phone to complain, surely you wouldn’t hang up on them. And not responding in social media is akin to hanging up on them, only worse, because there are actually other people watching and listening.”

Letting complains hang out there unanswered is not acceptable to current and potential customers, and it shouldn’t be to you!


4 Easy Wins

I’ve thrown a lot of information you’re way. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and put off testing these strategies for yourself. To help you get started, here are a few easy action items for you to try out.

  1. Jot down 3 of your top goals that you’re hoping monitoring your social channels will help you with. (example: Find out if people are liking the new kombucha flavor we just released).
  2. Contact us to get set up with the social media monitoring tools you need. Poke around and see what value you can get out of the tools.
  3. Enter a few of your brand’s keywords and see what data the tools come up with.
  4. Look through the initial results. Make a list of 3 things you learned and whether you should discuss with your team.

Final Thoughts

Most businesses are aware that they should monitor social media for mentions related to their brand, products, services, competitors and industry. You might actually be doing so already. But do you have a plan in place to analyze, respond and integrate results into your business’s ongoing strategy?

If you don’t, you might be missing some golden opportunities…or you could get a martini in your face!