There’s a LOT of WordPress plugins which describe themselves as WordPress SEO plugins, but many add fluff features which have little to no DIRECT SEO value and many many cause SEO damage!
My First Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin Review
I fell into reviewing the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin in 2010: wasn’t my plan to review it, but the Yoast plugin author (Joost de Valk) was condescending towards my SEO abilities and a WordPress SEO theme I developed (Talian 5 WordPress SEO theme) on a WordPress mailing list, discussed it here Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin and SEO Experts.
Being very petty I gave the Yoast SEO plugin an honest review at Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin Review.
All in One SEO Pack Plugin Review
Reviewing the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin inevitably led to reviewing the All In One SEO Pack WordPress plugin as well since it was even more popular at the time, so reviewed at All in One SEO Pack WordPress Plugin Review.
Learning from Reviewing SEO Plugins
I think I’ll review the other popular WordPress SEO plugins as well as it was very interesting to see what they were trying to achieve.
I got some new ideas for my WordPress SEO Themes that are now part of Stallion Responsive and as of 2014 include support for both Yoast WordPress SEO Data and All in One SEO Pack Data: Stallion Responsive will use the Yoast and/or the All In One SEO title tags, meta descriptions and meta keywords tags added to Posts and Pages edit screens without having to convert the SEO data.
Also users of Stallion Responsive who switch to either Yoast or All In One SEO or use them alongside Stallion Responsive will have access to the Stallion Responsive SEO Data: you can choose which SEO data format to use, Yoast or All In One SEO with Stallion Responsive.
My conclusion of both SEO plugins at the time (2010) was they are very dangerous SEO wise in the wrong hands (those who don’t understand SEO), especially the Yoast SEO plugin as it used nofollow for blocking link benefit/PR wastage despite the nofollow technique no longer working (it deletes links benefit : AKA damaging SEO wise if you use nofollow, been this way since at least 2009).
Don’t use nofollow, take a read of SEO Nofollow PR Sculpting as to why nofollow is bad SEO.
WordPress SEO Plugins and Title Tags AKA Title Elements
The only redeeming SEO feature of both WordPress SEO plugins at the time was the ability to manipulate a WordPress site’s title elements: you might know them as title tags, but they aren’t tags, they are elements
Yes, I’ve become an HTML snob in me old age :-)
Both SEO plugins allow the user to change the title ELEMENTS of every page of a WordPress site either site-wide or page by page.
Just looking at WordPress posts, most WordPress themes use this format for a title element
Blog Name | Title of Post
Which is far from ideal, the perfect SEO title element would be:
Title of Post
Assuming you’ve used relevant keywords as part of the title.
If you create a post about how great oranges taste and call it “What a Great Morning I Had” rather than something like “Oranges Taste Great” you should not be surprised if that page does not rank well in Google etc… for Orange related search results, you must use the keywords in the title tag, it’s basic SEO 101.
The basic site-wide SEO feature was easy to achieve with my WordPress SEO themes, you will note the title element of this post is just the title of the post “WordPress SEO Plugin Reviews” (been using this technique on all my SEO themes since around 2006, believe I was the first to use it with WordPress themes).
Note: despite the title of a post alone being the perfect SEO title element, (assuming the user added keywords to the title) SEO plugins tend to use this default format in their WordPress plugins (note: the first release of the Yoast SEO plugin lacked defaults altogether, it was in beta release mind you):
Title of Post | Blog Name
Which isn’t much of an improvement, I wouldn’t install a WordPress plugin just to do that!
I personally would only use that format on a site where branding is as important as search engine optimization (I don’t own a site where branding is that important). If Amazon built a WordPress blog you’d understand they’d want Amazon highly featured on every page, but for us mere mortals we don’t have the budget for mass brand marketing and so we shouldn’t waste important SEO real estate (the title element is the most important on page SEO factor) on branding when we don’t have a brand**. We should concentrate on search engine optimization for our traffic.
** Not got anything against branding a domain, but if you’ve named your blog with a brand type name (like Amazon Blog) your home page will be branded and most likely to pull in your brand name SERPs anyway. It’s overkill to brand every page of a site when branding isn’t important traffic wise.
Do you have a brand that results in thousands of Google searches a day? No, don’t brand every page then.
Anyway, the page by page aspect of the title element manipulation were the title of the post wasn’t used as the title tag, but an SEO version of the title was difficult to achieve at theme level, but by 2011 my SEO themes and others were including this ability (it’s common place in themes now). Many themes output a title tag with format:
Title of Post
In 2014 Stallion Responsive is far more advanced than both the Yoast plugin and the All In One SEO plugin regarding title tags. Where those two plugins provide one option for adding an SEO title tag that is ONLY used as the title tag, in Stallion Responsive there are 5 additional options for adding an SEO title Tag and 4 Related Keyphrases. The Stallion SEO Title Tag and the 4 Related Keyphrases are used for the title tag, anchor text/alt text for internal links to those posts and in other areas of the theme.
For example for this post the options were set to:
Original WordPress Title : WordPress SEO Plugins
Stallion Title Tag (equivalent to Yoast or All In One SEO title tag) : WordPress SEO Plugin Reviews
Keyphrase 1 : SEO Plugin Reviews
Keyphrase 2 : Best SEO Plugin for WordPress 2014
Keyphrase 3 : 2014 WordPress SEO Plugin Reviews
Keyphrase 4 : WordPress SEO Plugin Reviews 2014
Look through this post and links to this post like from the WordPress SEO Plugins Category archive and you’ll see those phrases used through out this site (this site runs on Stallion Responsive). This is advanced WordPress SEO and no WordPress SEO Plugin can achieve this.
See the YouTube Video below for how the Stallion SEO Posts Widget uses these Keyphrases etc…
WordPress SEO Plugin Features Nofollow and Noindex
After the title element manipulation as explained above, the next most important SEO feature of these plugins is to try to sculpt PR/link benefit. I say try because they fail miserably and damage a sites SEO in the process!
Both the Yoast SEO plugin and the All In One SEO Pack plugin uses a combination of nofollow and noindex to manipulate link benefit/PR flow through a WordPress site. Both techniques are seriously flawed, especially using the nofollow as nofollow doesn’t protect PR/link benefit it deletes it!!!
If you do not know what you are doing with these plugins you may find code like this added to your head area:
<meta name="robots" content="index, nofollow" />
This tells Google and other search engines to index the page the above code is on, but don’t follow ANY of the links. If I used those SEO plugins on this site and added the above to this post not a single drop of SEO benefit would pass through any of the internal or external links. That means my home page gets no link benefit back from this page, the links within the Popular Posts widget are ignored, the links I added earlier to other resources gain ZERO SEO benefit from being linked to.
I can’t think of a single reason why on a WordPress site an entire page would have ALL links nofollow?
Trust me on this one, DO NOT deliberately add any nofollow links or meta robots tags to your site, it’s SERPs suicide! If you don’t want your link benefit, send it me (link to my site) instead of deleting it through nofollow!
Noindex on the other hand isn’t as bad as using nofollow, but it is SEO damaging all the same. When you select a page for noindex with code like you see below:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex, follow" />
What the major search engines do is spider the page, but don’t index it (it can’t be found for relevant SERPs in Google etc…). They will follow links from a noindex page IF nofollow isn’t set as well and pass link benefit from the page through those links to other pages of your site. Since link benefit passing through a page uses/degrades some of the link benefit (PR), by noindexing a page some link benefit is wasted: it does no SEO work as it passes through the page.
If nofollow is set as well the page isn’t indexed and the link benefit is completely deleted, so any links to a noindex page that is also nofollow is thrown away down a black hole!
So with noindex the link benefit that goes to a noindex page does nothing SEO wise on THAT page. Basically the link benefit ‘passes through’ noindex pages (as long as nofollow isn’t set as well), but it doesn’t gain SERPs for those noindex pages. To use an extreme example imagine you noindexed your home page, you would pretty much loose every SERP your home page had, but your deeper pages would still gain the link benefit from links from your home page and rank the same.
If while reading the above you thought “why would I want to noindex my home page, it’s an important page traffic wise?” Fortunately you understand SEO better than your average WordPress SEO plugin author as the plugin authors allow you to noindex category pages which are like mini home pages within your site!!! Why would you want to noindex your Category pages when they can generate search engine traffic?
Don’t believe me about Categories, check out these SERPs in Google for exact Category title searches for this website:
Stallion Responsive Tutorials : 1st in Google
Stallion WordPress Tips : 1st in Google
Stallion SEO Tutorials : 3rd in Google
If I noindex all my Category pages with one of these WordPress SEO plugins I’d loose all those SERPs and many more for no SEO gain (the link benefit isn’t recycled elsewhere on the site, it’s just not used on those pages). As there’s no SEO gain, why noindex them?
If you find a set of pages like your monthly archive pages aren’t generating SEO traffic, you’d be advised by these SEO plugins to noindex them. My advice is if these pages don’t work for your site, remove them completely (don’t link to them at all, remove the monthly archive widget from your sidebar) or at least limit the amount of link benefit they use (the latter is easily achieved at theme level by only linking to them from the home page, not ideal but better than site-wide links).
If you noindex monthly archive pages you’ll gain ZERO SEO benefit from this, the archive pages generate very little (if any) search engine traffic, there would be no improvement in noindexing them as the link benefit still passes through them. If you aren’t going to remove pointless pages like the monthly archives the best advice is don’t noindex them and certainly don’t nofollow them. It’s argued to noindex them for duplicate content reasons, Google is smarter than that and as long as you use a theme that can show an excerpt of posts on archives it is highly unlikely to generate duplicate content issues.
Never use nofollow (hope it’s sinking in :-)).
How To Sculpt PageRank, Link Benefit with SEO Plugins
2010 SEO Information:
The bad news is I haven’t found a WordPress SEO plugin that can effectively sculpt PageRank/link benefit (nofollow is very damaging, noindex is damaging). Currently the only legitimate way to sculpt PageRank/link benefit is don’t link (or at least limit links) to unimportant pages.
Future good news is by looking through these WordPress SEO plugins and realising how important the ability to block pages from Google etc… is to some WordPress users (not an issue for me so never worried about it, if I don’t want a page indexing I don’t create it in the first place) I’ve had a Eureka moment and realised a way to both block pages from being indexed AND not waste the precious link benefit that would go through the pages whilst still allowing link benefit to flow through a site (it’s official, I’m a WordPress SEO genius :-)).
I have a couple of months of SEO testing to do before I’ll release this as part of an SEO theme (after I code it in the theme), but through luck I already have data on this SEO concept and it’s looking very good so far.
When complete users should be able to do the equivalent of noindex Monthly Archives, Categories, Tags and the paged home page archives (page 2, page 3 etc… linked from the home page) whilst having the link benefit redirected to the home page. Note: I personally wouldn’t use this SEO feature on Categories or Tag pages, but would recommend using on the monthly archives (which I never use) and use it myself on the home page paged archives as they don’t add any SEO value to a site if you have Categories and/or Tags: you need at least one form of archive page like Categories and/or Tags to pass link benefit through a site, but you don’t need four types (Categories, Tags, Monthly Archives and the paged home page archives). I tend to use Categories for passing link benefit through a site and rarely Tags (if a Tags worth creating, I usually create a Category).
If I had the PHP skills to put this concept into a new WordPress SEO plugin I would as in combination with the ability to rewrite title elements (like the two WordPress SEO plugins I’ve reviewed offer) would make the major WordPress SEO plugins I’ve reviewed obsolete. My eldest son is at University studying computer programming, will see if I can persuade him to run me off a plugin (he thinks PHP programming isn’t pure enough, programming snob with his C++ code :-)).
2014 SEO Information: Stallion WordPress SEO Plugin is Alive
I’ve since acquired the PHP skills to create the Stallion WordPress SEO Plugin mentioned above and released it in the WordPress Plugin Repository at Stallion WordPress SEO Plugin and added the code directly into Stallion Responsive.
It’s a bit irritating it’s got a low Star Rating in the WordPress Plugin Repository, suspect users don’t understand what the plugin does and think it’s broken. It’s all behind the scenes features, not meant to see anything unless you view source.