Excellent Free WordPress Plugins for SEO & Beyond You Probably Need

wordpress-logo-cake*

New statistics show that WordPress powers roughly one fifth of the Web. That’s fantastic! We have come a long way. I remember the ugly duckling it was when I started out with WP in 2003 and version 1 but already then the huge potential was feasible. That’s one of the reasons why I chose WP over many other platforms like Typepad or MovableType.

Nowadays we get inundated with WordPress themes and plugins.

Some of them are useful like “hell” but nobody knows them. Many bloggers and publishers rely on one size fits all WordPress plugins for example. That’s OK when they are inexperienced with SEO and choose a good source like Yoast.

On the other hand SEO does not end with meta descriptions, title tags and the likes. They are very important but only the basics.

Some WP plugins that actually help your SEO most are not directly about SEO in the old school sense of the term.

Some WordPress tools improve the overall findability on site as well for example. So what are the tools that can improve your WordPress SEO beyond the Captain Obvious features?

Broken Link Checker

broken-link-checker

Most bloggers do not care for their old posts. Readers and search engines do. So when people and robots encounter broken links or worse, redirects leading to parked domains and other low quality sites they are not amused. Many people also use your internal search and find old articles you need to keep up to date. Recently I have been checking an old list of mine dealing with great blogs in a particular niche.

50% of legacy links were not there anymore or even in case they were, the blogs were dead for years.

So the links were either broken or misleading by now. With Broken Link Checker, that won’t happen. It alerts you to broken links and you can also search for redirects. In case you blog for more than a year or two by now and link out a lot you will find hundreds of 404s and redirects! So it’s a lot of work to keep a blog healthy and updated. You won’t look like an abandoned house to visitors and search engines though.

 

Feed Delay

feed-delay

Feed Delay is a really simple and nifty tool. You won’t probably even understand why you need it at first. What does it do? It delays the publication of your blog feed (aka RSS). Why do you need to do that? There are mainly three reasons and all matter a lot for proper SEO in its current sense:

  1. typos – When publishing a blog post a preview does not suffice. You often need to take a short look at the post once published. You will still discover some typos or issues with the images for example you have to fix. Then your subscribers get the already fixed version. I delay my feed for half an hour, so that subscribers don’t get those typos are at least fewer of them.
  2. duplicates – Spam sites or even legit aggregators usually just grab your feed and republish it, often without your permission. It often happens that the scraping site copying your content ranks higher than the original in Google. Google might even assume you have the copy and the scraper got the original. So you have to make sure to publish your content first before the copycats do. They often aggressively promote their posts using bots so Google will sometimes notice them first. Half an hour should suffice with a popular blog.
  3. automated sharing – Popular blogs gets automatically shared on Twitter and other social sites. I really mean automated bots and tools that take the RSS feed and share your post no matter whether it’s cool or not. So when someone looks up your Twitter activity on Topsy they will assume that you use these bots to self-promote. Also these bots get the credit for “discovering” your content. Last but not least you want to simply decide when to share and how before bots do it by mangling your headline with a text snippet.

 

Related Posts by Zemanta

related-posts

I have repeatedly advised you to use Related Posts by Zemanta. This highly valuable tool simply has to be here on the list additionally. Why? It’s the first related posts plugin that

  1. really works well
  2. displays images
  3. is good for your SEO.

I have seen and tested lots of similar tools in the past. They were always some issues.

I tested WordPress Related Posts shortly before it got acquired by Zemanta.

Zemanta just added a link in the widget and didn’t fix anything that wasn’t broken. They offer really solid support once there is an issue though:

zemanta-support

In case you want your readers to view more than one post per session you are strongly advised to use this plugin. I use it on all my blogs. One visually oriented content rich blog uses it very successfully having a median of 3 page views per visit.

It’s not that everybody looks up three posts, many people drop in as usual but some people once drawn in view 10 or 20 posts in a row due to the related posts plugin thumbnails below each post! How do I know? I use WP SlimStat to look it up.

 

WP SlimStat

slimstat

WP SlimStat (see screen shot above shows where my visitors come from) is a built in real time analytics tool for WordPress. I used the WordPress.com stats plugin for a quick overview for several years but then they bundled it with all kinds of other tools so that it’s not really recommendable anymore. I researched a bit and finally discovered WP SlimStat.

Why the heck do you need another statistics tool? Don’t you have Google Analytics or Piwik? Yeah, I use both. The problem with most analytics tools is that they focus on traffic not visitors, so that you see only numbers but not people.The default view of WP SlimStat shows something like this on top (I have blacked out the IP numbers for privacy reasons):

wp-slimstat

WP SlimStat focuses on people. You can even see who exactly visits your blog in case this person has commented on your blog. That way you can see what your true fans like the most.

In the so called “Spy View” you can look up particular users you like to find out what content they have seen:

dustin-verburg

To see the data view above I simply clicked on “Dustin Verburg” in the “Recent Known Visitors” panel. Dustin, an old buddy of mine, who will probably not object to be spied upon, has commented on my anniversary post. I have replied and he has come back to read my answer.

So what’s the use of this outside of amateur NSA games? Well, you want to make sure your peers and most faithful fans, those commenting on your blog, are happy and come back. So it’s great to know what exactly do they see on your blog.

 

Bonus: SiteApps

SiteApps allows you to segment your traffic using Google Analytics and adapt your site accordingly. You can show and hide site elements for example depending where a visitor comes from:

siteapps-segments

What does this mean? For returning visitors you can hide the ads for example. While you show “subscribe” options for new visitors.

You could display a like button for FB users while at the same time a +1 button for visitors from Google+ instead of showing everybody the same choices.

I’m still testing this and it’s a very powerful tool. I’ve been looking for years to have such advanced segmentation features. Additionally it plugs in into your Google Analytics stats and based on your data suggests you conversion optimization or UX improvements using additional apps you can plug in:

siteapps

I can’t write more as of now but I will probably follow up with a tutorial.

 

* Creative Commons image by Aaron Hockley