The 18 best SEO plugins for WordPress in 2021 (and 3 insider tips)

There are around 1,000 SEO plugins in the WordPress repository alone.

There are also hundreds of premium plugins, all of which promise better rankings.

But which of them are recommended now? Which tools do you need, and which can you safely do without?

To answer these questions, I’ve put together my 21 favorite plugins for you.

Plugins that help you enormously with your WordPress website’s on-page optimization can save you a lot of work.

I tried all the plugins myself, and some of them have been using them for years.

There are also some real secret tips!

And no, in case you are wondering:

Yoast SEO is not (anymore) one of them.

But more on that in a moment…

1. General SEO plugins

Before installing any special plugins for fine-tuning, you should install a general SEO plugin.

A general plugin supplements WordPress with the most important SEO functions such as:

  • Set meta title and description
  • Create a sitemap
  • Definition of robots meta tags (noindex, nofollow, etc.) for individual posts, post types, and taxonomies in WordPress (translated: you want to be able to control which pages end up in the Google index and which do not)

1.1 Rank Math

Yoast SEO has long been the undisputed top dog among SEO plugins.

These times are slowly coming to an end.

On the one hand, Yoast SEO has shot itself out in the last few years due to several things:

  • Bad performance (which is why I disable features like the text link counter and link suggestions by default)
  • Oversleeping important SEO developments (e.g., Yoast SEO Premium has only been counting since version 10, introduced in March 2019, different spellings of a keyword as a keyword and until today only in English)
  • Partly creepy development errors (e.g., with the introduction of Yoast 7.0, the setting for forwarding media URLs was accidentally set to No )
  • Most recently, a dubious promotion on Black Friday 2019 (where an advertising banner was displayed across the WordPress dashboard.Ugh)
  • A premium version that is too expensive (especially for agencies, there is a 40% discount for 100 licenses, but Yoast SEO Premium then still costs 4,345 € per year)

On the other hand, a new stag has entered the area:

The Rank Math plugin from MyThemeShop.

And it has it all!

Because the still relatively young plugin (introduced in November 2018) offers all the functions that Yoast SEO Premium offers (yes, that’s right, the premium version!).

With a small but subtle difference:

It’s completely free and doesn’t cost € 79 per year!

It even offers a little more than Yoast SEO Premium, such as B. a module for local SEO, settings for rich snippets, and an interface to the Google Search Console.

Rank Math also offers more settings for advanced users:

So you can z. E.g., the meta tags introduced in September 2019 to control the maximum text length, preview video length, and preview image size.

Or specify whether empty categories and tags should automatically be set to noindex or not.

I also think that’s great about Rank Math.

2. Loading time optimization

The loading time of a website has been a ranking factor since 2010.

In recent years, however, it has grown in importance. The proportion of users who surf on mobile devices has grown steadily and has long overtaken desktop users’ proportion.

In the following, I will introduce you to 6 plugins for loading time optimization that have it all.

2.1 WP Rocket

WP-Rocket is one of the best all-in-one plugins for optimizing loading times.

It not only offers a perfect page caching function (with preloading), but also various other functions:

  • Summary and minification of HTML, CSS, and JS
  • Loading Critical CSS (one of my favorite features!)
  • Disabling emojis and embeds
  • Merging Google Fonts
  • Controlling Heart Beart
  • Lazy loading for pictures, videos, and iframes
  • Database cleanup

It has an active Facebook community and is very well documented. 

Do you have a reasonably well-programmed theme, good WordPress hosting, and not hundreds of plugins installed?

Then it is quite possible to achieve loading times of well under a second and high PageSpeed ​​scores of 70 – 90 with WP Rocket:

Of course, WP Rocket is not a must.

You can also achieve many of the functions through a combination of your own entries in the .htaccess (for gzip, browser caching, etc.) and free plugins, such as Autoptimize and Cache Enabler.

But, if you want to save yourself fiddling and prefer to install only one plugin instead of three, four, or five, then WP Rocket is the right one for you.

2.2 EWWW Image Optimizer

Images that are not optimized can have a major impact on the loading time of your website.

This is neither good for visitors nor for the ranking!

EWWW Image Optimizer can help by automatically compressing all PNG and JPG files you upload to WordPress (which can reduce their size by 40 or 50 percent).

You can also use the EWWW Image Optimizer to massively optimize all images that you have uploaded in the past. Even images that are not in the WordPress upload directory, such as images integrated into the theme or in your image directories!

2.3 Autoptimize

Autoptimize is by far the best free plugin for reducing the size and number of your website requests.

To do this, Autoptimize combines the CSS and JavaScript files loaded by the theme, plugins, or WordPress itself into fewer files. In addition, these are made smaller by the plugin removing unnecessary spaces or comments from the files.

Especially with overloaded themes with a large range of functions (e.g. Avada, Enfold, or other themes from ThemeForest ), the loading time can be significantly reduced.

In the past, the plugin didn’t run that smoothly and it often blew my design apart. Now, however, Autoptimize is compatible with most themes and plugins!

If the use of Autoptimize leads to display errors, you can usually fix this by experimenting with the settings.

For example, you can exclude certain CSS files from the minification and summary or, if necessary, switch off the minification or summary of either CSS or Javascript files entirely.

2.4 Regenerate thumbnails

Regenerate Thumbnails is one of the standard plugins that I have installed on each of my WordPress websites.

You can use it to regenerate the images generated by WordPress in different sizes. This is extremely useful when changing your website’s theme or changing the image sizes in your theme settings (e.g., your featured image).

By regenerating, you ensure that your pictures are the right size:

Neither too small, which can look stupid when the images are stretched, nor too large, which can have a negative effect on the loading time.

2.5 Cache Enabler

Page caching is one of the most important measures to increase the loading time of a WordPress website.

This is because WordPress pages are loaded statically and no longer dynamically through caching.

And that brings enormous advantages, especially for large websites with many posts, menus, and plugins. This means that there are significantly fewer database queries when the website is loaded.

For beginners in the matter, I recommend Cache Enabler, as the plugin does not require any other settings in contrast to bolides like W3 Total Cache.

Download, activate, done!

2.6 Insider tip: perfmatters

Lots of plugins and themes have a nasty problem.

You load your CSS and Javascript globally. That also means on the pages where it is not needed.

A prominent example is the popular Contact Form 7 plugin.

Usually, it was only included on the contact page. However, it is also uselessly loaded in blog articles, categories, and any other page that doesn’t include it.

The small but ingenious plugin perfmatters can help.

The built-in script manager allows you to enable or disable loaded Javascript and CSS either globally, specifically for a certain post type or for a certain URL.

This is how you can set that Contact Form 7 is only loaded on the contact page:

In addition, perfmatters offer various settings to remove superfluous functions or unnecessary scripts loaded by WordPress itself:

And yes, in cifase you’re wondering perfmatter also works very well in combination with WP Rocket, Cache Enabler, or Autoptimize!

3. Internal linking and outgoing links

On the one hand, good on-page optimization includes checking outbound links (e.g., you shouldn’t link to pages that generate an error code) and, on the other hand, good internal linking.

The following plugins can help you and relieve you of a lot of work:

3.1 Insider tip: LinkWhisper

LinkWhisper is now part of the standard repertoire of my WordPress websites.

It is used to find broken links and posts that are not yet well linked internally.

And it does it better than any other plugin.

With a clear dashboard, you always have an overview of all possible link statistics and problems.

In the Internal Links Report, a sortable table is created with the number of incoming internal links, outgoing internal links, and outgoing external links for all your posts (optionally including pages or categories).

By clicking on the numbers, a list with all the links or linked articles will expand.

Simple but brilliant!

3.2 Broken Link Checker

With the Broken Link Checker, you can find out if any websites on your page are returning an error code, e.g., B. because the linked page no longer exists.

This saves you from manually searching the entire page for broken links, which can be a pain, especially on large pages with many posts.

The plugin also offers a great advantage over external broken link checkers and site audit tools, such as B. Screaming Frog or OnPage.org:

Not only can you find broken links, but you can also fix them right away.

3.3 Contextual Related Posts

The display of related posts, i.e., thematically similar posts, ensures better internal linking and can sometimes increase visitors’ length of time on your website.

Some themes support such a function by default.

For themes that can’t do that, there’s the Contextual Related Posts plugin, which I’ve been using for years.

It harmonizes with most themes, supports custom post types, does not let the loading time explode, and offers many setting options.

And it’s free too!

What more do you want?

3.4 Breadcrumb NavXT

As the name suggests, with Breadcrumb NavXT, you can embed breadcrumbs (also called breadcrumb navigation) into your WordPress website.

Breadcrumbs not only ensure greater user-friendliness but also ensure that your pages and posts are linked more often internally with the appropriate anchor texts.

3.5 Ultimate nofollow

Ultimate nofollow is a simple plugin that adds a small but useful addition to the Classic Editor.

You can rel=”nofollow”add the attribute to a link.

3.6 Redirection

404 errors are (in most cases) not good. Neither for visitors nor for your Google ranking.

Because if z. For example, if a backlink points to a subpage that shows a 404 error, the PageRank that flows to your page via this link is lost.

This, in turn, means that your page will lose authority and possible relevance for certain keywords.

Even internal links that go nowhere are not exactly user-friendly (and therefore also stupid for the search engine).

And sure, with a few links, that might not be a problem.

But if you change your entire or a larger part of your URL structure, which happens more often than you think, it can have fatal consequences for your rankings.

Therefore, you should forward 404 errors with a 301 redirect, i.e., a permanent redirect (unless you want a page or blog article to be permanently unavailable, of course).

You can do this via .htaccess, but it’s more comfortable with the WordPress Redirection plugin.

Not only does it allow you to add redirects via the WordPress admin conveniently, but it also logs all 404 errors from your website.

4. Indexing

Here you can find all the plugins that will help index your WordPress website.

4.1 Insider tip: Instant Indexing for Google

The Instant Indexing for Google plugin also comes from the developers of Rank Math.

It has a simple but powerful function:

It ensures that your posts land in the Google index in a flash!

To do this, the plugin uses the Google Indexing API, through which your new posts are automatically transmitted to Google.

Mass transmission of URLs to Google is also possible with the plugin.

4.2 XML Sitemap & Google News

As such, you no longer need a separate sitemap plugin, as Yoast SEO and Rank Math already have very good sitemap functions.

However, XML Sitemap & Google News offers something that Rank Math and Yoast SEO do not offer (in the case of Yoast, at least not without a paid add-on):

A sitemap for Google News, which is essential for your articles to appear in the news.

5. Keyword research and monitoring

The following plugins allow you to do keyword research and/or keyword monitoring in WordPress directly in the dashboard.

5.1 banana content

The plugin banana content by Jonas Breuer extends available SEO plugins such as Yoast SEO or Rank Math with useful functions such as:

  • Keyword research directly in the WordPress dashboard
  • Internal link options
  • Influencer search for the link and share requests
  • An overview of linked external content
  • weekly reporting of your rankings
  • Keyword monitoring with ranking history

The plugin is kept very simple and is also suitable for beginners.

The data from banana content are provided through API interfaces to MOZ, APImetrics, or KeywordTool.io.

So it enables you to use the data and functions of professional tools that would cost over € 100 per month together.

With banana content, you can get started from 29 € per month.

I openly admit:

I prefer to use external tools because I don’t like my WordPress dashboard and editor to be cluttered.

However, if you want to save money on keyword research, monitoring, and backlink checkers, banana content could be for you.

You can test it for 30 days for free.

5.2 Rankie

Rankie is a relatively unknown keyword monitoring plugin from ValvePress.

It allows you to track rankings for certain keywords of a domain (your own and other domains!) And to see for which keywords you have been promoted or relegated over time.

That doesn’t sound breathtaking in itself, as many other tools and services can do the same, such as Dynapso, SISTRIX, Xovi, SERPWatcher, or Linkbird.

However, it is much cheaper: You pay $ 21 once, and then you can use it indefinitely.

6. Rich snippets and structured data

Here you will find all WordPress plugins that will help you to get rich snippets in Google search and to enrich your content with structured data:

6.1 LuckyWP Table of Contents

A table of contents plugin has become indispensable for WordPress SEO.

On the one hand, tables of contents increase articles’ clarity (especially long ones) and allow readers to jump to the content that interests them.

On the other hand, jump mark links are picked up by Google and displayed in the search results.

The problem with the former, however, is that it has not been updated since 2016. The latter’s problem is that it negatively affects the loading time due to too many CSS and Javascript files and an icon font.

That’s why I’ve recently been recommending LuckyWP Table of Contents:

It’s super lightweight, offers just as many setting options, is compatible with Gutenberg and updated regularly.

I noticed the only negative thing about LuckyWP Table of Contents was that umlauts are incorrectly transliterated (the plugin turns ö, ü, and ä into o, u, and an instead of oe, ue, and ae).

That’s why I recommend using the following filter, which you have to insert into the function.php of your theme:

add_filter (‘lwptoc_force_wp_transliterate’, ‘__return_true’);

6.2 WP Recipe Maker

WP Recipe Maker from Bootstrapped Ventures is our recipe plugin of choice.

We have been using it for a long time in all of our recipes on Faminino.

The highlight is:

With WP Recipe Maker, recipes look nicer in the post and displayed more prominently in Google search results thanks to structured data.

On the one hand, the plugin enriches your snippet with star ratings, recipe data (such as the preparation time).

On the other hand, thanks to the structured data, it also appears at the top of the search in the recipe carousel.

6.3 Scheme Pro

Schema Pro by Brainstorm Force (the Astra Theme) makers is a great all-around plugin for adding structured data to your WordPress website.

It supports a total of 11 different schema types:

  • Review
  • Local business
  • Article
  • service
  • Product
  • Course
  • Recipe
  • person
  • Job posting
  • Software application
  • Book
  • Event
  • Video Object

What distinguishes Schema Pro from other schema plugins is its ease of setup and clarity.

The plugin comes with a setup wizard that guides you step by step through the general setup.

There is also a setup wizard for adding individual schemes.

The highlight is that with the setup wizard, you can not only define schemes for a single page or a single post, but for hundreds or even thousands at the same time!

You can include or exclude individual posts, post types, or taxonomies.

It couldn’t be easier, right?

7. Other SEO plugins

Here you can find other useful SEO plugins that don’t fit into the other categories:

7.1 Hide SEO Bloat

Do you want to continue working with Yoast SEO and not switch to Rank Math?

Then use it in combination with hiding SEO Bloat!

The plugin can hide advertisements, redundant elements, and annoying notifications from Yoast SEO in the WordPress dashboard, such as B .:

  • The boxes “Problems” and “Notifications”.
  • The sidebar “Yoast recommendations for you”.
  • The box “Upgrade to Yoast SEO Premium” at the bottom of all Yoast settings pages.
  • The problem counter in the menu.
  • The menu item with the Yoast icon in the top menu.

You can choose which elements from Yoast you want to remove and which you want to keep.

8. FAQ

Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions about SEO plugins:

8.1 What are the best alternatives to Yoast SEO?

The Rank Math I mentioned is currently the best Yoast alternative, in my opinion.

If you can do without keyword analysis, then the All in One SEO Pack is also worth looking at.

I also know some who swear by SEOPress. I’ve just started testing it, but it looks promising too.

8.2 Which plugin is best for WooCommerce?

Rank Math comes with a module for WooCommerce that you can optionally activate to optimize WooCommerce product pages.

8.3 Is WordPress SEO also possible without a plugin?

Since WordPress does not have many essential SEO functions out of the box, my clear answer is:

No!

You need one or more plugins that complement at least the following functions:

  • Set meta title and description
  • Creation of a sitemap
  • Define robots meta tags (noindex, nofollow, etc.) for individual posts, post types, and taxonomies.

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