Do I Need SEO Plugins for WordPress 2023
Have you been wondering whether using SEO plugins for WordPress is a good idea?
If you are a beginner in the SEO industry, plugins can help with understanding the basics, but for advanced strategies, they are not very recommended.
Table of Contents
What are WordPress SEO plugins?
SEO plugins guide how content on a website can be improved for better searchability. Accessing one of your WordPress pages will immediately allow your SEO plugin to scan its content, and advise what can be improved.
With SEO plugins, you can easily craft a content piece by following good practices offered by professionals and making your strategies more effective.
For example, SEO plugins have a keyword input feature, which checks how often is your keyword used, and where it exists in your content.
If the keyword you are targeting has not been used enough, the density will be low, indicating that you need to rewrite your article, by mentioning your target keyword more often.
However, search engines have changed over the years, and most of the recommendations from SEO plugins are no longer relevant, and some may even be considered spam.
Benefits of using SEO plugins in WordPress
Having an SEO plugin could potentially help you in many ways if you don’t understand how WordPress, and SEO work.
For example, RankMath is packed with features such as auto-generated XML sitemaps, premade robots text file, integrations with Google Analytics, integrations with search engines, and much more.
It’s a great start for a newbie, which has never done SEO before and wants to learn how optimizations happen.
Not to mention that one of the greatest benefits of having an SEO plugin in WordPress is the in-built page analyzing and editing tool.
Such a tool can easily analyze and inform users about underoptimized content and give them a solution to each of their issues. By just plugging a target keyword, SEO plugins will analyze your title, slug, internal links, and external links on that certain page.
Once your SEO plugin has finished analyzing the page, you will receive multiple suggestions on what can be improved to rank you higher.
Can WordPress SEO plugins rank your keywords higher?
SEO plugins can be beneficial to WordPress users for learning how to optimize content, but this does not mean that will rank higher after following the AI’s advice.
The bad news is that SEO plugins were not created to achieve high keyword rankings for competitive terms.
They were simply created to help newbies, and very busy SEO techs follow the basics, so they stay on track, and prevent the risk of overoptimizing their content.
If you look at things from the good side, SEO plugins give you a cheat sheet, which makes crafting content a lot easier, but in terms of ranking, there is a lot more involved.
WordPress without SEO plugins
As mentioned earlier search engines have grown over the years, but so did WordPress. After so many updates, the need for an SEO plugin became ridiculously small.
Now WordPress can be a standalone solution to most of your needs in the SEO game, meaning you don’t need a plugin for that anymore.
It has most of the features pre-built, which can save you resources.
Here are some features WordPress and SEO plugins have in common.
XML Sitemaps are special paths containing all of your website’s URLs in a categorized manner, helping search engine bots find useful information, and crawl effectively.
After publishing your website on the internet, the first thing you need to do is add your sitemap.
While some gurus say that sitemaps are usually required for big websites with a ton of content, it’s still recommended to add one and help search engines discover your site faster.
It doesn’t matter if you have an old or a new website. Having a sitemap added on Google Search Console, or Bing Webmasters can tremendously help bots crawl your site, and discover content faster.
Our case studies have even proven that URLs get discovered much faster when a site map is present. However, they will always end up in the Google Sandbox.
Except, if you have a powerful strategy, your website may sit for a while in the Sandbox phase, but that’s something normal for newer websites.
Breadcrumbs are navigational links, which show visitors a navigational map that starts from the homepage and ends at the current page accessed.
Breadcrumbs are often displayed before the start of the content, which helps visitors navigate easily, offering a better user experience.
They are often seen on larger websites, such as e-commerce sites with hundreds of products, and various categories.
However, they are not considered a ranking factor, nor give tremendous boosts to your SEO strategy.
Breadcrumbs can prove quite useful if you have a complicated website structure, but will not have a direct impact on your rankings.
If you wish to add breadcrumbs to your pages, there is no need for installing an SEO plugin to do the job. All you need to do is pick a WordPress theme with breadcrumbs, or add a piece of code to your theme’s functions file for enabling breadcrumbs without plugins.
Webmaster Tools integrations
Google Webmaster tools is a collection of SEO tools, which help distinguish, and manage your overall keyword rankings.
With such powerful tools, beginners and professionals can easily check reports on how their website is performing, and improve their SEO strategies whenever needed.
Google Search Console is a powerful SEO analyzer tool, which provides internal reports, and is completely free to users.
It allows you to track keywords, indexed pages, crawl rates, errors, and backlinks, which eliminates the need for other tools.
Due to the lack of a good interface, most people prefer to use other web page analyzing tools, which pull the results from your Google Search Console, making reports easier to understand.
With an SEO plugin, integrating your website with GSC could be a very easy job, however, with the new instructions and integrations, integrating with your SEO plugin became pointless.
Robots TXT and Htaccess
Back in the day robots txt and Htaccess files had to be installed and configured through an SEO plugin.
But now they are dynamically generated with your WordPress installation and can be accessed from within your hosting provider’s dashboard.
Both the Robots txt and Htaccess files represent the configuration of your website and set of rules, which search engines, and browsers follow upon accessing it.
With robots txt, you can easily choose what parts of your website can be accessed by search engine bots, and provide them with paths. That’s also the perfect place where you can include your sitemap, which will make your website more crawlable.
On the other side, Htaccess is an Apache configuration, which sets the server configurations for specific directories. When using speed optimization plugins in WordPress, all scripts will be directly implemented in your htaccess file, which is also the core of your website.
These files can be directly edited with the help of SEO plugins. However, it is highly recommended to create and store backups of your robots txt, and htaccess files in case something goes wrong.
If your htaccess file has been corrupted after changes, the backup can come in handy, restoring your website once again.
Editing slugs and Titles
Titles and slugs are the looks of your article when found in the SERPs. These 2 metrics help search engines understand the topic of your content, and give an understanding to users what you are going to talk about.
Editing your slugs (URL address), and titles can happen directly from WordPress, meaning they will remain the same on SERPs and do not require any SEO plugin.
In some cases, plugins can help you to further optimize your content, and we will explain the benefits further in this article.
WordPress in general offers website creators to categorize their pages for better interlinking strategies and article management. However, not every person wishes categories to be displayed in the posts or product URL addresses, due to length and other reasons.
In such cases, using an SEO plugin such as RankMath can easily remove your category URLs, and keep your posts categorized, but downloading an SEO plugin for this sole purpose will only slow you down, and overfill your website with unused scripts.
To prevent categories from appearing in the URL addresses, a site owner can simply log into his WordPress website, access the dashboard, and view the settings tab.
Once hovering or clicking on the settings tab, a hyperlink called “Permalinks” should appear.
Clicking on this hyperlink will take an owner to a page where the WordPress URLs can be changed. Choosing the “custom structure”, and including %postname% in the empty field will grant us the desired results.
A handful number of WordPress SEO plugins allow owners to lazy load different sections of their websites, including iframe, images, and videos.
Lazy loading is one of the processes used to optimize WordPress websites by eliminating non-critical content on website loads. The eliminated content starts its loading time only when a visitor scrolls to its section.
It is a very known and important setting for every website, however, website owners no longer need a plugin to enable the lazy loading feature on their sites.
Since WordPress 5.5 came into existence, lazy loading was included as a special feature, eliminating the need for extra plugins, injecting smaller scripts, and decreasing bloat.
How can WordPress SEO plugins speed up your work
As we explained earlier WordPress can survive without SEO plugins, but this doesn’t mean you should immediately delete them. It’s more of an opinion, and way of managing websites.
For a total beginner, SEO plugins can prove helpful, and help them manage their SEO with a single plugin, while other site owners prefer to use code or have a few smaller plugins to manage everything.
Easily apply Schema Markup
Not long ago schema markup was one of the important things to include in your content, so search engines could understand what your page is about. Not applying schema markup could result in slow index rates, recrawls, and other issues.
Nowadays search engines can easily understand what our pages are showing. Schema Markup isn’t dead, don’t get that wrong.
It’s still relevant and can give a significant boost to a website if applied properly. For example, product pages will need the “Product” schema applied, while blog posts could use the “Article” or “Post” schema.
With an SEO plugin in hand, you can easily find the Schema Markup your page needs and applied in a few clicks. Otherwise, you will need to get a JSON code for the current schema and apply it to your pages, which is a time waster in my opinion.
Different title and meta title
Earlier in this article, we explained how the title could be changed from inside WordPress. There is one thing that search engines look at, and it’s your meta title. If no meta title is present on the website, search engines check the page title, and include it in their index.
Having a meta title present will give them the impression that you want to show a different title in the SERPs, and they will display it instead of your page’s title.
When using an SEO plugin for your WordPress website, you have the option to include a different page title and meta title. In such cases, your meta title will be shown in the search results, and the page title will be visible when a user clicks on one of your pages.
Redirect outdated or non-existent content
Deleting or rewriting content is something quite natural. However, when we delete content, the URL is left behind, and all backlinks pointing to it are lost for eternity.
The same happens with outdated content. Once the new content has been written, in most cases the URL gets changed, while the old one is left unused.
To prevent destroying a website’s structure and backlinks, the URLs which will not be used should be redirected to the homepage or point to the new post.
There are many ways you can redirect outdated or deleted content, and you don’t need an SEO plugin for this job. WordPress redirection plugins can also be a good solution if SEO plugins are too much for your website.
Faster link marking
Marking URLs as Nofollow or Sponsored is one of the most important steps to take before publishing content. Leaving all links as dofollow will trigger your website to pass link juice to competitors, which may interfere with your strategy and results.
The only way to edit such links in WordPress without a plugin would be by editing all sections of your content as HTML.
Some people prefer to access their content as HTML, however, it is a time waster.
As an easier solution SEO plugins can help you manage all content, and its links, saving you time and helping you focus on your SEO strategies.
Ability to mark NoIndex any unneeded pages
The same could be applied to “tag”, “taxonomy”, “archive” pages, and others, which will display the absolute same information that is already visible.
As a rule of thumb (in my case), such pages are often left with a NonIndex tag, because they serve a totally different purpose, and we don’t want them visible on the SERPs.
Using Yoast SEO, RankMath or any other plugin can easily set up your RobotsTXT telling search engines that these pages should not be indexed but can be crawled by bots, ensuring that all SEO-friendly techniques have been applied.
Reasons why SEO plugins can be bad
SEO plugins can be very helpful for SEO beginners by outlining bad content parts and encouraging them to become better. However, some website owners often over-optimize their content, or simply use all addons inside such plugins, believing that it helps for better SEO.
SEO plugins also have bad sides, which often lead to misconceptions. We will make an overview of some of them, to give you a better perspective on what not to do.
SEO add-ons can slow your web performance
We have mentioned numerous times that website speed is considered a direct ranking factor, since the launch of the Core Web Vitals update.
Thus, many site owners disregard this, believing that SEO plugin add-ons, can simply cover the losses.
For example, RankMath has a ton of add-ons, which make integrating Google Analytics, indexing content, or even viewing stats a lot simpler than ever.
While these features look awesome and limit the number of pages that need to be open for accessing this data, WordPress starts getting slower and filled up with a ton of code.
It may seem like an innocent way to save time and work efficiently, but you are sacrificing an important part of your website, to acquire visitors.
The worst part is that visitors will start bouncing off your website the moment they feel it is slower than expected, causing conversion rates, and revenue to drop.
Websites must be clean as possible, and just because a plugin is offering a simplified view, does not mean that it is very effective, or it can solve issues.
After all, plugins should be used to acquire more visitors, and not integrate analytical data, when it can be viewed externally.
Misleading suggestions (overoptimization)
Since 2019 SEO plugins became a special tool for newcomers, helping them solve issues with their content, and some of them managed to rank even higher.
However, their thinking changed and decided to optimize their content further, by following suggestions given by their SEO plugin, believing it will concrete their ranking.
Once they optimized their content until receiving full points, their results suddenly dropped.
This often happens, because following suggestions from SEO plugins is not as effective as you think. SEO involves original research, which means analyzing competitors, and what a searcher is looking for.
While a plugin cannot analyze these things for you, it can’t also provide you with straightforward suggestions.
SEO plugins give you overall suggestions, which worked years ago, but become less relevant, because search engines become smarter, and receive tons of yearly updates.
Without doing original research, but following suggestions given by AI, you are risking losing current rankings, and getting your website hit by a penalty.
RankMath loves to point content as good when it’s over 2000 words, which comes from the words “content is king”. Many think that since the content is large in words, then it should be helpful.
However, search engines and searchers no longer think it’s relevant. If your content cannot answer a simple question in less than a few hundred words, then it may be fluffed and irrelevant to the end user.
Meta tags and OG titles
Meta tags such as meta keywords, meta descriptions, and others are overestimated. People think that including them can increase the ranking of your content, however, this is another myth.
Back in the day, meta tags were used to help search engines understand your content, and rank it faster.
It was never used as a direct ranking factor or had any big weight in the SERPs.
The same applies to OG titles, which are used by social media websites mainly. They are being read by social media bots, helping them acquire information about your content, and display the information.
However, this is another outdated thing, because both search engines and social media bots can analyze content, and understand the information.
If you are an e-commerce website owner and wish to display products on marketplaces, a single CSV file, or integration with an API can successfully pull the information, without requiring further optimization.
SEO plugins can prove really helpful for website owners who cannot handle SEO by themselves, or wish to decrease time spent on tasking.
E-commerce sites can become very powerful when using plugins for SEO, as it gives an opportunity to apply schema markup faster.
For simpler websites, like blogs, SEO plugins may not be required. A better solution would be ready-made scripts or plugins for schema, redirections, and link marking.