8 top WordPress plugins to improve user experience and SEO

SEO has evolved and is continuing to evolve.

It’s not just about getting the technical SEO right, it’s also about improving user experience.

If your users aren’t getting a good experience when they come to your site – they’re going to leave and probably not come back.

That’s why in this post, I’ve not just put together a list of SEO plugins to help you get the technical elements right, but also plugins that will have a positive impact on your sites usability.

Top WordPress SEO Plugins You Can Use For Free

1. WordPress SEO

WordPress SEO is a great all round solution for adding key features that you need to make your site more SEO friendly.

There does seem to have been a lot of bugs in some of the recent versions but the one thing that I really like about this plugin is that Joost de Valk and the team from Yoast do a pretty good job at rolling out fixes for any issues.

I’ve tried the likes of Platinum SEO, Ultimate SEO and even the incredibly popular All in One SEO but I still keep coming back to this plugin.

Features:

  • Control your meta data at a per page/post level
  • Control over how search engines index your post types and taxonomies
  • Page analysis functionality provided by Linkdex
  • Generates XML sitemaps
  • Optimizes your RSS feeds
  • Allows you to add breadcrumbs for improved indexing and usability
  • Import & export support for your settings
  • Support for Facebook Open Graph meta data
  • Support for Twitter card meta data
  • Support for Google Authorship (author and publisher tags)

2. In Depth Articles Generator

On August 2013, Google rolled out their in-depth articles feature which highlights longer-form content in organic search results.

This plugin will help you to add the Schema.org meta data to help you get your content into the in-depth articles section.

Features:

  • Automatically adds Schema.org article mark-up
  • Allows for manual editing of your headline, alternative headline and description on a per post basis

Note: the In Depth Article section within Google is currently difficult to get your content into (see more here) – Google assigns higher weighting to particular sites and there has definitely been criticism because of this.

It’s important to be aware that Google have mentioned that they will be improving things here and show lesser known sites with more in depth content.

Also In Depth Articles tend to show more often for particular categories.

Ultimately you may not see much of an improvement in regards to your organic search traffic when you initially install this plugin because of the challenges involved.

That being said, it’s important to ensure you are prepared for the future and your website is in a position to capitalise on this when things do improve.

3. WP Social SEO Booster

There are plenty of plugins that help you add a few pieces of meta data, types of rich snippets and other structured data but this is one of the most comprehensive plugins that I’ve used so far.

WP Social SEO Booster provides a settings page which allows you to control the top level Open Graph settings, Authorship mark-up and star ratings.

When you look at your individual posts you will get the option to tweak your Open Graph settings and look at individual rich snippets.

There is also a pro version of this plugin that adds additional features including Twitter cards.

Features:

  • Supports Open Graph at the post level
  • Supports review, product, business, people, recipes, software, videos and event rich snippets
  • Disable/enable plugin on a per page/post basis
  • Support for Google Authorship (author and publisher tags))

Free WordPress Plugins To Improve Usability

4. W3 Total Cache

Page load times are important.

And while it’s true that page speed is worked into Google’s algorithm, you probably won’t get much of a direct ranking improvement from improving your sites page load times.

What Google do look for though is user satisfaction, so if your site has a high bounce rate or users are frequently pogosticking (this is when users go back and forth between different websites and search results), something which Cyrus Shepard talks more about here.

It also affects conversions, as Tag Man found in this case study, 1 second delay can decrease conversions by 7%.

This is where W3 Total Cache comes in.

It’s the most feature packed speed enhancing plugin that I’ve found for WordPress so far – the customization options are extremely in depth.

Features:

  • CDN support
  • Dedicated Cloudflare support
  • Page caching
  • Database caching
  • Object caching
  • Minifying options
  • Debug options
  • Import/export your settings with ease
  • And lots more

5. Use Google Libraries

WordPress has a selection of JavaScript libraries and components that are distributed with it.

Use Google Libraries allows you to access Google’s AJAX libraries CDN so that the majority of JavaScript libraries will be served from it rather than your own site.

This can have a great effect on your sites load time.

This plugin supports the following libraries and components:

  • jQuery & jQuery UI
  • MooTools
  • Prototype
  • Dojo
  • And more

6. Search Everything

The internal search for WordPress is very limited and from a usability perspective – not helpful at all.

Search Everything allows you to take some degree of control over how the internal search works on your site by adding some in depth configuration options.

One thing that I use this for in particular is blocking thank you pages for contact form submissions and mailing list sign ups from being searched for to ensure that my conversions don’t get messed up too much.

Features:

  • Highlight keywords in search
  • Exclude posts and categories from search
  • Support for custom taxonomies
  • Block password protected pages from search
  • Control how comments are searched
  • Support for searching drafts, attachments and custom fields
  • And more

7. Simple URLs

Managing URL’s effectively is important and there aren’t many plugins that do it all too well.

This plugin created by Nathan Rice and StudioPress provides some great functionality here.

You can use it to create, manage and track outbound links which can be very useful.

It works using custom post types and 301 redirects.

Features:

  • Utilises custom post fields to track clicks which reduces load on your server
  • Add your URL and redirect then publish – it’s as easy as that

8. Redirection

If you’re looking for something to manage your 301 redirects that is a bit more comprehensive or looking for something to keep track of 404 errors – Redirection can be incredibly useful.

One important note though, you may want to set a limit on how long 404 error logs are kept for.

If you have a large site, these logs can increase in size fairly quick and that would negatively impact your server.

You can choose to have them expire within a predetermined time period within the options settings.

Features:

  • Monitors 404 errors
  • Automatically adds a redirect when you modify a posts permalink
  • Add redirects at the click of a button
  • CSV import option
  • Can be used to add 301, 302 or 307 redirects
  • No .htaccess required
  • And more

Over to you

We’re at a point where there are an incredible amount of plugins available that can help us rank better or improve the usability of our site.

The difficult choice is usually which should we use?

I’ve named only a handful here, but I would love to hear which plugins you are using and exactly how they help you.

Author: Adam Connell
is the founder of Blogging Wizard and marketing manager at UK Linkology. Adam spends most of his time helping others become more successful online. Follow Adam on Twitter at @adamjayc.