By Jon
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WordPress SEO Plugin – Which and How

In this article, I will show you how to install a free WordPress SEO plugin, that’s also, in my opinion, the best free SEO software out there.

Here’s a brief outline of what you can expect to read in this guide.

Before we go into the details on how to install a WordPress SEO plugin, let me explain why you need an SEO Tool like this for your WP website?

What is a WordPress SEO Plugin?

An SEO plugin is a software that installs on your WordPress dashboard and helps you optimize both on page and technical SEO for your site.

wordpress seo plugins

In other words, an SEO plugin is a tool that will boosts your website’s Search Engine Optimization even if you don’t know much about SEO.

Keep in mind that there are various SEO do’s and don’ts which can be hard to grasp when you’re starting out. These small SEO tools for digital marketing really help ensure that your site follows SEO best practices.

Features, like smaller image sizes, correct URL set-up, redirection of error pages etc. all contribute for better rankings in Google.

With the help of an SEO plugin, you can forget about keeping track of these various SEO requirements, because the tool takes care of that itself.

The important thing is that you set it up in the right way on your WordPress, and in this article I will show you exactly how to do that.

What is the best SEO plugin for WordPress?

Logo Rank Math WordPress SEO plugin

Based on my experience, the best SEO plugin for WordPress is Rank Math SEO. This is currently at the top of the small SEO tools category and satisfies the needs of both newbies and advanced users.

The Rank Math plugin is one of various free SEO Optimization Tools you can find in the WordPress Database. Other popular SEO free tools that compare to Rank Math, include Yoast SEO, SEOPress, and All-in-One SEO.

Over the years, I have tried all the above SEO plugins. Each one of them has its merits and was considered the best at a point in time.

Currently, however there’s no SEO plugin in WordPress repository that beats Rank Math. This has been the case since 2019, and in fact, Rank Math plugin now has over 1.2 million users.

Is rank math SEO free?

Yes. Like all other SEO plugins, Rank Math offers a free basic subscription, which you can then upgrade to a Premium paid version with more features.

Rank Math’s Free version is absolutely incredible, offering you all the SEO tools you will need to get started and more.

If you decide to go for the paid version, Rank Math pricing models are split in three categories.

Starting with Rank Math Pro, which is $59 and can be used on an unlimited number of sites. This is mostly for individual site owners. They also have Rank Math Business and Rank Math Agency which are tailored for professional Marketing and SEO agencies. You can see their pricing table here.

As mentioned, however, I do not recommend you spend any money on this tool for now. The free version covers all the requirements we will need, and, in my guides, I do not use any of the Rank Math Pro features.

Later in your journey, as you get accustomed to the tool and you become more attuned to your needs, you might decide that it’s worth spending $59 on this plugin.

Installing Rank Math SEO on WordPress 

In the next part I will walk you through the Rankmath Plugin installation process and show you how to set it up properly on your WP Dashboard.

As already mentioned, we will be using the free version of Rank Math SEO since it gives us more than enough features for what we need.

Summary of Steps
  1. In WP dashboard go to plugins and click on ‘ADD NEW’
  2. In the search box type ‘Rank Math
  3. Click on the INSTALL NOW button.
  4. Click on ACTIVATE button.
  5. Go to RANK MATH option on left-hand side WP menu
  6. In the Setup Wizard select ADVANCED OPTION
  7. Press START WIZARD

Log into your WordPress dashboard and go into plugins from the left side Menu. Click on ADD NEW from the drop-down menu.

Plugins > Add New

Now in the search box (top right) type ‘Rank Math SEO’ and click on SEARCH. The first plugin to come up should be Rank Math.

Click on the INSTALL NOW button. Wait a few seconds for it to install.

Then click on ACTIVATE button.

How to Add Rank Math SEO plugin for WordPress

You will be redirected to Create free account box. Skip this step for now.

If you are not redirected to the set-up wizard, then on the left-hand side menu of your WP dashboard you should now see a new option which is ‘Rank Math’. Click on this.

If you are not redirected to the set-up wizard, then on the left-hand side menu of your WP dashboard you should now see a new option which is ‘Rank Math’. Click on this.

Since it’s the first time you’re using this WordPress SEO plugin, you will probably get the Setup Wizard. Select the ‘Advanced Option’ here and then click on the START WIZARD button.

Advances setup Rank Math SEO plugin Wizard in WordPress

Rank Math Set Up Wizard

Setting up Rank Math correctly is very important. The features you decide to activate or not can make or break your SEO efforts.

I will show you the set-up I choose to implement on my websites. If you’re starting out, I recommend you follow my settings exactly since they cover the essential SEO requirements.

Summary of Steps
  1. Follow Steps in Wizard, fill in details on first page
  2. Click on ‘Save and Continue’
  3. Click on ‘Connect Your Rank Math Account (create account if first time)
  4. Click on ‘CONNECT GOOGLE SERVICES’ button
  5. Give permissions for ‘Google Analytics’, ‘Search Console’ and ‘Manage Sites’
  6. Press CONTINUE
  7. For Sitemap category tick all the options and press ‘SAVE AND CONTINUE.
  8. In SEO Tweaks section ensure that:
    • Noindex Empty Category and Tag Archives is switched ON,
    • Nofollow External Links is switched OFF
    • Open External Links in New Tab/Window is switched ON
  9. Click on ‘SAVE AND CONTINUE’
  10. Click on ADVANCED SETTINGS and set as follows:
    • Role Manager: OFF
    • 404 Monitor: ON for both options. Click SAVE AND CONTINUE.
    • Schema Markup: The schema markup switched ON.
      • Set the Schema Type for posts as ‘Articles.
      • Set the Article Type to ‘Blog Post’.
      • Set the Schema Type for Pages to ‘Articles’.
      • Set the Article Type to ‘Article’
      • SAVE AND CONTINUE

First you will need to include your website information as prompted by the setup wizard.

Don’t worry if you skip out on certain inputs here (like Logo etc.). You will always be able to come back to these sections and fill in any information you may have previously skipped.

Once you filled in the information on this page, click on SAVE AND CONTINUE.

Connect Rank Math to Your Site’s Google Accounts

In the next step we will connect our Rank Math account to our Google Search Console account (which we created in the previous GSC guide).

Go ahead and click on CONNECT YOUR RANK MATH ACCOUNT. If you don’t already have an account with Rank Math, you will need to create a free account.

Now click on CONNECT GOOGLE SERVICES button and choose the Google account on which you have the Search Console associated for your website.

Connect Rank Math to Google Services in WordPress

You will need to give Rank Math various permissions to access your site’s google data. Accept all these as I did below.

Select what Rank Math SEO plugin can access from Google services

Once you click on the above permission, press the CONTINUE button.

The first page shows connection setting for Search Console and Google Analytics.

Search Console should be already connected to your site and visible in the first box.

Connect Rank Math to Google Search Console for WP website

Google Analytics will not be connected just yet. We will do this through a different method which I show you in the next guide – ‘Creating Google analytics’), so skip this for now.

Press SAVE AND CONTINUE.

How to Create a Sitemap with Rank Math

In the next step of the Rank Math setup wizard we will be applying the Sitemap and some further SEO optimization settings.

Rank Math will be building a sitemap for us and submitting it to Google. This is extremely important so that Google can find our pages and site structure easily.

For the sitemap category we should tick all the options and press SAVE AND CONTINUE.

Creating sitemap with Rank Math SEO plugin for WordPress

Rank Math SEO Tweaks

Next step of the Rank Math wizard is the SEO Tweaks (Optimization section). Here we need to make sure that the:

  • Noindex Empty Category and Tag Archives is switched ON
  • Nofollow External Links is switched OFF
  • Open External Links in New Tab/Window is switched ON

Once these are set, click on SAVE AND CONTINUE

Automate some SEO tasks with Rank Math like noindex empty category and open external links in new window

In the next section the wizard informs you that you are good to go since the basic settings are ready. There are, however, some other settings that we should tweak and these can be found by clicking on the SETUP ADVANCED OPTIONS.

Rank Math Advanced Options Set Up

The Advanced Options in Rank Math will take you to the next level of settings for Rank Math setup, which are

Role Manager

This is useful if you have people working for you in your team. If you are creating and working on the website on your own however you can de-activate this.

404 Monitor

The 404 Monitor in Rank Math should be switched ON for both options.

The 404 Monitor allows you to redirect any broken pages (known in SEO terms as a 404 error). This will ensure that any visitors that land on a broken page in your website will be redirected to a functioning page.

This is important for SEO purposes and also gives your visitors a better user experience.

Once you ensure both are switched on click on the SAVE AND CONTINUE button.

Set Up 404 and Redirects with Rank Math WP SEO  plugin

Schema Markup

Schema markup is the code used to provide clear information to search engines. It is sometimes also referred to as structured data.

You can read more about Google’s structured data here, however, in short consider it as the language used by Search Engines, such as Google and Bing.

The Schema Markup section of Rank Math should definitely be switched ON. (Click the switch next to ‘Schema Type’)

Set the Schema Type for posts as ‘Article’.

Set the Article Type to ‘Blog Post.

Set the Schema Type for Pages to ‘Article’.

Finally set the Article Type to ‘Article’ and click on the SAVE AND CONTINUE button.

Schema Metadata on website with Rank Math plugin

Once you’re done with this, you will be redirected back to the WP dashboard under the Rank Math section. Here you will find all the settings available on Rank Math, and you can go through the remaining settings and tweak to your preferences.

Let’s go through a few of these.

Rank Math General Settings

We will now adjust the General Settings options. These can be very technical and therefore, for the sake of simplicity, I will just show you how I set up the settings for each item on my WordPress sites.

I will not be explaining the technical details behind each one, however for each setting item, Rank Math does a good job at explaining what it is or why you should do it.

Summary of Steps
  1. Go to ‘General Settings’ on the left-hand Menu under Rank Math.
  2. Under Links Tab:
    • Strip Category Base should be switched ON
    • Redirect Attachment should be ON
    • SAVE CHANGES
  3. Under Breadcrumbs TAB:
    • Enable Breadcrumbs function to ON
    • Choose any separator character you want
    • Show Homepage Link should be ON
    • Homepage Label, leave as HOME
    • Hide Post title should be ON
    • Show category and Hide Taxonomy should be OFF
    • Save Changes
  4. Under Redirections TAB:
    • Debug Redirections should be OFF,
    • Fallback Behavior choose ‘Redirect to Homepage’.
    • Redirection Type leave it as ‘301 Permanent Move’,
    • Auto Poist Redirect: Leave it OFF
  5. Save Changes

Go to Rank Math on the left-hand Menu and click on ‘General Settings’.

Rank Math > General Settings

Links

Under Links Tab

  • Strip Category Base should be switched ON
  • Redirect Attachment should be ON so that WordPress does not create URLS for each image on your website.
  • Now click on SAVE CHANGES
Rank Math SEO plugin General Settings for links

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs help improve crawlability by search engines. Here’s a detailed article by SEJ about breadcrumbs.

Under the Breadcrumbs TAB in Rank Math do the following settings.

  • Enable Breadcrumbs function to ON
  • Choose any separator character you want. I personally like >
  • Show Homepage Link should be ON
  • Homepage Label, leave as HOME
  • Ensure Homepage Link is correct
  • Hide Post Title should be ON
  • Show Category and Hide Taxonomy should be OFF
  • SAVE CHANGES
Breadcrumbs settings on Rank Math WP SEO plugin

Webmasters Tools

Under Webmasters Tools TAB do not change anything as you are already integrated via your Google Account

Others

Under Others TAB also do not change anything.

EDIT Robots.txt

Under EDIT Robots.txt TAB do nothing for now.

EDIT. htaccess

Under EDIT. htaccess TAB, do nothing for now.

404 Monitor

Under 404 Monitor TAB you do not need to do anything since we already adjusted the settings for this in the initial Setup Wizard

Analytics

Under the Analytics TAB do nothing as this will be set-up in a different method (shown in the Google Analytics Setup Tutorial)

Redirections

Under Redirections TAB:

  • Debug Redirections should be OFF,
  • Fallback Behavior choose ‘Redirect to Homepage’. This way visitors who end up on a 404 page would be automatically redirected to your Home Page.
  • Redirection Type leave as ‘301 Permanent Move’,
  • Auto Poist Redirect: Leave it OFF
  • Click on SAVE CHANGES
Redirection settings in Rank Math WordPress SEO plugin

Title and Meta Settings in Rank Math

Go back to the left-hand side Menu in the WP Dashboard under Rank Math and click on TITLE AND META settings.

Summary of Steps
  1. Under Global Meta TAB
    • Robots Meta should be Index.
    • Advanced Robots Meta should all be ticked ON
    • NoIndex Empty Category and Tag Archives should be switched on
    • Seperator Character should be a dash (-)
    • Capitalize Titles: ON
    • Open Graph Thumbnail: Add image here
    • Twitter Card Type: Summary Card with Large image
  2. Save Changes

Global Meta

Under Global Meta TAB

  • Robots Meta should be Index. Some people will No-Index their website until they finalize it. (No-Index means that it will not be found by google search. However, in my opinion this is risky as you might end up forgetting to adjust this setting when you finish your site and search engines would never index it, which means that you will not show up in Google)
  • Advanced Robots Meta should all be ticked ON (-1 setting for Snippet, -1 setting for Video Preview and Large for image preview)
  • NoIndex Empty Category and Tag Archives should be switched ON
  • Separator Character should be a dash (-)
  • Capitalize Titles: ON (but this is up to your preference really)
  • Open Graph Thumbnail: Add image here.
  • Twitter Card Type: Summary Card with Large image (you can leave this empty if you won’t be using Twitter)
  • SAVE CHANGES
Robots Meta settings in WordPress Rank Math SEO plugin

Local SEO

In the Local SEO TAB, you don’t need to do anything.

Social Meta

Social Meta TAB: Here you can insert your social profile addresses. I usually leave this empty and then get back to it once, and if, I open Social Media profiles for the website.

Homepage and the Rest

In the Homepage TAB and the remaining tabs, you don’t need to do any changes. We will be setting the preferences for these on a Page and Post level anyway when creating our website later.

Rank Math Sitemap Settings

Now go back to the left-hand side Menu in the WP Dashboard under RankMath and click on SITEMAP SETTINGS.

Summary of Steps
  1. Go to General TAB copy sitemap URL and paste it in Google Search console (submit).
  2. In RankMath Sitemap settings;
    • Links per sitemap: leave at 200
    • Images in Sitemap: Turn ON
    • Include Featured Images: OFF
    • Exclude Posts: Leave Empty
    • Exclude Terms: Leave Empty
    • Ping Search Engines: Turn ON.
    • SAVE CHANGES
  3. Under Posts TAB: Include in Sitemap should be switched ON
  4. Under Pages TAB: Include in Sitemap should be switched ON
  5. Under Attachments TAB: Include in Sitemap should be switched OFF
  6. Under Categories TAB: ‘Include in Sitemap’ should be switched ON but ‘Include empty Terms’ should be switched OFF
  7. Under Tags TAB: ‘Include in Sitemap’ Should be OFF
  8. Save Changes.

General

First thing we are going to do is go to the General Tab. Here we will find our sitemap URL which we will be submitting to Google through Google Search Console.

General Sitemap settings in Rank Math SEO plugin for WordPress

The sitemap URL is located at the top of this page. Copy this URL and go into your Googe Search Console account (https://search.google.com/)

In Search Console, click on SITEMAPS on the left-hand Menu.

Paste the URL we just copied from Rank Math into the ‘Add a New Sitemap’ Box within Google Search Console and press SUBMIT.

Google Search Console where to add a new sitemap URL

Your website will communicate with google through that sitemap.

Every time you launch a new page or post the sitemap will be automatically updated and Google will be informed of the new page or post. It even updates Google if there are adjustments to an old page or post, through the updated sitemap.

Note that Google can sometimes disable the Submit button. If this is the case do not worry. Try again on another day.

Once this is done go back to your RankMath Sitemap settings in WordPress. Let’s continue setting the options here.

  • Links per sitemap: leave at 200
  • Images in Sitemap: Turn ON
  • Include Featured Images: OFF
  • Exclude Posts: Leave Empty
  • Exclude Terms: Leave Empty
  • Ping Search Engines: Turn ON. This helps your indexing on the other search engines like Yahoo, Bing etc.
  • SAVE CHANGES

Under Posts TAB: Include in Sitemap should be switched ON

Under Pages TAB: Include in Sitemap should be switched ON

Under Attachments TAB: Include in Sitemap should be switched OFF

Under Categories TAB: ‘Include in Sitemap’ should be switched ON but ‘Include empty Terms’ should be switched OFF

Under Tags TAB: ‘Include in Sitemap’ Should be OFF

Remember to SAVE any changes you make.

Rank Math Monitoring and Control

The remaining options in the Rank Math Left Side Menu of your WP dashboard are not Settings options but more of Monitoring and Control Options. I suggest you look at the stats and information contained in here every few weeks.

You will only need to do this after the site has been live for a couple of months or so.

Let’s take a look at the dashboards available within the Monitoring section of Rank Math.

404 Monitor

The 404 Monitor shows you the pages that are dead and have been redirecting to your home page. You will need to check these out and amend them if necessary.

Redirections

The Redirections Option is where you can manually set some redirections. Meaning you set a post or page URL in your website to redirect to another URL within your site.

SEO Analysis

SEO Analysis is a Search Engine Optimization Report about your website. This suggests improvements that can benefit the rankings of your site.

Help and Support

Finally, the Help and Support section is where you can get in touch with Customer Support. In this section you can also find detailed documentation about the plugin and other FAQs.

WordPress SEO Plugin Complete

That’s all the settings you need to worry about with Rank Math SEO plugin.

Don’t worry too much if this seems complicated. In most cases, the settings I just showed you are set once and then left as is.

As you familiarize yourself with the more technical SEO requirements, you may then decide to come back to these settings and amend as necessary.

In the meantime, however, the above settings are optimized for the best SEO performance you can get on your site. In fact, this is exactly how I set up the Rank Math settings on my WordPress sites for the long-term.

Now in the next guide we will be creating a Google Analytics account and connect it to our WordPress website.

Feel free to check out also my other WordPress Guides.

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AUTHOR

An accountant who's passionate about SEO and WordPress. That's me. I have started building websites 10 years ago as a hobby and now I just can't stop.