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Don’t spend a penny on ads. Don’t even think about running an e-commerce store. Don’t you dare run an influencer marketing campaign… unless! Unless your WordPress site is tuned up for marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If it is not, you may be at risk of overspending and inefficiently allocating your resources. A handful of useful plugins can give you clarity and help ensure your content finds a receptive audience.
A plugin is a way to extend the base functionality of WordPress. A plugin author usually creates a plugin because there’s something that WordPress doesn’t do off the shelf. The beauty of WordPress as open source software is that it allows for this sort of creativity and extensibility. Most plugins have a free version with ample functionality. Every plugin we suggest below is free, available by searching for the plugin name in the WordPress Plugin Repository and should work just fine for your marketing and SEO needs.
Marketing a website starts with integrating Google Analytics. You need data at your fingertips, and Google Analytics is the gold standard.
When you sign up for Google Analytics, you’re given a chunk of code. The easiest way to place this code on every page of your website is through the use of a plugin. We use and recommend GA Google Analytics. Simply drop in the Tracking ID that Google provides you in the plugin settings, and you should start collecting data immediately.
There are some useful additional options in this plugin, including the ability to place any code you want in the <head> of the site, which you might not be able to do in your Theme.
Another essential for marketers is installing the Facebook Pixel. This chunk of code from Facebook allows you to track your site traffic and build custom Audiences to which you can market. For instance, you can identify everyone who clicked on a Facebook Ad, viewed a specific product and then left it in the cart on your site. How would you like to show an ad to just this group of site visitors? None of this happens without the Facebook Pixel installed. We recommend either the PixelYourSite or Pixel Caffeine plugin, both of which have many advanced options and integrate with WooCommerce.
There’s another way to go about installing code on your WordPress site. Google Tag Manager (GTM) gives you a single chunk of code to install (known as a Container), and then any additional code can be installed in this Container by logging into your Google Tag Manager account. While it is quite elegant to manage all of your third-party code in GTM, it is fairly complex to implement more advanced marketing and analytic techniques. We have found that the GTM4WP plugin is easy to install and effective, if you want to go this route.
Perhaps the biggest difference between WordPress and user-friendly site-building platforms like Squarespace and Wix is a single plugin: Yoast SEO. This powerhouse has a wealth of features, most importantly being the ability to adjust key SEO settings like the Meta Title and Meta Description on a page-by-page and post-by-post basis.
Some other key features include an XML Sitemap you can submit to Google Search Console, visibility settings for the WordPress content and taxonomy structure, Facebook Open Graph and Twitter Card settings, and much more. The plugin itself may appear unintuitive, but once you learn where all the settings are, you’ll find it indispensable.
For site owners that have used an older plugin like All-In-One SEO or even relied on theme settings for SEO like the Thesis and Genesis themes, migrating over to Yoast SEO can be managed with the SEO Data Transporter plugin. A caveat is that this plugin has not been updated in a while – as with every significant site change, backup first and use a staging server if at all possible!
More Marketing and SEO Tools
The versatile Jetpack plugin, built by WordPress.com, is a veritable Swiss army knife. For marketing purposes, we usually enable the following modules:
- Enhanced Distribution – includes your public content in the “WordPress.com firehose”
- Publicize – automatically shares new content on social media
- Related Posts – displays contextual posts for your visitors without high server load
- Sharing – effective way to include Social Share buttons above or below your blog posts
- Subscriptions – allows users to subscribe to a post’s comments
We also like installing the free version of Hotjar, which provides site owners and marketers heatmap tracking and more. The handy Hotjar Connecticator plugin makes installation of Hotjar code a snap.
The understated Redirection and Page Links To plugins are brilliant for redirecting URLs. This is especially helpful in culling old content often referred to as “cruft” and also for generating marketing URLs, often used in print campaigns, billboards and public transportation.
Google has increasingly placed emphasis on technical SEO – ensuring code is clean, the website is mobile-friendly and pages load quickly for users. Regular Site Audits may unearth a number of issues on WordPress sites that can be addressed with plugins.
For instance, a caching plugin allows pages to load without a lot of back-and-forth with the server. While we tend to use the WP Super Cache plugin, both W3 Total Cache and WP Fastest Cache are popular choices. Additional performance-based plugins we use include Disable XML-RPC and Autoptimize. Using plugins like these may have a greater impact when on budget-based hosting providers.
Prepping a WordPress website for marketing and SEO allows you to get the most out of your ad spend and your content efforts. Having a strong foundation gives you tools that enable you to compete with bigger budgets and stronger brands.