The Yoast SEO plugin is currently active on over 5 million sites, which means that its features are also limited by the most common and basic needs of those 5 million site owners — content creators and SEO experts often require more control and fine-tuning than Yoast SEO can deliver.
Before considering any Yoast SEO alternative or enhancement plugins, we should clarify what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is, how a plugin like Yoast SEO helps, and how an alternative plugin like WPSSO Core and its add-ons differ from Yoast SEO.
In September 2020, Google announced support for shipping details in Schema Product Offers and how shipping details would be presented in search results. Adding the new shippingDetails property to your Schema Product markup is especially important if you offer free or low-cost shipping, as this will make your products more appealing in search results.
WPSSO Core Premium can now retrieve shipping information for WooCommerce products, including shipping zones, methods, rates, and locations (continents, countries, states, and postal / zip codes). If you’re using postal / zip code wildcards or ranges for shipping, WPSSO Core Premium can also create the proper PostalCodeRangeSpecification markup suggested by Google.
On March 17th 2020, in response to COVID-19 self-isolation trends, Google published new Schema Event properties for virtual, postponed, and cancelled events.
The latest Premium version of WPSSO Schema JSON-LD Markup provides several customization options for these new Schema Event properties in the Document SSO metabox.
This past month, the Free / Standard versions of WPSSO Core and its WPSSO Schema JSON-LD Markup add-on have also received several new features — most notably, almost all customization options in the Document SSO metabox are now available in the Free / Standard version of WPSSO Core (except those options that require an integration feature in the Premium version to implement, like the video service APIs), and the Free / Standard version of WPSSO Schema JSON-LD Markup now includes all 495 supported Schema types!
Pop quiz! Did you know?
1) WordPress creates thumbnails automatically?
WordPress uses the larger / full-size image you upload to create smaller thumbnail images (see your WordPress Settings > Media page for the complete list of sizes).
For example, a photo gallery page will show small thumbnails of the larger / full-size images you uploaded. Themes will often include the featured image you selected in a predefined image size and location in the webpage.
2) All images must be sharpened after resizing?
This is such a standard process that Photoshop, for example, automatically applies a default amount of sharpening when resizing any image — you must specifically uncheck an option in Photoshop to avoid sharpenning an image during the resize process!
3) WordPress does not sharpen resized images?
WooCommerce manages information on product Availability (aka Stock), Prices, SKU, etc., but additional WooCommerce product attributes must be created to provide more product information for Google.
The WPSSO Core Pro plugin (and its WPSSO Schema JSON-LD Markup Pro add-on), for example, include a variety of WooCommerce product attribute values in its Schema markup, including the product Brand, Color, Condition, EAN, GTIN-8, GTIN-12, GTIN-13, GTIN-14, ISBN, Material, MPN (aka Manufacturer Part Number), Size, and Gender.
All social and SEO plugins – except one that I know of – use the full size image URL from the WordPress media library when adding image meta tags to the webpage (ie.
twitter:image, etc.), and/or adding images to Schema JSON-LD markup for the webpage. This can be problematic for several reasons…
- The image resolution may be too small.
- The image resolution may be too large and the file size too big.
- The aspect ratio (width or height) may exceed a maximum value.
- The image displayed on the social / search site is center cropped.
Most social and SEO plugins can use a post’s featured image, or offer a way to select a custom social image, but do little else to make sure an image is suitable for social sharing – they assume the article author / editor is aware of each social site’s image requirements (minimum and maximum image resolution, aspect ratio, and maximum image file size) and has selected an appropriate image. For example, Facebook requires that all images be larger than 200x200px, preferably 600x315px, or (even better) 1200x630px for high-resolution displays like retina laptops and phones, have an aspect ratio no wider / taller than 3:1, and less than 8 MB in size. Twitter and Google also have their own requirements, which are different than Facebook’s.
Using a social or SEO plugin that creates resized images from the originals you upload, and checks those resized images to make sure they conform to the requirements of each social site, is only part of a complete Quality Assurance solution. All too often, themes also include a few basic social meta tags in their templates (they shouldn’t, but they often do), that prevent social crawlers from reading your webpage meta tags correctly – some meta tags should never be duplicated (Facebook, for example, can reject all meta tags because of a single duplicate), or the theme may include the full size featured image before all other meta tags, so the wrong image will be used for social shares (this is fairly common). If your social or SEO plugin does not check for duplicate meta tags, you may never realize that you have a problem.
Last month Yoast added a feature to their Yoast SEO (aka WordPress SEO) plugin to allow redirecting attachment pages to the media itself (image, video, PDF, etc). For example, an attachment page with an image would be redirected to the full size image. The reason given by Yoast is that attachment pages are simply an HTML wrapper around an image, and provide little to no value for SEO.
This may be true IF the attachment page does not include any Schema markup — either as JSON-LD or microdata — to provide Google (Bing and Pinterest too) with information about the media, AND you’ve not entered a title, caption, alternative text, and description for your media in the WordPress Media library (if you haven’t, you really should).
And if you’re using the WPSSO Core plugin with its WPSSO Schema JSON-LD Markup add-on, for example, you probably would NOT want to redirect attachment pages to the media file — you’ll just be throwing away all that awesome SEO markup about the media. ;-)