With over 650 million websites being powered with WordPress, it’s safe to say that it is one of the most popular CMS out there. The ease of use, availability of themes and plugins, and a wide range of people competent in the development and support makes it very popular.
As a marketing consultant, I’ve observed that many of my clients use WordPress for their websites. As my job is to grow their bottom line, the first thing that I start my diagnosis with is SEO.
As I mentioned in my post discussing ‘what is digital marketing‘, SEO is the complex and ever-evolving strategy of driving users from search engines to your website—without paying the search engines.
It’s part of my job to test and recommend best SEO solutions and toolsets to my clients. That is why I am always on the lookout for better solutions.
Recently, I discovered Rank Math, an Free WordPress SEO plugin created by MyThemeShop. Currently, there are only a handful of good SEO plugins for WordPress, and for good reason. The barrier to entry is high and there is no room for errors when creating a plugin which affects a business’s bottom line.
Intrigued with the prospects of the new SEO plugin on the block, I decided to test it out.
To express my opinion better, I will divide my thoughts into a few sections. The regular section is where I will share Rank Math’s features that other SEO plugins also have. The New feature section is where I will discuss the features that are new to Rank Math. The last section is where I will discuss how the developers can improve Rank Math even further.
These are some of the features I found useful in Rank Math which are not necessarily unique to Rank Math.
Easy Setup Process
Once you install the plugin, it triggers a full setup process which helps setup Rank Math. Although I did see a few things in the setup process that were unique, the implementation of a step by step process is not unique compared to other plugins.
Import Other Plugin Data
During the setup process, Rank Math allows you to import SEO settings from many of the competing SEO plugins.
Once installed and setup, Rank Math can create Google-compliant sitemaps. You can then submit these to Google inside Google Search Console. The sitemap also updates automatically when new content is added to the site.
When creating a post, Rank Math provides a live-content analysis and recommends steps that you take to optimise your posts. The recommendations are on par with other SEO plugins. Having said that I do feel it’s a little over-engineered. More on this later.
Note: A quick note about these SEO recommendations. They are meant as guidelines, and meant for people who are starting out as SEO. Most people, even if they are doing SEO by themselves, don’t follow them by the book.
However, as far as covering the basics is concerned, Rank Math does a pretty good job.
Global and Local Settings
Rank Math lets you setup global settings to automatically generate your titles, meta, and other information. You can then over-ride these settings on a per-post basis.
Open Graph Support
Rank Math can also add Open-Graph meta data to your posts. This is similar to Schema, but for social networks.
Search engine verification
Rank Math lets you verify your website with a number of search engines. The process is pretty straightforward, and lets you access backend tools that search engines and other websites provide.
Those are some of the important features that Rank Math. In my testing and experience, Rank Math has done a great job.
This is huge. AMP or (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a technology created by Google to speed up websites, and is especially useful to target a mobile audience. The trouble with AMP is that its complicated to setup and often breaks the SEO components of the website. Rank Math claims to have 1-click compatibility for AMP (When you use a compatible AMP plugin), which is a big deal. I’m yet to test this personally and will update this review when I have some results.
Multiple Schema Support
Before explaining Schema support, it is important to understand what Schema is. Google and other search engines are getting better at understanding web pages and natural language, but they still can’t match how humans interpret web pages. To understand web pages better, Google and other search engines helped create Schema, which is a structured way to communicate additional information about the web page to search engines. In simpler terms, Schema refers to additional markup code that can be added to your website so that search engines can understand your page and website better.
To explain this better, let me share an example. If you talk about food on your website, it is hard for Google to understand if you are wanting food, sharing a recipe, reviewing a food, reviewing a particular food from a restaurant, selling food, or something else. By including Schema markup with your post, you are clearly communicating your intent to the search engines. You can learn more about Schema on their website.
From a user perspective, Schema is responsible when you see a search result with stars next to it. That is Google (or other search engines) understanding the page and showing relevant information to the searcher.
As voice search and other smart devices become commonplace, it is critical to have the appropriate Schema markup on your website, or you run the risk of losing search engine traffic.
There are many types of Schema. For example, Schema for an event is different from Schema for a person. Similarly, Schema for a recipe is different from a restaurant.
Most popular SEO plugins do a decent job of supporting Schema, and having a dedicated plugin for Schema is important. But, Rank Math does the job really well. It supports 14 types of rich snippets and lets you enter the meta-data (details about the Schema) quite easily.
Google Search Console Support
This is another feature that I haven’t seen in any other SEO plugin. Rank Math connects with Google Search Console and fetches important information about your website to be viewed inside the admin area.
If you didn’t know, Google Search Console (earlier known as Google Webmaster Tools), is a set of tools created by Google to let webmasters (website owners) understand how Google in indexing and understanding their website. Once you verify that you own a website, you can submit sitemaps, request Google to re-index your posts, see if Google is seeing any errors when they navigate their website, and other things.
Usually, you’d have to log into Google Search Console to see all this data, which is not a big thing, but for a lot of people, it is an additional step, and they simply forget to do so.
Rank Math solves this problem by fetching important data from Google Search Console and presenting it inside a dedicated area in your website. Currently, it reports the following information.
- An overview: Shows important trends to keep an eye on.
- Search analytics: Shows your rankings in search engines and also your click-through rate. Both are important SEO metrics.
- Sitemaps: Lets you check the sitemap status.
- Crawl Errors: Shows if Google is having trouble crawling your website.
- Keyword Tracker: This section will track your rankings in search engines for the keywords you desire. I say will because this feature is currently under development.
Built in SEO Analysis
The built in SEO Analysis module is decent and shows both basic and advance analysis results in real time.
The Local SEO features are nice and you have the option to either use Personal Or Organisation details.
404 and redirection manager
This is another feature that you don’t usually find in most SEO plugins—not in their free offerings at-least. Rank Math has a fully featured 404 checker and a redirection manager. If you don’t know what these mean, Let me explain.
When you move houses, you leave a forwarding address so that your mail could be delivered to you, right? Similarly, when you move or delete pages from your website, the search engines and users need to be notified where to look for the information they requested.
On a small website, this can be managed by a human, but as a website grows, this becomes increasingly difficult to track and manage. Of course there are solutions on the market that let you manage this, but Rank math makes it very easy.
Rank Math has a simple and an advanced 404 manager. Not only does it record broken links on your site, it also captures additional information about the error such as the referrer, time of error, etc, which helps diagnose the issues faster. The built-in redirection manager helps in resolving errors almost instantly.
I was surprised to find this feature as even their website doesn’t highlight it too well. WordPress has a built-in set of roles. Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, and Subscriber are some of the common roles, and by the names of the roles, I am sure you can understand what they are designed to do.
What Rank Math does is take it a step further. Using WordPress’s built-in roles, it lets you select specific features that each of the roles will have access to. For example, you’d want your content writers (authors) to have access to the content-analysis part of Rank Math, but you wouldn’t want them messing with the settings. Using the role manager, you can accomplish exactly that. I think its a killer feature and one of my favourite as well.
For a completely free plugin, they seem to have good support. Users are able to get questions answered in their Facebook Group almost instantly and they also have a support forum for more technical queries. I visited the forum and saw that all the support requests were being answered and with technical expertise. From my understanding it seems that the support team members even logged into customer’s websites and solved their issues. kudos!
So, Whats the catch?
I investigated a bit and found a thread about this. The developers have addressed these concerns. It seems they are committed to keeping this plugin free forever. You can see the thread here. But, we will have to wait and see.
Improvements for Rank Math
Don’t get me wrong. Rank Math is a great plugin, but there is no perfect plugin, especially when it comes to SEO. In the time that I spent with Rank Math, I saw a few things that can be improved to make it even better.
Lack of Supporting Content
This is a problem will most likely diminish with time, but today, it does exist. Most likely because Rank Math is relatively new, there is little supporting content around it. Right now the supporting documentation are mainly about technical setup and configuration. As Rank Math gains popularity, the number of support and other queries for it will constantly increase, which will overwhelm the support team eventually. Having a solid content plan around the plugin should help the people currently using the plugin, and also the people who will use it in the future.
SEO Analysis is a little over engineered
The SEO Analysis is a great way to see if your page/post is properly optimised or not for search engines. However I feel this feature is a little over engineered and its difficult to get a good ‘score’ for your posts/pages since Rank Math forces you to follow their guidelines. But, some of these guidelines are not practical and doesn’t suit every type of content.
The SEO landscape changes rapidly, and SEO solutions have to play catch up—quickly. The plugin developers have publicly announced that the current feature set of Rank Math will remain free for life. If and when a premium version is released, it will add more value, not take away from the existing value in my opinion. But, this is something we need to wait and see.
I reached out to the plugin developer and asked about their future roadmap. He told me that they have plans for many new features. Some of the features are an internal link manager, a rank tracker, and a few others. While I welcome additional functionality, it does bring some concerns. Specifically, these questions come to my mind.
- Will these features be release at all? If so, When?
- Will these features be part of the current (free) plan or will they be premium?
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with people making money off their products and services. Rank Math must have been a large investment, so it’s only logical that they monetise it in some way. But, some clarity on these matters would make me more confident when recommending this plugin.
My Final Thoughts
My thoughts about Rank Math?
I have been consulting clients for sometime now and have recommended many SEO tools and plugins to them. Most of the existing solutions are good, but Rank Math is a definite step up.
A Word of warning
Please note this review is based on my limited testing with WordPress+Genesis framework. I have checked and from general feedback it seems the plugin is perfectly safe to use with most of the popular frameworks. But, if you already have a different SEO Plugin, I would strongly advise you check with your developer or check the forums before changing it to Rank Math. It’s likely you will end up breaking something if you don’t know what you’re doing.