Reviewing the Thrilling New RankMath WordPress SEO Plugin
The free RankMath WordPress SEO plugin exploded onto the WordPress scene on 19 November 2018 from the MyThemeShop stable with features that were previously
The free RankMath WordPress SEO plugin exploded onto the WordPress scene on 19 November 2018 from the MyThemeShop stable with features that were previously only available in premium versions of other WordPress SEO plugins.
While I get excited by new technologies, I’ve been working with WordPress for long enough to know that new is not necessarily better, and it may not be around long enough to gain traction. I ignored RankMath for about two months after its launch before trying it out. It was love at first sight…
Is it Really Free?
I sent an e-mail to Bhanu Ahluwalia, Co-Founder of RankMath, asking this exact question. This was the response: “You have my assurance that the plugin, with ALL the features you see right now, will always remain free. We will launch a premium plugin down the line but it will have additional features. Nothing will be removed from the plugin you are using right now.”
Installation and Setup
RankMath is available to install through the WordPress plugin repository, or by downloading it from the RankMath website. The setup process is extremely simple, but don’t take my word for it. This is what a client said to me on Skype after I recommended the plugin: “Finished RankMath setup. What a civilized process that was! Seriously, every plugin should have a walk-through like that.”
The plugin does require an account registration to make all the functions work, but registration is free with no upsells at this stage.
The RankMath WordPress SEO plugin has all the features you’d expect from a normal free SEO plugin. There’s the usual SEO rating based on various best practices in the industry, a title and snippet editor, robots meta settings, a custom canonical URL setting, social media settings and a sitemap generator. Then it gets exciting!
You don’t get one focus keyword option. Not two. No, not even three. You get five! This makes the SEO score much more accurate, and is an option other plugins only allowed in premium versions up to now.
Yes, you read that right, it’s plural. Again, not one or two – a whole selection of them, sure to spice up your WordPress SEO! Fourteen to be exact (at the time of writing), including article, review, service, product, recipe and more. Rich snippets can be set for the entire site and changed for individual pages and posts.
URL Stopword Removal
While the plugin doesn’t come with a default list of stopwords, stopword lists are easily found on Google and pasted into the provided setting block. Once set up, RankMath will automatically remove words on the list from any URL generated by the WordPress editor.
One of the settings I found useful was nofollow links. Ok, that’s not all that useful, but hear me out. I like to have do-follow links on my site, while some should be nofollow. With this setting, I can provide a list of domains that should be nofollow, or a list of domains that should be do-follow, and it will apply the appropriate setting automatically.
Finally! I can edit the virtual robots.txt file without having to pay for the privilege or having to create an actual file.
This is a feature I’m not particularly fond of, as there are too many potential risks. The plugin does warn the user, but I would prefer this feature not to be available.
This is useful for figuring out where there may be problems on the site. A log file is created, which records any 404 errors encountered by visitors to the site.
No, not just 404 redirections. Not just 301 redirections. You get 301 (permanently moved), 302 (found), 307 (temporary redirect), 410 (gone) and 451 (unavailable for legal reasons), with a fallback 404 (not found), redirection to the homepage or custom redirection.
On top of that, the plugin can be set to detect if a slug is changed, and automatically redirect to the new URL.
Google Webmaster Search Console
When connected to Google Webmaster Tools, the RankMath WordPress SEO plugin will automatically provide statistics, right in WordPress, such as impressions, clicks, click through rate (CTR), keyword analytics and crawl errors. There is also a non-functioning section for a keyword tracker with a “Coming Soon” notice. Unfortunately, I have to take some points off for that, as it just feels incomplete and rushed. It would have been better to hide the section.
35 Point Site-Wide SEO Analysis
While this feature doesn’t really get my heart beating, it’s good for a general overview of the SEO health of the site. Two criticisms: don’t offer a mobile preview if it’s going to say “Image not authorized. Please sign up for paid account.” And please, everybody who builds websites and plugins, can we get rid of Google+ like Google did?
What do I think of RankMath?
I think RankMath is a much needed breath of fresh air on the free WordPress SEO plugin scene. Yes, there are some aspects of it that I don’t like and it is slightly unfinished, but the features it provide are long overdue in a free plugin, and its entry into the market is at a very opportune time.
Because this review is about RankMath, I specifically avoided comparing it to Yoast SEO. If you’re interested in a comparison chart, the RankMath site has a comparison with Yoast SEO. The plugin also imports all Yoast SEO settings for easy conversion.
Have you used RankMath, or are you thinking of using it? What do you think of it? Tell me in the comments!