What is WordPress meta description? How can you use it?
When users make a Google search, these are the three things they will see on the search page: meta title, post URL, and meta description.
Here is an illustration:
As you can see from the screenshot, meta descriptions are a brief summary of what the content of a post of the page is all about.
They are HTML tags, with a max length of 155 characters, added to the header section of a webpage.
Search engines depend on them to determine which content will best fit the need of a searcher.
Getting your descriptions and meta keywords right from the get-go will go a long way in improving your website’s visibility on search pages.
In this beginner’s guide, we will show why it’s important to get your keywords and meta descriptions right. Most importantly, you will get to learn how to add/optimize them using Yoast SEO – a beginner-friendly SEO plugin. You don’t have to be an SEO expert to follow through.
In this article:
- Why meta descriptions are important in WordPress
- Are meta descriptions considered a ranking factor?
- What makes a good meta description?
- Adding Keywords and Meta Description in WordPress with Yoast SEO
Why are Meta Description and Keywords Important in WordPress?
To better understand the concept of meta keywords and description, consider the image below.
In this screenshot, the bolded text is the meta keyword, while the entire text beneath the URL is the meta description.
When you publish a WordPress post, your ultimate goal, most likely, is to get as many eyes as possible on it.
Unfortunately, the quality of your post content – no matter how good – won’t be enough to realize this goal. Considering the short attention span of the average web user, you need to hook them in quickly.
There’s where meta keywords and meta description come into play. They tell a searcher if your content is worth spending time on or if they just have to move on.
Written well, they are enough to create the hook you need to get clicks to your pages and posts. And the more clicks your page and posts get, the higher your CTR (Click Through Rate).
Are Meta Tags Considered as Ranking Factors?
From our discussion so far, you might have assumed that a well-optimized custom meta description will be used by search engines to rank your content. Sadly, it won’t.
Google, as well as other search engines, officially dropped meta keywords and description as ranking factors sometime in 2009.
As such, depending on meta tags alone will not lead to good SEO results for your site.
However, meta tags can and do improve SEO (we know you think that doesn’t make any sense but let us explain).
As stated previously stated, having good meta descriptions affect how users interact with your site. When you add the keywords users want to see in the article, the are more likely to click into your page and view your content. This will increase your Click Through Rate (CTR).
And Google uses CTR to rank pages. So in this way, meta description does affect your site ranking, even if Google does not use it directly as a factor.
What happens if you fail to add meta tags to your post or page? Does it mean your search results will appear with blank spaces for meta description? No.
What search bots will do is to grab a portion of your content which contains a searcher’s keywords. This grabbed content will then be displayed on the search page as a meta description.
What Makes a Good WordPress Meta Description?
A badly written description will do more harm to your website than omitting it altogether. As such, it’s important you get it right.
Here are some of the characteristics of a well-written meta description:
- It’s neither too long nor too short. If you are unsure of the right length, aim for something between 150 and 160 characters (not words).
- It’s spiced up with focus keywords. A description that contains the keywords a searcher is looking for has higher chances of being clicked on.
- Must contain a call-to-action. It’s in your description that you get to tell web users the action you would like them to take. Want them to click and read? Say that in the description.
- A good meta description is unique. Copying your competitor’s description is self-sabotaging. So be unique with your description.
- It is best written in active, actionable voice.
With that said, let’s now show you how to add meta descriptions in WordPress using Yoast SEO.
Adding Keywords and Meta Description in WordPress with Yoast SEO
There are many ways to add meta tags to your WordPress website. However, for the sake of simplicity, we will be sticking to Yoast SEO – a popular SEO plugin.
Installing Yoast SEO is pretty straight forward. If you are not sure how to go about it, check out this tutorial.
After installation and activation of Yoast SEO plugin, follow the steps below to add description tags to your website.
How to Add Meta Description to Your Posts with Yoast SEO
Adding meta descriptions to your post is pretty easy. To do so, navigate to Dashboard >> Posts >> All Posts. Then pick the post you would like to edit.
Next, navigate to the bottom of the post. Then click the Edit snippet button.
In the meta description box, type in the meta description of your post.
How to Add a Description to Your Pages
The process for adding a description to a page is similar to that for posts.
First, navigate to Dashboard >> Pages >> All pages. Select the page you wish to edit and scroll down to the bottom of the page. In the snippet editor, click the Edit snippet button and then type in a meta description.
If you so wish, you can also add descriptions to your archive pages. The process is pretty much the same for posts and pages. Only this time navigate to Dashboard >> Posts >> Categories
If you run an online store, manage a blog or just own a website, you can’t afford to leave any stone unturned when it comes to SEO. As such, writing a well-optimized description shouldn’t be ignored.
Like we had earlier discussed, meta description no longer plays a direct role in improving the search ranking of a page. However, it still helps by improving your click-through rate, which is a search ranking factor.
That said, it is important to learn how to improve your site SEO using the techniques and factors that work. Please read our complete WordPress SEO Guide to learn more.