Last Updated on December 28, 2022 by Steve
You are missing out on many chances to attract and convert new visitors to your website of you are not adding meta descriptions. Targeted snippets that appear in search engines can make a big difference. Even though it may not seem that important to you at this time you could be losing clicks.
Have you noticed the short snippets that appear on Google and Bing?, those are what’s called meta descriptions. They can be customized to better describe each page. By customizing and leverage the power of meta descriptions you can make your search results stand out from competing websites.
By filling out a box or simply adding a line of code you can easily add meta descriptions. Meta descriptions can be added in WordPress with or without a plugin but I would recommend using a plugin, specifically a SEO plugin since meta descriptions should be part of your overall SEO optimizations.
What’s a Meta Description Exactly?
Web crawlers are used by Google and other search engines to index your site. This information allows search engines to display your site properly in search results when people search for relevant keywords.
Search engines don’t automatically know what your site is about, you have to tell them using different elements like sitemaps, schema markup, meta tags, etc. This is why meta descriptions are so important. Here is a example of a meta description below.
In search results users see the page’s meta description below the title. The meta description informs everyone about the purpose and content of the webpage, with that information they can make an informed decision whether to click through to your site or not.
Google has sophisticated algorithms these days that can extract the title and meta description automatically and figure out the pages’ topic without you manually defining keywords, however if you don’t write your own meta description Google generates one that might not be optimized as well as it could be. If this happens you can be missing out on a chance to convince people to click on your link that’s targeted and customized to convert.
Meta Descriptions and Impact on SEO
Meta descriptions do not have direct impact on SEO rankings but Google still advises that they are to be created uniquely for each page of your website. The keywords that are incorporated in your content are the ones that play a big part in SEO rankings.
Meta descriptions have a big impact on your click-through rate (CTR), which is how many people decide to click to your site.
If you choose not to make your own customized, optimized meta description search engines may automatically generate a snippet for you but people will ignore your site and choose another if that automatically generated snippet doesn’t do a good job conveying what your site’s about.
You have more control over what people see if you write your own meta descriptions. Higher CTR does give your rankings a boost even though meta descriptions do not directly affect SEO.
Metadata is a set of html tags that tell the search engines what your site is about and include title, description and keywords.
Meta keywords however are different and should not be confused with meta description. Meta Keywords are a relic of the old internet. The are no longer and use and have been deprecated. They use to tell search engines what a page’s topic was similarly to how we tag a social media or blog post.
Search engines since removed support for this feature once they realized that webmasters could put any unrelated keywords in that the site had nothing to do with to get free traffic.
With the sophisticated web crawlers search engines now use to automatically figure out what topics are related to in the content you write on a page meta keyword attributes are completely ignored.
Instead of using meta keywords search engine optimization now is about natural keyword usage in your content and other technical aspects like site speed.
Tips for Writing and Optimizing Meta Description in WordPress
We will start by talking about best practices to help you write better meta descriptions.
Your snippet can not have an unlimited length. Your snippet will be truncated if it exceeds a certain number of characters. They can be as short as you want but do not go over 155-160 characters. It doesn’t look good when the snippet is cut off abruptly.
Focus on a Keyword
You should put a keyword in every snippet that you write. Its a good idea to use the same keyword that your article, page or blog post is optimized for. Alternatively you an do some keyword research and choose another keyword that is inline with what your goals are.
Including a keyword will help to structure your description and Google sometimes highlights keywords that match user search terms which is a plus. If you target a popular keyword and include it in your description the result can be bold, noticeable text that stands out, which is what you want. Notice in the example below that the keyword meta description is highlighted in bold by Google search result.
Write Descriptions that are Clear, Cohesive, and Captivating
Your meta descriptions are for the most part free advertising and is a great opportunity to convert potential visitors.
You have to draw your users in by addressing them directly, pose a question or problem then outlining the benefit of clicking your link. Use sentences that are rich in information, vivid imagery and eye catching statements.
Earn your clicks by proving that your website has the information or service people are looking for. Make sure that your snippet is not repetitive, is free of grammatical errors/awkward statements. These errors can draw away potential visitors thus costing you clicks.
A call to action can be used like “save money, “read our review” etc. Avoid lame, played out, awkward sounding call to actions like “click here”. It will be a trial and error to find out what works best for you.
Avoid Using Duplicate Snippets
If you have a large site with hundreds or thousands of pages on your site it may seen like a good idea to just use a template and swap out a few details. However duplicate descriptions don’t look good, especially when they encompass more than a handful of pages. Your website’s results will be quickly tuned out by people.
Meta descriptions is a free chance to reach out to potential customers and convert them so don’t blow that chance with duplicate descriptions that are nearly the same on multiple pages. the default meta description is better than a bad one so if you do not have time to write a carefully written, compelling one on each page its better to let Google generate one for you. You can focus on a few key pages.
Meta descriptions if used properly can improve your search engine optimization but it can damage your click though rate (CTR) if you engage in deceptive behavior.
Make sure your descriptions are accurate. Don’t lie about what a page contains and be honest about what people are clicking on.
Avoid stuffing your content with keywords. Content stuffed with keywords are awkward to read and will result in reduced CTR. It may also get you penalized by Google and they ignore your custom description entirely.
You will create better meta descriptions if you keep the preceding 5 tips in mind.
Meta Descriptions for Specific Pages
The art of writing meta descriptions is similar at its core but for each type of page its different and requires its own specials touch. For example the way you write the snippet for a blog post, product page or homepage varies greatly.
Here are some tips you can use to write meta descriptions for the various types of pages that comprise your site.
Homepage Meta Description
Since the homepage is the face of your website you have to make it really count, so homepage meta descriptions get special treatment.
Many websites only write a short, one sentence pitch, which doesn’t reach the 160 character limit and that’s a mistake.
As you can see WordPress.org carefully crafted their meta description and you should do the same.
To sell your brand hit hard with a short, snappy, well written description that explains concisely what you do and why people should choose you. This ideal should be used for similar pages like your About and Mission Statement.
Blog Post Meta Description
For pages that are primarily informational like blog posts you may not want your meta description to sound like a advertisement. Even though you are making a pitch and can include a call to action you should focus more on the information.
People generally don’t want to be advertised to when they are looking for a solution to a problem, they want answers. tell people what they will learn when they click on your link and prove to them that you know hat you are talking about. Here is an example of a blog post meta description for a blog post on ecommerce.
Category Pages Meta Description
Category pages are also to be considered. These pages are hard to write for. Most searches will not show up category pages but you should not miss out on the opportunity to write a compelling snippet that can help to convert visitors.
This snippet should give readers an idea of what they will find in this category.
Ecommerce stores and news based websites category pages play a key role as they can be crucial pages to score higher rankings and more traffic if well optimized.
Product Page Meta Description
Product pages poop up in search results when people are looking to buy something.
You can focus on the individual product instead of promoting your website. You can use similar tactics discussed before like writing something that quickly explains what the product is and why its needed. Specifications can also be included like product pricing, product info etc.
Ideally you should be using a unique meta description for every product.
Add Meta Description using Yoast SEO
To add custom meta descriptions to your site although you can do it manually your best best is to use a SEO plugin. Doing it manually involves editing site files. this might be impossible for some without FTP access, which makes things more complicated. There is also no easy way to add individual meta descriptions to each page without a plugin. the simplest manual solutions that are available only set a default snippet for the entire site.
Its bests to use a plugin instead of dealing with the headache of doing this manually and that’s how we will teach you how to do it in this tutorial. You have to use a SEO plugin anyway to set up the rest of your SEO strategy so you should already be using one if not you can install one now.
There are a number of popular SEO plugins that you an use for this purpose. We will be showing you how to add custom meta descriptions using Yoast since its freely available on WordPress.org and its the most popular SEO plugin at the time of this post.
Let’s install Yoast now. Log in to your WordPress backend and head over to Plugins > Add New. Search for Yoast and click on Install Now button.
Activate Yoast after installing
Add Meta Description to Post and Pages
After installing Yoast you will have a new SEO tab in your admin backend. You an configure settings including defaults and how your pages look on social media. However, you will need to open an existing post or page or create a new one to get to the individual meta description editor.
If you scroll down below the main editing area you will see the new Yoast area. Start typing in the Meta Description area. You can display elements such as title and category by adding dynamic variables.
Once you hit the optimal character length the bar at the bottom will turn green.
This is all you need to do to add a custom meta description to all your posts and pages.
Add Meta Description to Homepage
Adding custom meta description to your homepage with Yoast is a little different than adding to posts and pages. Go to SEO > Search Appearance.
In this page you will see the Homepage section. Now simply write description and title as you did before for a post or page.
Keep in mind that the homepage snippet is a sales pitch about your entire site. Be sure to describe your business or blog, what you do, what you offer etc. Click Save Changes when you are finished.
Your homepage search results should soon update to show the new meta description.
Add Default Meta Description
You can add a default meta description that appears wherever you fail to set a custom one. Under SEO > Search Appearance > Content Types (check the tabs at the top of the Search Appearance page), you’ll see two drop-downs, one for posts and one for pages.
Go ahead and add default snippet for your posts and pages.
The meta description that you enter here will automatically be used when you create a new post or page. This way when you publish a new post or page and forget to add a snippet it will default to what you put here.
Add Meta Description for Category Archives
Category archives do not have alot of text content which can confuse search engines and cause them to display a broken or strange looking snippet. To avoid this you can add a short excerpt yourself.
Go to SEO > Search Appearance > Taxonomies and create your description in the editor.
Or you can go to Posts > Categories and write up a new one for each individual category archive page.
This snippet does not need to be complicated. You can make a short pitch about the posts that are featured in this category. The requirements here are not as strict since its highly unlikely that this page will ever appear in search results.
This concludes what you will need to know to successfully craft and add meta descriptions to your post, pages and taxonomies.
You can be missing out on many clicks and conversions if you are not using targeted, precisely written meta descriptions.
Letting Google generate them for you automatically is not a good idea. By writing your own descriptions you take advantage of the opportunity to make a pitch and ensure that users can make a fully informed decision.
Research has shown that custom meta descriptions can increase your click through rate up to 5.8%. Since it takes little resources to craft these meta descriptions its clear to see that the rewards are clearly worth it. You can easily add custom meta descriptions in WordPress using a plugin.
Adding custom meta descriptions can add up time wise but the long term results are worth it.