WordPress Meta Tags (what they are and how to use them)
You’ve probably heard a lot about meta tags and just how important they are for a website.
In this post we’ll make it clear why meta tags still count for a quality website, together with describing their setting up and customization in WordPress.
Tags are customized for each type of content defined in the Source Code of a page. META signifies “information about information”. So META TAGS are pieces of information about specific fields in the source code of a page, that might be of interest for users and SEO alike.
What are the most important META TAGS for a website?
Some META TAGs help a website appear as a relevant result in Google results pages.
Take this example:
The most important META TAGS, that help a website rank in search engine results pages, are Title and META Description.
Both Title and Meta tags help you rank better in search ways, both directly and indirectly.
They help so directly by helping Google figure out the subject of your article, and thus matching it to a user’s search intent. For instance, titling a page simply as “shoes” won’t help you much because of how general and vague it is. But titling it as “Winter Shoes for 2019” will make it much more descriptive and help Google understand the page better.
Indirectly, tags help you rank better by getting you more clicks. Users are more likely to click pages with descriptive and informative titles, which in turn tells Google that your article is better able to solve a user’s question. This then slowly lifts up your article on the Google search results.
The Title tag includes information that sums up what a page is about. It can be used widely all over the WordPress website, or it can be customized for every page.
It’s recommended that you use a unique title for each page in the website. As the content of every page is unique, so too must it’s title be. It has to reflect the page topic in a catchy and interesting way.
The title tag appears in blue in search engine results pages, serving as a trigger for people to click on the link and explore that website page.
You should take care to include relevant keywords in the title tag. Search engines will judge the page relevance for a certain query depending on the keywords the title contains.
However, you should pay attention not to squeeze too many keywords in the title tag, as it might look spammy. This would be detrimental for SEO, and users will not much appreciate it.
When it comes to best practice, it’s best to include your target keyword just once in your title, and ideally right at the beginning.
The length of the title tag should not surpass 60 characters.
A peek into the Title tag secrets:
To write a concise, yet highly relevant title, think this way: if it were to use a small bunch of words for your business/page uniqueness, what should they be? More than informative, the title should be brandable.
You have this tool to play with many versions of your titles.
The description tag is a more extensive version of the title of the page. It should be a more detailed presentation of what the page is about.
Like in the case of the title, the description should be unique and representative of the page it presents.
In search engine results pages, the description (as marked in the image above) appears after the title and the URL of the page. It informs readers of what they should expect from the content of that page, if they click the link and choose to continue exploring the website.
Like the title, the description should include keywords. Use them wisely, or else a great number of keyword occurrences would be considered spammy. A maximum of 2 keyword occurrences are enough for the META Description.
The length of the description tag should be between 150 and 160 characters, as Google will truncate descriptions that have more than 160 characters.
A peek into the META Description secrets:
The META Description is the final step in a search process. Be mindful of that. Don’t turn users away and encourage pogo sticking (users returning to the SERPs after a result disappointed them).
META Descriptions, without being very technical in the list of SEO do to’s, are known to influence Click-Through-Rates. And CTRs are important for Google indexing and particularly ranking.
A study from Semrush.com shows these results of experiments related to improving META Descriptions:
- To effectively work on improving CTRs, you have to present, succinctly, a value proposition in the META Description (what’s in it for the user to click on the result, after all?).
- To unlock a valid value proposition, examine what your competitors have put in their own descriptions, and write a better one.
- Even when you think you’ve finished writing the description, don’t lose sight of your Google AdWords competitors. Be mindful of what they present in the SERPs and try to outvalue them.
- If you’re working on improving some existing pages performance, use Google Search Console to discover underperforming pages. Then select the poorly optimized pages and rewrite their descriptions, using some of the tips in this list.
- In your META Descriptions, use power words such as “basic”, “essential”, “ruin”, “ground-breaking”, etc.
- You can also make the type of the content obvious right from the META Description: 7 ways to, 10 tips and tricks to…, etc.
- Don’t shy away from including a CTA in the description. People like to be told what to do. So, a META Description with CTA included might have higher chances of being clicked on.
- A simple way to make a call-to-action more evident in the META description is to use active instead of passive voice.
Is META Keywords still important?
This is a tag that used to be critical in determining a page value from a SEO viewpoint. However, due to overusing it, Google has minimized its importance for SEO and relevancy related to the page it was attached to.
People stuffed this tag with keywords, to the point many pages looked rather spammy.
Now, it’s better to use one or two relevant and most important keywords describing the page, to fill in the META keywords tag.
If not used wisely, as a simple cue for bots regarding a page’s focus, META keywords may do more harm than good.
How can these META TAGS be added to a WordPress website?
The simplest method to add important META TAGS to a WordPress website is to use a plugin.
The plugin that serves best this purpose is Yoast SEO. After installing the plugin, and with every new article or page you create, you can scroll down to the following section:
Yoast SEO adds a snippet preview for a page. This is how the page will appear in search engine results pages (preview): 1. Title first, 2. then link to the page, 3. then a more detailed description of the page.
You have the option to get a preview for both desktop display and mobile display.
To customize the Title and Description of the page, you need to press “Edit Snippet”:
Fill in the SEO title space with the title you want to add to the post/page. When the corresponding bar goes from orange to green, it means it is good for SEO and has an optimal length.
The Slug field refers to how the URL will be named. You can benefit from this field and include the main keyword relevant to the page in the URL slug.
Also, fill in the Meta description space with the description you want to attach to your post/page.
The META keywords tag is reflected in Yoast SEO by the field dedicated to Focus Keyword. This field indicates how well a page/post is optimized around the main keyword (describing the topic and main idea of that page).
Depending on what you fill in with the Title, Description and Focus Keyword fields, Yoast SEO will make an SEO analysis. Problems will be marked by a red bullet, results that can be improved will be marked by orange bullets, while optimal results will be marked by green bullets.
You also have the option to mark the article/page as cornerstone content, if the keyword/title/description are of utmost importance for the website or blog, as a whole.
Why aren’t META TAGS included by default in WordPress?
META TAGS, as we said earlier, are unique to pages/posts you create in WordPress. They are not applicable sitewide, and it’s not recommended to do so. That’s why a plugin such as Yoast SEO comes in handy for including titles, descriptions, keywords that are customized for every page or post in your website.
However, you have some sitewide options in your theme Customizer. In the General Settings section, you have to explore the Site Identity options. You have there the possibility to specify a site title (this is the META TITLE that will appear for your homepage and other pages alike, if not set otherwise) and a tagline (this is the META DESCRIPTION that will appear for your homepage and other pages alike, if not set otherwise).
Below is an example taken from the Mesmerize theme:
Other META TAGS and what they mean
Besides the traditionally useful META TAGS for SEO and search engine results pages, there are some other META TAGS that’s good to know of:
<meta http-equiv=”content-type” content=”text/html; charset=US-ASCII” />
The META Content Type specifies that the page/post is written in HTML and the charset includes the ASCII table code.
<meta http-equiv=”content-language” content=”en-us” />
The META Content Language specifies the language that’s used for the website (English-us/uk, French, Deutsch, Italian, Spanish, etc.).
<meta name=”author” content=”Marry Rose” />
The META Author Content refers to the author who published the content of the page/post in your website.
<meta name=”contact” content=”[email protected]” />
The Meta Contact content included the email address for contact used in the website.
<meta name=”copyright” content=”Copyright (c)2019. All Rights Reserved.” />
The META copyright content specifies data corresponding to the copyright attached to the website/blog.
From all the META TAGS presented here, it’s important to retain Title, META Description and possibly META Keywords. Use the recommended plugin, Yoast SEO, to write unique titles and descriptions for every page and post in the website. Also, you’ll benefit from an SEO analysis of these customized tags.