WordPress is the most popular blogging and content management system on the web. However, it misses some basic features needed for search engine optimization like adding meta description to each page. If you are following SEO world, there are certain things that never changed in decades. Meta description is one such SEO feature that exists for long time and search engines like Google treat this with utmost important. Therefore, it is necessary to add meta description in WordPress site using plugin and we will explain how to do that.
What is Meta Description?
If you are not aware of meta description, check out our SEO article that explains the use and need of meta description on a website. Below is the summary of using meta description on your site:
- Meta description is a summary of a webpage content that is shown in search result pages.
- This is inserted in each of your webpage using HTML <meta> tags in-between the header section.
- Meta description is not shown on the published content, however used by crawlers and bots to understand the summary and meaning of the content on a webpage.
- This is very useful especially when you have a lengthy content.
- In order to avoid truncating in search results, you have to restrict the length of the description to maximum of 160 characters.
- Below is how the meta description will look on Google search results page.
Make sure your meta description is genuine summary of the content on the page and avoid writing the same description for all pages or inserting irrelevant description to trick search engines.
How to Add Meta Description in WordPress site?
As you can see, meta description decides the ranking position of a webpage in search results. Unfortunately, WordPress does not offer a default option to insert it on your blog posts and static pages. The only option for you is to use a third-party plugin that offers a meta box on each post so that you can enter the meta description. There are plenty of free and premium SEO plugins available for WordPress. We recommend choosing packaged SEO plugins like Yoast SEO or All in One SEO Pack. This will help you to configure all missing SEO features in WordPress with a single plugin instead of using multiple plugins.
In this article, we will explain adding meta description with Yoast SEO plugin. The process is more or less same for All in One SEO Pack and other plugins.
First, install and activate Yoast SEO plugin from WordPress plugin repository. The free version is sufficient to add meta description and other SEO features to your site. The plugin offers two setup – one is global and other is per post basis.
Global Template for Each Post Type
Go to “SEO > Search Appearance” section. Under “Content Types” tab, you can setup global meta description template for each content type like post, page or custom post type.
The meta description you enter here will appear on each post you publish on your site. As mentioned above, we do not recommend using global template to avoid duplicate meta description issues. Remember, duplicating meta description is kind of black hat SEO and cause heavy penalty from search engines.
However, setting up global meta description can help in certain situations. For example, when you have similar post content like “tips and tricks for WordPress”. You can add the description like, “Here are popular tips and tricks for WordPress to insert CSS…….”. Yoast also allows you to use variable in the template like site title, primary category, etc. At any case, you can modify the template description for each post before publishing the content. Global template will not affect any of your existing meta description if you have already added on your posts.
You can setup template for each post type, taxonomies and archives. Click on “Save Changes” button to apply the global settings.
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Adding Meta Description for Each Post
Make sure “Show SEO settings for Posts” is enabled to “Show” in the above settings page. This will enable Yoast SEO plugin to add a meta box in post editor thus allowing you to customize the settings per post.
Go to “Posts > Add New” to create a new post or edit any of your existing posts. Scroll down to see the meta box from Yoast showing similar options like the global settings page. Here you can add meta description or modify the template content according to your post content.
Optimizing Meta Description in Yoast
- Check the preview of search results on mobile and desktop devices.
- Based on the length of the description, you can see the progress bar changing color and length. Make sure to have a green progress bar to have an optimized meta description for your post.
- Make sure to include the focus keyword in title and meta description have a green indicator for SEO and Readability section.
- Unfortunately, spelling check on Yoast SEO meta description box does not work. Therefore, make sure to check your spelling before publishing the content.
- Click on the “SEO Analysis” tab and confirm “Meta description length” is showing in green.
Bulk Editing Meta Description
There are many situations you may need to edit the meta description on multiple pages. For example, years back Google changed the meta description length to cater up to 320 characters. Even Yoast SEO plugin also accommodated this change and allows entering lengthy description. However, Google reversed this decision to go back to the original 160 characters length and Yoast followed the suit. It is also common to update the title and meta description frequently as part of optimization.
In all such cases, it is impossible to edit the meta description on post by post basis. Yoast SEO plugin considers these factors and allows you to bulk edit meta description. Go to “SEO > Tools” section and click on “Bulk Editor” link. On the bulk editor page, go to “Description” tab under which you can modify the existing meta description of any post easily.
As the screen will be congested with Yoast sidebar showing advertisements, we recommend you to prepare new descriptions separately and paste in the box.
Excerpt Vs Meta Description
WordPress core offers function called “Excerpt” used to add the summary of your webpage content. Many new bloggers confuse themselves with excerpt and meta description. Most of the themes use the excerpt in blog index and archive pages. However, excerpt is NOT used as meta description in WordPress by default. You can check the source code of your webpage to find whether meta description is part of the source.
Why Google Not Showing My Meta Description?
This is a tricky question. Google has hundreds of algorithmic factors affecting the ranking and meta description is one of the factors. Below are some of the common reasons for Google to pick up other text from your page ignoring formal meta description.
- The search query is more relevant and matching certain indexed text content on your page.
- Meta description is not optimal for the content; therefore, Google picks up other content directly from the page.
- You are using structured content (schema or rich snippet) that is shown in search results. This is correct and good for pages having review, FAQ and how-to schemas.
- Generally, featured snippets show text from the article that matches the search query. This is a good indication that you have used the focus keyword properly inside the content.
So, do not worry if meta description is not showing in Google. Just focus on adding and optimizing unique description for each post on your site.
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