Understanding Meta-Descriptions in WordPress

As many of you may be familiar with, meta tags are hidden bits of information on your site that help let search engines know what your site is all about.  The main two types of meta tags are your meta-description and your meta-keywords.

Your meta-description tag is a sentence or two that tells search engines in plain English what your page is about. This meta tag is what will show up in search engine results below your page title (see image), so it’s important to be clear without being too wordy.  Google shows the first 156 characters of your meta-description tag in their search results, so be sure to keep your description tag brief and to the point.

Your meta-keywords tag on the other hand is a collection of words and phrases that describe your page.  Generally these are the terms you hope to be placed for in your search engine rankings.  Many search engines don’t look at these anymore, so these tend to be less important than your meta-description tag, but they may still have value in some ranking.  Some search engines only look at the first 255 characters of this tag, so it’s generally a good idea to keep your list of keywords within that limit.

These two are the most common meta-tags used on site pages.  Combined with the title name and file name you give your page, your page headings, and of course, your CONTENT, these help search engines determine where and how to rank your site in search results.  Meta tags help reinforce the content found in the headings and the overall body of your page, and can play role in search engine ranking.

An important note on meta-descriptions from Google’s Webmaster Tools:

While accurate meta descriptions can improve clickthrough, they won’t impact your ranking within search results. We frequently prefer to display meta descriptions of pages (when available) because it gives users a clear idea of the URL’s content. This directs them to good results faster and reduces the click-and-backtrack behavior that frustrates visitors and inflates web traffic metrics.

So, though meta-descriptions help provide an accurate description of your site’s content, it will not help improve your search rankings. It’s also important to note that when you install WordPress, meta-tag data is NOT included by default. Instead, you’ll have to add meta-descriptions manually through the use of WordPress plugins. Mainly, plugins like: HeadSpace2 SEO and the All-in-One SEO Pack.

With the HeadSpace2 SEO plugin, you can configure meta-data for:

  • Posts
  • Pages
  • Categories
  • Home page
  • Author pages
  • Search pages
  • 404 page

Additionally, the All-In-One SEO Pack will generate meta descriptions automatically and/or you have the option to override any title and set any META description and any META keywords you want. Additionally, if you’re using dsIDXpress (our WordPress plugin), plugins like the All-In-One SEO Pack will add the appropriate description to your Listing Details pages – the descriptions are inherited from the property descriptions as they are entered in the MLS.

So there you have it, a quick and easy way to edit your meta-descriptions and help provide an accurate description of your site’s content!