This subject is a bit of an SEO joke since Google doesn’t even use these meta tags for ranking purposes, so in some respects optimizing these meta tags is a bit of a waste of time. That being said lots of SEO consultants tout various services to optimize meta tags and so I have to cover it here so at least others know not to waste money on SEO services that indicate they will improve your Google rankings using meta tags!

In the last article in my WordPress SEO Tutorial series I covered WordPress SEO Title Tag Optimization, now I’ll cover the description meta tag and the keywords meta tag with relevance to WordPress.

You can read a general SEO tutorial on meta tags optimization at SEO Meta Tags Optimization.

Lets Have Some Fun With Meta Tags :)

Quite sometime ago search engines like Google were VERY dumb, today they are just dumb :) When Google etc… was very dumb the search engine algorithms of the day couldn’t even determine what a page was about from the text content on the page or the links to a page (they were really dumb). Some bright spark came up with the idea of meta tags that would be hidden from the website visitors, but could be used by search engines to rank websites in their search engines.

Meta tags were a great idea IF you believe every website owner would only list relevant keywords within their meta tags: AKA porn websites using high traffic keywords like Disney for high traffic to their porn sites would never happen, it’s immoral!

What were they thinking!

Over a decade later we now have search engines that are no longer very dumb, they can read almost all the content of a webpage (they have problems with few things like javascript) and even take backlinks into account when ranking web pages.

Since the search engines no longer need this hidden content to determine how a page should be ranked in their search engines and more importantly a small percentage (LOL) of webmasters abuse the content of meta tags, the vast majority of search engines (including all that send reasonable traffic) no longer use meta tags for ranking purposes (they are ignored).

For this reason you can safely not include a meta description tag or meta key tag on a webpage since it will not have a negative impact on the pages rankings. Interestingly since it’s quite hard to generate meta tags out the box with WordPress the vast majority of WordPress themes don’t even include them. A very popular WordPress plugin called “All In One SEO Pack” creates it’s own meta tags, but if a theme already has them, this results in two sets, so the plugin developer has had to assume most themes don’t have these meta tags.

That being said, the meta description tag does still have a potential use since Google will sometimes use the content of the meta description tag as the description for a Google SERP. Again this does not have any impact on where in a SERP a page will land, however if the description is more enticing to a potential visitor than a random description from a page then it could result in more click through traffic from Google.

Your not going to get better rankings, but you might get more clicks with the current rankings.

With this in mind and knowing most WordPress users aren’t going to like not having meta keywords tag despite being told it’s a waste of time, (so much misinformation out there in forums etc…) my SEO WordPress themes include both a meta description tag and meta keywords tag.

Since the meta keywords tag is pretty much useless for WordPress posts and WordPress pages I use the title of the post/page for this meta tag. So the meta keywords tag for this WordPress page is

WordPress SEO Meta Tags Optimization

For categories/tags/search results the name of the category/tag/search phrase is used. For the home page I use the name of the WordPress blog and monthly archive pages the name of the WordPress blog and the date.

If a poorly designed search engine that still uses the meta keywords tag for ranking purposes ever spiders your WordPress blog using one of my themes, it will have something to use at least :)

For the meta description tag I went to a little more effort for the WordPress posts and pages. For the home page and monthly archive pages again I used the blog name, for categories/tags/search results again I used the name of the category/tag/search phrase. I also added the blog description which you can add under the WordPress Dashboard under general settings. The reason for this is there’s no obvious content to use for this meta tag available with in WordPress for these archive type pages.

WordPress Excerpt

Now for the WordPress posts and WordPress pages I used the WordPress excerpt of the content to create the meta description tag. The excerpt can be generated automatically, when automated the excerpt is the first 55 words from the top of the content for WordPress posts and WordPress pages. And/or for blog posts (no excerpt for pages) manually created at the time of creating a WordPress post by typing your own excerpt into the optional excerpt box. As far as I’m aware my WordPress themes are the only WordPress themes to be able to create a meta description tag in this way.

This means when using my WordPress SEO themes if you want unique meta description tags for your WordPress posts you can get them without having to use a WordPress plugin (there are WordPress plugins that do similar).

There are many more meta tags in existence, but none of them have much use for WordPress blogs and none of them increase a pages rankings in a search engine. There are meta tags that can block a pages spidering/indexing, if you’d like to know about these please see Meta Tags Optimization.

For example if you wanted to list monthly archive links on your sidebar menu, but not have them indexed in Google etc… (those pages are such a SEO waste of time) you could use the robots meta tag to block the indexing of the dated archive pages using this format for archive pages only:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex">

To achieve this you’d setup some conditional PHP code to only list this on that type of page. Something like:

<?php if (is_year() || is_month() || is_day()) { ?><meta name="robots" content="noindex"><?php } ?>

You’d add this to your header.php template file somewhere within the head tags. This would only show on dated archive pages and so the rest of the site would be fully indexed.

Note the link benefit flowing through noindex pages is partially wasted, for this reason try to avoide using this robots meta tag.

Personally I never add the dated archive links to the sidebar menu, by using sidebar widgets (all my themes use them) you can only add the menu items you want to use and the monthly archives should not be on that list.

SEO Tutorial for WordPress

1. WordPress SEO Friendly Permalinks

2. Naming Your WordPress Blog for Better Search Engine Rankings

3. WordPress SEO Title Tag Optimization

4. WordPress SEO Meta Tags Optimization

David Law : AKA SEO Dave, Search Engine Optimization Consultant, Internet Marketer, WordPress SEO Theme Developer and Nice Guy :-)

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