Are you trying to create custom meta tags for a WordPress website? Custom meta tags are an essential part of an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Upon discovering them, search engines will use them to generate page listings in the organic results.
While WordPress offers countless customization options, it doesn’t natively offer meta tag customization. But with the right tools and know-how, you can create custom meta tags when using WordPress and set your website up for SEO success.
The Basics of Meta Tags
In simple terms, meta tags are snippets of hypertext markup language (HTML) code that you can add to your site’s home page, as well as individual web pages. Each tag has its own function—usually describing or giving context to other content on a web page—and those functions vary from one website to another. You can add them to a page’s head section but they won’t be visible on the page itself. Rather, they’ll remain hidden while still being accessible to search engines and web browsers.
There are over a half-dozen different types of meta tags, but none are more important than the title and description. The meta title tag is used to provide the title of a page and web browsers display it in the tab in which the page is being viewed. Search engines may also display the meta title tag in the page’s listings.
Meanwhile, the meta description tag is used to provide a description of a page’s main content. Unlike the meta title tag, it’s not recognized by web browsers. Search engines may display a page’s meta description tag below its meta title tag in the page’s listings. Web browsers, on the other hand, ignore this HTML element. Web browsers only display meta title tags in tabs and not meta description tags.
Using custom meta tags is an effective SEO strategy that can greatly improve how search engines perceive your site, leading to more traffic and better conversion rates. The trick is creating them in WordPress. Luckily, it’s not too hard.
Default Meta Tags for WordPress: What You Should Know
WordPress generates meta title tags based on page titles, or in the case of blog articles, post titles. When you create a page or post in WordPress, you’ll have to enter a title in the empty “Add title” field. The title that you enter in this field will appear as an H1 heading at the top of the page or post. WordPress will also generate a meta title tag for the page or post based consisting of this same title.
H1 headings and meta title tags aren’t the same. H1 headings are subheadings with the highest level of hierarchy, whereas meta title tags are page titles that web browsers display in tabs and search engines display in listings. Nonetheless, WordPress will use the text that you enter in a page’s “Add title” field for the page’s H1 heading and its meta title tag.
Depending on your website’s URL slug settings, WordPress may use this title text for the page’s URL as well. WordPress offers several URL slug settings from which you can choose. If you choose the post name, day and name or month and name setting, WordPress will display the title text in the page’s URL.
While it automatically generates meta title tags, WordPress doesn’t generate meta description tags. There’s no description field for pages or posts, so WordPress doesn’t generate meta descriptions.
Your website can still rank well without meta description tags; you just won’t have any control over the description part of your website’s listings. For the description part, search engines will use an excerpt. They’ll copy a snippet of text from the page’s content to display in the page’s listings.
Unfortunately, search engines may not use the most relevant excerpt, or they may use incomplete sentences. For SEO-friendly listings, you should create custom meta description tags. A study performed by Backlinko found that pages with a custom meta description generated nearly 6 percent more search traffic than those without a custom meta description.
Creating Custom Meta Tags with an SEO Plugin
The easiest way to create custom meta tags in WordPress is to use an SEO plugin. Many SEO plugins support the creation of custom meta title tags and custom meta description tags. You can use All in One SEO, for example. Once installed, All in One SEO will add a new box to the WordPress editor.
You should see an “All in One SEO Pack” box at the bottom of the WordPress editor after installing this plugin. This box will feature several fields, including a meta title tag field and a meta description tag field. When editing a page or post, enter the meta tags in these tags.
In addition to All in One SEO, you can use Yoast SEO to create custom meta tags. With over 5 million downloads, Yoast SEO is the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress. It offers some of the same features as All in SEO Pack, including the creation of custom meta tags.
Yoast SEO will add a “Snippet Preview” box to the bottom of the WordPress editor. This box shows what the page’s or post’s listings will look like in the organics results. You can create custom meta tags with this plugin by clicking the “Edit snippet” button next to the “Snippet Preview” box.
For meta title tags, Yoast SEO uses variables. Variables are keyword-based tokens that dynamically insert specific information into meta title tags. The default Yoast SEO settings generate meta title tags using the title, page, separator and site title variables.
Basically, Yoast SEO will generate a page’s meta title by adding its title text, page number if it’s part of a series, a separator like a line or dash and the website’s title. Of course, you can change these variables to customize the meta title tags, or you can delete all of the variables and enter plain text.
Yoast SEO supports these same variables for meta description tags. Rather than using variables, though, you should enter plain text. The title variable works well for meta title tags, but neither it nor any other variable is ideal for the meta description tags. If you’re going to Yoast SEO, enter plain text for meta description tags.
Some Final Thoughts
Even if you don’t have much experience with SEO, if you know your way around WordPress then creating custom meta tags is fairly straightforward when you have the right tools in your toolbox. For more WordPress SEO tips, check out these great articles:
How to Boost Your WordPress SEO
How to Use Keyword Mapping to Improve SEO
Website Hosting and SEO: What’s the Connection (and Why It’s Important)
SEO Should be FOM for Freelancers and Design Agencies
Pro Tips for Getting the Most Out of Yoast
Zach has 12+ years of experience with WordPress, from creating and maintaining client sites, to providing support and developing documentation. A knack for problem-solving and providing solutions led Zach to pursue a job with Automattic providing customer support in 2015 working with WooCommerce support, and now Zach has recently joined our team here at Pressable. Outside of work, Zach enjoys spending time with his family, playing and watching sports, and working on projects around the house.