Importance of Meta Descriptions

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WordPress does not manage meta descriptions. Does that mean they are not important?

No! Meta descriptions are an important feature. They allow you to promote your pages better.

There are lots of WordPress plugins for meta descriptions. This shows the demand for meta descriptions. It tells us about the importance of meta descriptions. But, plugins can bloat WordPress installations.

Don’t slow down your WordPress with extra plugins. Just add these meta description functions to WordPress via functions.php.

You will see how easy it is to add important meta descriptions to your website. Follow simple instructions to copy the functions to your website today. If you need help to do that, or if you want to add extra custom functionality, just ask Shrewdies.

Importance of Meta Descriptions

All that meta descriptions are supposed to do is to describe your page to robot visitors. That might seem pointless, until you realize the significance of robot visitors. Most robot visitors are search engine robots. These gather information about each of your pages at the same time as indexing your visible content.

It follows from this, that your meta description forms the basis of your free advert that is a search engine result. Your meta description is your opportunity to sell your page. I describe this more completely in Easy Meta Description. You can read the details of What is a Meta Description? and Why are Meta Descriptions important? If that is all you want, just use the simple code at the end of that article.

But what about those extras to help writing and filing your meta description? Don’t be left with half a solution. I’ve combined all the extra functions in one chunk of code below, so you can easily add it to your functions.php.

Writing Your Meta Description

WordPress Posts include an Excerpt field, and this is the ideal place to store your meta description. Some authorities argue that your meta description should be no longer than 156 characters. Others argue that you can include several descriptions, and let search engines select the best sentences to suit the given query. Personally, I keep it simple, and go for as close to 156 as I can, without going over. You can choose any excerpt length, or discuss what is important to you.

Whatever you chose, you need an easy way of measuring the length of your text excerpt. For that reason, I developed a WordPress Excerpt Character Counter. I have combined that code with the meta description output code below.

Filing Your Meta Description

In my original article about the importance of meta descriptions, I mentioned that meta keywords might also be important. Though they are not used by Google, they do get used by other robots that will bring traffic to your website. More importantly, I like to use keywords as a way to check that every page has a clearly defined topic. Keywords should be used to guide better content for your typical human visitor – not as a density tool to try and fool robot visitors.

You can use WordPress Categories and Tags to file all your content, as I described more completely in Keep WordPress Pages Organized. I have included the functionality from that article in the code below to give you a complete set of tools for filing all posts and pages consistently.

Your Complete Meta Description Code

This code can be pasted into your WordPress Theme functions.php. However, I strongly recommend you use the Functionality plugin, to maintain consistency and save time when you change your theme.

add_action('wp_head', 'shrewdies_meta_elements');
function shrewdies_meta_elements() {
	global $post;
	$metakeys = implode(',',wp_get_post_terms($post->ID, array('category','post_tag'), array("fields" => "names")));
	$text = strip_tags($post->post_excerpt);
	if ( is_single() || is_page() ) {
		echo '<meta name="description" content="'.$text.'" />'."n";
		echo '<meta name="keywords" content="'.$metakeys.'" />'."n";
	}
}
add_action( 'admin_head-post.php', 'shrewdies_excerpt_count_js');
function shrewdies_excerpt_count_js(){
	echo '<script>var ShrewdiesExcerpt;jQuery(document).ready(function(){
		if(jQuery("#excerpt").length){
			ShrewdiesExcerpt=jQuery("#excerpt");
		}else{
			if(jQuery("#attachment_caption").length){
				ShrewdiesExcerpt=jQuery("#attachment_caption");
			}
		}
		if(ShrewdiesExcerpt.length){
			ShrewdiesExcerpt.before("<div style="float:right;color:#666;height:29px;margin-top:-29px;font-size:80%;">Excerpt length: <input type="text" value="0" maxlength="3" size="3" id="shrewdies_excerpt_counter" readonly="" style="background:#fff;"> character(s).</div>");
			jQuery("#shrewdies_excerpt_counter").val(ShrewdiesExcerpt.val().length);
			jQuery(ShrewdiesExcerpt).keyup( function() {
				jQuery("#shrewdies_excerpt_counter").val(ShrewdiesExcerpt.val().length);
			});
		}
	});</script>';
}
add_action('init','shrewdies_attach_taxonomies_to_page');
function shrewdies_attach_taxonomies_to_page() {
	register_taxonomy_for_object_type('category', 'page');
	register_taxonomy_for_object_type('post_tag', 'page');
}
//add_post_type_support( 'page', 'excerpt' ); // Only required if excerpt box not showing in Page edit
add_filter('request', 'shrewdies_add_pages_to_post_request');
function shrewdies_add_pages_to_post_request($q) {
	if (isset($q['tag']) || isset($q['category_name'])) 
		$q['post_type'] = array('post', 'page');
	return $q;
}

Are Meta Descriptions Important?

It is perfectly possible to run a successful website without meta descriptions. Great content alone will eventually be recognized, and drive traffic to your website far more effectively than meta descriptions. This is especially true if you have a strong network, so I would rate content building and social network development as far more important than meta descriptions.

However, for very little effort, you can improve the Click Through Rate (CTR) of many search engine results and internal indexes by incorporating compelling excerpts. Use the code above, and you have a traffic building tool that only takes a few seconds to add value to every page.

If you would like to discuss the importance of meta descriptions, or how you might customize Shrewdies code for your special requirements, please use Shrewdies Website Support Circles or Shrewdies Website Support Chatroom