Where’s my WordPress Tag Description?

Before WordPress Tag Description Screenshot

Organizing content by WordPress tag is important to bring structure to your website.

This is not about playing SEO games, though the following will never harm your search engine position, unless you abuse it. This is about organizing your content for the three most important people in your life:

  1. Your visitors
  2. Search engines
  3. Yourself

WP Tag Descriptions for Visitors

I used to create tags before content. This is good if you want your website to tie into an existing business structure. However, it is time-consuming, and detracts from early content publishing. I now prefer to organize organically. That means I write with a potential keyword in mind. However, I do not create a corresponding tag until I have genuine traffic to more than one related page.

By tagging at that point, visitors can easily see a link to related content. Later, we can use the tag to highlight our preferred related content. Note that you should have a potential category or sub-category for your tag before you create it. I’ll explain more about that in my organic website growth guide (coming soon).

WP Tag Descriptions for Search Engines

Search engines like to see structure, and related content too. The best search engines model themselves on genuine visitor behavior. Natural organization around commonly searched for phrases helps search engines do their job. They can only survive if they serve relevant content that matches actual searches.

Never abuse this by false keyword stuffing, and unnatural language. Just use your keyword research tools to identify what people are searching for. Then imagine someone asked you that question in person and give them the best answer you can.

WP Tag Descriptions for Yourself

Tags help you stay organized as your website grows. When you do that imagining thing I mentioned in the previous paragraph, you probably imagine a few different scenarios. If 880 people search for WordPress Tags, there will be different subgroups concerned with different aspects of WordPress tags. You can stay focused on the topic whilst you write about it from different angles.

That’s a great way to write 7 to 10 articles on different aspects of a topic. If they attract visitors, you can add actual tags to help your visitors navigate your website. In practice, some of your pages will attract searches that you had not imagined. That’s your organic website traffic growth.

Displaying WordPress Tag Description

When you add the description to your tag, you see the disappointing message:

“The description is not prominent by default; however, some themes may show it.”

In an ideal world, it would say:

“Warning to theme developers: if you do not show this description in your theme, we will not accept it into the theme directory.”

But it doesn’t.

Fortunately, it’s quite easy to add it yourself. If you haven’t installed Orbisius Child Theme Creator and switched to a child theme, do it now.

Now I will describe adding the WordPress Tag Description to a theme that uses archive.php. Some themes have different ways of displaying tag archive pages. If you are not sure, tell me your theme name in the comments below, and I will check it for you. I have used the Shipyard WordPress theme for my nutrition website, which simply uses archive.php with tests for different archive types to set different titles.

I am going to use archive.php to create tag.php in my child theme. I will repeat this for other archive type as they become important. For now we will start with the child theme in the first Orbisius theme edit box, and the archive.php file for the parent theme in the second Orbisius theme edit box, as in screenshot 1:

Before WordPress Tag Description Screenshot
Screenshot 1: Before WordPress Tag Description

Unless you happen to use the same theme as me, your screen will not look quite the same as mine, but you should see something similar. To add the WordPress tag description, you need to:

  1. Click New File and enter tag.php, creating a new empty box where it currently displays the child theme style.css
  2. Copy the whole of archive.php in the right hand box and paste it into the empty box on the left.
  3. Optionally, remove the tests for is_category etc, as these will never be called. I have left the is_tag conditional statement in because I’m lazy, but you could take out the conditional statements surrounding the tag_title statement, if you want to be tidy.
  4. Copy and paste <div class="archive-meta"><?php echo tag_description(); ?></div> between the tag_title statement and the beginning of the tag loop, as in Screenshot 2 below
  5. Save and test
After WordPress Tag Description Screenshot
Screenshot 2: After WordPress Tag Description

Your tag archive pages now serve their three masters properly:

  1. Your visitors see topic lists with compelling introductions. They let them know what the list of posts means, in the context of your website
  2. Search engines see a chunk of static text that they can pull from to describe their results. They will use your tag description unless something more relevant to the search lies in the detail for individual posts
  3. You have a hub page that you can use to manage the topic as a mini website within your whole site. The tag description can direct visitors to your main static page for your topic, and any other points of interest that you wish to emphasize

Note that, by default, WordPress will strip most HTML markup from your tag description as you save it. Good markup makes your description easier to read, so see how to allow HTML in Archive Descriptions.

There are lots of implications for good topic structure supported by compelling tag descriptions. There are also lots of similar hub opportunities for Authors, Categories, and Custom Taxonomies. Managing the growth of your online business will become much easier if you install your website with good WordPress tag descriptions.

What are your thoughts about WordPress tag descriptions? Share your thoughts in Shrewdies Make a Website Group, or Shrewdies Website Help Chatroom.

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