Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
When search engine spiders crawl a WordPress blog, they will pick up the title of a page and take an excerpt of the first couple of lines of text from the body of the page as the description. This generic information is what people will then see in places like Google when searching for a topic. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can customize what those spiders see.
Search engines are how most people will find – or not find – your town pages. Being able to customize what these spiders see can make all the difference. In this guide I will show you how to set both the title and description to what you want to be shown, giving you a much more relevant hit in places such as Google.
This process is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short.
The screenshot below is how Google sees the Home page for the example town of Aidensfield:
The part before the dash in the first line, is the title of the page. The two lines of black text are the description. Both the title and the description were determined by me, not Google.
Being able to control this information is something most people don’t think about, but is a perfect opportunity to promote your pages for free. This can be very important if one of your pages is an advertisement for your business.
1. Customizing the Title
Firstly, we will take a look at how the page title is created, how to change it, and how to break the link between the title and what actually appears as the heading on your page. Then we will look at customizing the description.
The title is determined by what you put in the top box of the editor, as shown at #1 in the screenshot on the right. This is the first box you fill in when making a new page. What you put in there creates both the title and the website link for your page, the “Permalink”. But, if you look at the permalink at #2, you will notice it is simply “aidensfied”, and not what is showing now at #1.
That is because you can change the title after the permalink has been set, and it will not change that permalink unless you click on the “Edit” button next to it. So you can initially create a simple, clean, concise permalink when you first save the page and then create a much more SEO friendly title.
The title can only be a maximum of 60 characters in length, before search engines will truncate it. So, much like an SMS or Tweet, you need to choose your words carefully and make them in a text editor on your computer first, so you can monitor how many characters you have used.
So optimization tip No.1 is to change your title to what you want that top line in the Google screenshot to read, while leaving the original permalink intact. The title is the first thing people will see when searching Google, so it is the most important piece of information you want to customize.
Breaking the Title/Heading Link
By default, the title will also be the heading for your page. But what we want search engines to see, is not necessarily what we want visitors to see, when they read your page. The theme used by this website has many tweaks it can perform, and one of them is to disable individual elements of your page.
As you can see at #3 in the “Disable Elements” panel, I have ticked the “Content Title” box. This means the title will not be shown on your page. We are now free to make our own heading, as a normal text entry in the editor. I have done this at #4.
The heading needs to be formatted as “Heading 1” as shown at #5. This is important, because search engine spiders look for this “H1” tag when crawling your page. If it is not there, they will not know where your text begins, and may not bother crawling the rest of your page.
So optimization tip No.2 is to create a page heading that is reader friendly, while leaving the title SEO friendly.
While we are on this screenshot, I want to briefly mention the contents of the “Page Attributes” panel at #6. For pages I have set up for you, please don’t change the values in either box. We will cover their purpose later, but changing them will do two things. Firstly it will muck up how your list of pages will appear in the Admin Panel, and secondly, it will change the website address for the page – confusing search engines.
2. Customizing Your Description
Now we are going to look at how to set the text that shows up in the two line description in the Google screenshot. I have set up a “Custom Field” for you to use called “description”, as shown at #1 in this screenshot.
You can use this field by selecting it from the dropdown box for “Add Custom Field” in the editor. As you can see, it is found just below the main window of the editor. This enables you to create a “Meta” tag that spiders recognize as the “description” of what your page is about. They will then use that, instead of merely scanning the first couple of lines of text in your page.
Your description should be between 130 and 160 characters long. Anything above 160 will not be displayed and may also discourage spiders from even using it at all. So again, make your description in a text editor first.
As you can see at #3, you have the chance here to highlight something that is really important for people to know about your page. If you are promoting a business or hobby of your own, this is a great opportunity to get some free advertising.
Your page description is arguably more important than what you have actually written on your page, as it is the first thing (after the title), that people will see when searching for a topic. You need to grab their attention so they will want to visit your page, rather than somebody else’s.
So optimization tip No.3 is to create a meaningful description that will draw people to your page.
All three search engine optimization tips are purely optional. You can choose to use one, two, all three, or none of them. The choice is entirely up to you.
There are millions of websites out there, and getting your page found by someone searching for a topic on Google or any other search engine, is an art. Using SEO practices is something I consider even more important than what you actually write on your page.
If you have something you want readers to know, then you need to make any hits they get for your page as enticing as possible. It is your one, free chance to get searchers to choose your page over that of someone else.