Basic SEO is all about common sense and simplicity. Having a website with rich content about your office/school/department that is referenced by other websites is the key to gaining good search engine rankings. Ultimately, search engines aim to be helpful to the person who is searching, and the best way to do that is with useful content.

The tools and functions available in Post Details plugin for BU’s WordPress CMS can help you improve your site’s standing in search results.

If your site does not have this plugin activated, you can request that it be turned on.

When this Post Details plugin is activated, a new metabox called “SEO, Custom Meta Tags” displays directly below your WordPress Author window at the bottom of the Admin view of your page.

Figure 1a-1b
The SEO, Custom Meta Tags box for custom tags for Title, description, and keywords before and after completion.

Screenshot of SEO, Custom Meta Tags dialog box with no data entered in Custom Title Tag or Custom Meta TagsScreenshot of SEO, Custom Meta Tags dialog box with data entered in Custom Title Tag or Custom Meta Tags

The following guidelines help you write custom meta tags for titles, descriptions, and keywords for your page that help search engines understand your website and display it more clearly on search result pages.

Custom Title Tag

Search engines use content of your page’s HTML title tag for the page title link in search results. By default WordPress constructs this HTML title in this manner:  [page title] » [site name] » Boston University. For example, the title of this page (which you can see in the titlebar at the top of the browser window and/or on the browser tab) is:

Improve Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) » TechWeb » Boston University

If this default scheme makes your page title too long, cumbersome, or unclear for search engine optimization, you can specify a page title that overrides the WordPress default of [page title]. For instance, in Figure 2, we removed the Your in the Page title, Improve Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to shorten the title. The “[site name] » Boston University” will still display after the title tag if you add a custom title.

Figure 2: Custom Title Tag

Screenshot of SEO, Custom Meta Tags dialog box with sample data entered in Custom Title Tag

RECOMMENDED FOR SEO:

  • make your titles unique for every page on your site
  • keep your page titles short and concise
  • keep the main topic/category of the page within approximately the first 70 characters

DON’T FOR SEO:

  • re-use the same page title on multiple pages — this can actually hurt your page ranking
  • use non-standard abbreviations

Custom Meta Tag for Description

To add a custom meta tag for description, click the “Add Meta Tag” button and a dialogue will pop up. Pull down “Name” and type in, “description” for the name as below. Type your brief description in the Content box.

Figure 3. Add Custom Meta Tag dialogue for description

Screenshot of Edit Custom Meta Tag dialog box with "Name: description" and sample content.

RECOMMENDED FOR SEO:

  • make the meta tag for description unique on every page
  • write in tight and concise language
  • remember that Google uses approximately the first 160 characters

DON’T FOR SEO:

  • re-use the same page summary on multiple pages
  • make the page summary too long

Custom Meta Tag for Keywords

To add a custom meta tag for keywords, click the “Add Meta Tag” button and a dialogue will pop up. Pull down “Name” and type in, “keywords” for the name as below. Type your 5-7 keywords and phrases in the content box.

Figure 4. Add Custom Meta Tag for keywords

Screenshot of Edit Custom Meta Tag dialog box with "Name: keywords" and sample content.

Google claims to not use keywords in determining search results, but it is possible that keywords have an impact on page rank. Other search engines may (Bing) or do (Yahoo) use keywords, so it’s best to use them.

Separate keywords with commas. Keywords can be more than one actual word:

graduate program, molecular biology, masters degree = 3 keywords.

RECOMMENDED FOR SEO:

  • use 5 to 7 keywords
  • use keywords that are specific to the content of the specific page you are on
  • use keywords for the most popular concepts and content that you expect people will be searching for

DON’T FOR SEO:

  • use more than 10 keywords
  • use keywords that are very generic (Boston)
  • use keywords that are already in your page title (Boston University)

Further Reading

There are some good free tools for search engine optimization available online. Start with Google’s guide to SEO. This will cover most of the basics in addition to offering a starter guide to SEO.

There are also several blogs that cover different aspects of SEO.

  • Start with Google’s own blog. It’s not completely SEO focused, but occasionally offers insight into how Google prioritizes its search rankings.
  • Read a series of posts about SEO from Search Engine Guide.
  • SEO 2.0 Blog has some useful tips but is more geared toward marketing.