How to improve your site with category & tag descriptions

With just a little bit of work, you can really provide a lot of value to your website visitors.

Written on September 8, 2017 by Christina Blust

If you have a WordPress blog, it’s likely that you’re using categories and tags to divide up your content. But depending on how you created these in the first place, it’s likely you didn’t set a description for them.

It’s important to spend a bit of time optimizing each category and tag. We do this by giving each one a description, and then double-checking its SEO data to make sure we like what’s there.

Why should I bother?

  1. Every category/tag on your site gets its own URL! It’s basically a “page,” and anyone can link to it, find it in Google, or share it just like any other page or post on your site. Many themes will include your description on unique URL, and this gives you an opportunity to be helpful and to showcase who you are.
  2. When we give search engines like Google more information, this means your content is more likely to be found in searches. Good SEO (search engine optimization) is good for business!

Even if your WordPress theme does not show the description on the archive page, it’s worth filling out the description and SEO data just to keep Google happy.

Setting a description

Screenshot of WordPress dashboard showing Tags in the index.
This is where tags can be found in the WordPress dashboard menu.

When you first created the category or tag, you probably didn’t put much thought into besides the name. But there’s more to think about! Let’s look at how to set descriptions in WordPress. We’ll use tags as an example here, but it’s pretty much the same for categories.

First go to your Tags list, which you can find under the “Posts” menu item in the dashboard.

You should now see a list of all your Tags. If you’ve never added descriptions before, the “Description” column will look … pretty empty. Don’t worry! We’re here to fix it!

Screenshot of tags list in the WordPress dashboard with the "Description" field left empty.
Look at that sad, empty “Description” column.

To edit a tag, click its name to go to the Edit window. Under the Name and the Slug, you’ll see a nice text box ready for some content. This is where your short description should go. It might be appropriate to add a link or two here as well. (For instance, if you blog about your band’s tour in support of an album, put a link to the page on your site where the album is for sale!)

Screenshot of description box in tag edit view of WordPress, where we are adding our description.
If it’s a tag on your blog, that means it’s something you know about! Don’t overthink it. You’re the expert, after all.

If you don’t use a separate SEO plugin, that’s it! Click “Update” to save your changes.

However, we highly recommend the Yoast SEO plugin. We install the free version on all of the websites we create for clients, and it’s great. So if you have this installed and set up, read on.

Double-check your SEO metadata

The Yoast SEO plugin is smart and pulls in some things automatically. If you look at the Snippet preview, it probably pulls in the tag name and the first bit of the description you just wrote.

Screenshot of Yoast SEO snippet preview

It’s a good start, but we can do better. Click the “Edit snippet” button to dive in.

In this example, the “SEO title” is pretty short. Look at all that room we’re not using. I can make it more enticing by adding some text to it.

Screenshot of Yoast SEO "Edit snippet" view, where we are pasting and tweaking our description for our tag.
The green bars confirm that I’m right in the proper allowed length — not too short and not too long.

That’s a much nicer title! Now my Snippet preview uses all the space at its disposal, and Google is happy because it has more data to search, pull from, and show in search results.

In this example, the description was already a good length for the Meta description, but sometimes you’ll want to tweak that box too. The goal is to be friendly, concise, and full of great keywords.

Screenshot of revised snippet preview in Yoast SEO metabox, showing the tag description in context in a Google search preview.
Ah, much better.

We’re all done! Now click the “Update” tag to save your work, and go on to the next tag or category. You got this.

Top photo by Shunya Koide on Unsplash

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