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To introduce you to the issue and its scale, let’s take a very realistic example. You have an editor who’s excellent at producing content. We can even assume the content is optimised for the web, but they lack knowledge about WordPress.

Their article gets published, you promote it on social media and it does well. However, assume there were a couple of mistakes the editor has made:

  • they didn’t specify different metatags for:
    • the title
    • the meta description
  • after two weeks, the editor fixed small a mistake in the URL without creating a 301 redirect

We could add more to the list, but for the sake of introduction, this will suffice.

It might not seem like a big deal at first – the title tag and meta description will get populated. Google has an algorithm that automatically fills the metadata if it’s left empty.

Here’s how many issues these two small mistakes will cause:

  1. If the title of your post is longer than 60 characters, it won’t be fully displayed in Google results, potentially cutting off engaging words or even the keyword
  2. Your meta description will be automated, meaning you miss out on a chance to advertise your web page to the visitors
  3. The social media posts return a 404 error because the old URL doesn’t exist anymore and no redirect was created
  4. If the content ranked organically before the URL change, a lack of 301 redirects will hurt the ranking (learn more about WordPress 301 redirects at the end of this post)

For long-term SEO, creating this particular blog post or a web page was a waste of resources. And as mentioned in our article about content marketing and the importance of content strategy, it’s all about the long run.

If you run a small business, you might not know about the specifics of WordPress SEO. Or perhaps your web agency didn’t do a good job at supporting your website post-launch and you didn’t get SEO guidelines. You’ve hired a great editor, and it wasn’t your or their fault. They just need some WordPress SEO advice to help them make the content rank higher on Google.

Did you know…

If you’re looking for personal blog SEO tips, our advice still applies

SEO is a fair game for everyone. Our experience comes from working with businesses, but the vast majority of our tips apply to WordPress blog SEO as well.

Metadata SEO tips for WordPress

In our list of essential WordPress plugins for every website, we have included the Yoast SEO plugin – and for a very good reason. It’s a plugin that allows your editors to change metadata and even grade the content readability and SEO optimisation of your posts.

With that being said, we highly recommend you download and install Yoast SEO, as it will be taking the centre stage in our short guide.


Yoast SEO appears in our guide as one of the most popular and approachable plugins. We firmly believe it’s a great starting point, and it will suffice in the context of this article.

How to edit the meta description in WordPress

After installing Yoast, you’ll find the following snippet preview in your blog posts (depending on your configuration it might be below or above the editor):

An example of Google snippet preview from Yoast SEO plugin.
Editing meta description in Yoast SEO for WordPress.

The plugin itself asks you to provide a meta description with an explanation of what happens if you don’t. You can do that by clicking the “Edit snippet” button which expands three fields:

  • SEO title
  • slug (the part of the URL that comes after your domain)
  • meta description

SEO title and meta description input fields have text length bars underneath them, signalling whether your input is optimal.

An example of setting the SEO title in Yoast plugin.
Yoast helps you create optimal metadata.

As a rule of thumb, try to fit as much into the meta title and meta description as possible, while retaining their relevance and genuineness. Use them to offer value for your potential visitors. Sometimes, less is more.


Includes tools to maximise your website potential.

WordPress SEO title tips – optimal length

A great blog title isn’t synonymous with a great meta title. The optimal length of the latter is 50-60 characters (or to be more specific 600 pixels) due to the amount of “real estate” in search engine results. However, that might be too short for a compelling “display” title of your blog post.

If you keep your titles under 60 characters, our research suggests that you can expect about 90% of your titles to display properly.

The display title of one of our articles is “6 WordPress Plugins That Will Enhance Your Blogging (Updated For Gutenberg)”, while the meta title reads “6 WordPress Plugins That Will Enhance Your Blog | NerdCow”. We have shortened the appealing display title to meet the requirements of search engines while keeping it as attractive as possible.

There is one exception to that rule that you might want to consider – you’ll find it in the bonus tip of the next section.

Please note that as far as our full SEO title goes, using our brand name is a choice we’ve made. It’s a sitewide rule for all the pages so you don’t have to replicate it unless it’s the standard practice on your website.

How to write the SEO title in WordPress

It might come as a surprise, but one of our best SEO tips is to change your meta title. As a rule of thumb, you want your main keyphrase as early as possible in the title. Many businesses fail to do so, with instances of SEO titles such as “Home” on the home page. It’s only one small change, but it’s one of the most efficient things you can do for your organic traffic. On the impact/effort scale, optimising meta titles is the best SEO change you can make.

Bonus tip

Make use of SEO title cliffhangers

By now you should know that search results have limited space to display your SEO title. One of the most clever tips we can give you is to exceed the meta title length on purpose to create a “cliffhanger” effect. Just make sure that your main keyword is visible.

What is a slug in Yoast SEO and how to create the best blog post URL

The aforementioned slug is another part of your post that’s crucial for SEO. It’s the part of your URL that goes after the domain and any subfolders. In the case of this article, it’s:

By default, WordPress sets the slug to match your post’s title, which can be wrong for several reasons.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind when choosing the URL:

  • remove stop words, such as “a”, “the”, “and”, and so on
  • make it informative and engaging
  • include your keyword in it
  • separate the words with a hyphen
  • unless it’s crucial to convey your message, don’t use numbers (i.e. the slug for “99 Best Breakfast Ideas” should be “best-breakfast-ideas”)
  • be specific and consider future URLs – if you’re writing about Honda Civic price drop, a “honda-price-drop” slug (instead of “honda-civic-price-drop”) might be too broad and you could regret using it in the future

How to set focus keyphrase in WordPress

Since 2009, Google doesn’t use the meta keyword as a ranking factor. However, you can set a focus keyphrase in Yoast’s plugin instead. While this won’t directly affect your ranking in search engines, it will give you a better overview of the quality of your meta description and even analyse your post to give it an SEO rating.

Focus keyphrase example in WordPress and Goole snippet preview

User interface of Yoast plugin.
Yoast rates your SEO and provides a snippet preview of your WordPress SEO title and description.

It’s a good simulation of how your website would look on the search results page if the visitor used the exact query to find it. On top of that, below your snippet preview, you can expand the “SEO analysis” to see practical tips on how to improve your copy for search engines.

Please take the recommendations with a grain of salt. If you’re unsure about them, please refer to our WordPress SEO FAQs.

WordPress 301 redirects – what are they and how to add them


A 301 redirect signals that a page has permanently moved from one URL to the other. It’s also a signal to search engines that all “SEO juice” of the previous URL should be transferred to the new one. This is especially useful when changing links or consolidating pages.

Adding 301 redirects in WordPress

Redirects can be added programmatically, but also with a help of the Redirection plugin. Once installed, you can access the plugin in the “Tools” section of the WordPress dashboard:

Once there, you can simply click “Add new’ and fill two fields: Source URL (the one that you’re changing/removing) and Target URL (the new address). You don’t need to change any settings that you’re not familiar with. The default “add new” settings will create a 301 redirect just fine.

There are also other types of redirects, but as an editor, you generally don’t need to worry about them.

WordPress SEO Frequently Asked Questions

How to improve your SEO in WordPress?

Our article above has a number of tips to improve your SEO. You can find other suggestions, such as improving page speed and the internal linking structure, in our article about SEO without creating content.

What is SEO title in WordPress?

The SEO title is the default text that displays in the browser tab and on the search result pages. Learn how to write it.

How to change the SEO title in WordPress?

You can change the SEO title of a WordPress page programmatically, or you can install one of the many SEO plugins, i.e. Yoast SEO. If you’re using Yoast, here’s how to change the metadata in WordPress.

Where is the SEO title in WordPress?

The SEO title is displayed in SEO plugins, such as Yoast SEO.

Here’s how it looks in Yoast.

Where is the meta description in WordPress?

Like the SEO title, your meta description can be found in SEO plugins, such as Yoast SEO.

Here’s how it looks in Yoast.

How to change the Google description of a WordPress website?

To change the Google snippet of your website, you’ll need to change the SEO title and the meta description. Please note that Google often adjusts the display of the metadata based on the keyword, so your metadata won’t always display as intended.

Here’s how to change the default values of your Google snippet.

How does SEO work in WordPress?

By default, SEO needs to be enabled and changed in the code. There are many plugins that allow you to edit your SEO settings from the WordPress dashboard.

Here’s how to change metadata in Yoast SEO.

What is the “focus keyphrase not set” error?

Focus keywords are not used by Google to rank websites anymore, so you don’t need to worry about the error.

You can use the focus keyphrase in Yoast to get additional insight into the SEO settings of your page, but please take them with a grain of salt.

What does Yoast mean by “focus keyphrase in introduction”?

Focus keywords are not used by Google to rank websites anymore, so you don’t need to worry about the error.

Yoast displays an automated alert about your keyword missing from the start of your page The logic behind that is to reinforce the user’s belief that they’ve found the right piece of content. There is no obvious benefit to including your keyphrase in the introduction, but it’s useful to have it every now and then in the headings and the body of your pages.

This helps search engines understand your page, but also makes scanning your page easier for visitors.

How to set up my WordPress homepage SEO?

You can edit it the same way as on any other page – here’s how to do it with Yoast SEO.

Your homepage should rank for the main keyword of your website. Include it in the SEO title and the meta description.

Avoid vague homepage meta titles, such as “Home – [brand name]”.

How to improve WordPress blog SEO?

The entire article above applies both to business pages and personal blogs.

If you’re looking for additional tips, check out the article about SEO without writing content, read other articles on our blog or subscribe to the NerdCow newsletter.


Includes tools to maximise your website potential.

Originally published Aug 01, 2019 12:56:22 PM, updated May 2 2022.

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