Attract more visitors to your website with a polished site description

This post is part of a series of easy tech tips for writers. To see past tech tips, click here.

A friend recently asked me a great question: how can I help people find my website?

This task — referred to as search engine optimization, or SEO — is a big one. You can make a career out of it.

Of course, you’re a writer, not an SEO expert. We want to keep it that way, so I’m giving you just one piece of homework to make your site look professional and click-worthy in a list of Google results. Anyone can do it — I promise.

I’m featuring self-hosted WordPress sites today because I see a lot of writers using them. If you want to request a tech tip for your non-WordPress site, please drop me a line in the comments.

First of all, let’s look at how your site appears in a Google search for your name.

site description in Google search results

click the image to see a larger version

[Tip: tell Google to hide private results (visible only to you) by clicking the option circled in red in the upper right.]

My search result includes bio text from my site’s front page, plus some unfortunate alternate text from my headshot. That just won’t do. I want to edit that little blurb under my site title. The word count is tiny, but its position is powerful.

You can take control of that text by editing your site’s metadata: descriptive content that visitors can’t see, but search engines can. Sound too technical? Don’t fret. WordPress has some handy plugins to help you out.

To get started, log into your website’s admin portal and navigate to Add New under the Plugins menu on the left-hand sidebar. Using a plugin to edit your site’s metadata eliminates the need for you to interact with the code directly. I recommend Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin*, and I’m going to use it in my example here.

Search for WordPress SEO and install WordPress SEO by Yoast. The plugin has great features in its settings page, but I’ll let you explore those on your own. For now, we’re just going to navigate to the edit window for our site’s main page — the one people see when they visit www.yourdomainnamehere.com.

Yoast plugin in WordPress search results

click the image to see a larger version

You’ll see WordPress SEO has added a new box to the edit page. This box allows you to specify a custom title and description for your page. It also provides a handy preview of your new and improved search result.

yoast plugin inline settings

click the image to see a larger version

When you’re finished, save your changes by clicking Update.

The WordPress SEO plugin will automatically notify Google that something has changed on your page, but you won’t see a change instantaneously. Google doesn’t pull information from your site in real time — that would take too long, and most people expect search results to start showing up before they’ve even finished typing. Instead, Google periodically scans the web — including your site — and stores up-to-date information on their servers. The GoogleBot gets around relatively quickly, though, so your information should update within a week.

It really is that easy! Any questions? Let me know in the comments!

* I have no affiliation with Yoast, nor have I received compensation of any kind in exchange for recommending this plugin. I just happen to like it!

Additional References:

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
Yoast’s Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For WordPress Sites

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