This Joomla plugin automatically generates description meta tags by pulling text from the content to help with SEO. It also gives you the ability to set different title configurations and now supports the addition of a “noindex, follow” robot meta tag for category pages. It is compatible with Joomla versions 1.5/1.6/1.7/2.5, and now Joomla 3.x.
Troubles with this plugin or not sure it’s working? Please see the troubleshooting section below before commenting.
What it does
Search engines often use a Web page’s meta description in the SERPs, and as such it is important that these meta descriptions have relevant text related to the page’s content.
In the standard Joomla 1.x setup, meta descriptions are either set globally on the Site->Global Configuration->Metadata Settings page, or on an article by article basis. This isn’t too shabby if you’ve the time and energy to customize every article’s meta data.
The SEOSimple plugin automatically generates the meta description tag on page load by taking a customizable length of text from the start of a page’s content. Should you already have a custom meta description assigned to the article (as set in the Metadata Information box in the article editor), the auto-generated tag is ignored and the custom one is used.
Additionally, the plugin gives you several options for displaying your page titles, as well as the ability to easily customize the behavior of the plugin on the site’s front page.
Note: An important practice to get in the habit of when using this plugin (and for writing on the web in general) is using the journalistic principle of the “inverted pyramid”. Essentially, write a keyword-rich summary in the first paragraph of the article. Here are some good tips on writing for the web.
How to Install or Upgrade
Install the plugin just like you’d install any Joomla 1.x plugin, via the Extensions->Install section in the Joomla backend.
- Download the latest version to your system.
- Login to your Joomla administration panel.
- Go to the EXTENSIONS->INSTALL/UNINSTALL screen.
- Click BROWSE, select the ZIP file and click the “Upload File & Install” button.
- Navigate to the EXTENSIONS->PLUGIN MANAGER and enable the plugin.
Use the same process for upgrading. If upgrading do not uninstall the plugin first, as this will erase your custom settings.
The plugin should be pretty much ready to go right out of the box, however it will need to be enabled via the EXTENSIONS->PLUGINS screen, and does have some config options available:
Meta Description Length
This is how much of the contents text you want grabbed from the page and inserted in your meta description tag. By default it’s set to 155 characters – general SEO practice is to have this between 155 to 200 characters. The plugin will round it off to the nearest word, so as not to chop any terms in half.
Front Page Meta Description
This setting allows you to bypass this plugin’s auto generation of the meta description for the front page, and instead just load the generic meta description which is set in Site->Global Configuration->Metadata Settings. The setting simply allows you an additional level of meta data control to help with SEO.
Category Pages Meta Description *NEW*
This setting allows you to control whether on category pages the category’s description will be used as the meta description. Optionally, or if there is no category description set, the plugin will use the content from the top article in the category.
NOINDEX Category Pages *NEW – Beta Feature*
By enabling this feature (disabled by default), your site’s category pages will have their ROBOTS meta tag modified to be “noindex,follow” — which will tell search bots to not index the page and avoid any potential for duplicate content penalties. IMPORTANT: This is a beta feature and thus should be thoroughly tested before using on a production site. More info about duplicate content and SEO here.
By default Joomla only displays the content item’s title as the page title (the bit that appears at the top of your browser – and, more often than not, in search engines). We agree with the Joomla development team that the content item’s title is the most important, but we felt users should have the option of also having their site name in the title tag.
You can choose to have the title tag displayed with either the content item’s title first, the site’s name first, or just the content item’s title (no site name – as is Joomla’s default).
Front Page Title Layout (*New Options in v2.0*)
You can customize the layout of the site’s front page title with the following configuration options:
- [Disable - Use Joomla Default]
- [Custom Title] | [Site Title]
- [Site Title] | [Custom Title]
- [Custom Title]
- [Site Title]
- [Site Title] | [Default Title] *NEW*
- [Default Title] | [Site Title] *NEW*
- [Custom Title] | [Default Title] *NEW*
- [Default Title] | [Custom Title] *NEW*
Whereby the [Custom Title] is whatever is inputted in the next, “Custom Title”, field.
Often the site’s front page title is set simply as “Home” or something equally generic. As the main landing page of your site, you may wish to customize it with a few more keywords to help SEO. To do so, simply add any string here and it will be inserted according to the “Front Page Title Layout” options above.
Simply the single character that separates the content item’s title from the site’s name in the title tag. By default it is set to the pipe (‘|’), but can be changed to whichever style you prefer. Note: With some characters (ie. the pipe), Joomla adds a backslash when saving to “escape” the character. As a temporary work-around, we’ve set the plugin to remove these and though they may appear in the settings, they shouldn’t appear on the site itself (J1.5 version only).
This is a non-affecting meta tag that is added to give this plugin (and Dao By Design) a bit of credit. It does nothing to harm nor help SEO, but is just a way to show you support this free plugin. We much appreciate you keeping it in place, but if it really irritates you, simply disable it with this setting.
We’d like to thank everyone that suggested improvements to the plugin, autoMetaDescSEO plugin. Particularly, a huge thanks goes to Michael Bingmert, who donated a nice chunk of sweet code, and JM Simonet, who released a patched version closely resembling v1.4 of the plugin on the forums to help users.
If you’ve installed the plugin and are unsure it’s working, here are some things to consider:
- Enable Credit: A quick way to make sure the plugin is actually enabled and running is to make sure the Credit Tag option is enabled. This is an option in the plugin’s settings that modifies the default Joomla “generator” tag in the page’s source. You can disable it easily if you don’t wish to give SEOSimple the extra credit, but when debugging, leave it enabled so you can check and make sure it’s working. Once enabled, go to any page on your site and View Source (usually a right-click option in your browser). You should see a META tag called “generator” that will mention both Joomla and SEOSimple. If you don’t see SEOSimple, confirm you’ve installed and configured the plugin properly using the steps above. If it’s still not displaying, leave a note in the support forum.
- View Source: The plugin doesn’t “add” anything to your articles, so you will not see any content added in the article editor page. This plugin adds a meta description tag to the <HEAD> section of your page’s source. Therefore, to see this in action you need to go to a page on your site and view the source of the page. It will be after the <TITLE> and before the </HEAD> tags. If it’s not there, confirm you’ve followed the installation and configuration instructions above and confirm you’re on an actual article page.
- View Browser Title: The other thing this plugin does is modifies the page’s <TITLE> tag. This is NOT the page’s title as it is displayed at the top of the text on the page, this is the title as it displays in the top of the browser (or browser tab). It is defined by the HTML <TITLE> tag in the HTML <HEAD> section. Again you can double-check this using View Source.
You’re welcome to leave comments below or contact me directly regarding the plugin; however, for support, bug reports, and feature requests, please use the official SEOSimple support forum.
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v2.2 – April 1/14 – An update to add J3 version, as well as a couple fixes.
- Now Joomla 3 compatible.
- Fixed several issues related to PHP errors.
v2.1 – January 28/12 – An update to add J2.5 version, as well as a couple small fixes.
- Now Joomla 2.5 compatible.
- Added option for using category description as meta description value on category pages.
v2.0 – July 29/11 – Significant update to make compatible with Joomla 1.6/1.7. Several long-standing bug fixes as well.
- Fixed K2 compatibility issue.
- Fixed “uninitialized strong offset” error
- Made front page title modification optional
- Added a number of additional title format options
- Added ‘noindex,follow’ option for category pages
- Now supporting J1.5, J1.6 and J1.7 versions
v1.4 – August 17/09 – A long-overdue update that fixes some bugs with the handling of special characters. Also added ability to upgrade without uninstalling (saves settings when upgrading).
v1.3 – September 4/08 – Put in some error checking for the PHP4 bug that was hitting users with the old PHP4 engine on their servers (note: we still suggest you upgrade to PHP5 – not only will it solve the previous problem with this plugin, PHP5 is now four years into replacing PHP4, it’s just time to make that switch).
v1.2 - July 25/08 – Another maintenance release to add better support for auto-generated meta descriptions on Section and Category pages. Also features better UTF-8 support and description word wrapping.
v1.1 – July 6/08 – A quick release to add some additional front-page title functionality.
v1.0 – April 28/08 – This project was formerly called autoMetaDescSEO, but as new features were added, the name didn’t really fit (did it ever? man, bad name) and so it was retitled and reversioned starting at 1.0.