Best Practices: Crafting Compelling Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Google has more than a 75 percent share of the search engine market. That means 3 out of every 4 people searching for what your website offers are searching on Google.
Every single result Google shows them has a title and a description. A good title and description can help your site get a larger percentage of traffic from Google, even if other sites rank higher.
Let’s look at what title tags and meta descriptions are and how to use them effectively.
What Are Title Tags and Meta Descriptions?
Every web page on the internet is built on HTML code. When you open a page, your browser software reads that code, compiles it into a page, and displays the page that you see. You don’t need to understand any of the code to read a web page, the browser handles all that for you.
The HTML code contains certain “tags” that identify different parts of the page. These tags identify headings, content, images, video, and all the other visible components of the page but they also identify some things that you don’t see on the page.
Most of these “invisible” tags determine things like the language of the page, the subject of the content on the page, and other such things. The title tag and meta description are two of these unseen tags.
If you view the source code of a web page, you’ll see these sections near the top of the page. The title tag will look something like this:
<title>This is the page title</title>
The meta description will look like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”This is an example of a meta description tag.” />
These tags serve several purposes, both from Google’s perspective and from your visitors’ perspectives.
Why These Tags Are Important
Both the title tag and meta description help Google determine what a web page is about. This is important for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes since it helps Google figure out what your page should rank for.
And while your visitors won’t see these tags when they visit your page, they will see their contents in the search results in Google.
How Google Uses Title Tags
The title tag doesn’t only tell Google what the page is about though. It also tells searchers what it’s about.
When you search for something in Google, most of the page titles you see in the results are those pages’ title tags. Those titles are the clickable “headlines” of the results and are most likely to grab searchers’ attention.
If your page has a bland title tag, it’s not going to get as many clicks in the search results as a page with an attention-grabbing title. A page with a powerful title can get more clicks even if it doesn’t rank as high as a page with a less effective one.
How Google Uses Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions also help Google figure out what a page is about but according to Google, they don’t use them as a factor in determining how pages rank. There was a time that they did contribute to SEO but it led to a lot of websites spamming the description tags with junk so Google stopped considering them.
That doesn’t mean they don’t help with SEO. When you search for something in Google, you see two things for each result – a page title and a description. Similar to the way Google uses the title tag for the result titles, it uses the meta description for the page description in most cases.
Writing an effective meta description might not help your page rank higher but it can help indirectly. Like a good title, an effective description will get more searchers to click on your site. And the click-through rate is one of the factors that Google considers.
Good titles and descriptions get more clicks, which helps your page rank higher, which helps get more clicks. There’s a snowball effect once your pages start to rank.
How to Write an Effective Title Tag
Writing a good title tag is a bit of a balancing act. It’s an important factor in how your page will rank in Google so it’s tempting to write it for Google’s benefit more than your visitors’. But it’s also an important part of getting searchers to click on your page in the search results so it needs to be eye-catching and create interest.
It’s more important to write for the people reading your title than for Google. This is true for almost every aspect of SEO. Google’s goal is to provide searchers with the best solutions to what they’re looking for. If your page serves the visitor well, it’s going to help it rank better in Google.
Technical Details of the Title Tag
The ideal length for your title tag is 50 characters or less. Google displays up to 60 characters in the search results so keeping it under that limit means the entire title can be seen.
If you make it too long, it will be truncated in the results with an ellipses (…) added at the end. Google could cut off an important part of it and you have no control over where it gets split if it’s too long.
Avoid using all CAPS for your title. Google could consider this as a way to “game” the rankings and your page could end up being penalized for it. You can use caps to highlight certain words in your title though. This is a good way to draw attention to the most important words.
Use your target keyword for the page in your title, as close to the beginning as possible. For example, if your target keyword is title tags you could write something like this:
Title Tags – How To GRAB Searchers Attention in Google*
That’s 54 characters, the keyword is right up front, and the action word is all caps to grab the reader’s attention.
Selling the Click with Your Title Tag
Your title tag’s most important job is to convince searchers to click on your site instead of one of the others in the results. It needs to sell them on clicking over to your site.
First, sell the benefit you’re offering people. Tell them why they should click on your site instead of another and be clear about what they’ll find on your page when they click. Don’t trick people into clicking, be clear about what the benefit is in the title and then deliver on that promise on the page.
Title Tag Best Practices
Follow these tips for maximum effect with your titles:
It’s not about your brand, it’s about the content on the page. If you want to include your brand or company name, put it toward the end.
Make sure every page on your website has a title tag and every title should be unique.
Check your competition for ideas. Look at their title tags to see what keywords they’re targeting and how they’re selling searchers on clicking. Then do a better job than they are.
Use parentheses in your titles to break them up and make them more readable.
How to Write Effective Meta Descriptions
The fact that Google doesn’t use meta descriptions as a ranking factor for SEO makes them easier to write. They’re all about convincing searchers to visit your site.
And if you can do that well, it’s going to help with other SEO factors, like click-through rate, so it’s going to serve a dual purpose.
Technical Details of the Meta Description
Your meta description should be no more than 160 characters. Google has changed the length of the descriptions they display in the search results several times but when they’ve increased it, they’ve always dropped it back down. Better to stay within the lower limits so you don’t have to keep changing things.
Your meta description should include your target keyword and other related keywords but only if you can use them naturally. Don’t “keyword stuff” your description strictly to get the keywords into it.
Selling the Click with Your Meta Description
Your meta description is a little less important for convincing searchers to click on your page in the results but it still plays an important part. Like the title tag, your description should sell people on why they ought to click on your page.
Make it about the visitor. Tell them what benefit they’ll get by visiting your page over one of the others in the results and then deliver what you promise. Once again, don’t trick them into clicking or they’ll likely click back to Google and find another result, which can have a negative impact on your bounce rate.
Meta Description Best Practices
Follow these tips for the best impact with your descriptions:
Keep it conversational. Don’t make it sound too “corporate”.
Include a call-to-action like “Click here to find out more” or “Click here for a free copy of XYZ”.
Put the most important information in the first 120 characters to avoid having it truncated in the search results.
Don’t use all caps for the description but use caps selectively to highlight important words or phrases.
Use the “So what?” technique. When you write the description, ask yourself “So what?” to boil it down to what’s important. Keep asking that and rewriting until you’ve focused in on the core benefit.
The Most Efficient Way To Handle Your SEO
Writing title tags and meta descriptions is a bit of an art form. Title tags are especially important since they factor into SEO as well as grabbing people’s attention. The fact that they’re relatively short makes it even more challenging.
It can be interesting to learn how to use them effectively but most people have a hard enough time keeping up with the demands of their day-to-day business, let alone honing their SEO copywriting skills and learning how to make these changes to their website.
If you’d rather focus on what your business does best and leave the SEO for us, Studiohawk can help! We’re a Google Partner Specialist agency that focuses on search engine optimization. We offer a range of SEO services to help you grow your company ethically and without any risk of having Google penalize your site.
Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you reach more customers