When optimizing your website for search engine visibility, one of the cornerstone elements of SEO is your meta information.
“Meta” simply means “about or underneath”. This meta information comes in the form of meta tags, or snippets of code that you include within your site. There are two primary meta tags that matter for SEO, the title tag and meta description.
The title tag and meta description (otherwise known as the “SEO title” and “SEO description”) inform Google and other search engines about what the topic of your website is about. This information also shows up in the search results for users to see, and optimizing it can help them click through to your site.
If you’ve been wondering how to write your title tags and meta descriptions for better search visibility and click-through rates, you’ve come to the right place.
SEO Title Tag Best Practices
You already know that a well written title tag is worth it’s weight in gold.
But how do you get the most out of these pesky little tags on your own site?
Let’s dive into the mechanics of what it is and how to properly optimize it.
What is a Title Tag?
The title tag is an html element used to concisely inform users and search engines about what the nature of the related content will be.
This information is present in the SERPS as the blue text at the top of every organic result. It also informs crawlers about the topic or focus of the related web page and is used as a slight ranking signal as well.
Now that you have the definition down, let’s talk about keywords.
Even though it’s ranking relevance has declined in recent years, the meta title tag is still important in determining how a page on your website is going to rank.
Here are the main components that your SEO title should consist of.
Each page needs to have unique target keyword (s). Two pages targeting the same group of or similar keywords (keywords in the seo title, h1, etc) run risk of splitting traffic and diluting the ranking for the correct page.
The homepage should always target the main / hardest to rank keyword in title tag and description. This is especially true for new sites, but in general, the homepage will have the highest PA (Page Authority) and will likely have the best opportunity to rank for your top level business keyword.
Place the primary keyword as far left in the tag as possible. Google has stated that they give slightly more weight to the first term in any given tag or phrase. Humans also read this way so will notice their target keyword first
How To Write Title Tags That Get Clicked
Not only is it important to understand what kind of content makes for a good title tag, but it’s equally as important to understand how to arrange this content so that it will be both search engine and user friendly.
Here are the best practices in 2020.
- Google will display up to about 70 characters. If you include more than that amount, you will run the risk of your title being cut off and only certain parts being shown to users. It’s important to test this in with tools such as the SERP preview tool to make sure the title is appearing as you want it.
- Pipes and hyphens. These two symbols ( | vs – ), are each easily read and understood by Google, but hyphens technically take up slightly more space. Google’s crawlers and other bots treat them as a break, or a pause when reading the tag. In general, using pipes is the way to go because they help break up the text and make the title easier to read at a glance.
- Include relevant and secondary keywords in the tag as well. You have the opportunity to let Google know the page is focused on a broader concept, not only a single keyword or phrase. When inserting these long tail and primary keywords, remember to use natural language that humans will understand. Don’t insert keywords in any way or in a quantity that doesn’t make sense.
- When possible, do not leave any title or meta descriptions optimized. Be sure to fill out the title and description tags for every webpage on your website. Failing to do so makes your web page content look less unique (the Goog doesn’t like this).
Company Name vs Geography
A question that you will face eventually is whether or not to place your company name or a geographic modifier inside of your title and meta description tags.
The answer to that question depends on a few different factors and is largely dependent on what your specific strategy is.
Let’s take a look at a few different scenarios.
When to use company name?
A good rule of them of when to use your company name in the title tag is If there is large enough search volume to justify including it. That means that you have a relatively large brand presence and enough people are searching for it on a monthly basis.
The homepage is also an excellent situation to utilize this. Since users are inevitably going to be searching for your brand, and the homepage is often the most discovered landing page for any given site, having users see your brand name right away is greatly beneficial. This is especially true in the beginning of a project if it isn’t ranking well for it’s own brand, and will gradually help build brand awareness.
A few other places to include your company name are on the about, contact, and events pages. These are pages directly tied to understanding and communicating with the brand in any way.
When to use a geo?
In general, including a specific geography is used when you’re optimizing for clients that operate on a local level. When a service or product is localized, including geo in the title sends a signal to Google that what you’re offering is best for that particular area.
Meta Description Best Practices
Now that you got your hands dirty with those excellent title tags, it’s time to move on to the meta description.
Before you work on optimizing the tag, it’s best to understand what it is and why it’s important as well.
What is a Meta Description?
The meta description is another HTML tag that gives a brief but precise description of what your related web content will be about.
It appears below your title and URL in the SERPs as grey text. These tags are seen by users and can either help persuade or dissuade them from clicking on your link and going to your site.
Meta descriptions are no longer a direct ranking factor, but they still hold a good amount of indirect ranking importance.
Here are the best practices in 2020.
How To Write Meta Descriptions That Get Clicked
- Use the entire 320 characters. Google allows you to include up to 160 characters in your meta description so use the full amount.
- Include brand, primary keyword (and a secondary keyword if possible), target geo, and a call to action. These elements will all be bolded in the SERPS if a user types in a query that contains them. When a user sees this, they are more likely to feel like the result will satisfy their intent.
- Think of it as a mini advertisement for your brand. You are trying to promote your brand nad web page. Write it in a way that will draw users in and cause them to want to click.
- Google can ignore this. Unfortunately, if Google feels that there is some other piece of information on the web page that better suits the user, they will look past your meta description tag and use that more relevant snippet instead. That’s why it’s good to give this information a good amount of thought beforehand. It’s also helpful to experiment in real time by seeing how your pages look in the SERPS.
- Make it compelling and in context for. You’ve got to tailor the description for your target audience so the message will resonate more closely with them. Consider what level of expertise your brand provides services to, what industry they are in, and what the intent is behind their target query.
Are Title Tags and Meta Descriptions Ranking Factors?
Despite having a weakened direct influence on rankings in the last handful of years, the title tag and meta description tag are not dead.
Let’s take a look.
CTR (click through rate) matters. Engagement matters. In recent years, Google has started placing more and more importance on how many people click on a result vs how often it’s seen. Optimizing these elements increases perceived relevance by users and will help lead to more clicks.
The title tag is still a ranking factor. According to Moz’s latest research, Title tags are “the second most important on-page factor for SEO”. With that being said, title tags are no longer as primarily effective as they once were, and spamming keywords into the title will likely yield no positive results.
Meta description is not a direct ranking factor, but can indirectly lead to higher search visibility through increased engagement.
User Experience. People will relate the SERP results they see as a direct reflection of your brand. Then, while they are making a decision about which company’s results they want to select, that will be part of their decision-making process. Your page content might be awesome, but these elements are what let searchers know first.
All in all, taking the time to get both your title tag and meta description dialed in should yield great results for your content. Be sure to review your analytics after implementation and test regularly as well.