It’s true: title tags and meta descriptions won’t help your website magically rise to the top of the search engine results. Google confirmed it back in 2007 so let’s kill that myth right at the outset. However, these two elements can improve click through rates and entice people to click on your link rather than the link of one of your competitors. So why do site owners neglect title tags and meta descriptions, pushing them to the back burner?
Title tags and descriptions tell search engines and users what your site is about. They describe the content on each page of your website and explain how it relates to a user’s search query. And, when used properly, they can act as a “hook” of your advertising in the search engine results.
If you don’t know what title tags and meta descriptions are, why they’re important and how to write them to get more prospects to click on your links in search engine results, we’ll explain it all in this short guide.
Let’s get started.
What are title tags and meta descriptions?
Title tags and meta descriptions are bits of HTML code in the header of a web page. They help search engines understand the content on a page. A page’s title tag and meta description are usually shown whenever that page appears in search engine results. (We’ll look at some examples of this later.)
Well written and compelling meta tags can attract more users to click to your website from the search engine results.
The title tag
The title tag is the title element of a web page that summarises the content found on a page. It will appear in three key places: browsers, search engine results pages, and external sites such as Facebook or Twitter. We’ll look at examples of title tags later.
There’s one important thing to keep in mind. Search engines expect a titles tag to include relevant keywords and phrases that describe what that page is about. So if the title you create is not relevant for the page, Google can choose to show a different title instead. You don’t want that to happen. Why? Because title tags are a great opportunity to attract prospects to click through to your site so make sure it gives an accurate, concise and compelling summary of what that page is about.
Here’s how the code looks:
<title>Your title here</title>
Show me some examples
To exemplify, we’ll use our Domain Names page.
This is how it looks in the search engine results:
And this is how it appears when the page is shared on external sites, including social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn:
The meta description
The description tag is intended to be a short summary of the content found on the web page. While the title tag is very limited, a meta description gives you a bit more space to tell users what you’re offering, and it’s an opportunity to give them a compelling reason to click through to your page.
This is what the description tag looks like:
<meta name=”description” content=”This is where you add your meta description. Make it count.”>
Show me some examples
Let’s take a look at how the meta description for our VPS hosting page appears in search engine results:
How to write title tags and meta descriptions that get clicks
Below are a few tips that can help you to create title tags and meta descriptions that get clicked.
General tips for writing meta data
• Including details of special offers like the example below
• Encourage the reader to take action and introduce a sense of urgency, especially if there’s a time-limited special offer, like the example below.
• Use emotional and psychological triggers. Learn more in this guide from Moz.
• Focus on what the reader will get from clicking. Favour “your” over “our”.
If you need general advice on how to write copy for your website, check out this guide. You can apply the lessons learned to your title tags and meta descriptions.
When writing title tags:
• Title must be highly relevant to the content found on that specific page.
• Place important keywords and phrases close to the front of the title tag so they catch the eye.
• Write naturally for visitors and avoid keyword stuffing.
• Avoid duplication. Each page will have a different topic so it needs to have a unique title.
• Potentially include your brand name at the end of the title tag, but focus on getting your message across first.
• Keep it between 60 and 64 characters or as many characters as you can fit into a 512-pixel display. If you write a title that’s longer than that, it’ll get cut off, showing an ellipsis “….”.
• Make it compelling. Your title tag should be appealing enough to entice visitors to click to find out more about what you have to offer.
When writing meta descriptions:
• Have unique descriptions for every page on your site.
• Create a compelling description using relevant keywords. Make sure what’s described is what the searcher will get.
• Inspire curiosity. Provide just enough information to explain what the page is about but not so much that it ruins the curiosity factor.
• Include a call to action within your meta description to give your reader a clear instruction of what action to take and what’s in it for them.
• Keep your meta descriptions between 150 and 154 characters. If they’re too long, search engines will cut off the extra characters.
A note on length
Although we’ve provided a rough range for the length of title tags and meta descriptions, the reality is a bit more complex than that as Google uses pixel size rather than character length to decided how much to display. For that reason, it’s a good idea to test your titles and descriptions using a tool such as this one from To The Web.
How do I choose the right keywords?
The keywords or keyword phrases that you use in your title tags and meta descriptions need to be relevant to the content on a page. So if you have a landing page where you advertise wedding invitations, try using keywords like “elegant wedding invitations” or “cheap wedding invitations”.
For example, if you use the 123 Reg Search Engine Optimiser tool, you’ll get recommendations on which keywords to use to optimise the meta tags and the content on your web pages.
This saves you time on keyword research. Plus, once you choose your main keyword, the tool will also suggest where to add it to properly optimise your page:
If you go to the “Review your site” section, it will also tell you whether you have pages that are missing meta descriptions so you can add them right away.
Meta data optimisation
So how do you make sure your title tags and meta description continue to work well? Like most things in SEO, it’s about looking at the data and seeing what works. The easiest way to do that is to Monitor click through rates in Google Search Console and find pages with reasonable volume but low click through rate (CTR). Optimise the meta data for these pages using the steps outline above.
Make sure you don’t neglect your meta data – constantly monitor what’s going on. But don’t make changes too often – it can take a while for any adjustment to have an impact and if you’re constantly switching things around, you won’t know if what you’re doing works.
Finally, although CTR is a useful metric it’s not the only one you should look at here. A high CTR but a low Average Time on Page could indicate that although your meta data is enticing, your webpage isn’t delivering what people want or expect. This kind of situation is indicative of clickbait and should be avoided. The aim is to entice people to visit your site, not to trick them into clicking.
If you need further inspiration as to the kind of language you should be using in your meta data, checkout the AdWords ads people in your niche are running and see what kind of copy they’re willing to spend money on promoting.
While title tags and meta descriptions don’t play a direct role in helping your site rank in search engines, they are critical for user engagement and getting users to click through to your website. So don’t ignore them as they’re the only elements standing between a search result and a visitor.