Learn all the ‘what’s, ‘why’s and ‘how’s of successful meta title and description writing to improve your SEO strategy.
In our article 4 SEO Mistakes You Should Avoid, we touched on how important good meta tags are to your SEO strategy.
But how do you write good meta titles and description? Where do you start? Read on for our complete beginner’s guide to meta titles and description, the two most important meta tags to SEO.
What are meta titles and meta descriptions?
A meta description is an element of a webpage’s HTML that describes the content of the page to a search engine, and a meta title is the part of the webpage’s HTML that titles it.
You’ll know what meta titles and descriptions look like even if you’ve never heard those terms before. When using a search engine, each webpage link displayed on a results page displays a meta title and description. Each result is displayed as such:
- First, the meta title: the hyperlinked element of the result that takes you to the webpage, that also displays the title of the webpage
- Then, the ‘slug’, or the webpage’s URL, usually right under the meta title
- And finally, the meta description: the brief paragraph of text that describes the contents of the webpage, as a blurb would do on the back of a book
A page’s meta title also appears in the visitor’s web browser tab, and both meta titles and description are displayed on a post when the page is shared to a social media site.
Meta titles and descriptions are vital in enticing visitors to your page.
Why should you care about creating good meta data?
Meta data is invaluable to your search engine ranking; better and more optimised meta data means your webpages will appear more relevant to appropriate search engine results and be displayed accordingly.
Meta description and titles are very important on a human level too; because these two elements serve as a preview of your webpage to those seeing it in search engine results, the more enticing and well-written it is, the more likely it will be clicked upon.
If you don’t write your own meta titles and descriptions, the search engine will auto-generate them from text on the webpage. While this sounds like a time-saving route to take, the auto-generated ‘preview’ of your page might downplay or misrepresent the webpage, or cut sentences up. You want to make sure the most enticing and important content of your page is included in the preview in order to most accurately and persuasively advertise it.
How to write meta tags and descriptions
It might at first seem overwhelming to start writing metadata; HTML can appear complex to those not familiar with its language. There are, however, a number of plugins available online to help you.
If you are creating content using WordPress, Yoast have an effective plugin that you can use to write meta titles and descriptions, fuss-free.
When writing you meta titles and description:
- Include the targeted keywords, and keep them at the front
- Make sure each page’s meta title and description is unique (Alexa have a SEA audit tool to check this)
- Keep titles under 60 characters, and descriptions between 135 and 160 characters (or 2-3 sentences)
- Don’t use quotation marks (“). These will disrupt the HTML and cause coding issues. If you need to use them, use inverted commas (‘) instead!
- Write in the active voice, not the passive one (e.g. ‘read this article’ rather than ‘this article should be read’). The active voice is more likely to call your potential visitors to action!
- Include a call to action
- Include your brand name where relevant
Remember these ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s!
- DON’T clickbait
Your meta titles and descriptions should be enticing, but also truthful. It will only hurt your brand if any visitors to your webpage are let down by false promises of its content. Plus, the content you create on your webpage should be engaging enough to draw people in with a truthful preview!
Inaccurate meta titles and descriptions can negatively impact your SEO ranking and drastically increase bounce rates.
- DO include your target keywords
Make sure to include your webpage’s keywords, as these will be what are picked up by search engines to indicate relevant content to the reader.
Remember the last time you used a search engine- a few words in each result’s preview were displayed in bold, right? Those were the keywords that were relevant to your search, and the words that the search engine used to determine that those were appropriate webpages to display on the results page.
- DON’T keyword stuff
Keyword stuffing, or, over-repeating a keyword/phrase, can be extremely detrimental to your SEO ranking.
It might seem to be a good tactic to improve your ranking. More keywords means more flagging up of those keywords, which means the more relevant your page appears to search engines, right? Not anymore.
While keyword stuffing was a trend for a period, search engines have identified this sneaky tactic and now penalise you for the act- resulting in a lower, or even non-existent SEO ranking!
Refer back to these simple tips when writing your meta titles and descriptions, and watch your SEO ranking soar!