How often have you come across a website that has the words "just another WordPress Blog" written across the browser tab? How many times have you conducted a Google search only to discover that far too many websites didn't have a good page description, which led to wasted time spent on unhelpful pages? If you are nodding your head along in agreement, you are not alone.
Too many website managers and marketing professionals fail to understand the true importance of meta description and title tags. In a world where the consumer comes first, and great content must be generated on a daily basis, it is easy to forget about the basics. Just as a writer might become too comfortable and use a comma when an ellipse was needed, so too will marketers become lax on the importance of inserting meaningful meta description and title tags.
Don't be a lemming. Instead of blindly following the tactics of your peers, we encourage you to take a minute to approach meta descriptions and title tags with the same diligence that you put into crafting the perfect blog post. And so, without further ado, here are a few key points that you need to keep in mind the next time you build a website, update your current site, or simply publish a new page.
What Are Meta Description Tags?
Meta description tags are written for the consumer. Think of these short descriptions as the back cover of a book or a one-sentence movie review for the latest Hollywood blockbuster. In short, the meta description is responsible for getting users to click-through to the specific web page. Unfortunately, far too many webmasters place generic meta description tags on their pages.
Boring, or simply put "attention deviating" meta descriptions not only turn away users, but they prevent a site from performing to its full potential. To combat this all to a prevalent occurrence, think of the meta description as the short advertisement that consumers or users actually want to read. In this vein, keywords should be used intelligently to create a compelling description that immediately engages with users and instantaneously tells them what to expect from the associated page.
Best Practice Approach To Meta Description Tags
- Write Compelling Ad Copy - We said it once, but in case you jumped down to this bulleted list, we'll say it again - the meta description tag's job description is that of "advertising copy." The meta description should draw readers to the page from the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). As such, it is important that every meta description tag is well written, compelling, and has a touch of advertising flare. When you are creating a meta description, don't forget that Google will bold the keywords that were used in the specific search. As a direct result, users are more likely to click on compelling meta descriptions that also contain the majority of their search keywords.
- Recommended Length - Have you ever been listening to a great song, only to have the radio station cut off too early? The frustration (and occasionally sheer agony) that is felt, is akin to meta description tags that are too long. While meta descriptions can technically be any length, they should ideally be between 150 - 160 characters so that they aren't cut off in the display.
- Unique Meta Description : Avoid Duplicate Meta Description Tags - Every meta description should be unique. Would you trust a Real Estate company who used the same exact description for each of its agents? Probably not. In the same manner, duplicate meta descriptions not only decrease their trustworthiness, but they also decrease the likelihood that a user will actually click on the embedded link.
- Quotes Cut Off Descriptions - Do not use " " within a meta description. In fact, as a general rule of thumb, remove all non-alphanumeric characters from meta descriptions. If you do use " " then you should expect Google and other search engines to cut off your meta description.
The moral of the story is clear; meta description tags should be written to create compelling ad copy that will compliment the unique title tag and relevant information that a user can find upon visiting the associated web page.
What Are Title Tags And Why Are They Important?
Title tags, also known as title elements, are as equally important as meta descriptions to entice user engagement. SERPs will display title tags, along with the meta description, to users; as such, the title tags play an important role in improving SEO results and social sharing capabilities. The title tag should be a succinct and accurate description of the page's content. Under no circumstance should it ever intentionally mislead the user. With this important key point in mind, title tags can also be used to effectively improve the user experience from the moment that a user conducts a search to the moment that they click on a search result.
Generally speaking, title tags appear in three vital places: SERPs, browsers, and external websites.
- Title tags are often displayed in the top of a browser's tabs.
- Keywords are bolded within the SERPs, which provides users with greater visibility into the content contained within each result. By providing a good title tag you can encourage higher click-through rates.
- External websites, especially social media platforms, will typically use the title tag as the link anchor text.
Best Practice Approach To Title Tags
- Optimal Format -- The optimal format for a title tag is as follows: Primary Keyword, Secondary Keyword | Brand Name. This title tag will help to generate good SEO results, while simultaneously appealing to a user.
- Optimal Length for Search Engines -- As a general rule of thumb, your title tags should be 55 characters or fewer. It is important to note that on occasion, a search engine will display a different title than what you had provided in your HTML. If this is the case, remember that titles in search results can be rewritten to better match brand, user query, as well as other considerations.
- Leverage Branding -- Whether you have a well-known brand or are just starting out, title tags can be used to effectively boost brand awareness. In addition, some experts argue that using the brand name within the title tag can increase the click-through rate, while also improving user trust in the brand.
- Consider Readability and Emotional Impact -- Just as the meta description focuses on creating a compelling ad, so too should your title tag create a compelling, emotional response. When you are writing your title tags it is important to remember that the user experience starts with reading the title tag, followed by the meta description. These two elements need to work hand-in-hand to create a positive user experience that encourages increased user engagement levels.
The moral of the title tag is clear; in order to improve click through ratings, to increase SEO ranking, and to deliver a positive user experience from the onset, you need to create compelling title tags.
The Bottom Line: Meta Description And Title Tags Should Work Together
If you have spent hours upon hours creating valuable website content for your intended audience, then you should take the time and thought needed to create compelling meta descriptions and title tags. Keep in mind that these two components should complement each other in their efforts to encourage higher click-through ratings and better user engagement levels. After all, the highly sought-after positive user experience begins with the title tag and meta description and continues when they read the content that you worked so hard to create. Without a cohesive and compelling meta description and title tag, your content will never reach those all too important users.