When a lot of people involved with internet marketing think about meta title and meta description tags, they immediately think: ‘stick in the keyphrases and you’re golden’. In reality though, this is far from the truth.
Google doesn’t really care about meta title and description tags. Sure Google looks at them and lets you tell search engines what the page is vaguely about, but they are nowhere near as important as they used to be. Much like the meta keyword tags that they now almost completely ignore. Google knows all about spammy techniques for stuffing keywords and will immediately ignore your metas (or even downgrade your site) if they exhibit such practices. It doesn’t matter though because they have a much more important use than that…
Writing Perfect Meta Tags
Instead of thinking about search engines when writing your meta tags, the most important thing to do is to think about search engine users. Think about the last time you searched for something new. You probably stabbed in your search term then scrolled down through the results until you found something that best matched what you wanted.
This is where your perfectly written meta tags come in. As long as what you write in the tags is ‘useful’ Google will use them for the title and snippet of the search result for your page.
Meta Title Writing (70 characters max)
If you have a site with a low domain authority or if this is for a brand new page, you will probably benefit from getting your keyphrases into your meta title. If your site and your page are already pretty strong then you can probably do without them.
First you need to get your brand name in there. If you are a well-known brand, stick it at the front so everyone recognises it and gets all the lovely trust that comes with it. If you are less well known, stick it at the end so that you start building brand identity without putting anyone off.
If the page your tag is for is for a specific product; that should be in the title too. If it’s an informational page, then say what that information is in 2 or 3 words.
Finally you need to motivate people to click. By using action words and by providing some incentive to visit then you will encourage more people to click.
- Brand name – let everyone know who you are
- Key product(s) or service (s) – let everyone know what they’re going to get from the page
- Motivation – encourage people to click
It should look something like this:
Buy Red Shoes | Big Sale on Top Brand Red Shoes | Cool Red Shoes Co. (68 characters)
I like using pipes to break up the sections, some people don’t like them, but I think they make it easier to read. It’s up to you though.
It’s worth noting also that having the various sections in the meta title split up with commas can make it appear more spammy to potential visitors and there is a general consensus that search engines may register this as well.
Meta Description Writing (155 characters max)
The meta description is your chance to lure customers who are still not convinced to click by your meta title. It is an ideal location for immediately conveying the page or your site’s unique selling points, for highlighting any special offers and giving you a chance to use strong ‘call to actions’ to give them that final push to click.
Start your meta description with a strong statement or a question. This will grab their attention and encourage them to start reading it. Active words like ‘buy’ or ‘get’ are a good place to start.
Next, explain (quickly) why they should come to your site/page and how their life will benefit when they get there.
While some may tell you to work this text around your keyphrases, if you have been sure to keep the meta title focused on the page the link will take them to then it should end up with keyphrases in it naturally.
- Attention grabbing statement or question – pulls their eyes and engages their brain
- Unique selling points – tells them why your site is worth the effort
- Special offers – gives them an incentive to click
It should go something like this:
Are you ready for the Big Red Shoe Sale? Free delivery on all orders before the end of the month. Scarlet, Crimson and Cherry Red shoes all in stock! (141 characters)
Next time you go to write a meta title or description, try not to think about SEO or the search engines, stick to these guidelines and you should have a set of highly effective meta tags.
Did you know that if you don’t have a ‘useful’ meta description, Google will choose some text from the target page itself?
Kevin Gallagher is an SEO professional. He has worked on thousands of successful campaigns and is a big believer in the powers of great usability in website design and effective content.