You might be asking yourself what is a title tag or meta description? Do I need them for my website? How do they help with my website’s SEO? In this post we are going to take you through Title Tags & Meta descriptions so you can learn more about their importance for SEO success.
Click here if you want to skip to the meta descriptions section.
What is a title tag?
The <title> tag is a meta element on your website, meaning that it provides information about the page while not actually appearing on the page to users. So where do meta titles appear then? They are seen by the user in the search engine results pages just above the site URL, and on the browser tab when the page is open and on social networks where the title is populated in posts where the link is shared. Lastly, this element also is a factor that Google uses to help determine what your page is about.
Here is a meta title tag example on our website.
Is a meta title important?
Yes, meta titles are a very important element of your SEO. In addition to helping you improve your online visibility they can give the user a quick idea of what is to come, and whether your content might be helpful for their query, should they choose to click your page from the search engine results.
How to write title tags and optimize for SEO
- How long should meta titles be? Title tag length should ideally be between 50 and 60 characters long so that the whole title is displayed in the search results. Though it is important to note that there isn’t exactly a character limit as such, rather Google will currently cut off titles that are longer than 600 pixels. So depending on your content you will find that you may need to make adjustments.
- Meta title best practices dictate that each title tag on your web pages should be unique, with descriptive titles per page. You want to ensure that the title is specific and relevant to the content on each individual page rather than something generic.
- While title tag optimization with keywords is great for SEO you can have too much of a good thing. Resist the urge to stuff keywords into your meta titles. Not only is it bad for SEO but you risk users seeing this and skipping your website, in favor of a competitor’s.
- Don’t forget your brand! Remember, we are in part writing for users and brand recognition and brand building is important. Don’t leave out your brand in your titles.
Remember your audience. Again, while titles have their place in SEO, the point is to use them to further attract interaction from your ideal audience. So write for them. This could be a user’s first interaction with your brand so your titles should convey the most accurate insights possible.
Why has Google changed my title tag?
While this can be frustrating for webmasters, there are often legitimate reasons as to why Google hasn’t displayed your allocated title tag. These include…
1.Your meta title is stuffed with SEO driven keywords
As mentioned, you can have too much of a good thing. If you try to stuff your title with keywords you are going to venture into over optimization. Which is common for webmasters who aren’t working with SEO consultants, as there is a fine art to effective SEO strategies that can take time to master. So in this case you, or your dedicated SEO professional will have to revisit and rewrite your titles so they benefit users.
2. Your meta title doesn’t match the user’s query
If your page is shown in the search engine results for a user’s query, but Google determines that your title doesn’t accurately portray your site’s relevance to the user then Google may amend your title for that search/user. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because no one title is going to perfectly match a search. You have short tail search phrases, long tail search phrases, searches that are made by voice and more conversational in nature. Google recognizes your on page content would satisfy a user but maybe not the title. So unless you have genuine improvements to make to your title, this reason is ok.
3. You haven’t specified a title
This can be confusing for webmasters. But on occasion people create pages and believe the page title is a meta title which isn’t the case. You would need to go in and update your meta title in this instance.
What is a meta description tag?
Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that appear as a brief summary of a web page. Like meta titles they are not seen on the web page by the user, rather in search engine results and social media. The meta description appears in search below the URL.
Here is a meta description tag example from our website.
Are meta description tags ranking factors and important for SEO?
Meta descriptions along with meta keywords are not SEO ranking factors, this was announced in September of 2009.
So that begs the question, are meta descriptions important for SEO? Yes, absolutely! The goal of any effective SEO campaign is to generate more business through organic search. So if you have well written meta descriptions that increase the click through rate from a brand’s ideal audience then your descriptions are contributing to your SEO success.
How to write meta descriptions optimized for SEO
- Generally your meta description tag length should be around 150-160 characters. However, just as with meta title tags the length is actually measured in pixels, currently up to 920 pixels.
- Meta description best practices dictate each page on your site should have a unique and descriptive description written. You want to avoid having search results that have duplicated descriptions across the board.
- Again, remember that meta description tags are not a ranking factor so do not over optimize with a bunch of keywords. Only use focus words that are relevant to the majority of searches related to your page, so that they can be highlighted for users and push more clicks to the website.
- Include a call to action in your description. This is something that is often overlooked, so let’s cover that in more detail below.
- Use an active voice, that addresses the user directly.
- Make sure your description matches your content. While this may be obvious, it happens on occasion that the description is not related to on page content. It all has to work together.
Why is Google not showing the right meta description tag?
Again while Google ignoring your meta descriptions can be frustrating there is often a reason for it.
1. You haven’t specified a meta description tag.
You will need to investigate this in the source code or on the back end of your site.
2. You recently updated your meta description and Google hasn’t crawled your site yet.
Remember that search engine results are pulled from the last crawl of your website. So if your old description is still showing up this could be why.
3. Your description isn’t as relevant to the user’s query as the on page content.
On occasion Google will pull and highlight on page content in your meta description so that it relates better to the user’s search. In this instance Google’s aim is to assist you get those clicks and as meta descriptions are essentially a suggestion that Google can override. Unless your meta description should be adjusted to be more relevant, in this instance, there isn’t much that should be done.
4. You have multiple meta descriptions on your page
There are instances due to a variety of reasons, that you may have multiple descriptions present on your page. You want to check this in your source code. There are some website platforms that contribute to this, which is one of the many reasons why at Ormi Media we are fans of WordPress website design that allows the easy addition and editing of meta data.
Nail the call to action in your meta description
When it comes to writing meta description tags you must remember the user being the most important factor, not search engines. Consider how you can craft a meta description that compels searchers to not only click through but to take action. Identify the strategy that best works for that particular page. This could include options like “book today”, “call now”, “read more”, “sign up for our free eBook here”. Here is where you really want to drive those value and relevance points home so you can have the best results with your meta description SEO optimization.
Meta title and meta description optimization is a small component of an overall SEO strategy. Being able to craft an effective campaign is overwhelming for many business owners who don’t want to risk damaging their digital footprint by making mistakes. To get your business visible in the search engines to your target audience, for specific searches then get in contact with our SEO consultants to discuss how we can help you with your SEO efforts.