There is no magic formula to ensure your website rises quickly to the top of search engine results pages (SERP).
However there are two elements that can help draw people to your website over your competitors, & that’s your Title Tags (Meta Title) & Meta Descriptions.
Therefore it’s amazing that they tend to be some of the most neglected elements when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Both help establish what your website is all about, to search engines & users.
They can be used to succinctly describe the content of each page & highlight how it will answer the users search query.
When utilised effectively, it can be a terrific way to attract users to your website over fellow competitors.
We will help outline the best practices for both your title & meta descriptions in the hope it will help get your site with more visitors from the SERP.
Title Tags are like the covers of a book when we talk about SEO.
Search engines expect your title tags to include relevant keywords that establish the contents of said web page.
If google doesn’t like your title tag, (doesn’t think it’s relevant) it will likely create one of its own, that will not be to your liking.
Your title tag will be the first thing a user will notice when your result appears in the SERP & your first impression matters!
There are a number of best practices that you should consider following, to optimise all titles throughout your website.
It is commonly accepted that the ideal length for your title tags is between 50 and 65 characters. This will prevent your meta titles from being truncated in the search result snippet, just like in the example below.
Google have never confirmed the optimal length for title tags & there are examples that contradict this theory. However to avoid the dreaded ellipses at the end of your meta title, it’s best to aim for no more than the 60 character mark.
Truncated Meta Title
Another important element is the keywords used within the title itself.
Ensure that you use the most relevant & desired keywords that you wish to rank for, but in a way that is easy to read & interpret for both users & search engines.
In the below example you can see that "MandM Direct" have used "Cheap" & "75% Off" to appeal to users looking a bargain.
A bone of contention has always been whether to include your keywords at the beginning or end of a title tag.
Some people like to include their businesses at the start, particularly if they are a well established & trusted brand.
However in the majority of cases, it tends to be best practice to place your keyword as close to the beginning of the title as often as you can.
You will notice yourself that when researching any topic, the keyword will be present in the first 3 words for the majority of the results that you find on the first page.
It is important to note that keyword stuffing should be avoided. There is no purpose including the same words or phrases several times in a title. It can cause your page to look spammy, which both Google & users will look upon negatively.
Using descriptive keywords in your Meta Titles
Having duplicate title tags, makes it difficult for search engines to establish which page in your website is the most relevant for a particular query.
Outside of duplicate tags, it’s important that your titles don’t appear dull or generic. Google has said that it doesn’t like you naming your pages the likes of “Home”.
If you do, Google may opt to change it to better reflect the contents of the page. Using emotion in your headlines can be a great way to increase your Click Through Rate (CTR).
Words such as “Learn”, “Save” & “Discover” are just a few examples that can help users click on your website over a fellow competitors.
Although users want compelling titles, it’s worth noting that if a title veers into click bait territory, they’re going to click on something else. Examples of words to avoid “FREE (In capitals)” & “#1”.
Using emotive language in your meta titles
Title Tags play a crucial role in your organic performance & optimising them can do wonders for your CTR (clickthrough rate).
Whereas the Meta Titles represented the covers of a book, the best way to describe meta descriptions would be the blurb on the back.
They will offer a summary of what the user will expect to find before they click on your link from the SERP.
In September 2009 Google announced that meta descriptions do not factor into Google’s ranking signals.
However that does not mean that they should simply be dismissed as unimportant; meta descriptions will play a role in the CTR of your site.
It’s important to craft a compelling description, using a variety of relevant keywords as well as emotive language to help your content stand out amongst your competitors.
Meta descriptions are essentially the only free advertising space you will get on the web.
Therefore use them to sell the content to a prospective audience and encourage them to click through to the website.
Much like with the Meta Titles, below we will outline some of the best ways to optimise your meta descriptions.
When someone enters a particular search query, any words that are present within the meta description will be in bold on the SERP.
Obviously with the text in bold, it will catch the attention of users, which in turn will make them more inclined to click through on your result, not only because it is more eye-catching but also if gives users the impression that you will have the answer to their query.
This emphasises the importance of keyword research when it comes to identifying common search terms as well as the user’s intent.
Search query terms are highlighted in bold
There is no exact limit to your meta description, however Google begins to truncate after the 150 character mark.
It’s important to strike a fine balance between this character limit & long enough that it contains enough information to provide value & drive clicks.
Duplicate meta descriptions on different pages mean a lost opportunity to use more relevant keywords.
Also, duplicate meta descriptions make it difficult for search engines and users to differentiate between different web pages.
We recommend investing time to ensure that meta descriptions for all pages on the website are created and optimised correctly.
Pay particular attention to the meta description for your home page as that is the one which is likely to be seen the most.
The guidelines we outlined for use of emotive language within Meta Titles should be carried forward to your Meta Descriptions, in order to entice people to click your links. Similar to the example from New Balance below, with words like "Explore" & "Discover".
Using emotional language in your meta descriptions
The meta keywords tag USED to be an important element of a page’s meta data to optimise with relevant keywords, however in recent years Google have confirmed they no longer take the meta keywords tag into account when crawling a website.
In fact, use of this tag is now considered to be spammy, and also can give competitors an insight into the keywords you’re targeting as part of your SEO strategy.
If you currently have any Meta Keywords present on your website, we recommend removing them.
We hope you found use from our guide on meta tags & you can begin applying the practices on your own websites. If you would like to speak further about optimising your own website for search engines, get in touch with one of our SEO experts for a free consultation.
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