If you have ever used a search engine such as google then you have seen thousands of meta titles and meta descriptions. They are the first things you see when you search for literally anything. Despite this, businesses often underestimate the importance of them as they don’t directly improve your ranking in search engine results pages (SERP). What we mean by this is that Google doesn’t use them in their ranking algorithm that determines where you rank. However, they do use your CTR as a measure and meta titles and descriptions can improve your CTR. Hence, why they ARE important and why we’ve written this guide on how to write yours!
To clarify what both of these look like on Google, refer to our lovely beans on toast example below.
Now you know what we are talking about, we will go into more detail about each of these and what things you should be considering when constructing your own.
Meta Titles – What are they?
They are a HTML element to your website that give search engines and users a brief insight into what your page is about. What you’ve seen above is how it looks on Google. This is what your Meta title should look like in the <head> section of your sites HTML.
This is important as it helps Google when crawling your website. The first thing Google will come across is your <title>. From this the search engine knows what your page is about. So, when a user searches something specific to your page, Google will know that your page is useful; putting your page in the running to appear in their search results. Bingo! The better your meta title, the more chance you have of relevant searchers seeing and visiting your page, improving your CTR. Which leads us nicely to…
Our Tips for Your Meta Title
1) Use your focus keyword
You should use your focus keyword in your meta titles, but don’t over-do it and repeat them. This is important because if you repeat your keyword it will look spammy to the reader and the search engine. This is known as keyword stuffing and is what we call a ‘black hat’ SEO practice. It makes your title off-putting to the searcher, making them less likely to click through to your page. Make sure that your title is specific to your web page, relevant to Google AND the searcher’s query.
2) Must be engaging
The first thing the searcher will see if you appear in their search results is your meta title. Therefore it is essential that your meta title engages the searcher. If your title does engage the reader, there is a higher chance they will click through to your site. A good way to think about this is to put yourself into their shoes. When writing your meta title think, ‘would you click on the link?’ If the answer is yes, then chances are you have an engaging meta title!
3) Make them sufficiently long, but don’t waffle
The cut off length on Google for your Meta title is 70 characters. Any more and the rest of your title is replaced with (…). Due to this, it is advised that you’re meta title should be between 50-60 characters long. However, if your title doesn’t need to be long then don’t make it long for the sake of it. It is also good practice to structure your meta titles the same and where possible have your company brand on each link. For example, we always sign off our meta titles with ‘|BAK Digital‘ whenever possible.
4) Make each title unique and specific
This is especially important. Even if the content of two different pages is similar, make sure they have notably different meta title. This ensures that google and visitors to your website know there is a difference in content. Also, bear in mind specificity. You should try to make your meta title specific to the search terms. What we mean by this is think about what your target audience might search. Imagine your target audience is people looking for cakes. They may search on Google ‘best place to buy cakes near me’. If your title was ‘Looking for the best place to buy cakes? – You’ve just found it’ your title would be very specific to their search terms. Therefore you have more chance of appearing in their result pages.
Meta Descriptions – What are they?
As you’ve seen in the first diagram, your meta description is a snippet of text that appears underneath your meta title on SERP. You want readers to be interested in what you have to offer and you want Google to understand what your page is about. A great way to achieve that is through a gripping meta description.
Like the meta title, your meta description is a HTML tag that doesn’t directly improve your ranking on SERP. However, having a gripping meta description can improve your CTR. The higher your click through rate, the higher quality your page is deemed to be by Google. Therefore you would have indirectly improved your ranking.
Our Tips for Your Meta Description
1) Don’t dwell on your character length
You shouldn’t be focusing too much on the length of your description, more the purpose of your page and giving a brief answer to the search query. Making sure the searcher knows what your page is about is incredibly important. Simply because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t click through to your page. Giving a brief answer to the search query is important, but there’s more to the meta description than that. On one hand, giving the searcher a brief answer to their query in your snippet may entice them into reading more, and the only way they can do that is by clicking your post. Great! You’ve got that all important click. This is useful on more complex queries. On the other hand, for many searchers the meta description provides the information they need, so they wouldn’t have to click through. You may be thinking, ‘Why would we want that?’ and the reason is you may improve your ranking.
2) Include a Call-to-Action (CTA)
Consider your meta description an invitation to your webpage with the aim to increase clicks. If you have a CTA in the invitation people are much more likely to be interested and visit your page. Phrases that spring to mind are; ‘learn more’, ‘Find out how’, ‘Read on now’. Try some of these out in your meta descriptions and see if they help improve your CTR.
3) Must match the contents of your page
This is especially important for your usability. For example, if your meta description said that your page was about dogs, but it was actually about houses, your user eXperience would be low. This would increase your bounce rate and the chances are they wouldn’t return to your site. This is because the trust between you and your audience has been damaged, exactly the opposite of what we want to achieve!
4) Should contain your focus keyword
Making sure that your focus keyword is in your meta description is important as it gives Google another indication into what your page is about. Now, putting your focus keyword into your meta description won’t magically shoot you to the top of the results. However, when someone searches something related to your focus keyword, Google will at least put you in the running for appearing in their SERP. As long as your page is of good quality of course…
5) Your time is worth more than your meta description
What we are referring to here is that you shouldn’t be spending too much time on your meta description. The quality of your actual webpage is much more important! As of Googles 2017 update we mentioned earlier, they basically choose whatever they want for your meta description. They will crawl your page based on the searchers query and pull the most accurate meta description they can from your webpage to answer that specific query. Therefore, if your webpage is of high quality, Google will provide a good meta description regardless of the one you have written.
From reading the point above you may be sat there thinking well, ‘do I spend time on it, or don’t I? I’m kind of getting mixed messages here…’ Even though Google may change your meta description you should still spend some time on it. Bearing in mind what your perfect search term is so that you can match it! Which leads me to my final point…
6) Like your meta title, your description must be unique and specific
Your meta description must be unique for the same reason your title needs to be. It needs to tell the reader and Google what your page is about. Even if the content is similar, it’s important to differentiate between pages. Think about who is going to be reading your post, they need to know exactly what your page is about otherwise, why would they click your page? Also, think specifically about your target audience and what they are going to be searching. This way you can tailor your meta description to answer their query.
Hopefully through reading this you’ve realised that your meta titles and meta descriptions are something that you should not overlook. Even though they don’t directly improve your rank on SERP, and Google might not even use the meta description you have written, you should consider our tips when writing yours. Combine this with a high quality page and you’re on the road to search engine success!