Welcome back to SEO 101! I’m your professor, Sara Noel: website copywriter and SEO nerd. Today’s lesson is all about how to write title tags and meta description!
This lesson will be broken up into two parts:
What is a meta description, why does it matter, and how do I write a good one?
What is a title tag, why does it matter, and how do I write a good one?
If you’re feeling like you need a bit more context about SEO as a whole before we begin, I invite you to take a moment to skim the rest of my search engine optimization series to make sure you’re up to speed about all things SEO.
Make sure to bookmark this post to revisit later if you’re traveling back in time to my older SEO posts!
Good question! A meta description is the HTML attribute that provides a brief summary of the web page. This description is supposed to provide sufficient insight on the content within your website. You know the little descriptions under each web page you see after searching on Google? Bingo!
Meta descriptions are meant to provide readers a little sneak peek of each web page that comes up in a search page result. These descriptions dish out the inside scoop of what each search result consists of. Cool, right?
(Okay, like nerd cool… but still. Also, SERP stands for search engine results page, in case you needed a refresher.)
Essentially, meta descriptions give you a taste of what’s to come when you click on a certain link, and they influence a searcher’s decision to click on said link.
More clicks on your link tells Miss Google that you’re well-liked, which nudges her to move your link up in her SERP. This is how meta descriptions influence click-through rates and, in turn, help you rank higher on Google.
Below are two examples of meta descriptions: one from Pinterest, and one from Instagram. These are both great examples of telling the user exactly what they’re getting into when they click on the site. Like these, your Home page’s meta description will likely be shorter and more general than the other pages of your site.
Now that you know what a meta description is, let’s dive into why the hell you should care, and how to write a good one.
Because Miss Google matters. Everyone and their mother wants to ~rank on Google~ these days. And why wouldn’t they?! Google is the most powerful search engine on the planet. So powerful, in fact, that the word search is literally synonymous with Google.
Not sure if you trust me on that? Google it!
(See what I did there?)
When you are searching for things on Google, you don’t just blindly click on a page link without reading the meta description. You want to know what the general content on the website consists of before clicking on it so you can decide whether or not it’s worth your time.
If your meta descriptions are done right, they’ll read like an invitation to your website, telling your readers “hey, come on in — we have exactly what you’re looking for!”
And because your end goal is more eyes on your content, you’re gonna want to make sure those meta descriptions are doing their job of welcoming people in. Here’s how to do it.
Think of your meta description as a welcome mat. The goal is to make people click on your site. Leave the door cracked open for them by writing meta descriptions that…
Include everything your potential reader needs to know about the page. But keep it between 300-350 characters for optimal performance.
Make them want to click. Sell yourself to your desired audience by enticing them to learn more. Dig deep into the why of your content. Put yourself in their shoes, then ask yourself “why should I care?” and create your meta description as a response to that question.
Use your keywords. I’m hoping you already know this… but those keywords that SEO experts are always talking about? Yeah, this is where you should be using them.
Don’t just use your copy from your website. Google allows you to implement structured data that makes your description more appealing and “beautiful.” This makes it easier for search engines to crawl your website, which will give you an SEO advantage.
Writing a solid meta description is actually very easy. Focus on why your target audience should care and what will make them want to click, you can’t go wrong. Be clear, give context, share relevant data, and you’re golden.
No. You can’t. You’re better than that.
Although meta descriptions will be automatically generated by content sharing systems if you don’t write your own, I promise you: you don’t want to use that. Let’s get real. Technology isn’t perfect, so why would you let a random generator describe all of your the content on your site? Writing your own is the only way to ensure that your meta descriptions are directed toward your ideal audience.
HOT TIP: every single page on your website needs a unique meta description. This SEO essential is not a one-and-done deal; and there’s no copy-and-pasting allowed. Because the content of every page is different, the meta description must be, too.
Make sure your meta description accurately, concisely describes exactly what the user will find when they click the page. You can search whether or not you have duplicate meta descriptions here.
“Cool! Now, is that all I need to know about meta descriptions?”
Nope! There’s one last thing we need to cover before you’re off the hook. Every meta description’s partner in crime: meta title tags.
As the Internet’s favorite SEO bestie Neil Patel says, a meta title is “your page’s message to the world” — this is the title that shows up for each of your website’s pages in search results.
Bestie Neil goes on to say that “the title tag and the meta description together give a brief idea of what your content is about, but the title tag stands out more.” Which brings me to what I assume your question is…
Because meta title tags work with your meta description to provide both search engines and potential site visitors with the context they need in order to classify and click on your page.
Miss Google needs to know what your page is all about so she can decide whether or not to recommend it to her beloved searchers. And, obviously, those searchers want to determine whether your post is worthy of their click.
Writing a meta title is basically the same as writing a headline, but a little bit more refined. Provide context, without being too wordy, but make readers want to click. As long as you have a clear title that is relevant to your page, everyone (aka Google and your readers) will be happy.
Great title tags are…
Short and sweet (which is basically SEO’s love language) — between 30 and 65 characters
Extremely clear (no one wants to guess what your page is about, and if they have to, they won’t click it)
Focused on your main keyword (and make sure the keyword placement is organic)
Title tags should always describe the benefit to the reader. Similar to writing a headline, you want your readers to know exactly what they’re getting into when they click on your page or post.
Below is an example of a title tag from one of Bestie Neil’s blog posts:
This title tells us exactly what the post is about, is short enough to keep our attention. And he even used a power word (Blockbuster) to really reel us in! (Like I said, to learn more about writing great headlines — click here).
Anddd that’s all for today’s lesson, kids! You officially possess all of the information you need in order to create the best meta descriptions for each of your website’s pages. Get ready to get found on Google!
But remember: like any SEO strategy, implementing title tags and meta descriptions are necessary, but it may take a while for you to see a change in your traffic. However, the positive benefits will be long-term once you do begin to see results.
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