It amazes me how many websites have awful page titles and even worse meta descriptions. This really hits hard when you realize that someone has made an attempt at SEOing the site. Doh! When discussing the absolute basics of search engine optimization, implementing well written (and keyword specific) page titles and meta descriptions is a MUST. While there are arguments to how these items affect rankings, the real prize is increased click-through rates and traffic.
What Are Page Titles and Meta Descriptions?
Page titles are the content placed between the <title> </title> HTML tags in the “head” section in your website’s code. Each page should have a page title – even if it’s just a default setting. Once you’ve placed the text of your choosing into this code, it will appear at the top of your web browser like this (example from SEOBoy blog post):
The meta description is another piece of code found in the “head” section of each page of your website. The meta description is intended to be a brief description of your web page’s content. Here’s the meta description from the same blog post:
<meta name=”description” content=”"You have to really try if you want to make some new friends,” I remember my mother saying after a …” />
When these two elements come together in the SERPs, they look a little something like this:
Why Should I Care About Page Titles and Meta Descriptions?
According to Search Engine Journal, effective page titles increase click-through rates and help you to achieve higher rankings. Need further proof? Keyword-rich page titles were in the top 10 ranking factors according to an SEOmoz survey of SEO professionals. When you consider that page titles are the most prominent optimization change you’ll ever make to your website, it helps to put them into perspective.
What about the lowly meta description? Google has this to say on the Webmaster Central Blog:
We frequently prefer to display meta descriptions of pages (when available) because it gives users a clear idea of the URL’s content.
This post also goes on to say that while meta descriptions improve click-through – “…they won’t affect your ranking within search results.” In otherwords, don’t stuff the meta description with keywords in hopes of moving up the SERPs. This is your chance to write an enticing description for that page of your website and to improve a user’s search experience.
How Can I Write The Best Page Titles and Meta Descriptions?
Become a professional copy-writer and get some professional marketing training. Or… use common sense! I like to think of the page title/meta description relationship like a PPC ad text. All of the same rules apply:
- Write a clear, concise headline (page title) that contains your targeted keywords.
- Write about the content/product/service clearly defining the benefit to the user and include a call-to-action in the body (meta description).
- Throughout, wherever you insert your targeted keywords, they will be bolded in the search results.
- Keep to the generally agreed upon character limits for both the page title and meta description (generally speaking… page titles at 66 characters, meta descriptions at 150 characters – but these fluctuate in the SERPs).
Something else that you need to consider is that every page on your website should have a unique page title and meta description. None of this “default setting” crap. Have you ever heard of duplicate content or keyword cannibalization?
If you can use solid judgment and write your page titles and meta descriptions for the end-user, you’ll do just fine. Be clear, utilize your targeted keywords and include the benefits of your content/product/service. It’s as simple as that. Does anybody else have any tips or tricks you’d like to add to this discussion? If so, leave me a comment!