When you spend time crafting quality content for your website’s visitors, remember to do the same for search engines — in the form of meta tags.
Meta tags are snippets of code that tell search engines and web crawlers what your web page is about and how it should be displayed in search results.
Also called ‘metadata’, meta tags don’t appear on the web page itself, but only in the page’s source code. They are placed in the <head> section of the HTML document.
Why Are Meta Tags Important For SEO?
Meta tags help search engine crawlers understand and index your content. If search engines clearly recognize what your web page is about, and deem it to be valuable to readers, it is more likely to rank high in search engines.
Therefore, meta tags can be optimized to highlight the important elements of your page, and potentially make your site stand out in search results.
What’s more, you wouldn’t be able to reach your visitors organically without meta tags because search engines use these tags to display snippets of your page in search results.
In this blog post, we’ll look at the two main elements of meta tags: the <title> and <description> elements.
What Is A Meta Title Tag?
A title tag is an HTML element specifying the title of a web page. It is used to tell visitors and search engines what any given web page is about in the most accurate and concise way possible.
<title> Title sample </title>
Here’s an example of how the title tag is displayed in search results:
Importance Of Title Tags in SEO
Meta title tags are the first impressions visitors have of your page and they also help search engines understand what your web page is about.
They Appear In Search Result Pages
As shown in the example earlier, title tags are displayed in search engine result pages (SERPs). They’re essentially your visitor’s first experience of your site, which is why a title can be a make-or-break factor in determining whether someone clicks on your link.
Studies show that writing a captivating and engaging title is one of the three ways to impress Google without knowing much about SEO.
They Appear In Web Browsers
The title tag also appears as a placeholder on the tab of your web browser:
Unique title tags with important keywords help users keep track of content when they have multiple browser tabs open.
They Are Used By Some Social Media Channels
Some external websites and social networks pull your title tag as anchor text when sharing your web page.
For instance, here’s a screenshot from Facebook:
It’s important to mention here that some social networks like Facebook and Twitter allow you to specify your own meta tags that differ from the title tag on your page. This gives you the opportunity to optimize your page for individual networks and provide longer titles where it might be beneficial.
Best Practices When Creating Title Tags
Here are some recommendations on how you can optimize title tags for your usability and search engine goals:
Optimal title length: It’s advised to keep your title under 60 characters because search engines, like Google, usually display the first 50–60 characters of your title tag. However, there isn’t an exact character limit.
Keyword placement: Placing important keywords in the beginning of
your title tag can impact your search engine rankings. This is because people
typically scan the first few words of a title.
However, remember that you can get into trouble for stuffing keywords in your title in a way that creates a bad user experience. Keep it natural and catchy.
Unique: Replicating title tags will negatively impact your search ranking so make sure your title tags are written differently for each page.
Optimal title format: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
Taking advantage of your brand name in the title can help boost click-through rates.
While title tags are essential for SEO, remember that your priority is to attract clicks from targeted visitors, which is why you need to optimize them for users first and then for search engines. It should give users a quick insight into your content; a descriptive yet succinct title is likely to convert.
What Are Meta Descriptions?
A meta description is a summary or short description of what your web page is about. It’s a snippet of information that appears right below the title tag in SERPs.
Meta descriptions give the visitors a clear idea of your page’s content straight from the search results and encourage them to click-through to your website. Needless to say, meta descriptions are an essential part of search marketing.
<meta name=”description” content=”Sample meta description.”>
Why Do Meta Descriptions Matter In SEO?
Boost Click-through Rates
Meta descriptions give you the opportunity to persuade and convince the readers to choose your page over the other 10 blue links in the SERPs—especially if the description includes keywords that the users are searching for.
Even though Google says that meta description isn’t a factor in ranking algorithm, it has an indirect benefit: Search engines use click-through-rate (CTR) to determine if your page is a good result. So, if more people click on your result, the more Google deems it valuable to users, and pushes it higher up in the rank results.
A survey shows that when people were asked which factors had the most impact on their decision to click a search result, 62.9% users responded that it was the meta description.
Increases Visits from Social networks
Social networks like Facebook use “open graph” to display important data on your web page when you share it with others, and this includes your meta descriptions.
So, your meta descriptions don’t just drive organic traffic; they drive social media traffic too!
Characteristics Of Good Meta Descriptions
Let’s look at some good SEO practices for meta descriptions:
Optimal meta description length: According to Google’s Danny Sullivan, there isn’t a fixed length to meta descriptions; it varies based on how “useful” Google considers a meta description. However, it is recommended to stay within the 155-160 characters limit to avoid your description getting cut off in search results.
Write compelling copy: Your meta description drives readers to your website from SERPs; crafting a readable, informative, and valuable description can really improve click-through rate.
Moreover, have you noticed how search engines bold keywords in the description when they match the user’s search query?
The bold text draws the eyes of searchers; so, try to match your descriptions to search intent as closely as possible.
Studies show that meta descriptions, followed by a brand name and page title, has the largest influence over whether people click through on a search result.
Use keywords in your descriptions: Just like meta title tags, placing important keywords in your meta description boosts its click-ability.
Add one or two unique keywords, and make sure they fit in naturally and clearly explain what readers can expect to see when they click on your link.
Provide a solution or benefit. Use action oriented language that creates value by talking about a solution or benefit that your visitor may be interested in.
Note: Sometimes It’s Not Necessary To Write Meta Descriptions
Google can automatically pick the text with a matching search keyword within your content and display it as your meta description.
So, there are times when you don’t need to write a meta description for your article; however, it’s still a good SEO practice.
There are also times when search engines overrule the descriptions provided by the webmaster. Though this occurrence is unpredictable, it usually occurs when Google thinks that the existing meta description doesn’t adequately answers the user’s query. As a result, it identifies a snippet from the page that better matches the searcher’s query and displays it instead.
Image Text: Meta title and meta description
Alt Text: Optimizing meta description for search ranking
Image Description: Driving clicks with meta tags
Summing It Up
Meta tags help both the searchers and search engines. They give webmasters an opportunity to better drive clicks and traffic to their web pages.
Optimized meta title and meta description elements enhance user search experience and thus contribute to higher ranking.
Optimize Your Meta Tags With An All-In-One Website Audit Tool
As soon as you sign up with Rank Genie and enter a URL from a page on your website, it evaluates it for a number of on-page SEO elements, including meta tags, domain elements, internal and external links, site maps and so on.
The tool provides a free website audit report on meta tag errors, recommended length, keyword placement and available optimization tactics that you can implement to improve your web page.