Page Titles and Meta-tag Descriptions Are Critical for SEO
By: Ryan Jones
One of the main SEO factors that we see overlooked most often is carefully constructed page titles and meta-tag descriptions. Page titles in particular are critical for Google to understand what the overall message or theme of the page is. It is still a significant part of Google’s algorithm, and it should not be ignored. If you are working within WordPress (if you’re not, you probably should be), then the Yoast SEO plugin is a must-have. This plugin allows you to independently administer page titles without impacting the code or navigation labeling. In addition, the Yoast plugin analyzes posts and pages for all of the top level SEO elements that Google is looking for. It also provides a “preview” of what the snippet will look like on Google’s search results pages.
Some basic rules for writing page titles:
- Keep them concise. Titles should be 67 characters or fewer to prevent title from being truncated
- Concisely and accurately describe what the page content is about in the title
- Weight the front of the page title with important keywords and end with brand
- DO NOT stuff the page title with multiple keywords you want to target. Remember, ultimately humans have to click on your listing in Google
- View the page title as a headline for an ad. Write something compelling, but don’t use trickery or gimmicks to fool users into clicking
The next element that we need to be mindful of as digital marketers is the meta-tag description. This is the content that populates the search results listing below the page title(blue text) and after the URL on Google’s search results page. Though meta-tag descriptions are not necessarily a ranking factor, they are an important part of digital marketing and SEO. The description further outlines the page’s content and can be leveraged as a call-to-action to get users to click. This is also integrated into the Yoast SEO plugin. The character limit is 155 characters which is a very short amount of space to communicate an idea, so think carefully when crafting your meta-tag descriptions.
Best practices for meta-tag description writing.
- Again, be concise. You only have 155 characters and you do not want your marketing message to be truncated with the dreaded ellipses
- Further describe what the page is about and sell the user
- Create a call to action
- View the meta-tag description as the sub-header of an ad
- Do not stuff with keywords
- Write in plain language and avoid overuse of fluffy adverbs or adjectives that occupy valuable space
Depending on the platform your web site was built on, some will be easier than others in regards to administering page titles and descriptions. We are obviously big WordPress fans and especially love the Yoast SEO plugin. Some platforms we have seen also have a “keyword” meta-tag field. We do not recommend utilizing that field for the following reasons:
1) Google has not considered the “keyword” tags as a ranking factor since about 2003. They realized realized early on that site operators were simply stuffing these tags with keywords to siphon traffic off search queries that may not have any relationship to their product or service.
2) Filling in the keyword meta-tag information telegraphs to your competition what keywords you are targeting. Any savvy marketer can simply pull up the source code of your website and see what keywords you are targeting.
View your page titles and meta-tag descriptions as elements of an ad and always fill them out completely. If not, Google is going to construct a snippet for you from various elements of your webpage, and that is not an ideal scenario. If you provide helpful, accurate page titles and descriptions, Google will generally use them to construct your listing on the search results page.
Contact CMP to learn more about our SEO Services and other on-site ranking factors with Google.