SEO From Home #1: Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

Dylan ZsigraySEO

screenshot of Google search engine result page

A Commonly Overlooked Aspect of Optimizing Your Pages

I have conducted many SEO audits over the years for many websites. Two items that frequently appear during audits are missing title tags and meta descriptions on pages. These two aspects are crucial in your quest to increase your presence and rankings on Google. Luckily, they are easy to write and add to your website. Moreover, they will automatically help your site become friendlier with search engines.

Google has 200+ factors it takes into consideration when ranking websites. While some of these ranking factors are known & confirmed, most have been the result of years of data analysis and website updates by marketers. Through trial and error, we have a pretty good idea of what Google is looking for when it comes to putting a site within the top-ten rankings.

In short, Google wants to rank websites that will answer a searcher’s question or provide the necessary information. Google wants your site to be the expert that the searchers are looking for. You gain legitimacy with users and Google when you have great content on your site.

Title tags and meta descriptions, shorthanded as “titles and metas,” are a part of this. In this blog, we will go over how to add these to your site following the industry’s best practices.

Title Tags “Tag” Your Page With Relevant Keywords

We see or read title tags each day, even if we did not know there is a term for them. A title tag is a 50-60 character line of text that describes to users and Google alike what content is on your page, in the form of keywords.

You can find title tags in three places: your page’s code, your web browser’s tab, and a Google SERP (search engine result page).

First, in your page’s code, there is a section that contains your title tag. In the photo below, you can see that the title tag lies between two “title” brackets.

title tag in the page code
Second, your web browser displays a page’s title tag within a tab. The length displayed varies depending on how many tabs you have open at a given moment.

title tag in browser tab
Lastly, on SERPs, title tags start each search result.

title tag on Google search results page
Title tags show both searchers and Google what your page is about. Google utilizes title tags to look for keywords and to subsequently rank results. Then, as a user scrolls down a SERP, he or she is glancing at the result titles to try to find the result to click on. So, your title tag needs to stand out among the rest.

Depending on which CMS you use to edit your website, there may be default title tags in-place at are not doing much good for you. For example, your “About Us” page might have a title tag that reads “About Us | Company ABC.” This default tag needs to be replaced with a unique tag that represents the page’s content.

When writing a title tag, keep in mind that they need to fall between 50-60 characters in length. If they are too long, they will get cut-off by Google on SERPs. If they are too short, they will not give you any SEO juice.

To write a terrific title tag, first look at the two primary keywords you are targeting for your page based on keyword opportunities you have identified. Then, format your title tag as follows:

Primary Keyword, Secondary Keyword | Company Name

It is as simple as that! Copy the new title tag and paste it into the applicable section in your page’s editor. Each CMS has a different structure, so you may have to consult Google if you cannot find exactly where a title tag goes.

If you would like to learn more about title tags and the role they play with SEO, check out Moz’s great guide within their “2020 SEO Best Practices” section.

Meta Descriptions “Describe” What Your Page Is About

A meta description is a 135-160 character passage of text that describes the essence of the content on your page. However, a meta description is not a summary. The goal of a page’s meta description is to show what a page is about and to compel people to click the link. Relevant CTAs (calls-to-action) accomplish the latter.

You can find meta descriptions in two places. First, a page’s code contains the description, just like it contains the title tag.

meta description in the page code
Second, on SERPs, meta descriptions fall beneath the title tag.

meta description on Google search results page
Between the two locations, a meta description’s presence on SERPs is so important. A user does not see all of the content on your page when scrolling through Google. As such, you have to present the gist of your page and compel the user to “read more.”

Just like with title tags, know which keywords you wish your page to rank for before writing a meta description. After, spend the first 135 characters (more or less) describing the content of your page. For example, Spark Creative’s homepage meta description starts with:

“Spark Creative works with sole proprietorships and small to mid-sized businesses in Cleveland to help ignite brands with our sparks.”

Then, with your remaining characters compel the user to click the link with an engaging CTA. You want your CTA to be action-based. For example, “Get in touch today!” or “Read more in our blog!” are great examples of engaging CTAs.

Aim for your meta descriptions to be less than 160 characters. Why? Well, Google tends to cut off descriptions on SERPs longer, so you may have your CTA — which is important — cut off!

Writing meta descriptions takes practice! You can learn more and follow the industry’s best practices in Moz’s educational guide.

Watch out for Keyword Stuffing

While writing title tags and meta descriptions is fairly straightforward as you write more and more, be sure not to “keyword stuff.”

This is an old practice that Google severely penalizes. Keyword stuffing refers to adding your keyword a multitude of times on your page in nonsensical places, such as hidden text within a text box (think of white text on a white background). Or, the keyword placement is unnatural and does not flow with your site’s copy.

Google wants all of your content — title tags and meta descriptions included — to be natural. So, include your keywords in a sensible, natural matter throughout your content.

Boost Your SEO From Home

Title tags and meta descriptions are just two aspects of SEO that you can update while working from home. Just optimizing a few pages each day can have profound effects on your search engine rankings! Over the next few weeks, Spark Creative will be publishing more guides for SEO that you can use to your advantage during this time.

Stay healthy and safe, everyone!

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