Understanding title tags and meta descriptions

Understanding title tags and meta descriptions

Understanding title tags and meta descriptions

Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO as it’s more commonly known, is the process of affecting how a website or web page appears on a search engine result page (SERP). The use of SEO techniques can increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a higher ranking placement on the results page of search engines - including Google, Bing and Yahoo.

So, where do we start? Well, let's take a look at Meta tags. Meta tags are an important part of the HTML code on a web page and critical to SEO. They provide information that describes the content of a web page, and allows search engines to decide which results are relevant to show based on a given search query. In this article we will focus on title and meta description tags, two of the most important tags to consider when increasing your ranking placement.

Title Tag

The title tag defines the title of a web page and provides an accurate and concise description of its content. Title tags are considered to be one of the best ‘return on investment’ SEO techniques because with relatively low effort you can make a huge impact to the SERP.

The title tag is located in the head section of your web page.

Suggested title tag format:

Primary Keyword - Secondary Keyword | Brand Name

Once you've defined your title tag, you'll notice that the contents of that tag are displayed in two key places:

Internet Browser - Title tags appear on the top of a browser window or a tab.

SEO Browser Title Tag

Search Results Page - Search engines display title tags on their results pages just above the URL.

SEO Title Tag Example

The title tag is often the first piece of information that is seen by potential visitors, so it’s important to use high-quality titles when you optimise your web page. Here are a few tips for creating the perfect title tag:

Make it unique - each page should use a different title tag.

Keep it short - exceeding 70 characters may cause your title to display incorrectly on a SERP.

Include keywords - the use of keywords, especially at the beginning of the title, will give it greater visibility and hopefully a higher click-through rate. However, be careful not to overuse keywords as some search engines will penalized you for 'keyword overcrowding'.

Brand awareness - Some search engines recommend that titles include a brand. Consider using your site name at the beginning or end of the title, separated from the rest of the title using a hyphen, colon, or pipe.

Remember, if your title isn't relevant to the content on the page then you're heading in the wrong direction. Try and use a title that you would expect to find on a SERP based on keywords you'd use to find your web page.

Meta Description

Meta description tags are important in attracting a click-through from the SERP. Although they don’t directly affect your search engine ranking, they are an opportunity to advertise the content of the page to potential visitors. The main aim here is to 'sell' the content of your page in just a few sentences.

Just like the title tag, the meta description is located in the head section of your web page's HTML code.

A meta description appears directly below the page title and URL on a SERP, as seen below.

SEO Meta Description Example

Every web page should have a meta description, and if you don't write your own then a search engine will write one for you by pulling information from its content. Here are a few tips for creating the perfect meta description:

Make it unique - the description should be unique to the content of the page.

Length is important - make sure your description is between 150-160 characters.

Include keywords - keywords matching the users query will appear in bold and therefore draw attention to your result and increase your chances of click-through.

Experiment - don't be afraid to experiment a little to see what works best for your web page. It's all about getting that all important click-through, and sometimes trial and error can help steer you in the right direction.

It's also worth mentioning that some open source Content Management Systems such as WordPress provide built in solutions or plugins to provide access to create and edit title tags and meta descriptions. We will be focusing on WordPress SEO in an upcoming article.

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