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27 April 2015
Great meta titles and descriptions won’t propel your website to the top of page one in Google, but they are more important than a lot of people realise.
For a long time now, meta titles and descriptions have been largely ignored in favour of writing killer content peppered with high performing keywords. Nobody thought about the meta data too much because Google repeatedly said that meta titles and descriptions had no effect on organic search engine rankings.
So if we take what Google says to heart, we can forget about writing creative meta titles and descriptions for our websites, right?
Actually, no: from an SEO perspective, a well-written meta description is pretty important. Meta descriptions and titles affect user behaviour and therefore play an impact in search engine performance, albeit in an indirect way – and here’s how.
Meta titles are the blue titles that you see within a search results page. Search engine robots read the meta title, but so do people, so you need to cater for both parties when writing a meta title for your web page.
Meta descriptions are HTML tags that provide users with a short description of what they can expect to see when they click on the page. If you perform a search for information on a particular topic, Google (or whatever search engine you use) will display a list of websites it thinks are a good match for your search query. The meta description provides the first opportunity to engage with a potential visitor – it is essentially the front door to your website.
It is important to correctly name the page and use appropriate keywords in the meta title. This doesn’t mean you should ram as many keywords into the title as possible, but it is good SEO practice to use important keywords that are reflected in content elsewhere on your website. Meta titles also need to be meaningful and descriptive, so readers know what the page is all about before they click through.
The same applies to meta descriptions. Web users read the short descriptions when searching for information or products, so the more well-written your descriptions are the better. Meta descriptions have a big influence on click-through rate. When faced with a page of search results, a user will use the descriptions below each website link to work out whether it is worth visiting the website.
If your website is at #5 in the page rankings, but your meta description is creative, descriptive and intriguing, a user might decide to look at your website before checking out the websites at #1-4 in the results. And the more often someone clicks through to your site, the better it is for your traffic volume.
Meta titles need to be no more than 55 characters long. Avoid using any punctuation apart from vertical bars and use keywords in order of importance. For example: “Luxury Hotel | Boutique Hotel in Yorkshire”.
Meta descriptions should be around 130 – 155 characters long. You can write more, but the search engines will truncate the extra characters. The most important information should be in the first 60 characters. Always write unique meta descriptions, or Google will send you a warning via Webmaster Tools.
If you don’t write a meta description for a page, the search engine will extract text from the page and use that instead. When a website has hundreds of pages some webmasters find it easier to leave out a meta description, however it’s not really recommended. A meta description can encourage a potential customer to click on your link, so do you really want to leave it to the search engines or social sharing sites to use the first text that they see?
Writing meta descriptions can be a time consuming task for many websites that contain hundreds of web pages. Our team specialise in creating unique meta descriptions that are designed to perform well against other competing search results. If you would like to find out more, get in touch with us today.