Meta data and tags have always been important. In the not-to-distant past, the content contained within all the meta description tags had a direct bearing on rankings for any page. Doing research on keyword phrases in current use and then stuffing keywords into the Description was the norm. Exact-match keyword phrases targeted into the page content was normal practice! Repetition was advised, and branding had not yet been invented… The page Title tag and meta Descriptions length has always been an issue – and Google often adjusts what they want to display. Often site owners set and forget, leaving themselves exposed to Google automatically adjusting the tags and data displayed. If that’s still the case on your site, an website audit will quickly reveal the issue.
Title tags are the single most important component of on-page SEO that you have direct control over. With great power comes great responsibility… Therefore, you need to use them wisely. The catch is that really effective page names require a thorough comprehension of both search engine optimisation and keyword research methodology.
Google et al assess the title tags to ascertain the relevance of your pages to a person’s search. Obviously, this is a high-stakes game so accuracy is critical. The content is not directly visible in a page’s body text but is displayed in two different ways.
- In search result pages, it provides a concise outline of the web page’s content. This helps searchers decide if your page has what they’re searching for. the “headline” on the SERP display is what you click to go to a listed page.
- When you open a web page, the title tags are visible if you hover your mouse pointer over the page’s tab at the top of your web browser window.
A good meta title is the first thing a searcher sees on SERP results pages, so it presents a great opportunity to affect click-through rates. This is a double-edged sword…
- A well-crafted and accurate (relevant to the content) page name will improve your search positions, so it’s well worth the effort of writing it carefully.
- Conversely, if you’ve no idea what you are doing, you can easily have the opposite outcome…
You do need to understand the concept of user intent in order to choose and use the appropriate keywords that indicate that your page does indeed have content relevant to their search.
SEO title vs. page title
- The page title is the one that you add when creating your pages or posts and it’s normally within a <H1> heading</H1>.
- The meta title is the SEO title in SEO plugins such as Yoast and All In One SEO.
Traditionally, the old-school SEO tactic was to be brief with the page name but expand the SEO meta title with extra keywords for rankings traction. That’s no longer the best practice due to those over-optimization efforts, and doing so now might get your pages and or website pinged by a spam filter in 2023.
Think about it – if you don’t want to show the same content to search engines and your readers, you are working against the new ethos of writing for human readers.
References: Ranktracker – how to create compelling tags
The meta description tag
My, oh my – how things change… these days, an SEO meta Description:
Where descriptions are missing, all is not lost. If you have a page with a lot of helpful content that is likely to be searched for by varying phrases, Google may extract a relevant section of text from the page to use as the Description. Further, that auto-generated Description will be pertinent to the search phrase used by the searcher. In other words, Google is able to display context-sensitive Descriptions based on the search query! That’s smart!
A great meta Description is also used by social media search engines and are included in structured data, Open Graph and Twitter cards if that functionality is active on your website.
<meta name="description" content="Sitemap lists all pages and posts on TheSEOguy.co.nz"/>
The Sales Pitch Description
In more tightly focused pages, it is most useful to carefully write a “sales pitch” meta Description, unique to that specific page. Meta Descriptions have no bearing on search engine optimisation per se. Still, a well-written and compelling “sales pitch” may encourage the searcher to follow your link when reading it in the search engine results pages. You should always write meta descriptions with care and attention to best practise. This boosts your click-through rate and may result in enquiries and sales.
If you wondered “Are meta descriptions important in 2023?” – I can say that they most certainly are. A relevant, original and unique Description will be displayed “as is” in the SERPs shown to the searcher, allowing you to control what’s displayed. Therefore, there are at least four common approaches to generating meta Description tags;
Basically, organic search engine optimisation services ensure you have a unique, concise and accurate summary of the page within 170 characters because that is about all Google will show in SERPs results for any given page! Any longer and it’s going to get truncated or replaced with something Google thinks is better! Actually, that 170 is an approximation as Google uses pixel width as their measurement, and font variations and sizes makes that very hard to calculate.
The requires the abilty to take a series of words, meld them into a coherent string with several relevant keywords AND make it interesting, free of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.. This requires more than a passing acquaintance with the English language…
Bearing in mind that the searcher reading the SERP (search result page) is your target, and you need to make them understand that your page contains exactly what they need and that you have all the answers…
- Include a variation of the primary keyword phrase early in the Description
- Make a compelling sales pitch that persuades the viewer that THIS page has what he/she wants
- Avoid repetition, use a synonym instead.
- Avoid repetition of the “Branding” elements
- Don’t use capitals as emphasis
- Check for punctuation, grammar and spelling errors!
- If you can, get in a call to action; Contact us for details, Read more etc.
- Check for duplicate meta descriptions – important for SEO, 2 is one too many and some design themes add data that they should not!
The Importance of the Meta Description Tag
You will often hear or read people saying “Don’t waste your time with the Descriptions, they are not important any more!“
That’s only true of Descriptions in the context of SEO and rankings per se. Apparently, Google no longer counts them among the elements that influence rankings. That said, Google goes on to explain the importance of Descriptions in encouraging higher click-through rates!
Therefore, Descriptions are just as important as ever, but for different reasons!
As outlined previously, there are multiple approaches to handling Descriptions across your website, and it may well be that a combination of options 1, 3 and 4 are the best. For example
- None on complex multi-faceted pages
- Manual/custom meta descriptions on tightly focused pages
- Auto-generated on posts/pages where you’ve taken pains to write an introductory sentence to the page
Page last updated on Saturday, October 14, 2023 by the author Ben Kemp