11th February 2015
How to optimise your META Title Tag and Description
Search engine rankings
Firstly, it’s important to understand that the Meta Title and Description will have an impact on ranking position as they are an important part of googles algorithms. It has been suggested this isn’t the case, but some recent tests we ran found that optimising the Meta Title and Description did impact the ranking of those webpages. SEO is often about being obvious with keywords. Search engines use the title tag as an indicator of what is on the page so you need to match up keywords that describe what is on the page with the popular and relevant search terms that people use to find pages like yours. Avoid keyword stuffing, i.e. using the keyword four times in a sentence, for instance, as Google could penalise this practice if it thinks you are trying to manipulate the META tags to gain rankings.
Make sure the title tag is relevant to the page’s content for people as well as for crawlers. If someone has searched with a chosen keyword they will expect the title they click on to reflect relevant content. Don’t disappoint or mislead – or your bounce rate will increase which we have found impacts your SEO.
Size Is Important For Titles
Title tags and descriptions should form a complete message before Google cuts it off. Title tags that are clear and coherent generate a higher CTR. If your title tag is too long, or a bad description of the page, Google may choose to use content from your page, anchor text pointing to the page or DMOZ instead. In fact, one of our client’s homepage Meta Title and Description was being grabbed from LinkedIn, and it was a company of the same name based in Australia and not even them! So make sure your title is readable and unique for each page.
Good advice is to keep the Title tag between 55 to 60 characters and description around 155 characters. In fact Google made some changes last year when the font size for the title was increased from 16px to 18px and underlining was removed. The new size meant fewer characters could fit before being truncated, so do try and keep abreast of any changes that may impact your tags.
Snippets To Remember
META titles and descriptions will also affect your click-through rates from the Google search results through to a page. These snippets are effectively your ‘elevator pitch’ – your first attempt at engaging with a customer to make an impression and explain what your website is offering. We have seen a website that ranked third, get more ‘click throughs’ than a site that ranked first, just because their snippets were much more engaging. Sense check your META by looking at it as if you were a potential customer, as well as a crawler.
Do place the strongest keyword as close to the beginning of the title’s sentence as possible – it exerts more influence nearer the start. If you want a brand name in the title tag – unless it is likely a brand name that people seek out – put it at the end of the title tag – so that’s probably applicable to most SMEs.
Improving CTRs will not only bring more convertible traffic to your site but will also impact your overall SEO as ‘popularity’ of pages is a factor in ranking algorithms. It really is a win-win exercise. We often test different titles and descriptions for our clients, monitoring click through success rates in Google Analytics, on a monthly basis.
As a consideration to leave you with, think of it in this context – companies spend hours agonising over the design of their website and how it looks, feels and communicates their key messages. Despite this, a great proportion of people judge websites purely by the simple blue, green and grey Google search results, and never click through any further because those companies simply haven’t thought hard enough about their Meta Title and Description. So we strongly advise that you make it a key part of your website marketing and a subject of on-going review.
For advice on all best practices for SEO, please contact Varn.