The title and description of each webpage is an integral part of your SEO strategy. Not only does Google use this information to categorize and prioritize your page, but users read this information to decide on their own if search results are relevant. Thus, these lines of description could be some of the most important parts of your entire webpage. So put some thought into these and don’t just fill these out quickly!
Where do users see meta data?
Meta information summarizes your website, however it is shared or found. The meta title and a meta description appear…
On search engine results:
On web browsers:
And on social media blurbs when a page is shared:
Are users my only audience?
As with anything on your website, you are writing for readers – but also for scanning bots. Your title and descriptions need to sound good to your readers, but also be relevant and helpful for Google as it scans your page. Google prefers sites where the meta information matches what is on the page (literally, where words are the same). You are rewarded for clarity and relevance. You are also rewarded for specificity. Say exactly what is on your page for best search results.
Length matters – sorta
Best practice says:
- Keep meta titles under 60 characters.
- Keep meta descriptions at 120-158 characters.
That said, there actually isn’t an exact character limit on these lines. You’re just trying to ensure that your titles and descriptions can be fully read on any device (some screens will show more words than others). Often, Google cuts them off at the above limits, but other times, Google will show entire paragraphs of descriptions. So feel free to go beyond the character limits, but ensure the title and description still make sense if they are cut off at 60 or 150.
Clean and Organized: A Suggested format
An easy way to include information but also help your site look organized and helpful is to follow a standard and use visual cues. At ALINE, we often use the line key to separate titles from company names. For example, this title has the page name, followed by company:
Meta Data Best Practices | ALINE Marketing
To follow this format, simply put a detailed name of the site (instead of “About,” say “About our marketing company,” then use the “|” key, followed by the name of your company. If your company name can be shortened, use the full name in some pages, and the shortened name in others.
For many clients, geo-targeting is a key component of SEO. If your clients are local, you need to be found by local customers. So include location terms whenever possible in both meta titles and meta descriptions. For example:
Title: SEO Best Practices in Spartanburg | ALINE
Description: ALINE, A Marketing Company, offers advice for search engine optimization for businesses and nonprofits in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Sneak in keywords
It can be tempting to be sleek and simple when naming your pages: About, Location, etc. That policy is great for website navigation, but not so great for meta information. Adding identified keywords can help improve search.
For example, if you have a SERVICES page, don’t give it the title “Services” without explaining what you offer. You can add quite a few keywords in to explain your services. For example:
Don’t: Services | ALINE
Do: Marketing and Website Design Services | ALINE Spartanburg
It’s OK to be a bit salesy or include a CTA (but be authentic!)
When users read meta descriptions, they’re often scanning several search results. How can you make yours stand out? Feel free to write descriptions that have a slight sales pitch, or a call to action (CTA). For example, which one of these would you rather click?:
ALINE offers tips for writing effective meta titles and meta data for a variety of websites. This page provides suggestions for writing good content for SEO and readers.
Need help writing great meta titles and meta descriptions? Read our latest blog for ALINE’s tips to maximize search results and appeal to website readers.
That said, any content stuffed with keywords or a strong sales pitch may turn off readers. A meta description should be written in your company's voice. This will help users know the type of site they're about to click on and what to expect. Push too hard, and no one will want to go to a page to learn more. Bring them in with your authentic voice and persuasive, helpful suggestions to learn more.
As with all writing for websites, you need to strike that delicate balance between providing search engine optimized information (location, keywords) with sounding helpful and persuasive to an actual human reader. Follow these steps whenever possible, but always think of the reader as your top audience. As always, if you'd like some help implementing these best practices, don't hesitate to give us a call.