What Are Title Tags and Meta Descriptions?
Also known as the SEO Title and SEO Description, title tags and meta descriptions are used by search engines as the headline and description for your webpage within search results. These elements are not visible on your webpage but appear in the code to be found by search engines.
Getting title tags and meta descriptions right for your website is well worth the effort. These crucial SEO elements act as the bridge between search results and your website. They are often the first interaction someone has with your brand before they even get to your website. An effective title tag and meta description will encourage more searchers to click-through to your website from search engine results pages (SERPs).
To be effective title tags and meta descriptions should meet two criteria, in this order:
Relevant: First you must tell searchers you have what they are searching for. The beauty of search is that you can tell what people are looking for by doing your keyword research. Matching your title tag to the most common keywords used to identify your product, service or content is the best way to achieve a high degree of relevance.
Action-oriented: Next, you must convince searchers that your result is the one worth clicking on ahead of your competition. Use the meta description to meet this criterion. Think of this as your mini sales pitch, what is it about your offering or content that will entice searchers to click-through to your website? Like all good sales copy, your meta description should clearly outline the next step the searcher should take.
Keywords provide insight into how an audience thinks about a particular topic, what terminology they use and the most common ways of searching. If the keywords for a particular topic or page are not already known, the following keyword tool can be used to gain some initial insights:
Once the main keywords are known, perform a Google search to see how competitors have crafted their title tags and meta descriptions. In particular, look for recurring themes with regards to particular terminology used and prominent selling points.
Title tags should follow these rules:
Describe the content of the page accurately and succinctly. Leading with the primary topic of the page.
Include a primary keyword the target audience is using to find the page.
Include a secondary keyword or abbreviation where space permits.
Include key selling points, where applicable, after the primary keyword.
Try not to exceed the maximum pixel width allowed within Google, use the testing tool to check. This roughly translates to between 60 and 70 characters.
Include the brand name. As a general rule, the brand name will usually go at the end of the title tag except on the homepage where it can go at the start.
Unique to the website and page.
Meta descriptions should follow these rules:
Summarise the content of the page as best possible.
Include keywords the target audience are using to search for content.
Include at least one call-to-action (CTA) or unique selling point (USP) to encourage searchers to click on the listing.
Not exceed 156 characters, use the testing tool to check.
Include punctuation around 130 characters to ensure mobile descriptions remain coherent and understandable when truncated for mobile search results.
Unique to the website and page.
All title tags and meta descriptions should be tested using the following snippet optimisation tool to ensure they will be displayed correctly within Google’s search results:
The tool provides a coloured bar underneath the title tag and meta description input fields, which changes colour based on the length of the content entered.
Slightly exceeding the maximum pixel width shouldn't be a major concern, as Google varies the length of content shown for different devices.
However, when the title tag or meta description is at risk of being truncated consider what information will be obscured. For example, if the brand name is at the end of the title tag and it's an industry where brand recognition isn't a key factor, e.g. you're the only Peugeot dealer in the area, then this isn't a major concern.
Here's an example of a title tag and meta description we created to target the search "event management courses".
Here are the elements that make the title tag successful:
We start with the primary keyword "Event Management Courses". It's important to note the intent here is for "courses" plural.
We use a secondary phrase to explain what the page is about "Course Finder". This isn't a phrase people are necessarily searching for but it highlights to searchers they will find more than one course on this page and have a facility to filter the results, which matches the intent of the target query.
We use the brand name "Event Academy" and ensure the title tag is short enough to show without being truncated on all devices. In this case, the brand name is important because the courses being offered are a direct reflection of the brand.
Here are the elements that make the meta description successful:
The starting question "Want a career in event planning?" includes a variation on the most searched for terminology with the phrase "event planning". Based on reviewing bolded words within search results it can be seen that "event planning" is considered a synonym for "event management".
The next sentence "Explore our CIM-accredited full-time & part-time London or online courses with our Course Finder Tool." reiterates the primary feature of the page while summarising the range of courses provided. This also acts as a call-to-action (CTA) telling searches what to do next "Explore... with our Course Finder Tool".
The last statement "Download a Brochure." provides an additional CTA telling searchers what to do once they've chosen a course. This additional statement causes the suggested meta description length to be exceeded but, as this is more of an added bonus, we can afford to have it cut off in some instances.
Remember, the SERP Snippet Generator tool does not work exactly as Google does and the real-world results may differ slightly. For this reason, it's important not to be overly cautious when creating new title tags and meta descriptions.
To prove this point, this is what the above SEO meta content looks like in Google on desktop and mobile devices. You'll note the desktop version shows the title tag and meta description in full. The "Download a Brochure" statement is removed on mobile but because we planned for this it doesn't affect the clarity of the text or primary action.