Page titles and meta descriptions are two of the most important aspects to consider when optimising your website for Google and its users. However, unless these have been optimised, pages are unlikely to rank in Google’s search results for the right keywords or see the click-through rates (CTR) that they should do. So choosing to optimise this metadata on your company’s web pages will benefit both your rankings and your traffic.
These are widely considered to be one of Google’s main ranking factors for a site’s SEO performance, yet unless each one is manually edited then the content management system will typically pull in content from the page that it thinks will be most relevant to the user – usually a page’s heading. Leaving this to chance is a big risk for how well your pages are ranking, especially for your most important keywords. WordPress, our platform of choice for most scenarios, does this automatically and has a great selection of plug-ins available to manage this if you’re doing your own search optimisation.
It’s easy to spot a title tag that hasn’t been optimised; it’s usually much shorter and less relevant in terms of keywords compared to a well optimised alternative. The owners of these sites are missing a trick – title tags are another opportunity to add in relevant keywords for Google for SEO purposes and to maximise the opportunity to build their CTR by encouraging users to visit your page.
Google is improving its algorithm all the time so that it now picks up synonyms, mis-spellings while ignoring words like ‘and’, ‘the’, ‘of’ and so on. Because of this, don’t be afraid to make the title of your page more punchy in the title tags than it is on the page to really enhance the impression that your pages contain well considered, editorial content rather than simple, truncated information.
Our three golden rules to writing effective title tags
- Each title tag is limited in width by Google to 512 pixels – that works out at between 55-60 characters, depending on the wording you use. Stick to 56 characters or less as a good rule of thumb
- Remember that the copy for each title tag should reflect its page title. It doesn’t have to be word-for-word, but keep it close enough for Google to see that you’re not trying to spam your users
- Google has shown a preference for homepage title tags that have been optimised to start with the brand name first, followed by a colon. For all other pages on your site, put your brand name at the end of the title tag – see the images below for reference.
This no longer directly counts as a ranking factor as far as Google’s concerned – thank all those keyword-stuffed descriptions you used to see appearing in your search results for that. However a well optimised meta description still encourages a better CTR and is rumoured to influence ranking indirectly in some cases.
The search ranking results for each of your individual web pages will be linked to your site’s overall performance in terms of your users. Therefore anything out of the ordinary on each page, such as a high bounce rate caused by inaccurate or poorly optimised meta descriptions, is likely to affect that page’s search ranking for particular keywords. The guys at Moz certainly suspect this to be the case.
Any keywords you mention in your meta description will appear in bold. This is yet another good way to increase your CTR, but bear in mind that words are bigger when they’re bold so you may have to reduce your description slightly to suit. Each meta description is limited in width by Google to 923 pixels – that works out at around 150 characters.
Other information can appear in your meta descriptions too. Metadata will be taken from content within certain code blocks placed within your site. There’s a huge variety, but these can include product information details, dates, locations, events, times and so on. Additional information from reviews is something that’s within your control though, and research has proved that reviews have a direct influence on CTR. Only reviews on trusted sources such as Reviews.co.uk and TrustPilot count though.
How we do it
It’s good practice to try and categorise your title tags wherever possible. Use product categories, types, ranges and so on according to each client’s website. You can use longer variants of keywords in your titles too if you like and there are a few handy ways to find what people are searching for. We always look to auto suggest at the top of a results page or related searches at the bottom.
Don’t cut corners to try and improve your rankings by doing things like stuffing in irrelevant keywords – it won’t wash anymore. Focus instead on getting your pages to rank well for the most relevant search terms for your brand and your business.
Finally, there are other bits of you can include too, these are just the most beneficial for SEO performance. If you’re more interested in things like price data, social and so on, check out this article.