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How to Write Effective Meta Titles & Descriptions

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Meta Titles & Meta Descriptions
24 Jan

How to Write Effective Meta Titles & Descriptions
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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2020)

If you’re considering doing SEO for your website, you’ll be thinking about the big stuff i.e. keyword research, backlinking and more. These things are important, but they aren’t the only factors worth paying attention to.

Sometimes, small things can have a big impact on your website’s ranking and traffic as well. 

This is the case with your website’s meta title and meta descriptions. 

What is a Meta Title/Description?

Most people are so worried about making sure their website looks great, they forget that it is hardly the first thing visitors see. A large portion of your visitors come from search engines like Google, where they are presented with many links to choose from. 

Meta Title and Meta Description example

Each link is comprised of two main things:

  • The meta title;
  • The meta description.

The big headline written in blue above the webpage link is called the meta title. The text underneath the headline below the link is called the meta description

Each link on Google may have additional elements as well – but these two things (i.e. meta title and meta description) are constant. 

Why Optimize Meta Titles and Descriptions?

In search engine result pages (SERPs), competition is tough. If your website is unable to rank the top three spots (which get the most clicks, and, consequently, traffic), you’ll need other ways of capturing traffic. And your website’s meta titles and meta descriptions can play a role in that. 

There are two main reasons for this:

  1. Your website’s meta title and description will usually be the first thing your website visitors see. And, thankfully, optimizing these does not take much effort (compared to other SEO activities).
  2. People in the search results page read the meta titles and meta descriptions of websites to decide which link to click. By writing an engaging, accurate, and relevant meta title/description, you can convince more people to click on the link to your website when it appears in their search results.

In short, write better meta titles and meta descriptions, and chances are you’ll see your website traffic increase.

It is important to note that meta titles won’t have much of an impact when it comes to ranking your website on search engines. Keywords, backlinks and quality traffic are responsible for that. 

But, meta titles and descriptions are super-important from a marketing perspective and for on-site SEO.

Keep in mind that you’re competing with many more websites. It’s not just your website’s meta title and descriptions that Google and other search engines will show on a page. Ten other high-quality links—along with their meta titles and descriptions—will be visible as well.

In the next sections, you’ll learn some tips and tricks on how to optimize your meta titles and meta descriptions to get more clicks and better on-site SEO. 

Learn how to optimize your meta titles

How To Optimize Your Meta Titles

According to David Ogilvy, “when you write your headline, you spend 80 cents of your dollar”. That’s because the majority of people only read the headline and scroll away—without clicking on your website, webpage or article.

Now, Google only allows a title to be of 65-75 characters. If your title is bigger than that, Google will cut off the remaining part of it. So make sure you say everything you need to say within 75 characters—or, if not, make sure your title says everything important in the first 75 characters. 

Now that we have that sorted, here are three ways you can improve your meta title.

Incorporate Your Primary Keyword 

Your title tag should have the primary keyword. And even better would be to follow it with a secondary keyword. At the end of the title, you should have your brand name.

Of course, this is the ideal situation. 

Your first priority should be to make sure people can easily read your title and understand it. Your title should never sound robotic, spammy or unintelligible due to the keywords you incorporate.

Convey What Your Webpage Is About

Your meta title should immediately convey to the reader what your webpage is about. 

Is this an article on a particular topic a person wants to know more about? Put it in the meta title. Is this a product page about an item you’re selling? Make sure your product is mentioned in the title.

Being to the point and including relevant information is the best way to get attention to your webpage.

Add Engaging Copy

Last but not least, try to make your title more engaging. By “engaging”, we mean, try to make your title read in a way that makes the reader feel emotion. This can be anything from excitement to curiosity or happiness. 

Here are three tips to make your copy more engaging:

  1. Add Benefits: What benefit will the visitor get from visiting your website? Add it to the title. Is it an up-to-date guide? The latest model of a product? A unique solution to a problem? Whatever it is, state it in your meta title.
  2. Insert Power Words: Power words can trigger an emotional response in your audience. These are words like “Best”, “Affordable”, “Fast”, and “Extra”. Adding them can make your meta titles more attractive.
  3. Add Modifiers: Modifiers, such as “Top 10”, “2020 Updated”, and “Near Me”, can make your meta titles more relevant.

Last but not least, make sure every single important page of your website has a unique meta title. The more unique and relevant your meta titles are, the more traffic you’ll get.

When you write your headline you spend 50 cents of your dollar

How To Optimize Your Meta Descriptions

We’ve explained why meta titles are so important, but don’t forget about your meta descriptions. If your title successfully grabs the attention of your audience, you may need to convince them further that your webpage is worth visiting. The meta description is the hook to do that.

Just like the meta title, Google has a limit on how many characters it can show before they cut off the meta description. For meta descriptions, the word-limit is 150-165 characters.

With that in mind, here’s how you can optimize your meta descriptions.

1. Add Primary and Secondary Keywords

Your meta descriptions should also include the primary and secondary keywords just as in meta titles. This will boost your SEO rankings and make them more relevant. 

In addition to the primary and secondary keywords, you can also add LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords to your descriptions.

LSI keywords are words and phrases with a high degree of correlation to your topic, like synonyms based on your content context. To get LSI keyword suggestions for your primary keyword, check out LSIGraph

2. Add Engaging Copy

Similar to the titles, your meta descriptions also need engaging copy. Since meta descriptions have room for more words, you can add more information. 

Here’s what you can do to make your meta descriptions more engaging:

  • Insert your USP (Unique Selling Point): Every single page on your website will have unique information, products, and services. Make sure you always include your USP in your meta descriptions.
  • Add a CTA (Call to Action): What do you want your visitor to do on your website? Buy a product/service? Subscribe to a newsletter? Book a demo? Add it to your meta description.

3. Keep Search Intent In Mind

In your meta description, try to clear up exactly what type of content the webpage will have. For example, if you’re talking about cars, are you talking about the Pixar movie “Cars”? Are you selling used cars? Do you write buying guides about cars? Clear up the intent of your webpage in your meta description. This will make your links even more understandable to your audience, plus the visitors that do choose to click on your link will be more interested in your products/services.

Learn what not to do when writting meta titles
Image credit: Semrush

What to Avoid When Creating Meta Titles And Meta Descriptions

When you’re creating meta titles and meta descriptions, there are some things we recommend you don’t do. Keep in mind these aren’t strict rules, rather some effective guidelines that you can use to improve your meta titles and descriptions. 

  1. Don’t Use Spammy Language: Poorly written titles and descriptions, especially those too promotional or self-absorbed, can repel audiences instead of attracting them to visit your website. So make sure you properly convey the benefits of the contents of your webpage, rather than going on and on about how great the web page is. Also, don’t sound too desperate in your call-to-action. Instead, communicate the convenience it will bring.
  2. Don’t Use Passive Voice: Words and sentences written in passive voice can have negative qualities. The primary disadvantage is that the main point you are trying to convey gets shoved to the end of the sentence. Sentences written in the passive voice require more words and are less clear than sentences written in active voice. For example: “a 50% discount will be offered by us on the purchase of two or more items” is passive voice, whereas “get a 50% discount when you buy two or more items’” is active voice—and would be our recommended way to go. 
  3. Don’t Use Complex Words: Don’t try to sound too fancy and sophisticated by using complex language. Instead, use simple language that makes your text quickly scannable and easy to understand. Your number one priority, after all, should be to get the message in your meta title and description to be as clear as possible. Fanciness comes second.

Find Some Inspiration

Before you start writing your meta titles and meta descriptions, it’s a good idea to gather inspiration from websites like Screaming Frog and Meta tag extractor which let you download complete metadata from other websites.

Another quick way to get an idea on how to write great meta titles and meta descriptions is to simply search for your competitors on Google. Look at the organic results and also pay attention to what competitors in the ad listings above are typing, especially what  keywords they are using. This will give you a good idea of what direction to take since these are examples of what worked for your competitors.

Try A/B testing to choose the best descriptions
Image credit: Mailer Lite

Do A/B Testing

 Don’t be concerned if you don’t find the most effective meta title/description on the first try. Instead, we suggest creating multiple versions of a meta title/description if you want to find the one that’s most effective at getting traffic to your website.

Download Yoast SEO Plugin

If you use a WordPress website, you can install a plugin like Yoast

This plugin lets you create a specific meta title and description for each webpage on your WordPress website. 

You can also use it to perform other on-screen search engine optimizations on your website. Yoast will automatically give you suggestions on how to improve various SEO aspects on your website.

Don’t Stop Here…

Looking to learn more SEO tips? We’ve got plenty of resources on our HostPapa blog. Here’s the perfect article to get you started: SEO for Beginners

María Bustillos

María is an enthusiast of cinema, literature and digital communication. As Content Coordinator at HostPapa, she focuses on the publication of content for the blog and social networks, organizing the translations, as well as writing and editing articles for the KB.

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