If you’ve ever tried optimizing your website for search engines, you definitely would have come across things such as Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions.
These two are a staple of any SEO strategy. They need to always be considered and edited before publishing a piece of content or allowing a website to go live.
But if you’ve never even touched the SEO side of your website, well then this article should convince you that it’s an absolute must to have if you want your business to succeed. Sure, there are numerous other marketing tools to use for promotion, but why not allow Google to do the marketing for you?
Let’s tackle SEO in general first, and then I’ll explain the importance of Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions.
The Ultimate Guide to Organic Traffic for Small Business
What is SEO and why is it important?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but let’s break it down a bit.
Whenever somebody searches for something on Google or Bing or even Yandex for that matter, the website’s algorithm tries to find the exact information this person is looking for. In order to do this, the algorithm searches things such as matching words in the content, images that could potentially correlate with the query, and of course, the Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions.
The ranking happens through various things such as the frequency of the keywords and the authority of the website. But that’s just too much detail, let’s get to the point of the article and discussing the Metas.
What are meta titles and where can you find them?
Every article, as well as a specific page on a website, has Meta Titles as well as Meta Descriptions.
Even this article, once it is published will have them.
But where can you see the Metas? On the Google search page of course.
Let’s grab an example of us searching for something like “Does Pineapple go with Pizza?”
The red rectangle shows the Meta Title and the blue rectangle shows the Meta Description.
These two are used as a method to intrigue the “searcher” and entice them to enter the website. That is why, in most cases, the Meta Title and the title of the article are completely different. They are regarding the same topic of course, but the Meta Title is more “optimized” to bring in viewers.
For example, the title of an article could be “What is the best way to save on gas?”, and the Meta Title would be something like “Top 5 ways to cut your costs on gas prices – tried and tested”. It basically adds a bit more spirit to the title, thus making it more likely for people to click.
The Meta Description though is a place where the contents of the article or the page are described. Usually, it’s two sentences long and provides just enough information where the user has to click to find out more.
In most cases, these two tools are used to bring in viewers, but it’s also used for increasing the chances of ranking on the 1st page of Google sometimes.
How long should meta titles be?
There are a limited number of characters that Google can display, therefore it’s very important that metas are short, descriptive and enticing for users.
In most cases, SEO professionals know exactly how long a meta should be, but beginners mostly use tools that determine whether or not the title is viable. These tools are third-party as well as native to a specific platform. The most popular and used one is Yoast SEO for WordPress.
Let’s use the example of a relatively smaller website such as TopForexBrokers.co.za and take a look at what needs improvement.
First let’s take a look at the WordPress example and how it shows up on Google, compared to how the tool tells us to optimize the content.
As you can see the SEO title (Meta Title) is showing that everything is good according to that green line at the bottom.
However, if we take a look at both the Meta Title as well as the Meta Description in the Google search results, we see that not all of it is being displayed.
This is why I mentioned that SEO experts know exactly how to measure the perfect titles and descriptions, as tools may sometimes be inaccurate.
So what’s the perfect size?
For the Meta Title (which is calculated through pixels) it’s mostly 65-68 characters as that’s what usually reaches the 600-pixel limit.
For the Meta Description, it’s 165 characters, but the recommended size is always within 150-155 or so.
Why is this so? Because the information is already very short and displaying something unfinished is very unlikely to entice the person to go to the website, nor will it give Google the impression that the article is well-made.
CTR vs SEO: When can you make a sacrifice?
Sometimes, SEO experts need to make a very difficult decision between focusing on simply ranking well on Google, or ensuring a high CTR (clickthrough rate).
Although metas are designed to increase the CTR, with purely enticing text, there are other methods that experts use.
However, these methods usually come at a cost of ranking well on Google due to their lack of relevancy with any sort of text (something that Google favors).
One of these methods is the use of icons and emojis in the Meta title and Meta description.
It may be surprising because the text should not be unhinged in a Google search, but imagine how well an emoji would capture your attention?
Here’s an example of a query “icons and emojis in meta descriptions”.
This may not be that convincing as an example, but imagine if only one of them had an emoji assigned to it. Which one do you think would be more eye-catching then?
Remember, that all of the results displayed on Google are with blue, green and black text. Since all of them have this color palette, something like yellow or red would immediately draw the attention of the person making the query, thus making them more likely to click.
Emojis and other characters are pretty much only there to draw attention to themselves and stand out from the rest.
But, since Google does not perceive them as text, it damages the ranking statistics a little bit but helps with the CTR.
As soon as the CTR increases, this also plays a role in increasing the authority of the website as more people are starting to land on it. This then subsequently ranks the website more effectively.
Using keywords to your advantage
There’s no such thing as a good SEO strategy without the proper keywords. But, not only are keywords very important in the text itself, but also essential within the Meta Title and Meta Description as well.
Webmasters sometimes struggle including them in here, as the keywords can sometimes be a bit too big.
For example, imagine you’re writing an article about cheap electric cars. One of the keywords you’d be using is “Top cheap electric cars in 2019”. Although it may not seem too big for the main text itself, it’s almost half the size of the Meta Title.
Therefore, what SEO professionals do is they make partial match keywords. For the example we used, a partial match would be “cheap electric cars”. Although this decreases the rankings a bit, it sounds a lot more natural for the reader.
The staple rule of optimizing the metas is that the title gets one keyword and the description gets two.
As long as you can fit them in naturally, you’re good to go in terms of optimization.
Analysis after posting and making corrections
Once the article or page is live, it becomes extremely easy to track the performance. Things such as the ranking of the page for a specific query and the search traffic, etc. All of this is calculated through various tools that Google provides to website owners.
These tools help the owners determine what needs to be improved. For example, if you’re ranking well but the clickthrough rate is very low, you will immediately know that the text needs to be changed to be more enticing. Maybe you should add some emojis to stand out from others?
But, if the clickthrough rate is great, but the page isn’t ranking that well, maybe it’s best to add some keywords inside the main content of the article, or maybe it’s best to insert a bit more in the metas.
Whatever you do, don’t change the URL slug. If you take a look at the second example picture, you’ll see that there’s this thing called a slug between the title and the description.
That is for customizing the URL of your page. However, once the article is posted with an existing URL, any changes to it will immediately fail to be applied to the Google Index. This will cause a disparity between what is displayed on the website, and what’s showcased on Google, thus causing the page to rank lower.
This is a bit beyond the topic of this article. If you apply all of the examples I’ve showcased in this article, your SEO strategy should be good to go when it comes to Meta Titles and Descriptions.
Guest author: Konstantin has been in marketing and advertising since 2011. After leading marketing efforts of one of the largest financial brokerages and an innovative b2b fintech company, he decided to go solo and is now focusing on consulting financial companies on how to drive the best results from their digital marketing efforts. Next to this, Konstantin has been showing interest in the recent regulation of the most competitive industries – finance and iGaming. Stalk him on Quora or connect via LinkedIn to learn more.