A beginner's guide to meta titles and descriptions

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The world of SEO can be confusing for those unfamiliar with the industry. ClickThrough copywriter, Martin Boonham is, himself, a newcomer to SEO. Here, he offers his unique perspective on meta titles and descriptions, asking “what are they?”, and” what role do they play in Internet Marketing?”.

So you’ve decided to make the leap into the world of SEO, but fallen at the first hurdle when after a quick search on Google, jargon like ’meta tags’ was thrown into the mix.

What are meta tags? And ‘meta’, what’s that all about? Is it supposed to be anagram of meat, or maybe team?

Well, as you are undoubtedly aware, it’s neither of these, but – bear with me as I construct an analogy – the meta title and meta description act as a team, with the meta description putting the meat onto the bones.

When customers hit their search engine to find a product, this dynamic duo offers your first chance to draw them into your site.  They’re your online shop window, as it were.

Sat at the top of each search result, the Meta title is the blue band of text that – you hope – the customer will click on to go to your website.

Typically, it’s best not to use your business name in these. The exception to this ‘rule’ is if you run a big brand. If this is the case, including your brand could actually improve click-through rates.

Yes, the likes of Amazon and Tesco can get away with including their brand names at the front of their title tags, as everyone is familiar with them, but companies such as Paulie’s Pet Food Paradise will struggle to create that sense of familiarity. At least at first.

A further issue with Paulie’s company name is that it takes up 27 characters.

Meta titles should typically only stand at 70, and with a third of that used to cram in his brand name, Paulie would really struggle to get customers clicking through to his site.

Don’t follow his example. For the best results, you need to use the 70 characters to get your message across in the best possible way.

You need to have a title that has all the right keywords. Looking at competitors and doing your own keyword research are two ways of gauging what works. If it’s on page one, it works! So it is always worth looking at words and phrases that rank well and are related to the page content.

Keywords in the title help boost rankings and get clicks. So let’s say there’s a potential customer that’s looking for dog food.   A better Meta title – instead of ‘Paulie’s Pet Food Paradise’ – would be – ‘Dog food - Nutritious pet treats and doggie supplies in Lichfield’.

This gives a local feel, are people in Lichfield looking for dog food really going to look in Nottingham (as an example)? It also has ‘dog food’ right at the beginning of the phrase, so it’s instantly obvious what the page features. It also suggests the food is nutritious, and that other bits and pieces are available too.

It may sound glaringly obvious, but if you are getting people to click through on a brand item, spell it right and get the title case right too. Little quirks like this can stand out (in a bad way) if done incorrectly, and can make the difference between winning a customer over.

Meta descriptions then add the meat to the bones. At less than156 characters, they’re only slightly longer than your average tweet – there really doesn’t seem much to play with at first. But, for an SEO master, this is actually more than enough for them to work their magic.

It important to make sure that these utilise that 156 character limit as well as possible, therefore a short meta description won’t cut it. ‘Buy our carpets. Now.’ might seem a solid call to action, but there is very little there that will get the customer thinking, ‘why yes, I really should buy a carpet now, and what better place than this website?’

Again, big brands have more freedom. A quick search on shoes, for example, will show you results from top brands simply stating things like ‘free returns’, ‘new season items’, and ‘ 100% price guarantee’. Unfortunately for Paulie and his pet food paradise, it’s not as simple as that.

Instead, smaller brands need to be a little more creative. While you can certainly use phrases that draw customers in such as, ‘free sample’, ‘high quality’, and the like as the order of the day, you have to add a little more.

This is because when people type in a search phrase on Google, relevant words are highlighted in the meta description, which makes the search result stand out and encourages clicks.

Things like ‘places in x selling high quality red carpets’, or ‘best deals on carpets’ are likely to factor in most people’s minds when looking for a carpet, so by having keywords like ‘carpet’ or even better ‘red carpet’, as well as enticing words like ‘deal’ and ‘quality’ in your meta description, you’re more likely to get searchers making the jump from Google to your site.

To really stand out from the crowd this is really the place to plug your firm’s USPs as well.

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