TaylorLovett

Meta Descriptions and Titles – What They Are, Why They’re Important, and How to Optimize Them

January 21, 2011 by Taylor Lovett

Meta descriptions and titles are probably the most important thing for SEO within the HTML of your site. These two tags allow you to have some control over how search engines like Google display your website.

What Are Meta Tags?

“Meta tags” refer to specific HTML tags that appear in the area of the page. Here is an example:

<HTML>
<HEAD>
<TITLE> This is the Meta Title tag! </TITLE>
<META name=”description” content=”This is the meta description” />
</HEAD>

See how the title and description tags appear within the of the page? They will only work if placed in that area. From the standpoint of someone viewing your website, the meta description tag is completely invisible (unless they view source code), it is used exclusively by search engines. The title tag can actually be seen by your viewers in the browser bar at the very top of your screen. There is also the meta keywords tag, but this tag is ignored by most major search engines (Google included). Right now we are going to focus on the two most important meta tags for SEO, the meta description and title tags.

Google places great importance on meta description and title tags when your website is being indexed. The following is a screen shot from a Google search:

Taking advantage of these tags gives you a huge advantage over your competitors. Having worked with many small businesses as an SEO consultant, the vast majority of people do not make use of these tags. Clients pay me thousands of dollars to get their website on the first page of Google for specific keywords; sometimes all it takes is making good use of their meta tags! Which leads me to the next thing I want to tell you…

How to Optimize Meta Tags

You’re going to be surprised at how simple this really is. First I want to introduce the concept of relevancy. You want your website to be as relevant as possible to the keywords you are targeting for Google searches. Keywords in certain areas of your website are given more weight than others. The most prominent area on your website for keywords are your meta description and titles tags. So you want to make sure every single page on your site has these tags. Also every meta description and title tag should be unique otherwise Google might flag your website for duplicate content (this was discussed in an earlier email I sent you). That being said, here are the guidelines I follow when optimizing my clients’ meta tags:

  • Make sure every single page on the website has unique meta description and title tags.
  • Make sure every meta title tag is no longer than 60 characters in length and every meta description no longer than 160 characters in length.
  • Fill each meta description and title tag with as many relevant keywords as possible.
  • Make each meta description and title tag describe the page very closely. This means I don’t just stuff them full of keywords; I actually make sure they all make sense and are relevant to their page.

How to Optimize Meta Tags in WordPress Websites

If you are running WordPress, optimizing your meta tags is MUCH easier. There are tons of plugins that allow you to edit the meta description and title tag without having to know HTML. I use All-In-One SEO on all my clients’ websites.With All-In-One SEO, each post and page editor contains a box near the bottom that allows you to easily change the meta tags. This plugin even shows a live count of how many characters your meta description and title tags are currently at! WordPress is great for SEO and makes it very easy to insert keywords throughout your site. Just remember that each page, post, category, and archive actually have their own web pages so don’t forget to optimize all their meta tags.