Aug
18
2017

How to Write Meta Tags Like a Pro

If you want your website to attract potential customers, don’t overlook the value of meta tags. Search engines use meta tags to interpret exactly what your website is all about. And they’re also read by people who are searching for websites just like yours. Consequently, it’s crucial to make them readable for both search engines and potential customers alike.

While meta tags alone won’t guarantee that your website is fully optimized they play a major role in helping engines rank your website in search results, so don’t overlook this fundamental part of website search engine optimization (SEO).

Two most important meta tags

When you start digging deep into the subject of meta tags, you’ll find numerous types. Rather than covering all of them, in this beginners guide we’ll stick to the two most important for SEO and human click-throughs: the title tag and the meta description.

1. Title tag

A meta title tag is a brief statement of what your page is about. Ideally, it should be around 60 - 72 characters in length, or about 5 – 10 words. (Google won’t display more than that on search results.) Title tags are used several places:

In the big blue text of search results

In a visitor’s browser tab

As anchor text when a visitor shares the link on websites and social media channels

2. Meta description

The meta description elaborates in greater detail about your page’s content. It should be 135 – 160 characters. If you don’t provide one, the search engines will pull a snippet from the first paragraph on your page. Meta descriptions are used in two places:

Under your page’s URL in the search results

In social media channels, when a visitor shares a link

Writing effective title tags

As the big blue text in search results, the title tag is essentially a webpage’s headline. It’s a key factor for customers when they’re considering whether to click on your search listing. It also indicates to the search engines that a page is relevant to a particular query.

When you’re writing your title tags, make sure to include the keywords or key phrases that are relevant to the content on your web page, ideally in order of importance. And don’t forget to include your company name. 

Here’s a formula for writing a great title tag:

First keyword – Second keyword | Company name

Using that formula, here are a couple examples of good title tags:

Flower Delivery in New York City | Bloomin’ Flowers NYC

Best Rock Climbing Gyms in the U.S. | Urban Boulder Magazine

Note that the sample title tags are written so that visitors can read them like a sentence. They’re appealing and descriptive—in other words, they’re written for humans rather than just a long or repetitious list of keywords crammed together. If you ‘keyword stuff’ your title tags you’ll be penalized, so resist the urge.

Writing good meta descriptions

While the meta description doesn’t directly influence your SEO rankings, it’s incredibly important in terms of influencing internet searchers and persuading them to click-through to your content. In other words, the better your meta description, the better your click-through rate. And high click-through rates definitely boost your SEO. So make sure to use this element to your best advantage.

Here are examples of good meta descriptions:

Flower Delivery in New York City | Bloomin’ Flowers NYC

Looking for the freshest flowers and plants in New York City? Our beautiful arrangements are custom designed by floral artisans. Same-day delivery starts at $35.

Code example:

<head>

  <meta name="description" content="Looking for the freshest flowers and plants in New York City? Our beautiful arrangements are custom designed by floral artisans. Same-day delivery starts at $35.">

</head>

Best Rock Climbing Gyms in the U.S. | Urban Boulder Magazine

Which rock climbing gyms are worth a visit? Our experts traveled across the U.S. and tried climbing walls in every major metropolitan area. Read our reviews.

Code example:

<head>

  <meta name="description" content=" Which rock climbing gyms are worth a visit? Our experts traveled across the U.S. and tried climbing walls in every major metropolitan area. Read our reviews.">

</head>

The key to a good meta description is to make it highly descriptive and relevant to search results. Just like the title tag, the meta description should read like a sentence. Try to make it compelling and appealing to convince searchers that your web page contains the content they’re looking for. Keep the least important information at the end so that if the search engines truncate it, you won’t lose important details.

Meta Tag Do’s and don’ts

If your website has a lot of products or pages, or you’re simply short on time, it might be tempting to take some shortcuts. Here’s a quick checklist of what to do—and what not to do—so that you don’t commit some big meta tag mistakes and get penalized by the search engines.

Keywords

  • Do include keywords—Make sure that important keywords show up in both the title tag and meta description. Aim to place the most important keywords first, followed by less important ones.
  • Don’t keyword “stuff”—As previously mentioned, it’s bad practice to list them repeatedly, or list too many without regard to what your page is about.

Length

  • Do stick to character counts—
    • Title tag should be around 60 – 72 characters in length or about 5 – 10 words.
    • Meta description should be no longer than 135 – 160 characters.
  • Don’t exceed counts—The search engines will simply cut off excess text, potentially causing your links and descriptions to be less readable.

Content

  • Do consider the reader—Write original titles and descriptions that are readable and grammatically correct.
  • Do treat your meta tags like advertisements—Try to write ones that are as compelling and interesting as possible to entice searchers to click-through.
  • Don’t duplicate—Each of your pages is unique. Make sure your titles and descriptions are too. The search engines may penalize you for duplication.
  • Don’t use irrelevant keywords—You may want to drive traffic to your website by using popular keywords. However if you use irrelevant descriptions or titles, you’ll cause visitors to “bounce” quickly from your site. High bounce rates are a red flag for search engines and may cause significant damage to your SEO ranking.