SEO best practice for writing website page titles and meta descriptions
Meta title tags and meta descriptions combine to play a vital role in generating organic search traffic to your website. Learn why they're so important and the recommended best practices for writing them.
Meta title tags and meta descriptions combine to play a vital role in generating organic search traffic to your website.
Titles help ensure the pages of your website have the ability to rank on search engines such as Google and, along with the meta description, also influence the likelihood of someone clicking through to your site.
As per the example above, page titles are displayed on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) along with the actual URL of the page and typically also the meta description, which is essentially your opportunity to promote the content of your page and its relevance to prospective customers.
Here’s a brief overview of additional reasons title tags and meta descriptions are important, along with the recommended best practices for writing them. As you will see, click-through rate (CTR) is the most important factor when it comes to determining what to show a user when they perform an organic search.
Meta title tags
The title tag should be an accurate and concise description of the page’s content. It is displayed in three key places:
- Search engine result pages (SERPs) as the clickable headline for your page (making it a strong determining factor in whether someone clicks on your link or not)
- Posts on social networks (often pulled in automatically when a link to your page is included)
- The top of your web browser when the page is open (as show below)
Best practices for writing page titles include:
- Give every page a unique title
- Keep page titles under 60 characters (there’s no exact character limit, as how much shows on Google searches is based on a 600-pixel wide text container and some characters take up more space than others, but this will ensure your titles display in full about 90% of the time)
- Avoid ALL CAPS titles, as it may severely limit the number of characters Google can display plus they’re are harder to read so will likely negatively impact
- Consider user experience and write for your customers, as your primary aim is to attract clicks from visitors likely to find your content valuable
- Avoid over-optimisation by keyword stuffing (including repeating variations of the same keyword over and over)
- Aim to include at least the primary keyword for the page and a relevant regional or secondary keyword
- Keep the most important and unique keywords for the page at the start
Wondering whether your brand name should also be included? If it already features in your domain and your objective is not to rank for brand name, it can be considered a waste of characters. Brand name becomes more important when the objective is to rank well for it, which is usually when there’s a huge demand for that brand name as a keyword.
In fact, relevant regional keywords such as “Brisbane” or “Sunshine Coast” are arguably the most important component of a page title, especially as Google emphasises local searches more and more. Even for national companies, having “Australian” in the page title is possibly more important than a secondary keyword and definitely more than a brand name (unless the objective is to rank for the brand name).
The meta description for a web page should provide a brief summary of its content and can be a strong influencing factor on click-through rates from SERPs.
In addition to typically being shown when the page appears in search results on Google or other search engines, the meta description can also sometimes be automatically partially included when posting links to the page on social media.
Keep in mind that the primary goal is to provide value (through an accurate description of the page’s content) and drive clicks.
Best practices for writing meta descriptions include:
- Give every page a unique description
- Keep meta descriptions under 155 characters (there’s no character limit, however Google generally truncates the description to 155-160 characters)
- Include keywords the page is targeting (Google and other search engines bold these when they match search queries)
- Write in a natural, non-spammy way, ensuring the description is directly relevant to the page’s content and compels a searcher to click
- Ensure there are no double quotation marks or other non-alphanumeric characters (these can lead to the description being cut off)
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