123 - SEO Meta Title and Description

Day 123 - SEO Meta Title and Description - what is this and why is it so important to your SEO strategy?

In my recent SEO post 120 - SEO Matching Keywords & Phrases to Website Pages I talked about how to identify which keywords and phrases to target at which website page in order to get optimum exposure through your website SEO strategy. Today I want to talk about one of the most important ways that you can plug these keywords into your website page by using them in your meta title and meta description areas of your website.

seo meta title description

In this example I am going to look at a page that I created on Lucy Gell's website for her product which is a drypoint etching called 'All Bet's Are Off'. The product is an etching of a running whippet and in 120 - SEO Matching Keywords & Phrases To Web Pages I identified that I would optimise this web page for the phrase 'running whippet'. If I type 'running whippet' into Google I also see lots of photos of running whippet dogs in amongst art so in the search above I have qualified it to 'running whippet art'. As you can see above Lucy's page comes at no 5 in Google search - out of 2,780,000 search results at time of writing! A good result here! There are lots of things I have done to achieve this but today I am just concentrating on the two of those elements - meta title and meta description.

Meta title and meta description elements are the fields that show up in a Google search. The meta title is the title that appears in blue at the top of each Google results listing and the meta description is the paragraph of text that appears below that element which briefly describes the content the user will find on the page if they visit the web page by clicking on the blue meta title (or perhaps purple if you have visited the page before).

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Many people that build their own websites actually forget to populate these fields because they are created behind the scenes rather than created on the web page itself visible to all. If this is the case then search engines will usually extract the page title that you have given the page in your website navigation and use that as the meta title and they will extract the first text based information they find on the page and use that as the meta description.

This isn't ideal for a number of reasons. The first is that when naming pages for navigation in your website you will usually keep page names short. This prevents your menu lines from running over several lines and keeps them neat and tidy making your website easy to use and navigate, however, it means that your page title will be very weak on keywords that people might use to find your page in searches. It might just have one or two words which are not enough to get the page found.

For the description if you do not complete it then search engines will just pull the first readable text that they find on your page. Occasionally you might be lucky if the first thing that appears on your page is a brief paragraph that summarises the page's content, however, that is not the case for many websites, the pages have other text such as picture captions, navigation text, usage instructions and so on. Often the text won't make total sense when collected together, will be lacking in effective keywords and will not be the best advert in search results to encourage people to click. For some website pages the description might even be entirely blank because the page only contains images and navigation buttons and it may never even get into the search results for people to decide to click or not.

The good news is that most good website design systems will quickly allow you to navigate to an SEO area where you can carefully enter details for the meta title and meta description to appear in Google Search. if you have been following all my posts you will know that I design my own website and websites for customers predominantly using Jimdo software. In there it is easy for each web page to click the 'menu' option then 'SEO' then 'SEO' again. There you will see a tab where you can set things to be applied to the entire website and entries that are applied just to the page that you are editing, you should find similar features on other web hosting software too.

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Lucy wants to optimise her website for 'Fun Animal Art'. This is what she does. It sums up very quickly to anyone visiting what her website is about regardless of which page they land on. She also adds her name so that it appears against every page. For you it could be your personal name and what you do such as 'Jane Smith Artist', 'Joe Green Pottery', 'Julia Jones Printmaker' or business name. Whatever you choose consider the importance of this very high value keyword area. What you put here will really help you to rank high for those keywords especially if you use them elsewhere too.

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The 'Page Title' is one of the most important things that Google uses to work out what the content of your web page is about. You need to craft it very carefully for Google so that the search engine has enough keywords in there to match your web page to the search that has been entered but you also need to craft it so that it reads well to the user also as it is the first thing they will see in the search results and therefore is highly influential in determining whether the user clicks it to go to your website or dismisses it and moves on to the next search result. You should aim to include between 50 and 60 characters in your page title. This should be enough to include the keywords that you identified in 120 - SEO Matching Keywords & Phrases to Web Pages that you want to assign to this page as well as as a few more along with some extra words to make it relatively readable without it being truncated. In this example I have simply used the words I planned to target this page with ie 'Running Whippet'. Notice that I haven't used 'Running Whippet Art' as Lucy's pages already use the word 'Art' in the site wide part of the title so I can avoid duplication. If, however, running whippet art was a much more competitive term or I could not get it on to the first page of results I might consider duplicating that word if it helps!

Below this enter your 'Page Description'. The first few lines of this will appear in Google search results also. Ensure your main target keywords (in this case 'running whippet' or 'running whippet art) are included here. You now have more space to expand on your attention grabbing title so make this description work hard for you. Add in more important keywords, perhaps other ways of saying some of the things you have said in the title. Add extra teasers and information that will encourage the viewer to want to find out more about this web page by clicking on the link. If you are describing a product add extra information about size, colour, texture and so on. Write specifically about this one web page in your description, don't be tempted to talk more generally about your entire website focus on this specific page and summarise its content.

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Most web hosting software like that provided by Jimdo above will show show you a Google search results preview. Pay careful attention to this. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer - does the description read well, does it appeal to you, would it make you click on it to find out more? Have you made it too long so that some of it is being truncated without being seen?

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Further advanced settings might also appear in this area. You can ask Google and other search engines not to index this page in its search engine and you can also ask it not to crawl other pages that that page links to. In most instances you would want your page to appear in search engines if you provide valuable content that you want to be found, however, some pages on your website might be valuable only to customers already on your website - they might provide extra detailed or technical information about a product on another page that they have been looking at, but on its own this page would not make sense to be found in a search engine - it would not provide a good advert for your website, it might confuse customers, it might be very text heavy, lacking in style, images and so on. Typically think of pages like your terms and conditions, privacy policy etc. You are happy to link to these and make them available to customers who want them and already on your website but you don't need them to be in a search engine and indeed they might weaken your overall website content in the search engines eyes by being there rather than simply including high quality keyword heavy relevant content only.

In summary then, your meta title and meta description field for each of your website pages are probably 2 of the most important and relevant SEO elements in your website. Craft them carefully and as a priority for all your website pages when building your website and regularly review them to ensure that they are working for you.

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