You’re on the hunt for a new book at the bookstore. What determines your purchasing decision?
Attractive cover art and a catchy title entice you to pick up a book and read the synopsis. Then, from there:
- If the synopsis is descriptive and intriguing, you buy the book.
- If the synopsis is vague, boring, or irrelevant to your needs, you return the book to the shelf.
- If there’s no synopsis, you might flip through the book and skim the pages, but that takes time you don’t want to spend.
Just like folks searching for a new book, users want relevant information as quickly as possible. You should follow search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to boost your search engine rankings, but if you don’t write an effective “synopsis” for your web page, you won’t get clicks.
How do you optimize how your website appears on search results pages to gain more viewers? Enter meta tags.
What is a meta tag?
Meta tags are HTML elements that provide search engines and users information about a web page. There are a variety of meta tags, but the two most prominent are title tags and meta descriptions.
A title tag is a descriptive title for your web page. It appears as:
- The name on the tab in your web browser
- The web browser’s title bar
- The blue underlined text on the search results page
A meta description is a short description that appears below the title tag on search results pages or social media posts. The meta description helps search engines and users understand the purpose of the web post.
When the title tag and meta description are relevant and enticing, users are more likely to click on the link. If you don’t create these meta tags, Google will automatically create them—this is a stopgap solution that you should generally avoid.
Why are meta tags important?
Although meta tags aren’t a ranking signal for Google’s search algorithm, the click-through rate (CTR) is. Meta tags play an important role in increasing CTR, therefore helping you to:
- Increase organic traffic
- Boost your search engine rankings
How to Create Meta Tags for your Website
Here are some tips and examples of best practices for creating meta tags for a website.
Be descriptive, but keep it short.
Make sure your meta tags are short and to the point. In general:
- Meta descriptions should be 135-160 characters
- Title tags should be 50-60 characters.
Google cuts off title tags and meta descriptions that exceed these limits.
Consider two examples for weighted blankets:
In this first example, both the title tag and meta description exceed Google’s character limits. Crucial information gets cut off: Is it a personal anecdote, a testimonial, or a product description? Because the meta tags do not get to the point, users miss the intent of the post and are less likely to click on the link.
This second example displays a title tag and meta description that are clear and concise. Users know that this post will explain whether weighted blankets provide health benefits and, if so, how the blankets do so.
Include important keywords, but don’t stuff.
75% of users never view the second page of search results, and 70-80% of users ignore ads and only look at organic search results. If you want your website to land a spot on page one, you need to optimize your title tags and meta descriptions with keywords.
To figure out the most important keywords for your website and weave them into your title tag and meta description effectively:
- Use keyword research tools such as Google Trends to investigate how users search for information you cover.
- Place keywords close to the beginning of the meta tag. For instance, if you’re keywords are “the best home workouts”:
- Title tag with keywords at the beginning (preferred): “The Best Home Workouts According to Personal Trainers”
- Title tag with keywords at the end (not preferred): “Personal Trainers Share Their Favorite Websites for the Best Home Workouts”
- Meta description with keywords at the beginning (preferred): “The best home workouts don’t have to involve equipment or hours of time. Click for a list of our favorite home workouts!”
- Meta description with keywords at the end (not preferred): “Don’t have a gym membership or much time for exercise? Click to read a list of the best home workouts!”
- Don’t include popular keywords just to include keywords. Using irrelevant keywords will lead to a high bounce rate, which will negatively affect your search engine ranking.
- Include keywords organically. Don’t stuff the meta description; search engines punish black hat SEO practices like keyword stuffing. If your keywords are “hot chocolate recipe”:
- Natural: “This is the best hot chocolate recipe because it’s simple, creamy, not too sweet, and microwavable. Perfect for a rainy day with the kids!”
- Spammy: “This hot chocolate recipe is the best hot chocolate recipe you can find. Look no further for the best hot chocolate recipe to make with your kids!”
Create a unique and relevant meta tag for each web page.
65% of smartphone users report that they look for the most relevant information when they conduct a search on their smartphone. When creating meta tags for your website, you have to convince users that your page is relevant.
Each meta tag should:
- Accurately reflect website content
- Be descriptive and intriguing to engage audiences
- Be unique to its web page—Google penalizes you for duplicate meta tags
Consider two examples:
This first meta description isn’t engaging. It’s a list of common ingredients and fails to explain what makes the chocolate chip cookie recipe “the best.”
This second meta description explains why the chocolate chip cookie recipe is the best: it’s easy and delicious. Both the title tag and meta description are informative and describe precisely what the user will get from the web page.
Enhance the meta description with rich snippets.
Meta descriptions can entice users and provide relevant information using rich snippets. Rich snippets are especially useful if you have customer ratings, recipes, company information (contact info), event information, or product markups.
Customer Ratings and Recipes
This rich snippet shows the star rating, preparation time, and calories per serving for a recipe.
The rich snippet indicates that the weighted blanket is in stock and displays a star rating and price.
The rich snippet includes the address, contact information, and dates of upcoming shows at this bar.
Crafting effective meta tags for your website will make your website more appealing to users, help you optimize click-through rates, and boost your search engine rankings. Just as people won’t read books that lack intriguing covers, users won’t click your website if its meta tags aren’t relevant or informative. To optimize your website, be sure to not only follow on-page SEO best practices, but also write effective title tags and meta descriptions to attract users and grow your brand.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Talia Follador.