My last post outlined a beginner’s guide to writing SEO-friendly blog posts. I stepped through some areas you should be aware of if you want Google to pay attention to the content you’re publishing. One of the areas I mentioned – a must write-have for SEO-friendly blog posts – was the title and description tags. But I didn’t go into much detail. This post remedies that to help you write title and description (meta) tags that woo Google and win readers. So let’s get into it!
What are meta tags?
Let’s take it back a step and make sure we’re all clear about what the title and description tags are. They are often called meta tags, which are part of the code of your website. Meta tags work behind the scenes helping search engines make sense of each webpage. Technically speaking, only the title tag is a true meta tag but they are generally bundled together and both referenced as meta tags. Most SEO plugins (for WordPress anyway) pop these two fields at the end of your blog posts: Page Title and Meta Description.
Title meta tag
Your title meta tag basically describes what your page it about. The tag appears in a few places:
- in the browser bar when you view the page
- the page name when your site or blog is saved as a bookmark or favourite
- when it’s shared across social media.
The title tag also appears in search results and is one of the pieces of information search engines can use to match you up to online searches. So pretty important, right? Oh, and you only have 60 characters to make it awesome. Many SEO plugins automatically use your blog post headline or page name so these are the ones to focus on to send the benefit through to your title meta tag.
Description meta tag
Your page meta description lets you influence the page description that appears in search results and when your page is shared. Search engines can automatically pick this up from your page content but when you complete the 160-character description yourself, you can use those keywords and put in a bit more pizzazz. It’s the pizzazz that I really want to cover.
Your meta tags need more than keywords
Your title and description meta tags have traditionally been used to describe the blog post (and your other web pages). Because they appear in search engines and when your page is shared, you have an opportunity to turn them into bite-sized chunks of marketing awesome. Ideally your meta tags should contain:
- An accurate summary of what your webpage or blog post is about
- A compelling reason to actually click the link and find out more
- A call to action
And all in just a little more than a tweet. Writing optimised and effective meta tags is a tough gig!
Tips for writing effective meta tags
Be accurate about your page content. Misleading search engines and searchers about what your webpage contains is bad for SEO and for business. You might get some traffic but they won’t stick around because you misrepresented the content. Entice people with a benefit. Why should they click? What will your blog post deliver? Explain the main benefit your blog offers using phrases like “Discover how…”, “You will learn….”, “Your ultimate guide to….”. Include a call to action. If you have a special offer, include it in your meta tags! “Order now to receive…” or “Book before 31 Jan for 40% off”. If you don’t have an offer, draw on verbs to drive some action. Buy, Book, Call, Ask, Visit. Put your keywords up front. Search engines pay particular attention to the first few words of everything so, if you can, pop your keywords up front in your title meta tags. If it means you have to adjust your blog headline, that’s okay. That’s part of the optimisation process but don’t compromise readability and persuasiveness for SEO. Don’t waste precious characters with your business name. In fact, only include your business name if that’s the number 1 way people find you or you have space left. Your meta tags should entice them with a reason, not a business name. Show some flair. Remember that people are presented with many pages of search results and they are looking for a way to differentiate them. Don’t be afraid to show some personality! Don’t waffle. Your title tag is only 60 characters long and your description tag is only 160 characters. After that, Google isn’t interested and cuts you off. If you keep writing, you’re talking to an empty room. Juggling all these points in such a small number of characters is a big ask, but it is worth it for SEO-friendly blog posts (and other online content).