Although one of the most BASIC and easy-to-implement SEO tactics is simply making DIFFERENT/UNIQUE page titles and meta descriptions for all your website pages, many people still don’t bother to do this.
Those who do will rank higher against pages similar in weight in terms of inbound links and appropriate anchor text but without unique metadata.
META DATA: What’s Important
Meta tags that matter include the all-important ‘Meta Description’ and ‘Meta Robots’ tags. There is the ‘Google Webmaster Tools Verification’ tag and others that have specific functions, but for search the Meta Description and Robots tag are the most important in terms of on-page optimization.
There is another tag, however, that people spend a lot of time with called the ‘Meta Keywords’ tag – and it just isn’t that important.
The Meta ‘Keyword’ Tag and Why You Don’t Need It
The Meta ‘Keyword’ tag is falsely important to many site owners. I constantly get calls from people with SEO questions who say thing’s like, “We’ve already taken care of all the meta keywords and whatnot.” But they don’t understand they are wasting valuable time. Here are two reasons why:
- When you use the meta ‘keyword’ tag, competitors can see easily which keywords you are targeting and use that information in a competitive manner – e.g. buying PPC advertisements or inbound links targeting those terms specifically knowing that you do, too
- Google has announced they do not use the Meta Keywords in any part of their search ranking algorithm. And if you don’t believe me read this post FROM Google entitled, “Google Does Not Use Meta Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking“
Now, on to what you DO NEED…
Writing a Good ‘Meta Description’
The Meta ‘Description’ tag is important because it helps users decide whether to visit your page by providing them with a brief, compelling description of what they will find if they do. I strongly recommend having unique meta descriptions on all pages across your site. As an SEO, I fully understand you may not be able to do this every time, in which case just leave the field blank.
Do not put duplicate meta descriptions on all your pages by default
Although many content management systems (CMS’s) offer this option, it is better to allow Google to create their own snippet for you than leave a duplicate description. REASON: Google will note duplicate meta descriptions in your webmaster tools account and assign you a lower ranking under the assumption your content is either not unique or being automatically generated.
Again, the goal is to give Google UNIQUE info about EACH specific page.
In terms of LENGTH, keep meta descriptions under 165 characters and put important keywords near the beginning of the text. It is also important to include a ‘call to action’ in the meta description if possible to increase your click-thru-rates.
For example, here is the meta description I used for this article:
<meta name=”description” content=”Always Write Great UNIQUE Meta Descriptions & Page Titles To Beat Your Competitors Who Aren’t. Basic SEO Advice That Is Often Not Done Properly Or Overlooked…”/>
It has 163 characters total, has the keywords ‘Meta Descriptions’ and ‘Page Titles’ in the forefront and also mentions ‘SEO Advice,’ another focus of this post. The ‘Call To Action’ is ‘Always Write Great UNIQUE Meta Descriptions.’
Writing Effective Page Titles
Page titles are often called ‘Meta Titles,’ a term I find can be confusing to new SEOs and Non-SEOS or ‘muggles’ (jk), due to the amount of useless and useful ‘Meta Data’ used. I would suggest sticking with the term ‘Page Titles’ (and the other term ‘Meta Descriptions’ again, as the two most important pieces of information accompanying any web page).
When creating page titles, you want to target the keyword that the page is specifically about. Put the keyword near the front, if not first, in the title where possible, and be sure you use it in a meaningful way that is relevant to the page.
For example, this post that you are reading was originally titled:
<title>SEO Advice:Write Unique Effective Meta Descriptions & Page Titles</title>
Points to note:
- Number of characters (incl. spaces): 65 -Don’t go over 65 or it may not show up or get truncated. To be safe, maybe even keep the keywords away from 55+ characters
- Main Keyword: SEO Advice
- Subcontext Keywords: Meta Descriptions, Page Titles
- A verb where possible (i.e. ‘Write’) can be leveraged in the meta description as a call to action and may be less important here
Following my own advice, I decide that ‘Write Unique’ while important, could be moved to the end in case it gets truncated.
Here is the new version:
<title>SEO Advice:Effective Meta Descriptions & Page Titles Uniquely Written</title>
Points to note:
- Now it is 69 Characters in Length, however ‘Meta Descriptions’, ‘Page Titles’ are not in danger of being truncated in the Search result (snippet)
- Depending on your indexing needs, you can play with the methods you use.
- I still felt this was a bit long and since ‘Effective’ is NOT a keyword I decided to use a shorter synonym for it
Here is the final version I decided to use for this page:
<title>SEO Advice:Strong Meta Descriptions, Page Titles Uniquely Written</title>
Notice how I kept it to 65 Characters to be safe and still got the point across without being ‘spammy.’
I hope you enjoyed this post. Stay tuned for more SEO advice.