Titles and meta descriptions are the first thing potential visitors see when coming in contact with your website in the search engine results pages (SERPs); having the best possible title tag and meta description can make or break a site's SEO campaign.
Let's face it, writing title and meta description tags can be boring - and for bigger sites, it can be extremely tedious and time consuming. As tempting as it is to breeze through this process, it is crucial to invest your time and energy into writing well thought out and persuasive tags if you want to beat out your competitors.
Here are five tips to get you writing title and meta tags like a pro:
1) Research, Research, Research
All good SEO starts with solid keyword research.
You need to know exactly how people are searching for your site's industry and what terms are most valuable for your site.
Keyword research isn't exactly a day in the park, but it's necessary to dig deep and collect all the data that is possibly relevant.
Don't just stop at the broader fat head terms you are looking to pull in gobs of traffic with. What are the secondary terms people are going to be landing on this particular page for? What subtle exact match keyword variations get more traffic? Look out for the nuances of a site's industry and always pay close attention to the details.
2) Competitive Analysis
When writing titles and meta descriptions for a newly SEO'd site I always like to see what the competitive landscape looks like.
What language are people using to describe the industry? What keywords are being implemented that you may have not seen when performing your own keyword research? And most importantly, what is the overall quality of your competitor's SERP results. In my opinion, grammar and messaging are extremely important when it comes to optimizing your site for the SERPS, so I love it when I see competition like this:
In my opinion, this is what separates the wheat from the chaff.
If your competitors have title tags and meta descriptions that read like they are targeting robots you can get a pretty good idea of what you are up against.
The example above may be targeting the right keywords, and their link building might be fantastic - However, this doesn't try to entice human visitors (prospects). Instead of appealing to users it repeats high-value keyphrases and lists every relevant keyword in the meta description. This may have worked in 2002, but people expect more out of the internet these days - they want to be pampered, they want to know what to expect and they want to be wooed.
In my opinion, this is what separates the wheat from the chaff: If your competitors have title tags and meta descriptions that read like they are targeting robots you can get a pretty good idea of what you are up against.
3) The Art Of Writing The Title Tag & The Meta Description
When writing your titles and meta descriptions, figure out exactly what phrases you target.
Although search engines allow for variation, there is still a huge preference for exact match - so use the Google Keyword Research Tool when doing your keyword research and figure out which exact phrases are the most relevant and have the most volume.
Start with the one or two key phrases you want for your 69 character title tag. Then, with the characters you have left, add human targeted language. The goal is to make your title tag one readable thought.
Here is a much better title tag from the same industry as the previous example:
Notice how the title tag is one fluid message? See how the meta description is a coherent passage about the services being offered from the site?
Just by adding ": Results of" to this title tag the search engine result is much more appealing to human users and comes across as far less spammy - something that many SEOs believe directly correlates with a site's perceived legitimacy by search engine users.
If you write your tags like a human, for humans, search engine users will be much more inclined to believe there is a human on the other end of the line, and trust on the internet is everything when it comes to your business.
When I am writing title tags and meta descriptions, I like to think of them as Haikus. Not literally of course, but as a form of communication with a lot of limitations where your goal is to get across one main idea or concept. Because just like Haikus, a good title and meta tag resonates with a reader/user and stays with them long after the poem/search is over.
4) Segment Your Users With Your Meta Description
You don't want your site to draw in users who are only looking for information about your industry.
Sure, it's great to get web traffic, and they could convert at a later time... but it's not high quality traffic.
By clearly stating the goals of the website through calls to action in the meta description you are priming your visitors expectations for your site.
So, If your website states that you are offering services in the search engine results pages - users who click-through to your site are going to be more interested in the commercial services you offer because you stated that is what you are hawking from the get go.
I am a big fan of the meta description from the last example:
I love this meta tag: it lets users know exactly what the site is offering and it doesn't come across as spammy.
On top of that, it still has good keyword repetition and variation, so anyone who searches for "HGH" or "Human Growth Hormone" will see a lot of bolded words, which helps the result stand out in the SERPs even more.
Doing all this leg work to write your meta descriptions and title tags is time consuming, but trust me, it is worth it.
First impressions last a life time, and if a SERP result is the first impression your site will have on a potential visitor, you need to make it count. If your site doesn't stand out in the SEPRs it's just going to blend in with all the other noise that is ranking, so you need to put your best foot forward in order to differentiate your site from your competition from the very start.
John-Henry Scherck is an Organic Web Strategist with Digital Third Coast Internet Marketing, Inc. Located in Chicago, IL. John-Henry is passionate about off-site SEO and content marketing. When he isn't thinking about new ways to get links, John-Henry spends his free time cooking, running, hanging with his two awesome cats and toasting with Malört.