Writing Effective Metadata for SEO (Page Titles & Meta Descriptions)
What Is Metadata?
Metadata communicates information about each web page to search engines and web crawlers. Search engines, like Google, use metadata to understand additional information about a web page and use that information to help rank and display web pages in search results.
Metadata includes title tags and meta tags, written in HTML as <title> and <meta> tags, which are invisible on a web page, but show up as the text we read in search results. If your website is not using metadata, you’re missing out on opportunities to rank higher and drive consumers to your site. According to Google, it’s important to make sure that every page on your site has a meta description.
Example of Effective Metadata as it Shows in Google
Effective page titles are descriptive and concise. Strong meta titles entice the user to want to click through to your page. For extra SEO juice, try incorporating relevant and high-opportunity keywords into your titles (although you should avoid keyword stuffing). If your title is not clear, concise, and relevant, users may ignore it and move on to other results. If your title is too spammy or redundant, Google may penalize your rankings.
You may choose to add your brand name to your page titles. However, it is recommended to do this sparingly, as repeatedly using your brand name in page titles uses high-value space that can be used for other target keywords. The “snippets” that are shown in search results have max pixel widths, meaning they can only show a certain amount of content to a user. This is why you need to make the most of what you write in your metadata, as content that’s too long will be truncated by search engines, and your headline may be cut off.
The Optimal Format for a Homepage Title Tag
Adding localities to your title tags is a great way to rank in location-specific searches. For example, someone searching for “pizza in Williamsburg” is more likely to see results of web pages that use “Williamsburg” in their meta tags.
The meta description appears in search results below the title in the metadata. The meta description combined with the page title is also referred to as the “snippet” for a web page. The main purpose of a meta description is to describe the page to searchers as they read through the results.
Like page titles, meta descriptions also have a character limit; between 120 – 155 characters is the preferred length for descriptions. This gives the writer more space than the title to write engaging and informative content, to attract users to click on your result. It’s beneficial to add keywords to meta descriptions, but much like page titles, it’s important to avoid keyword stuffing.
When executed effectively, metadata can lead to higher click-through rates, drive more targeted organic traffic, and increase conversions. If executed poorly, there’s a chance that your efforts will fall short and you could be penalized by Google and other SERPs.
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Metadata is an intricate part of on-page SEO which helps both search engines and humans decide what the best result is for a given search query. Optimizing your site’s metadata is key to improving your presence in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Strong metadata can be displayed to millions of users searching on Google and can go a long way to improving the quantity and quality of your website’s search traffic.
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