So you did your research, picked a great topic your audience will be dying to know about, carefully selected your keywords, and wrote an engaging blog post that thoroughly covers everything your readers need to know about the subject. You would think that would be enough, right?
Well actually … there are a couple more items to cross off your content writing checklist: the meta title and meta description.
Not only are they essential for making sure your content ranks high, but you can also drive more traffic to already existing content just by tweaking these — making them a quick and easy SEO blog optimization hack.
Yet I find these two must-haves are often overlooked by content creators or tossed off to an SEO agency to pump out without careful consideration.
Seeing as how they’re only two of the most important factors for search rankings on Google, I’d like to urge you to pay closer attention to them. Here are a few tips on how to become a metadata-writing pro.
First let’s start with some definitions …
What Is Metadata?
The meta title (aka title tag) and meta description both fall under the category of meta data — which can be defined in short as “data about data.” Metadata essentially provides information about your content, making it easier to find on search engines. While there are other types of metadata, we can cover them another time.
In this post, I’m going to focus on just the meta title and meta description because these tend to fall under the jurisdiction of an SEO copywriter or editor as part of the content creation process.
What Is a SERP Snippet?
Together, the meta title and meta description make up what’s called your SERP snippet. You can preview your snippet inside your Yoast SEO plugin in WordPress or use a SERP preview tool like this one from Mangools.
How Do You Write a Good Meta Title?
First let’s start with the meta title. A meta title, also known as a title tag, is the HTML code that determines the title for your page when it turns up in search results or on social media.
Having a clickable title tag is one of the most important SEO ranking factors, vital for attracting the right users to your article and helping Google understand what your content is about.
Make sure your meta title:
- Is no longer than 60 characters or 600 pixels (Google SERPs usually display the first 50 to 60 characters or 600 pixels of a title tag)
- Includes your primary keyword ideally at the beginning or close to the beginning of your title
- Is actionable (use words like “How to,” “Step-by Step Guide,” and “Expert Tips,” etc.)
- Contains “power words” such as “exclusive” or double them up as in “ridiculously simple” (This might feel silly, but trust me, these words are ridiculously powerful.)
And remember that title tags are measured in terms of pixels rather than characters, which means that you’ll want to go with a colon or vertical slash ( | ) rather than a hyphen so you can maximize that space.
I highly recommend Moz’s nifty title tag preview tool if you want to play around with title length.
|Pro Tip: Your meta title doesn’t have to be the same as the title on the page itself — and it probably shouldn’t be. Save the keyword-heavy title for SERP listings, and craft a juicy clickbait title with a big, fat mystery sandwich for your blog to increase engagement on your website.|
Check out some more great tips on writing meta titles from Blog Tyrant.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Meta Descriptions But Were Afraid to Ask
What is a meta description?
Meta descriptions are the 160-character summaries that tell you what the content is about on a web page. The more accurate and enticing they are, the more likely you are to rank higher for your targeted keywords and the more likely people are to click on your listing.
How do you write a good meta description?
To write a good meta description, keep in mind that you’re writing for two audiences — Google’s algorithm and your ideal customer.
Make sure to frontload or at least include your primary keyword (and, if you’re feeling froggy, a secondary keyword too) to signal to Google that your content is relevant. But you also need to make the copy enticing so that humans want to click on it.
Here are some great tips for writing meta descriptions from the venerable Neil Patel:
- Include a CTA in your meta descriptions like “learn more” or “click here.”
- Add words that describe the value of your content such as “best,” “new,” or even “updated for 2021.”
- A/B test your meta descriptions.
- Experiment with character length. If you go over 160 characters, you’ll find that your meta description will be automatically truncated by Google, but this might possibly entice readers to click more. You’ll never know unless you try!
- Make your meta descriptions unique and interesting. Try clickbait titles or incorporate eye-catching words like “shocking” or “life-changing.” (Just be sure your content can deliver on what your headline promises.)
If you have anything extra special on your page such as a free download of any kind — an ebook, checklist, or guide, for example — you’ll definitely want to mention that. Everybody loves freebies.
Meta description example
Here’s a good example of a meta description.
Notice that keyword phrase right up front: “Disney World vacations.” Also, notice the savings extravaganza — 100% off your flight and up to 42% off select hotels (sign me up!). Finally, that truncated sentence, which ends with an ellipsis. Brilliant. Expedia knows how to get a girl to click!
(Can you tell that I’m sooo ready for our annual trip to Disneyworld?)
But doesn’t Google just rewrite your meta description anyway?
So you’ve heard. It’s true: According to SearchEngineJournal, Google rewrites meta descriptions over 70% of the time. Does that mean you should still bother writing one? Absolutely! After all, this means that 30% of the time, Google will be using the meta description you write for your page.
You’ve spent a lot of time and/or budget creating a well-written article and the world needs your expertise. Don’t leave it up to Google to get your clicks for you. Your meta description still has a 3 out of 10 shot of getting displayed, so make it count!
Ready for an easy way to optimize your blog content? I want you to take a look at your best-performing content and lowest performers and see if you notice any patterns with regard to your meta title and meta description. These insights can help you craft more effectives ones moving forward.
Next, pass these best practices onto your copywriters and editors, and have them take care of these instead of your SEO agency partner (unless they have great copywriters writing your metadata, which isn’t usually the case).
And as always, if you need any help with optimizing your SEO content, feel free to reach out.