February 8, 2023

Effective SEO Titles and Meta Descriptions

By: Mary Hiers

SEO titles and meta descriptions are important enough to search engine performance that you should learn how they work. And when you write them, you should put effort into them.

Google confirms that your SEO title is a confirmed ranking factor. It’s one of the few ranking factors that Google acknowledges. Meta descriptions affect SEO indirectly, but they are also worth putting effort into.

Here are the most important factors for SEO titles and meta descriptions, plus how to write them for the maximum positive SEO impact. 

What Is an SEO Title?

It’s easy to confuse your SEO title with the H1 header that you write at the top of a web page, article, or blog post. Your SEO title may be identical to your H1 header, but it doesn’t have to be.

The SEO title shows up as the title of a search engine result. It also appears in browser tabs and in social media posts that link to the page. 

Why Is the SEO Title Important?

SEO titles have two main functions: to help you rank for a keyword phrase and to get people to click on the link to your page. These functions strike a balance, so you have to write each title with both functions in mind.

In other words, a highly enticing, clickable title won’t make up for the fact that you haven’t included your keyword. Likewise, including your keyword can’t help much if your title is so lackluster that nobody clicks it. 

Characteristics of Good SEO Titles

The width of the SEO title that search engines display is measured in pixels rather than characters. But you should try for a title that is about 50 characters long. 

To avoid your title being cut off in the search engine result, keep it to 50 to 60 characters tops, and don’t use all caps. You can also use symbols (like “&”) to save space.

Additionally, your title should target one primary keyword phrase and be unique. Whether you should include your brand in your title is debatable. Yoast says yes, but Semrush says no unless it is necessary. You may have to test this yourself and see what happens.

Common Mistakes

Not having a title tag is the most major common mistake. WordPress and other content management systems (CMS) automatically create a title tag from your H1 header, so you’re covered. But if you’re not using a CMS, you will have to create one specifically. 

Reusing an SEO title is a bad idea. Each title should be unique and relevant to the content on that page. 

Titles that are too long are likely to be cut off, potentially cutting off valuable information. And titles that are irrelevant to the page are unlikely to attract traffic and may frustrate users. 

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions also show up in search results underneath the title. They’re around 150 characters long and tell Google (and search engine users) what your page is about.

If you do not supply a meta description yourself, Google will pull a snippet of text from the first paragraph of your content. This may or may not tell the brief story you want it to, so it’s best that you write a meta description yourself.

Think of a meta description as a short pitch for your page or blog post. It tells search engine users what to expect when they click on the link.

Bad Meta Descriptions

Google lists four types of bad meta descriptions:

  1. Lists of keywords
  2. Boilerplate language that is reused for everything
  3. Descriptions that don’t summarize the page
  4. Too-short meta descriptions

In other words, bad meta descriptions don’t add anything worthwhile. They waste the reader’s time and, furthermore, do nothing for your overall SEO.

Good Meta Descriptions

By contrast, a good meta description should explain things. If you can’t think of one from scratch, you can often find a decent sentence or two in your introductory paragraph. 

A good meta description summarizes what’s on the page or blog post yet is as specific and detailed as you can make it in 150 characters. 

When readers see a good meta description, they can either confirm to themselves that clicking on the link is a good idea, or they can tell that the link is not quite what they’re looking for. 

Tips for Great Meta Descriptions

An ideal meta description would be around 150 characters long. Within those 150 characters, it would contain a call to action of some sort (“Learn how to …,” or “We’ll show you how to …”) and the keyword phrase the web page wants to rank for. 

It would be written in an active voice, be relevant to the page’s content, and be unique. It would also contain relevant specifications, like a product’s price.

Many helpful meta descriptions offer a brief answer to a question raised in the SEO title. For example, if the title was “How Can You Make a Flakier Pie crust?” The meta description could say something like, “The key to a flaky pie crust is adding just enough water to help the dough hold together. Don’t handle the dough too much before rolling it out. Here’s how.”

Make unique meta descriptions for each page or blog post. They should be tailored to the page they’re written for.

We Are Here to Help

A well-written SEO title and meta description can make the difference between a website or blog post that languishes on page 10 of the search engine results pages and one that ranks high, gets clicked on, and is read. Learn how to write them well, and you can see a marked improvement.

If you’re not sure how to write an effective SEO title or meta description, our team of experts can help. We specialize in writing SEO-fortified content that helps our clients rank higher in search engines and attract more website traffic. 

Set up a call with our team today to learn more about how we can help you improve your website’s search engine performance. We’re happy to help.


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