Meta Titles & Descriptions Explained – Best Practise

Metadata is one of the basic elements of SEO. It’s about as basic as you can get, but a lot of website owners don’t optimise this snippet that is first seen when a visitor searches a query in Google.

Meta Titles & Descriptions Explained – Best Practise

Let’s start with the basics. What is a meta title, and what is a meta description? When a user searches for a query, they are presented with a list of results. The first thing the searcher is going to see is your meta title and description.

As you can see from our screenshot example, the elements that are going to be displayed in the results are the URL of the webpage, and directly below the title and description.

This is your opportunity to capture the searchers’ interest and make them click on your link. Optimise this basic element of SEO, and you’ll not only increase your CTR (Click Through Rate) but you’ll also reduce your bounce rate. Both are beneficial to your business as one increases your search traffic, whilst the other reduces the signal telling Google that the user didn’t have a good user experience.

Meta Character Limits

It’s worth noting there is a limit for both titles and descriptions and you want to use this information to optimise your metadata. If it’s too short, you’re not utilising the space given to you. If it’s too long, it will get truncated and users won’t be able to read all the text that you’re using to encourage them to click. The limit for meta titles is 600px however it’s easier to measure in characters, so aim to stick within 60 characters for titles. For descriptions, you want to stay within 160 characters. The last thing you want to see is this…

Optimise Your Tiles & Descriptions

Now we know our limits, it’s time to optimise those titles and descriptions. If you’re thinking of just stuffing in a bunch of keywords, don’t. What we want to do, is to summarise what the page is about. This way, you’ll target the right type of traffic who are less likely to bounce and leave the website. For pages like the homepage, on the other hand, we want to summarise what the business provides. Optimising your page titles and descriptions can be done in various ways but some will bring in much higher levels of traffic and some will target the right type of traffic. Let’s dig in.

How to Target the Right Type of Search Intent?

When optimising meta titles and descriptions, you could use the guessing approach vs real-world data. The former is free but will bring in a lower volume of potential customers. The latter will have a cost assigned to it as you’ll need to either use an SEO agency, or you’ll need to pay for premium tools that can give you data on things like keyword difficulty, monthly search volumes and competitor insights.

The Free Approach

If you’re going down the free approach, using Google’s autocomplete may be a good way to start. As you’ll be aware, when you start to type a query into Google, it will give you a list of suggestions.
This can give you insights into popular search queries that users search for. We’re not suggesting you copy and paste these as your titles but it will give you ideas of keywords that you may want to work into your titles. Descriptions are going to be a bit more complicated using a free approach which is why we’d always recommend using a data-first approach as in the long run it will lead to not only more visitors, but more revenue or lead generation.

A Better Approach

To get the most out of your meta titles and descriptions, you’ll need to carry out some research. This can be accomplished using an SEO agency, or if you’re wishing to do this yourself, industry-leading tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz are good places to start. These are the best and most widely used insight tools used by SEO freelancers and agencies alike. There are certain insights you just won’t get using a free approach and the ones that matter the most are search volumes, search intent and keyword difficulty.

The Importance of Search Volumes

If you rank first in Google for a phrase that people don’t search for, nobody will find it. Sometimes the slightest change in terminology can make a huge difference in search volumes. Using tools, you’ll be able to see what users search for and more importantly, how often they search. Let’s look at an example. Using SEMrush in this example, I’ve headed over to the keyword magic tool and searched for “digital marketing agencies”.
I can see that in the UK, there are 2900 searches per month for this query, but with a slight alternation in the terminology, I can see there are far more people searching for “digital marketing agency”. 8100 vs 2900 for a slight difference in the search query highlights why it’s worth having this data to hand as we can now optimise our title more appropriately. You’ll often find that slight alternations to a search query have large differences in the number of people searching for that product or service.

The Importance of Keyword Difficulty

In this example, the KD (Keyword Difficulty is virtually the same, but often we find that different search terms not only have large fluctuations in search volume but also keyword difficulty. The KD score attributed to a search query shows you how hard it will be to rank a phrase. If your website doesn’t have a high DA (Domain Authority), or a decent backlink profile, then trying to rank competitive phrases without an SEO campaign isn’t going to happen.
The trick here is to target queries that have a decent search volume with as low as possible KD score. We know from several case studies that 75% of users don’t look past the first page of the search results, so we want to use everything possible to ensure we’re ranking as highly as possible or potential customers simply won’t find us.

The Importance of Search Intent

There are four types of search intent. These are Informational, Navigational, Transactional and Commercial. It’s an overlooked ranking factor you should be optimising for. You need to create content that aligns with search intent and then optimise the meta title and description to capture the right type of intent. If you don’t, you’ll find your bounce rate is high which is something we definitely don’t want to have. If using tools, we can clearly see the searcher’s intent, and using that data we can optimise our titles and descriptions (as well as our content) to align our content with the searcher’s query.

Wrapping Up

The above article is an overview and touches on the fundamentals of optimising meta titles and descriptions. It’s not designed to be a complete guide but one that sets you on the right path. Talking about search intent is another article itself which we may write about later on. For more useful tips and guides, be sure to regularly check out our blog. Looking for a more complete solution? Why not get in touch with us and discover how our monthly SEO services with no contract tie-in, can help elevate your website’s online visibility.