Title Tags, Description Meta Tags, and Keywords Meta Tags, Oh My!
October 5, 2013 - Posted by Angela von Weber-Hahnsberg
Never fear, Marketing Zen is here! And we’ve broken down these frighteningly technical-sounding terms into simple explanations that anyone can understand – even your dear Aunt Rhonda who still isn’t sure how to send an email.
So grab a cup of coffee, curl up on the couch with your laptop, and call Aunt Rhonda to come over, because you’re about to discover why title tags and description meta tags are such a big deal – and why keywords mega tags, mercifully, are not.
What Are Meta Tags?
So first of all, what the heck is a meta tag, exactly?
A meta tag is part of the HTML code of any webpage or blog post. The information you type into this tag doesn’t actually show up on the page anywhere, but it’s still a vital part of each page, because it helps search engines understand what that page is about. It can also show up on the search engine results pages as the title or description of your page or blog post – so all meta tags should be filled out with both human readers and Google in mind.
There are several types of meta tags, but today we’ll just be focusing on three: the title tag, the description meta tag, and the keywords meta tag. Whether you’re entering text into the actual HTML code of your site, or just typing the words into SEO plugin fields on your WordPress blog, these are the big three.
What is the Title Tag?
Probably the most important of the three is the title tag. Its name says it all – this tag gives the information on your page or in your blog post a title. But be careful – your title can only be about 65 characters in length. Any characters beyond those first 65 will be ignored by search engines, which means that people won’t see them, either. So go for short and sweet here.
Having said that, your title tag needs to be carefully crafted, in order to fit all the information it needs to contain into that allotted space. And remember, you’re writing for both Google and humans, so it needs to make sense to both.
On the Google side of things, you’ll want to make sure, first of all, that you do include keywords and keyword phrases – but that you don’t go overboard with keyword stuffing. You want to tell Google what your page is about, but if you repeat a keyword too many times in the title, your page will get marked as spam. The best way to ensure that Google knows which keywords are most important to you is not to repeat them, but to place them first in your title. So for example, instead of making your title tag for a page about repairs to a cracked window say, “Bob’s Window Repair Shop | Cracked Window Repair,” you’ll want to make it “Cracked Window Repair | Bob’s Window Repair Shop.”
On the human side of things, you’ll want to write a title that reads like actual English – and that draws customers’ interest. Your title tag will show up in search results as the blue linked text above the description, so what it says will determine whether or not people click on it to visit your site. To that end, give as much specific information as you can about that page, to help people decide whether or not it’s what they’re looking for. Bad example: “Shoes Shoes Shoes All Shoes | Bob’s Shoes.” Good example: “Men’s Nike Cross Trainer Shoes in Silver and Blue | Bestshoes.com.”
What is the Description Meta Tag?
The second most important tag is the description tag. This one will also be used by search engines to determine the content of your page, as well as being read by humans in search results, so keep both audiences in mind here as well. With an available 160 characters for this field, you’ve got a little more flexibility as to what you can say – so use it wisely.
Your first rule of thumb is to include keywords that will help Google understand what your page is about – but again, use them naturally, rather than squeezing as many as possible into one tag. Describe what your page is about, but in a way that incites readers to click. In fact, it’s a good idea to include a call to action in your descriptions. Instead of saying, “This blog post is about how much I love dogs. Dogs are the best friends you can have, and they’re extremely loyal,” try “Are you a cat person or a dog person? Find out how a dog changed my life, and could change yours, too, in my latest unbelievable blog post!”
What is the Keywords Meta Tag?
Alright, you’re really in for it now. Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and delve into the nitty-gritty of SEO and HTML? Okay, only if you’re sure…
Leave this one blank.
Yep. That’s all there is to it. Google used to use this meta tag in ranking sites, but those days are long gone. And in fact, adding keywords here can actually hurt your ranking, since it might make search engines think your website is spammy. So play it safe and leave it blank. You’re welcome.
So, what do you think? Meta tags aren’t so complicated after all, when you get down to it, right? Sure, they take a little extra work – after all, you want a unique title and description tag for each and every page of your website, and each and every new blog post. But it’s definitely worth it, in the results you’ll get both from search engines and visitors to your site. Of course, if it still seems like way too much work for you to fit into your already overstuffed day, why not give us a call here at Marketing Zen? We write title tags and description meta tags all day! Heck, we do it for fun! It’s a meta tag party up in here, y’all! And – oh yeah, we do lots of other cool online marketing stuff, too. So give us a call – we’ll save a party hat for you!