Your Guide to Optimizing Title Tags + Meta Descriptions for the Best SEO Results

November 2022
 minute read
marketing team meeting in conference room

Working with title tags and meta descriptions can be difficult if you aren’t an SEO expert. As a novice, it can be difficult to know what to do with these short bits of text that are so important to your website. What we’re here to do today is to demystify the subject of title tags and meta description for you so you can start optimizing your site for the Google search engine results pages (SERPs).

When it comes to titles and metas, the key is to write compelling copy that shows your audience the contents of your site. There aren’t any “hacks,” or tactics to hit a new ranking factor or work your way around an algorithm—it is really all about providing the most accurate representation of your site.

Take it from a top SEO enterprise agency, title tags and meta descriptions matter a lot when you are optimizing your website. Today, we’re going to talk about how you can use them to rank better in search engines both from a frontend and backend perspective. Then, we’re going to be going over the top tips that you can use to optimize your title tags and meta descriptions. Let’s get started!

What is a Title Tag?

Your title tags are an important part of your site’s copy and backend architecture

google search results page on smartphone
The text in blue on the Google results page is the title tag.

Title tags are one of the most important elements of your website's SEO. Not only do they appear in search engine results and browser tabs, they are designed to be a direct channel with search engines to communicate what keywords are relevant to a given page on your site—so it's important to make sure they're optimized for maximum results.

The first step in optimizing your title tags is choosing the right words to describe your page. Then, you'll need to edit to make sure only the most pertinent information is included in the title tag. As a general rule, title tags can be anywhere from 50-60 characters long. And finally, you'll want to make sure that everything you include in your title tags is relevant and well-researched so that Google knows what your page is about (and doesn’t penalize you for keyword stuffing).

From a backend perspective, the title tag also appears in the site code which is read by the search engine. As Google indexes your site and evaluates what keywords are relevant to your site, your title tag will be taken into consideration in terms of its relevance and any keywords that you use. However, if you are using a site builder there is a good chance that there is a title tag already set based on the existing page contents. This can be a convenient starting point but you’ll want to apply thoughtful keyword research to get the most conversion-worthy keywords to rank. 

What is a Meta Description?

The meta description gives users a sneak peek of what they will find on a page

college students conducting research and finding results
Meta descriptions provide additional information to your audience and the algorithm.

A meta description is the bit of text that appears underneath the title tag on the SERP. Generally, the meta description gives the search engine extra details about what is on the web page. Just like with title tags, meta descriptions are excellent for keyword placements. If you use the keywords in the right places in your meta description, you can both boost your SERP placement and give your audience the relevant information they need to decide whether your web page is useful to them and whether they want to click on your site. The average meta description length needs to be anywhere between 150 and 160 characters to avoid being truncated. One of the best ways to think about writing meta descriptions is like writing ad copy. You want to convince the users that the information on the page is helpful to them and their search queries.

On your site’s backend, the meta description is important to help search engines properly crawl and index your site. The more information they have about the contents of your web page, the easier it will be for Google to read and understand your site. Having well-written meta descriptions also makes your site appear more reputable because they truly are your first impression to the searchers. 

Why Are Title Tags & Meta Descriptions So Important?

If you neglect your title tags and meta descriptions, your SERP placement will suffer

business people looking at marketing data
Best SEO practices in title tags and meta descriptions lead to better metrics.

The most important reason to optimize your title tags and meta descriptions is to improve your CTR, as they will be the first thing someone sees before they enter your site. These 200 or so characters are your only chance to pique a user’s interest to click through. The same is true for the Google search results algorithm. Though the algorithm will index all aspects of your site, title tags and meta descriptions are especially important for conveying the overall subject matter of your site to Google.

Your title tag also appears in the browser tabs. When users are navigating between your site and others, they will rely on the text displayed in the browser tab to navigate to and from the correct pages.

When you optimize for relevant keywords, make sure that there are no missing or duplicate titles or metas across different pages on your site, and keep all of your titles and metas within the designated character length, you can expect to see a rise in organic traffic to your site.

How to Optimize Your Title Tags

Now that we know why it is important to make sure all of your titles and metas are optimized, let’s find out how to write the best page descriptions possible

man writing several drafts in front of a laptop at a coffee shop
Brainstorm a few different title tags before choosing the best one.

The first step you need to take when performing a title tag audit is to organize your title tags and corresponding page domains in a spreadsheet. From there, you can designate a column in your spreadsheet for character count to make sure your title tags aren’t too long. This same practice can be repeated to make sure meta tags are the right length as well.

Many free online services can pull your title tags for you, or you can gather the title tags from the backend of your website building service. 

At Responsival, we build our sites using Webflow, which gives us easy access to edit title tags and meta descriptions without having to mess with the HTML code. 

Now that we know where to access your site’s title tags, let’s look at the rules you need to know to optimize your site’s page descriptors. 

1. Never Let Your Title Tag Exceed 60 Characters

We’ve already touched on this, but you really don’t want to have your title tag truncated by Google. By making sure that all of the characters fit within the 50-60 character limit, you can avoid confusing your site visitors. Should you exceed the character limit, your audience could be missing out on important information about your site.

We should also mention that while we are suggesting a character limit, Google really measures your title tags by pixels. Because of this, it is best to keep capital letters to a minimum to avoid exceeding the limit. There are also services online that allow you to plug in your title tag and see if it is being cut off by the last few characters. From there, you can make adjustments to ensure nothing is missing from your title tag.

2. Avoid Duplicates

Once your title tags are within the correct character limit, the next step is to eliminate any duplicate title tags across different pages. Duplicate titles are confusing for the Google algorithm. For site visitors, they’ll have no shorthand way of telling your site pages apart from each other. From a SERP results perspective, two pages with the same title tag will end up competing against each other, lowering the overall search ranking for both pages.

3. Use Keywords to Give Your Site an SEO Boost

The last steps to optimize your title tags are to do some keyword research and thoughtfully place your keywords. If you haven’t already conducted keyword research for your site, now is the time to get started. Be sure to find keywords that very specifically and accurately describe what’s on the page. If you have the choice between a few options, compare their search volumes. You’ll typically want to choose the words or phrases that are searched more often to maximize your organic traffic when you optimize. 

Once you’ve come up with a few keywords to use, we recommend you choose one or two that you want to integrate into your title tags. Your keywords must fit naturally within the description of your site, otherwise, it will appear as keyword stuffing. Keep in mind not every page of your site needs to have your business name in the title tag. Including your business name on every tag can waste valuable real estate to include non-branded keywords. 

Now that we’ve taken a look at how you can optimize title tags, let’s go over how you can start optimizing your meta descriptions. The processes are quite similar but with a few key differences we’ll be highlighting. Let’s go!

How to Optimize Your Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are a place to elaborate on your title tag and find expand keyword placements

man conducting research on tablet at work
Your meta descriptions help answer search queries.

Once your title tags are ready to go, it’s time to move on to the meta descriptions. Meta descriptions are longer than title tags, which leaves you more room to describe your web page. You also have more room for keyword placement. 

Though meta descriptions differ from title tags, they share some of the same principles. For example, it is important to keep your meta descriptions under 160 characters, eliminate any meta descriptions that are duplicates, and use keywords for better SERP results. In this section, we’re going to be talking about the rules that specifically apply to writing meta descriptions. Let’s get started!

1. Sell the Webpage to Your Audience

Where title tags are meant to describe exactly what is on the page in less than 60 characters, meta descriptions allow for a bit more creativity. When writing meta descriptions, you want to think of it from a sales perspective. Your target audience has already read your title and has a decent understanding of what to expect, it is then up to you to convince them that your page has the information they’re searching for. This is a great place to introduce your brand voice to your target audience. 

2. Focus on Solutions

More often than not, when people are searching on Google, they are looking for an answer to a question. When writing meta descriptions, it is recommended that you approach your writing from the perspective of the searcher’s intent. For example, if someone searches for “HVAC services near me”  a good meta description for an HVAC company should list the services provided and the areas the business operates. That way, the searcher will know the site will give them the answer to their search query.

3. Avoid Keyword Stuffing

One of the most common pitfalls that novice SEO marketers face is keyword stuffing. In the past, keyword stuffing was used to trick the Google algorithm to rank you for as many keywords as possible. Now, the algorithm is designed to find and penalize instances of keyword stuffing. If you are using keywords in places that don’t make sense, or if you are using keywords excessively in meta descriptions, it will hurt your SERP ranking.

In general, our advice when it comes to writing meta descriptions is not to overthink them. If your description is accurate to the content on your webpage—that’s a great starting point. If you can answer a question or get a keyword in—even better!

If you haven’t updated your title tags and meta descriptions recently, there is a good chance that they could use a refresh. Here at Responsival, we specialize in optimizing web pages for best SEO practices. As an enterprise SEO agency, we apply the most up-to-date SEO principles to every website we create. If you are interested in hiring an agency to work on your SEO, schedule a meeting with our client success team to get started.

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