The way to un-geek-i-fy the meta data is to simply describe it as a summary of the website and a condensed description of your pages that allows search engines and potential visitors to quickly understand your website content. Before we dig into the importance of good quality meta data I would recommend you to have a peek here to get a better understanding on how search engines work. In this post, I will reference the meta tags such as title, description and keywords.
Meta title and meta description
Meta data consists of a title, description and keywords. It’s located in the <head> part of the website code and depending on how your website has been built, it can be edited via the CMS or has to be changed by the developer.
The title tag is displayed on the search engine results page above of your website URL. It provides potential visitors with information on page content and also plays an important role in the search engine’s algorithm that determines your website ranking for specific keywords. The recommended format includes brand name, primary keywords and location (if applicable). As shown on the image below, vertical dividers allow to present a title tag in clean and professional manner.
It’s crucial to ensure that meta titles are unique and relevant to the content of the page. Google displays the first 50-60 characters of the title tag.
The meta description is no longer important for search engine rankings, however it plays a crucial part in attracting and convincing potential visitors to click through to your website. The snippet under your website URL is the meta description of the page. In some cases search engines may choose to display a different description than the one provided in the website code. It happens when the page content is more relevant to the search term.
It’s important to make sure that the meta descriptions are highly relevant to the page’s content and as inviting and useful as possible. Best practice says they should include your most relevant keywords, but make sure to not over use them as search engines can penalise you for “keyword stuffing”.
The below image shows examples of two meta descriptions results in the search for “engagement rings” phrase on Google. The first one shows good quality meta description. The second one is an example of when the description is being pulled from website content. As you can see it’s highly irrelevant to the search. It doesn’t only create a bad first impression but also sets this merchant back a step in the sales process of grabbing potential visitors attention. This can happen when page doesn’t have the meta data at all or when the meta data doesn’t include searched phrase and the content does.
Google displays the first 150 to 160 characters of the meta description. As for the meta titles it’s also crucial that all meta descriptions are unique throughout the website.
Lastly and in this case least important come the keywords. They have been in fact completely disregarded by Google but are still partially used by other search engines. It doesn’t harm to input them, however they won’t influence your website rankings. The search engines algorithm changes constantly so who knows maybe some day they will become important again!