Title and Meta Description Optimization

Written By: Stephen Scott
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There have been several articles written about the importance of Title and Meta Tags. While views and opinions have differed, most experts agree that proper optimization of the Title and Meta Description tags are very important aspects of website optimization.

What exactly are Title and Meta Tags?

Title and Meta Tags are essentially descriptive code that's included in the <HEAD> section of your HTML document. Here's an example the Title and Meta Description tags used in the header section.

<HEAD>
<Title>The Importance of Title & Meta Tags</Title>
<Meta name="description" content="Expert advice on how to optimize your Title and Meta Description tags.">

</HEAD>

The Title tag information is visible to the person surfing your web page at the very top left side of the browser. All other information within the <HEAD> section is visible only to the search engines.

In addition to the Title and Meta Description tags, the Meta Keywords tag is often used however, the Title and Meta Description tags are the most important when it comes to search engine optimization.

Why is the Title Tag so important?

The Title Tag is usually the first tag listed in the <HEAD> section of your HTML document. The Title Tag clearly communicates what the web page (each web page in a domain can/should have a unique Title Tag) is about to both human visitors and search engines. Human visitors view your Title Tag as a very brief description of what your web page is about. The search engines, on the other hand, take it one step further. Search engines use the keywords in the Title Tag to determine the overall relevance of your web page.

Important: Make sure your Title Tag content is fully consistent with the overall subject matter on your web page.

If your Title Tag reads "Online Job Directory" and your web page is about "online gambling" you are not only misleading your visitors, but you will most likely incur a penalty by the major search engines. The penalties imposed by search engines can be anything from a lower search engine results ranking to an all out ban of your entire site/domain.

What makes a good Title Tag?

Although the Title Tag is a relatively short phrase it is nonetheless very important and should be constructed with care. You need to pay close attention to not only the words that appear in the Title Tag, but also the order in which they appear. Develop a Title Tag that is clear and concise and includes your most relevant keyword phrases. Keyword phrases in your Title Tag carry the most weight with respect to search engine optimization.

The keywords used in your Title Tag should also be used throughout your web page. For instance, if you use the words "cheap golf clubs" in your Title Tag, you should also use the term in your Meta Description as well as in the body of your web page. Avoid using keywords in your Title Tag that don't appear anywhere else in your web page.

Title Tag Do's and Don'ts

  • Title Tag length should be between 50-75 characters.
  • Do not repeat keywords, once is enough.
  • Use natural phrases which read better but still utilize your top keyword phrases.
  • Do not use the same Title Tag throughout your site. Each web page should have it's own unique title.
  • Avoid using your company or product name. Briefly describe what the web page is about.

A good Title Tag should:

  • Provide a clear an concise summary of your web page content.
  • Be a cleverly worded pitch to entice users to click on your entry when displayed in search results.
  • Include your most relevant keywords sequenced in a way that reads naturally.
  • Be unique and different from any other web page titles in your website.

What is Meta Description Tag?

As described above, the Meta Description Tag is included in the <HEAD> section of your HTML document. It's purpose is to give a brief summary of your web page content. Many search engines use the Meta Description as the summary that is displayed in their search engine results pages (SERP), just below the Title Tag. Most search engine users will quickly scan both the Title and Description before deciding to click on a particular result.

Some search engines ignore the Meta Description altogether and instead parse a brief description from the content in the body of the web page.

Working with Meta Description Tag

Once again, the use of your most important keywords is very important in your Meta Description. Not only should your most relevant keywords be used in the Meta Description, but they should be the very first words to appear in the Meta Description. Don't go overboard, be judicious in your use of keywords in the Meta Description while providing as much detail as possible.

As with the Title Tag, the Meta Description Tag of your web page should not read like a collection of keywords, but should be written as an informative and interesting summary of your web page.

Meta Description Do's and Don'ts

  • Meta Description length should be less than 175 characters.
  • Avoid excessive keyword repetition. Instead pay attention to the sequence in which your words appear.
  • Your most important keywords should appear at the very beginning.
  • Do not use the same Meta Description throughout your site. Each web page should have it's own unique description.

At this point it's no surprise that keyword selection plays a very important role in the effectiveness of your Title and Meta Description tags. In fact, keyword research is the first and most important step in developing a successful website. Do Not cut corners, do your homework and once you select your keywords, begin writing keyword rich content for your web page. Your keywords can be worked into your Title and Meta Description tags as well as the body of your HTML content.

There are several keyword search tools available on the Internet to help you find the best keywords. One of the most popular keyword selection tools is WordTracker.

The Meta Keywords Tag

The meta keywords tag allows you to provide additional text for search engines to consider when analyzing your web page. This tag is now ingnored by most but it's important to understand its use.

The meta keywords tag is sometimes useful as a way to reinforce the terms you think a page is important for. For instance, if you had a page about golf clubs -- AND you say the words golf clubs at various places in your web page -- then mentioning the words "golf clubs" in the meta keywords tag might help boost your page a bit higher for those words.

Remember, if you don't use the words "golf clubs" on the page at all, then just adding them to the meta keywords tag is extremely unlikely to help the page do well for the term. The text in the meta keywords tag, works in conjunction with the text in your web page.

Even those who are experienced in search engine optimization may decide it is no longer worth using the tags. Any meta keywords tags you find in the site were written in the past, when the keywords tag was more important. There's no harm in leaving up existing tags you may have written, but going forward, writing new tags probably isn't worth the trouble.

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