How to write Meta Tags

There are three types of ‘meta tags’ that are commonly used for search engine optimisation. They are the Title tag, the Keywords tag and the Description tag.

The first thing you can do is completely forget about the keywords tag.

The keywords tag was used in the early tags of websites (back in the 90’s and early 2000’s) and was used specifically to list all the keywords you want your website to rank for. Since then the major search engines (Google and Bing) have come up with far more sophisticated and complex ways of determining which words on your pages are ‘keywords’. The aim of Google and Bing is to deliver the most relevant content related to the search term that people are searching on. This is the number one reason why Google rose above other early competitors such as Yahoo and Altavista.. it was because they were able to deliver more relevant results which led to most people using Google as their main (or only) search engine.

The only serious competitor to Google is Microsoft’s Bing search engine. It too is a very good search engine and great at delivering relevant results. Due to this both search engines are constantly tweaking their algorithm to try and remove spammers and irrelevant content from results and only deliver exactly what you are looking for.

This is where the title and description tags come in. There are many other elements of search engine optimisation such as back links, site structure, domain authority, etc. but that will be outlined another time. We have found that at the core of SEO, correct use of title and description tags can be one of the most important factors in influencing your rankings and attracting the right traffic (people that are actually looking for your products and services).

The title tag is the ‘heading’ of the entry when showing in search engines and is also the title that appears on the top of the browser bar when looking at the site.

In the following example you will see the title tag is ‘Real Estate Bulk Uploader | Portal Pusher’.

The description tag is the ‘description’ that shows below the title in search engine results (this is the only place it shows). In the below example, this is the text that says ‘Introducing a low cost solution for managing your agencies listings on all major portals …’

Creating Title Tags

When creating a title tag, it is important to first think about who you would like to attract to the site. You need to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and think if you were looking for the product or service you offer, what would you type to search on. The title tag then should be as close to that as possible. For example, if you have a page on the website that is talking about a ‘blue widget’ then it’s best to make the title tag exactly that (Blue Widget). If there are a couple of different phrases that would be applicable for the page then you would separate them with a | symbol. This then tells search engines to separate the phrases between each one and it also makes it understandable in search engine results as it is aesthetically pleasing.

For example, our website has a page that refers to a service we offer to the real estate industry. Some people in the industry refer to this as a ‘bulk uploader’ and some refer to it as a ‘portal pusher’. By using the title tag ‘Real Estate Bulk Uploader | Portal Pusher’, we are able to ensure that it captures people searching on both these terms.

One thing to be aware of is if Google detects that the title tag is not relevant to the search the person is doing or if the title tag is too long or complex, Google will generate it’s own title tag that matches the search query. This can cause confusion so it’s best to not force Google to do this by following these simple rules when creating title tags:

  • The title tag should be unique to the page (every page in a website should have a unique title tag)
  • It should only be around 5 – 7 words long. The more words you use, the more the ‘importance’ of each word are diluted and if you use too many words, Google will ignore it and choose their own title tag
  • The title tag should be as close as possible to what you want to rank for (ie. What people are actually typing in to find you). Relevance is extremely important to search engines.

Creating Meta Descriptions

The first thing to be aware of is that meta descriptions are not used in ranking algorithms by Google. What this means is that the words you use in your meta description do not influence what you are ranking for. The Title tag is used for this purpose and the description is only used to further explain the page in Google to try and attract the searcher to click on your website and not someone else’s.

You need to look at description tags from a sales / marketing point of view and write a concise description to encourage the visitor to click on the link. Ideally the description should only be one sentence (sometimes it can be two depending on how many words you use).

If you are selling ‘blue widgets’ and you set the title tag to ‘blue widgets’ then a good meta description would be ‘We sell the highest quality blue widgets. Free postage worldwide!’. This tells the searcher a bit more about the fact you sell the product and also has a hook of ‘free postage’ which would encourage them to click on your result rather than a competitors.

Hopefully this info is of value and can help you understand how to correctly construct meta tags to work towards better search engine optimisation and ultimately larger numbers of relevant visitors to the websites.

IMPORTANT NOTE - When making these changes, it can take around a week for Google to re-index the your pages and update the search results. Don't expect to make these changes then be able to see the changes in Google or Bing immediately.