A crucial part of all good website design is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). More specifically, a good website designer will put the right SEO foundation in place, so you can improve or maintain your website’s position on Google search results pages.
Two important components of SEO in website design which are often overlooked, however, are page titles and meta descriptions. When a website designer doesn’t place enough emphasis on them, you end up with auto-generated versions that will not deliver for your business.
This is despite the fact that page titles and meta descriptions play a huge role in the success of your website in Google search, not least because page titles are one of the search giant’s key ranking factors.
When getting a new website designed, here’s what you need to know about page titles and meta descriptions.
The Role of Page Titles and Meta Descriptions in SEO
In technical terms, page titles are an HTML element – or tag – which lets Google and other search engines know the title of a webpage. If you’re writing a blog entry, it is the title of the blog. If you are writing copy for your sales page, it is the title of your sales page.
It is important to remember, however, that when we discuss page titles, we are not talking about headings. Headings use header tags (H1, H2, etc) and they are completely different things.
Page titles go in the middle of <title></title> HTML tags. While that is technical, it is important as Google uses page titles to help it understand the content of the page. If you don’t use the correct HTML tag, it can’t do this.
You can see page titles on every search results page – they are the clickable headline for each search result. Therefore, page titles are important for SEO and user experience. As a result, page titles should be a concise and accurate reflection of the content on the page.
Meta descriptions, on the other hand, are short descriptions which summarise the content of your page for the benefit of search engines and the end-user. While meta descriptions are nowhere near as important as they used to be for SEO purposes, they still help.
Specifically, they help encourage Google search users to click on your website rather than one of your competitors. This is because the main function of a meta description is to display a short piece of information underneath the title in search engine results.
Writing Page Titles That Are Clickable
As page titles are so important both in terms of SEO and your click-through rate, knowing how to write them properly is crucial. In fact, taking the time to write an effective page title is a simple, high-impact task which can give your SEO a major boost.
Here are five simple tips to help you write killer page titles:
1. Keep Your Page Titles Concise – But Not Too Concise
Google simply cuts page titles that are too long, so users won’t see the full wording on a search results page. On the flip side, nobody is going to click on something which is half-complete.
The general rule is to keep page titles between 40 and 70 characters.
For a more technical explanation, the exact limit for a page title is based on a 600-pixel box. This is the width Google allocates to the page title. So, if your page title has lots of wide letters such as “W” or “O”, you are going to have less pixel space to play with. If, however, your page title features letters like “I” or lowercase letters such as “t” and “p”, you will fit more in.
2. Use Keywords Wisely but Don’t Spam
If you stuff your page title full of keywords, Google will penalise you and you will not rank very well. After all, page titles that are a list of keywords or keyword variations do nothing to improve user experience. Quite the opposite, in fact, which is why Google takes it so seriously.
Don’t try to outsmart Google, either, as its algorithm is now very good at spotting spammy page titles.
That said, your page title should include the main keyword of the page. In fact, this is critically important to SEO. Ideally, place the keyword at the start of the page title. While on the topic, it is also helpful to include the page’s keyword in your meta description.
3. Avoid Other Spam Triggers
Avoid anything else in your page title which could be considered as spam. A good example is the unnecessary use of capital letters – avoid this and instead use normal sentence or title capitalisation.
Another example is the use of special characters such as $ or ! or *. You should avoid using these too.
4. Write with Your Target Market in Mind
If you don’t focus on your target market through your title, what’s the point? After all, these are the people you are trying to make click on it.
So, write your titles in a way in a way that will attract clicks from people who are likely to have an interest in your product, service, or what you have to say.
Remember, your page titles are a potential visitor’s very first interaction with you when they find your website through a search engine result. This highlights the importance of writing page titles that present your brand in the best light possible.
5. Avoid Writing Page Titles that Could Be Considered as Clickbait
Clickbait is a term that often refers to page titles. Specifically, page titles that sensationalise or misrepresent the actual content on the page in order to get people to visit.
For some, it is a tempting approach, particularly if you are in a competitive market. However, the best advice when doing anything in relation to SEO is to never lose focus on users.
It is not hard to see that clickbait page titles do not add anything of value to users. In most cases, in fact, they cause frustration and annoyance.
Your page title can be confident, but you should never drift into sensationalism and you should always ensure the content behind the title delivers on expectations.
The SEO Payoff
Page titles and meta descriptions, particularly the former, are too often ignored by website designers. One of the reasons for this is that modern website design platforms will automatically fill in the gap to ensure your web page works.
However, this approach results in page titles that are not optimised so won’t help your SEO. By manually writing and optimising, you will get a competitive edge.