Writing better meta (tags)
Welcome to the first in a series of website design, SEO and content writing tips from the team at PixelPuppet. This series is intended to help the non-technical person gain an understanding of what they can do themselves to improve their website in a variety of ways.
What are meta details
Normally when people speak about meta details it is in relation to search engine optimisation (SEO), or the art of improving their websites rankings on Google. There are many other uses for them but for the purposes of this article we will stick to what matters for SEO.
Over the years search engines, primarily Google, have regularly changed the rules for how pages are ranked. As a result many techniques that used to work now have no effect, or worse they actively damage your website. One such example is keyword stuffing, whereby website owners would just repeat popular keywords or phrases as many times as possible on their web pages and meta tags. As Google has gotten 'smarter' it is better able to recognise properly written, unique content and will elevate such content above poorly written keyword heavy spam pages.
This leaves us in the slightly awkward position of wanting to include popular keyphrases in our content but without overdoing it and risking being penalised. Previously this is where the 'keywords' meta tag would have come in, however Google has confirmed it has dropped this as a ranking factor due to the overuse of it for keyword stuffing. So instead we need to focus on the other two meta tags: title and description.
The meta title is an extremely important ranking factor, it is also displayed on the search results page as the link people click on, and at the top of their browser when they are on your page. This means that you not only have to make it relevant to search engines, you have to make it user friendly so people will click on it, and recognisable when people have a whole screenful of tabs open and want to get back to the one containing your web page.
Google search results typically show up to the first 60 characters of your title. So make sure you have enough information here to convince people to click. You should start with a key phrase specific to the page and end with your websites name, something like:
Writing better meta details | Blog |PixelPuppet
The meta description is also important and is often shown as the text snippet in Googles search results. So again it needs to contain search engine friendly key phrases but still be written in a style that will attract clicks.
You have a bit more space to play with for descriptions, typically 160 or so characters is considered ideal so you have scope to include a couple of extra keywords in here. Make sure you replicate keywords used in your content though, it's no use telling Google one thing in your meta tags and something else in the page content. The example below shows we are replicating some of the keywords used throughout this article in the description:
Writing better meta details, help and advice on search engine optimisation techniques - A web design blog from PixelPuppet.
We hope you learnt something new today, we will be publishing more in the coming weeks and months.