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Title Tags & Meta Descriptions: What, Why & How

You wrote an extraordinary piece of content for a new dog training product you’re about to unleash (ahem). 

You also gave it a wicked awesome H1 tag (or so you think). Concise and optimized.

The only things left are the title tag and the meta description. You’re a little stuck because even though all your site content is compelling, interesting, and unique, you’re not getting the traffic you expected or hoped for. 

You’re wise to stop where you are and do some research on writing title tags and meta descriptions that will actually convert. 

In total, only a handful of words comprise both tags. It really shouldn’t be that difficult to choose the right ones. But that’s precisely why it’s difficult. Not only that, but you also have to include the right keywords so Google will relevantly index your page. 

This guide will help you write clickable title tags and meta descriptions.

You might be asking, why should we look at both simultaneously? 

Let’s review each one separately for a better understanding.

What Is A Title Tag?

A title tag is the fastest way for a reader to recognize relevant (or irrelevant) content. 

Technically, a title tag is a line of code that surrounds the title statement, which we can see through “view page source” when we right-click on any webpage. 

Title tags appear in three key places: the SERP, the web browser, and social networks. The SERP and social networks concern us the most because they’re what people see before they decide to visit your page. 

What is a Meta Tag?

A meta tag is a brief description of an article that appears in the SERP and social media. It’s what people read after being drawn in by a great title tag. 

While Google has stated that it’s not used as a ranking factor, it will influence the click-through rate through the less technical SEO strategy of User Experience (UX). 

Now, let’s return to the previous question:

Why Title Tags & Meta Descriptions Belong Together

The first thing someone sees in the SERP is your page title. If your title is compelling enough, they’ll probably click right away. Most times though, they’ll check out the meta description before they click because they’re looking for a little reinforcement that leaving the SERP for another page will give them what they want.

Most of us are afraid of commitment. Even very small pseudo-commitments like the one required when we click on a link that will take us away from the page we’re on to another one. There are thousands of micro impulses firing off that move us toward clicking or continuing to scroll. 

I won’t get into the meta psychology of decision making, but it’s enough to know that a great title tag isn’t enough. It’s just the free bread and butter. You need to back it up with a mouthwatering appetizer that’ll make their decision to click on through to your page a no-brainer.

Your title should grab their attention. Your meta tag should reinforce that attraction and compel them to click. 

Know that we know the What and the Why, let’s get into the How.

READ THIS QUICK TIP:

A great title tag and meta description is really about writing skills. Now people study writing, practice for years to become better so I’m not going to lie and say that just anyone can write well and convincingly. That’s why expert copywriters are in such high demand. However, a few tricks will go a long way. 

How to Write a Title Tag

Punch ‘em with your words.

You want in your title what just about everybody wants in their lives: Power. Just type any keyword into the search bar and see all the boring, totally uninspiring titles that appear. If that doesn’t motivate you to make yours pack more punch, then maybe you should hire a copywriter (cause the good ones LOVE doing that stuff). Remember, power words are simple because they’re understandable and easy to remember. 

Keep it short.

60 characters is about your limit, which is roughly 10 words. I argue that’s even too much. The title of this article is verging on too long and it’s only 7 words plus 2 ampersands. 

Use a keyword.

Use one or two main keywords, if it makes sense, without stuffing or repeating. It should blend naturally into a sensible statement. 

Make it unique.

There are a ton of title generators out there, which spit out clever title ideas, none of which are unique in structure. While they’re easy to fall back on when you’re stuck, I recommend using the best title generator created: your brain. This is your best chance at producing a unique title. If you’re stuck, write the content first. In many cases, the title writes itself. If you’re still stuck, brainstorm a flurry of related words then look at how those words fit together. If your brand is powerful, include at the end.

Write it for the reader. 

Write your title, then dumbify it. In her popular course The Copy Cure, Marie Forleo suggests using the “blockhead method”, which is essentially dumbifying your title over and over and over, like you’re trying to explain what your article is about to a not-so-bright friend. I’m not suggesting your readers are dumb, only that “quick-and-easy” is the best way to serve up any kind of information if you want people to read it.

Make it relevant. 

This seems obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Remember what people type in the search bar and use that to guide you. “Dog training” while in the right category, doesn’t let us know if it’s relevant to our search. What about dog training? Tips? Tutorials? Products? Schools? 

Although this falls a little outside of relevancy boundaries, I recommend writing your title as a proper sentence with a verb. For those of you who skipped too many English grammar classes, verbs are action words and when used correctly, they inspire people to act, which in this case, is clicking.

How to Write a Meta Description

Make it clear, convincing, and compelling.

Avoid sounding like a greasy marketer whenever possible. Be upfront and honest and use simple, non-slimy words to show rather than tell people what the article is about. Remember, you’re writing a brief description, not an ad.

Create curiosity.

But don’t give it all away. Leave room for a little intrigue. Example: “Make training your pup a cinch with this #1 dog training command. Hint: it’s not sit or stay.”

Keep it short. 

You have more wiggle room than you do with a title tag but 160 characters, or 30 words is about the max (the previous example is only 93 characters, or 18 words).

Use keywords.

A couple of juicy long-tails could slide in here quite nicely if you’re strategic about it. Even if meta tags aren’t ranked (which we don’t really know for sure), people still want to see familiar keywords that reflect what they’re looking for.

Use rich snippets.

Also called schema markup, rich snippets are pieces of code that you include in the HTML content on your site page to make it more informative. They more richly describe what your page is about because they contextualize the content so it’s meaningful. 

You’re probably wondering if rich snippets make a difference in SEO. According to Search Engine Land, they don’t:

“While structured data markup for rich snippets does not work as a ranking signal, it can generate indirect SEO benefits by making your page more easily indexable and providing more accurate and targeted metadata. … Rich snippets help you achieve this by pre-qualifying visitors.”

According to other experts, they do, but Google puts them through a somewhat vague incubation period until they pass. But one thing’s certain, like meta tags in general, they make for a better user experience.

You Don’t Have To Do It All Yourself!

Writing great title tags and meta descriptions doesn’t require an expert, but it certainly helps. Even if you do decide to hire a copywriter to do the creative work for you, it’s still wise to know what each should contain and why.

I hope you got what you needed from this guide. Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions. We always want to hear from you. And if you’re looking for an expert copywriter, let us know and we’ll hook you up.

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Step 10 to SEO: Content Marketing

Am I marketing the quality content I created?

You spent hours (or a good chunk of change) creating content that answers your customers’ questions and solves their problems.

Your customer wanted to know the best way to train their dog so you went beyond the call of duty and collected resources on how to actually make their dog smarter. Then, you put it all together in some easy-to-read, 100% accessible, problem-solving, smart, snappy blog that would make your customers so happy they’d convert on the spot and share your blog with their dog-loving friends.

Job well done.

(Well, maybe it was your copywriter but we’ll give you the credit).

But hang on, what are you doing with it? Is it just sitting there, all dressed up with no place to go, and no one to hang out with?

Why isn’t anyone reading your fantastic stuff?

You didn’t create swipe files and outlines and sweat over the perfect headers and paragraph structures and learn everything there is to know about how to avoid raising a dumb dog just to sit back and watch your awesome copy call in the crickets and collect digital dust, did you?

Of course not.

You might recall from Step 9 to SEO that writing for a person and writing for SEO are different.

On the one hand, you’re speaking directly to your potential customer in order to give her something she needs, to solve her problem, to provide her with answers. It’s a tall order but you did it.

One the other hand, you’re structuring your copy to speak directly to Google, to say, “hey G-dawg, check out my keyword-optimized headers, my high-quality backlinks, my relevant, user-friendly content rich with answers to people’s questions. Please give me a front-row seat in the SERP so everyone knows where to find me.”

The goal of marketing your content is two-fold:

First––get people to your site, reading your content and buying your product or service.

Second––gain authority in your niche, which happens when you start ranking for a target keyword in Google’s SERPs.

How do you do both?

There are several ways to get the right traffic to your site, but the best ones are here:

Email List

The obvious way to get what you want is to ask for it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but you have to try.

Ask your readers to subscribe to your site. Once you’ve got their email keep them engaged with regular, useful information to get them back to your site again and again and to build their interest and trust in your product or service.

Pay the most attention to your email subject line. Make it short, relevant, intriguing, and urgent when necessary. In the body, include a short story or anecdote, dropping in buzz words like yummy snacks. Hint at how you’re going to solve their pain point and include your simple, direct call-to-action with a link to juicy new content on your site.

Then, your clever silo structure takes them on a delicious journey through your site. (Keep reading to find out what I mean).

But don’t miss the following stuff––unless you enjoy watching your ROIs plummet like a suicidal emu from a high rise building.

Link Building

Inbound links from authority sites are one of the number one ways to get people reading your content. Link building isn’t the most fun activity you’ll ever engage in but it’s necessary for building relationships and proving to Google that you are worth a mention and a visit.

Now don’t get the idea that you can approach link building passively because it makes you want to jam toothpicks in your nose. Hire someone. There are tons of people out there who can take over the task of reaching out to different sites once your strategy is in place. We’ll get more into this in Step 12 so stay tuned.

I came across a clever strategy one of my clients was using to get links to his site. As a database for ESL teachers searching for work, he knew that universities were high authority sites so he contacted schools across the US and Canada offering their students the chance to win a scholarship. All they had to do was write an essay about why they want to be a teacher and send it to him through their newly created profile on his site. See? It attracted thousands of soon-to-be-teachers to his site, massively increasing his database

Social Media Sharing

Get on Twitter, FB, LI, Instagram, and whatever else floats your boat, and engage. Connect with as many people as you can, especially your competitors. Comments on posts. Set up staggered scheduling so you’re not posting the same thing on every platform. Consult a social media expert, or check out this guide from Buffer: How to Schedule Social Media Content for Next Week, Next Month, and Next Year.

A final and absolutely necessary step in marketing your content

One of the most clever strategies I’ve come across is interlinking. Not only does this appeal to Google, it takes your customer on a little journey through your site, providing him with resources like a trail of cinnamon-raisin bread crumbs.

Check it out:

Your home page should link to your product pages, which should link to your content where your customer can get all the information they need to build trust in your offering.

Or more likely, they come at it the other way, from a link in an email you sent to a content page, perhaps an interesting blog or something about the awesome benefits of that dog harness you’re selling. From there, they can navigate through to your product page where they can buy said dog harness.

Or, if they’re not yet sold, you’ve left some yummy snacks throughout that content that leads them to more useful content, which also leads them to your product page so when they’re ready to buy, it’s an easy hop over.

Here’s a key takeaway:

  • Parent links to child and child links to parent.
  • Child links to siblings and uncle if useful, but not to cousins.
  • If child must link to cousins for UX, make it no-follow to avoid confusing relevance.

I can’t stress enough how absolutely critical this structure is on your site. This is your marketing, nicely structured on your site, doing all the work for you.  

Don’t forget to check out our next Step––Internet Partners. Until then, get writing, emailing, building, sharing, and structuring.

Logging out,

Logical Mix