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5 Rules for Search Engine Smart Metadata

December 12, 2013

5 Rules for Search Engine Smart Meta Data

Last week, we had a client ask us for some guidance on how to best approach the creation of title tags and meta descriptions for new pages on their website. We thought that we would share the wealth. When crafting title tags and meta descriptions for your website, there are a couple of things to keep in mind: 

  • Be Conscious of Character Length: Google outlines those character limits for a reason, and will not hesitate to truncate your title tags and descriptions if they exceed the limit. If you think of your website’s search engine listings as being your brand’s first introduction to a consumer, then it is only logical that you would want to put your best foot forward. You wouldn’t want to have your optimized messaging cut short and distorted. 
  • Watch Keyword Density & Keep It Relevant: It is tempting to fill your website’s metadata with as many relevant keywords as possible. But, if the metadata that you are creating isn’t fully represented in the content of the page, chances are that a search engine will devalue it. Stick with strong category keywords that truly describe the page, and consider putting those first. Google has outwardly stated that they prefer quality to quantity.
  • Don’t Forget About Your Brand: There are a couple of different schools of thought about how to best integrate your brand name into the title tag. Moz sums it up as: “If a brand is well-known enough to make a difference in click-through rates in search results, the brand name should be first. If the brand is less known or relevant than the keyword, the keyword should be first." (Moz) Personally, we think a combination of the two can be utilized depending on the content of the page, as long as there is visual consistency. For example, your brand should be the focal point on any About Us pages, but should be secondary on any Events or Topics pages.
  • Look Out For Duplicates: All search engines frown upon duplicate content. From a search engine’s point of view, if a page is not unique enough to have its own title tag and meta description, then it shouldn’t exist. It is just digital clutter. This circles back to making sure that each page’s metadata is relevant to the content of that page. If you are concerned that Google is truncating your metadata or finding duplicate metadata, go to your website’s Webmaster Tools account. There, under HTML Improvements, will be a list of pages that Google has noted may have title tags or descriptions that are duplicates or inappropriate lengths.
  • Don’t Try To Trick Google: If you try to trick Google, chances are you will lose. Fill your website with quality, sharable and social-friendly content and complement it with well-written metadata. A continued, strong search engine presence doesn’t come from sneaky, black-hat SEO. It is strategic, well-researched optimization following Google’s outlined best practices that will maintain strong rankings despite any algorithm changes.

And, for those in need, here is a quick title tag and meta description refresher: 

  • Title Tag: The title tag will define the title of the document. It should always include keywords relevant to content of the page that it is on. It is regarded as one of the most important on-page SEO elements. Unlike the meta description and meta keywords, Google will crawl the title tag for insight into the relevance of a page. Not only is the title tag influential in a page’s search engine rankings, but the title tag is also displayed on the search engine results page. A strong title tag will be keyword rich, but also user-friendly and informational. Best practice is for the title tag to be less than 70 characters so the whole tag fits on results pages when it is displayed and people can read it at a quick glance. Anything more than 70 characters will be truncated. 
  • Meta Description: In 2009, Google confirmed that neither meta descriptions nor meta keywords play into Google’s ranking algorithms for search. However, the meta description still plays an important role in click-through rates. Google will bold any keywords in the title tag and meta description that are also in the search query. Meta descriptions generally should be approximately 150-160 characters long so the whole tag fits in the results. 

Photo by: Google/Connie Zhou