Your SEO Basics: Meta Titles & Descriptions

SEO is a whole thing. It's almost a language in itself. That keeps changing every time Google makes an update. And is only partially in your control. Yay.

Getting a firm grasp on exactly what SEO is and the ways in which you can affect it is an important first step.

From here, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to begin. There are so many different rules and factors in play, so which ones should you focus on first? While there are hundreds of ways in which you can begin to manipulate your SEO, there are a few that overpower almost everything else - if they're not in order it doesn't really matter what else you do, your SEO is gonna suck.

So, let's start there! I've created a series of articles to go over the basic items & issues that every SEO-er should know, how to manipulate them for your benefit, and how their influence really makes a difference for your Google rankings.

The first cab off the rank - Meta Titles & Descriptions! Read below for an indepth description on the topic, or skip to the end for a quick overview.

What are Meta Titles & Meta Descriptions?

These bad boys are your absolute bread and butter when it comes to SEO. They're the first place you should start when looking to optimise, and should always be top of mind when creating new areas or trying to root out issues.

They are, in essence, what appears on Google (or any other search engine) when your page shows up in Organic search listings (eg, not sponsored ads, the other ones).

Why are Meta Titles & Meta Descriptions important?

Google uses your Meta as a huge indication of what information is on the page, and then uses that information to serve results for a user's search term.

You've probably heard about "keywords" before in regards to SEO, and this is one of the places where they really matter. Google will read the words in your Meta and then use them to decide whether your page is relevant to the search the user made. From there, it will work out how high to place your page on the search results - if at all.

While this obviously not the only factor that decides where your page appears on the ranking, this is how Meta comes into it.

On a more human level, Google is the way many people find businesses, and Meta will be the first impression they ever get of that business. If the title or the description doesn't contain the right words, or outline the services, products or experiences they're looking for, they'll likely just keep scrolling.

Appealing to Google with your Meta is a more important first step than appealing to humans. If your listing doesn't make it to the first page of results likely no one will see it all, and the ability to climb those results is what SEO is all about. Once you've made some progress in this area, optimising your Meta further for humans will make your listings more clickable.

How can I optimise Meta Titles & Meta Descriptions?

The best way to explain how to optimise Meta for SEO would perhaps be to explain exactly what happens when you don't. The below scenario could occur both if you haven't considered your Meta at all, or if you don't fully understand how to optimise properly.

A Meta Title Scenario

A user searches "White wooden dining stool". You have a white wooden dining stool for sale on your online furniture store, Furniture R Us - cha-ching!

One problem though, your Meta Title for this product is "Dining Furniture For Sale - Shop Now".

While this is accurate in that a dining stool is in fact dining furniture, your Meta is missing the terms "white", "wooden" and "stool".

Google decides that your page probably isn't that relevant to the user's search, based on the fact that 3 out of the 4 keywords are missing.

Google pushes you to the bottom of the second page where your product will likely never be seen.

The easiest way to avoid this whole debacle is to make sure your Meta is packed full of the keywords that are most relevant to the content on the page.

At the same time, it's also important to consider a number of other best practice pointers. It's also important to note that Meta Titles carry more weight than Meta Descriptions do.

Meta Title Optimisation Guidelines

• Use correct grammar and full sentences, not just scrambled nonsense (looking at you, eBay listings)
• Add a consistent suffix to every title so that users can recognise any of your listings are from your website at a glance. This should ideally be your company name.
• Use "|" as a break between seperate points

A poor example of a Meta Title for the above product:
Wooden Stool White Bar Dining Sale

A good Meta Title for the above product would be: 
White Wooden Dining & Bar Stool | SALE | Furniture R Us

Meta Description Optimisation Guidelines

Meta Descriptions have much looser guidelines, and generally work best when they are 1 or 2 sentences that give a good overarching summary of what the page contains.

Work any keywords into them that you couldn't fit into your title, and as always, strive for good grammar, sentence structure and spelling.

Try and end with a CTA (Call To Action) like "Learn More" or "Click To Shop Now" to urge your customers to action.

Other considerations for Meta Titles & Meta Descriptions

It's also essential to consider language habits of your users - make sure your keywords are tailored to what your customers are searching. A common example is deciding to use "sofa" over "couch". If you're selling to the American market, your audience is probably more likely to search "sofa", so that's fine. However if you're looking to sell your lounge room seating contraptions in Australia, "couch" is a much more commonly used term.

Using keyword research tools to figure out exactly what words people use when they search can be very beneficial - most tools that do this cost money though, so just using common sense is a good start.

Another notable point is that both Meta Titles & Meta Descriptions can only be a certain length until they start truncating (the end gets cut off).

The limit is actually stated in pixels, but it's easier to think of it in terms of characters. There are also different limits for mobile and desktop. In this case, always use the mobile number as your guide as it's smaller than the limit of desktop.

As of February 2020, Google's Meta Description mobile max length is about 680 pixels for mobile, or around 120 characters.

Mobile Meta Titles max out around 60-70 characters, or 600 pixels.

The desktop limit is higher than mobile, so as long as you stick to the above you should be good.


So.. that was more than you ever thought you'd need to know about Meta, right? Maybe skip to the key takeaways?

SEO is a very technical subject, and unfortunately that means it can be a very dry topic when you delve into. From a high level perspective, here's what you need to know

1. Meta is the title and description that appears on Google search pages.
2. Keywords are king. Pack your Meta full of relevant ones.
3. Mind the character limit.

Keep an eye out for the next topic in this series, and definitely reach out if you have any questions!

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