One of the most important, and simple to execute, aspects of SEO is the optimization of meta data. It's simply shocking how many sites are not making use of this low hanging fruit, so we thought we'd create a short guide on the best practices to follow if you are filling out meta data on your own site.
Simply put, meta data tells browsers and SEs (search engines) how to characterize and categorize a given page on your site. The only three meta data fields that we are going to worry about or address within this post are title, description and keywords.
Title tags define, you guessed it, the title of a document. As the most important SEO element, after quality content. of course, they are required for each and every page, although it is a common and easily made mistake to use the same one for every page. You must have a unique title tag for each of your pages, or suffer the wrath of Google for flagged duplicate content.
A good length for title tags is 70 characters - really try not to go over this limit, as it is the max that Google displays in search results.
The image below is an example of how a browser displays a page's title tag.
Search Engine Listing Page
Title tags are displayed in search engine results, as well. Note the number of characters displayed.
Your title should be descriptive and relevant to the page, and the closer you place your target keywords to the front of the text, the better. Also remember: no more than 70 characters in length.
Meta descriptions provide a brief explanation of the content of a web page. Once again, these should be as unique as possible per page. These are frequently used as the intro text beneath the title for your page's SE listings.
A good rule of thumb is to either frontload all your important content in the description, or keep them to a max of 155 characters, as that's about all any SE shows in their listings. From a strictly search engine oriented view of SEO, the meta description is not that important. However, for user engagement and to get them to click through to your site for a possible conversion, meta descriptions are very important.
Search Engine Listing Page
Description tags are displayed in search engine results as marked in red in the image below.
Use your target keywords, once again as close to the beginning of the text as possible. Be as unique as possible in writing the meta description of each page because this might be the only thing that entices a viewer to click on your SE link after all. Think of each meta description as a 155 character advertisement for your site, products and services, and write compelling copy that will make viewers want to check these things out.
One more time: Uniqueness is key with meta descriptions - do not let any duplicate meta descriptions slip through.
Years ago, the meta keywords tag was an important part of SEO in the fact that it told SEs what relevant terms to look for in the content of a page. However, this once relevant tag has now deprecated to the point where many professional SEOs no longer recommend using it at all.
For one thing, Matt Cutts, who pretty much runs SEO policy at Google, has publicly stated that it is no longer even looked at. For another, this is a great way for your competition to spy on the target keywords you yourself are optimizing for. Honestly, it's up to you, but we no longer utilize the keyword meta element ourselves.
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