Posted Jul 31, 2012 by in Web Development
Two of the most effective (and often underutilized) SEO tools are your page's title and description. Writing titles and descriptions isn't magic or a high tech skill. Like all communication, effective titles and descriptions come from an understanding of your audience. Why would they want to visit your page? What are they searching for when they search for your site?
Keeping your audience in mind, follow my five key characteristics of effective titles and descriptions and you'll be on your way to higher search engine ranking and increased website traffic in no time!
-Matches Keywords - See the bolded words in the search results image above? Those are words in the title or description that exactly match the keywords I typed into the Google search box above. Before writing your page titles and descriptions be sure to research which keywords people frequently use to find your goods or services. Including these keywords in your title and description is key to getting your page higher in the search results. However, a list of keywords does not a title make!
-Readable: Put your keywords together into logical phrases that make sense to real humans. Remember! You're not just trying to get a keyword match - you're trying to get your audience to visit your website and they'll be less likely to click on your link if it's just a nonsensical list of words.
-Unique and Descriptive: Each page has (or should have!) a unique purpose - some pages introduce your brand, others might list specific product specifications, capture leads or show prospective customers your brick-and-mortar location. Whatever the page's purpose, it should have a unique title and description explaining that purpose to your visitors and highlighting it for search engines. Duplicate titles and descriptions confuse search engines and humans alike, leading to less website traffic.
-Actionable: Not all page titles and descriptions need a call to action but for the right page it can really increase clicks. Lead-capture and sales pages can especially benefit from an actionable description. Telling visitors to click and giving them a good reason to do so - such as a special offer or unique benefit - can make your site stand out on the search results page and lead to increased clicks even if it appears below a competitor's link.
-Concise: Too-long titles and descriptions aren't helpful. Search engines only display so many characters for each listing; if your title or description is longer it'll be cut short, potentially hiding valuable keywords or your carefully crafted call-to-action. The ideal length for a page title is about 70 characters - for a description it's about 160 characters; anything beyond those limits is typically truncated. Pro tip: Write titles and descriptions in an Excel spreadsheet and use the =LEN() function in adjacent cells to make sure the important keywords are included before you reach the character limit.
As with all SEO efforts, it's important to keep an eye on your website analytics to make sure your work is effective. Be sure to note the date your new titles and descriptions go live - that way you'll know why your site visitors are increasing. Good luck and be sure to get in touch if you need help with your SEO or other marketing efforts.