Writing effective metadata is one of the easiest places to start when it comes to improving your site’s rankings in Google results, through SEO.
Whether it’s your first time writing metadata or you’re looking for ways to improve, our guide will help you understand:
What metadata is
Why it’s important
How to write effective metadata
Read on for our top tips and best practices to help boost your SERP rankings…
What is Metadata?
The official definition of ‘metadata’ is data that describes other data. However, in SEO, the type of metadata we are talking about gives an overview and summary of webpage content.
Metadata appears in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), using keywords relevant to the content on the page. It is made up of two parts; a page title – or meta title – and meta description.
The meta title specifies the main title of the webpage. It’s important to include your keyword as close to the beginning of the title as possible. Then end the title with the website name, for branding purposes.
Make sure you’re writing your titles for humans and not search engines. Meta titles help search engines match your content to search queries. However ultimately, they help users decide if the webpage is relevant to their query, so they must be clear.
Tip: It’s important to keep your title concise, as search engines limit how much text they display – your meta title length should be between 50 and 60 characters.
The meta description appears below the title in the metadata. It is a snippet of information which summarises the content of the webpage.
Like the meta title, the description should encourage users to click through, so creating a compelling description is crucial. Keywords should be included in the meta description but avoid keyword stuffing and creating duplicate content.
Tip: Now and then, Google changes the length shown in the meta description. Try to get your main point across in the first 160 characters to ensure it is shown.
Why is Metadata important?
Whilst metadata is important for SEO, it is not a direct ranking factor used in search engine algorithms. However, there are indirect benefits that can lead to a boost in rankings.
As mentioned previously, the purpose of metadata is to summarise and inform users of your webpage content, to entice them to click through to your site. When you show a compelling and informative meta title and description, users are more likely to click through to your page.
Google uses click-through-rate as a way of working out whether your site is a good result. The more people click through to your site, the more Google will consider you to be a quality result. As a result, therefore, Google would then move you up the ranks. An improved organic click-through rate ultimately improves ranking.
If you don’t create a meta description, Google will try to find a relevant part of your content to display instead.
Best Practices to Write Effective Metadata
1. Keep it concise
Meta titles need to be short but sweet – Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag. Moz research has shown that if you keep your meta titles under 60 characters, you can expect about 90% of your titles to display properly.
Your meta description should describe what you’ll find on the page within 150-160 characters. Google has changed the length shown a number of times, but nowadays you’ll mostly see descriptions of around 155 characters, so use the space wisely. You need to get your message across but keep it short and snappy.
2. Include the focus keyword
Including your focus keyword in the meta titles is a must – try to include it as close to the beginning as possible. It’s also best practice to include your focus keyword or other variations of it in your meta description. If a user’s search keyword matches part of the text in the meta description, Google will be more inclined to use that meta description.
Tip: Google highlights keywords and their variations in the snippet, so make sure you’re including keywords to help your search result stand out even more.
3. Include a call-to-action
Your meta description is essentially an organic ad in the SERP – it’s your opportunity to sell your content to the user and encourage them to click your link over others in the results.
Incorporating a short call-to-action or offer in your meta description is a great way to boost your click-through rate and allow you to stand out from your competition.
Tip: Use call-to-actions such as ‘Learn more’, ‘Get it now’ and ‘Try for free’ to entice users to your site.
4. Match the title & description to your content
Don’t try to trick the user into clicking through to your site. Google finds out when misleading meta descriptions are written and can even penalise sites that do this. Not only that but writing metadata that doesn’t match the content on the page will result in increased bounce rates.
5. Make sure they’re unique
Creating unique meta descriptions is important for user experience; if you use duplicate meta descriptions, all pages will appear to be the same. The originality of meta descriptions is what makes users click through to your site.
If you don’t have time to create unique meta descriptions for every page of your site, start with the high priority pages and leave the descriptions blank for the lower priority pages. That way, Google will pick a snippet from the page containing the keyword used in the query, meaning the description should still be relevant.
Well-written metadata gives search engines information about your content, meaning your pages are shown to users searching for the most relevant queries.
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