How to write perfect meta titles & descriptions for SEO

How to write perfect meta titles & descriptions for SEO

December 27, 2021

By: Sander Kah

9 min. reading time

In this article, we explain how to create the perfect meta titles and descriptions for better SEO rankings. A handy step-by-step explanation where we take you through the usefulness and necessity of good meta titles and descriptions (also known as SEO titles and descriptions) for better ranking in the search engines.

What are SEO titles and descriptions?

afosto-serp-meta-title-description.png In the image above, you can see the meta title and description of Afosto. The meta title is the title of the page that is displayed in the search results. The meta description is the (short) description of that same page. Search engines use this title and description, among other things, to determine for which keywords they should display your page. You can see it as a kind of advertisement for your page.

How do you write a good Meta Title?

A good meta title is essential for better ranking. Below is a list of some guidelines for better meta titles:

  • 50-60 characters (use this tool to check how long your meta title is)
  • Write for people, not search engines
  • Make sure all title tags are unique (a unique title for each page)
  • Make sure there is a title tag on all pages
  • Focus on a descriptive title
  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Use the right keywords
  • ATTRACT the reader by adding EMOTION to your title
  • Add (brackets) to your title
  • Example: Furnishing the attic: This is how you do it! (5 tips)
  • Use "curiosity" to provoke a click on your title
  • Example: 5 Tips for the Best SEO Titles (Which Google Doesn't Want You to Know)
  • Put your keyword at the front of the title

Step 1. Choose one PRIMARY keyword to focus on.

The primary keyword you focus on is the subject that is most important for the page to be found. Because the search engines are getting smarter we use the subject, because if you write a good page you will not only gather traffic for that one keyword but also for e.g. synonyms of the same word.

With free tools like Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends you can see how often a particular word is searched for.

If you want to do even more extensive research then you can look at paid tools like Semrush and Ahrefs

Step 2. Find LONG-TAIL variations of your primary keyword.

In addition to the primary keyword for the page, it usually makes sense to focus on one or two long-tail keywords.

Why? Because it can take a long time to rank for your main keyword if it is a competitive one. What gets results much sooner are long-tail keywords.

The great thing is that these longer variants can often be included well in your title tag giving your meta title a natural look.

Example:

Primary keyword: "seo tips" (3,800 searches/month); Long-tail variation #1: "seo tips for beginners" (100 searches/month); Long-tail variation #2: "small business seo tips" (70 searches/month)

*these estimate searches are based on results from a Semrush keyword research with target country The Netherlands

Step 3. Set your BASIC Meta Title

The next step is to create a basic title.

  1. Focus on descriptiveness: The title should accurately describe what the page/post is about and raise reader expectations that will be met;
  2. Keep it short and sweet: Your finished meta title should be no longer than 50-60 characters.
  3. Add your keywords: Make sure your primary keyword is in the title tag. And if possible, put the long-tail variation(s) in there too.

Step 4. Look at what is unique about the content of your page (and let it stand out!)

The moment people type something into Google they are looking for something.

People tend to look for certain "USPs" (unique selling points) in search results - The exact USPs they are looking for will depend on the nature of the search.

If you have created your page/post around a specific search query/topic, it is likely that there is already overlap between the "USPs" that your page content contains and the USPs that people want to see.

All you have to do then is add these usp's to your meta title.

Here are five examples of types of "USPs" that people value (and how you can make them clear in your meta title):

Depth / Thoroughness

People like thorough, in-depth sources of information. That's probably why there is a clear correlation between content length and ranking in search engine results. If your source is more thorough than other search results, don't hide that. Entice the click by adding words/phrases like these to your title tag: "ultimate", "complete", "definitive", "study", "step-by-step", etc.

Lists / Quantities

People love lists. We recommend that you always put a number in your title tag for posts that look like a list. For example: The top 5 tips, the 10 best ... and the number 1 ...

Speed / Conciseness

No one wants to read endless articles and spend a lot of time learning or accomplishing something. If your content is concise and to the point, this is also a USP. "Sell" the content with words/phrases like these in your title tag: "quick," "easy," "...in X minutes," "today," "now," etc.

For product pages, try things like, "free shipping" or "next day delivery" (if you can make this true, of course).

Topicality

Some searches (e.g., "SEO tips 2018") call for fresh results. No one will click on a result from 2012 for such searches. To communicate timeliness, add words and phrases like these to your title tag: "...in 20XX", "last updated Jan. 18", etc.

Brand

People are more likely to click on a search result from a brand they know and trust. So, if you're somewhat well-known in your industry, add your brand name to your title tag.

How do you write a good Meta Description?

What is the purpose of a meta description?

The main purpose of a page's meta description is to get visitors to SERPs (search engine pages) and social media to click on the link to your page. In essence, it attracts users and generates traffic to your page!

In this sense, you can think of the meta description as a "mini-advertisement" for your page, providing a preview of the page's content. Because there are so many results from a Google search, the meta description is your small (but valuable!) real estate space to succinctly explain what the page offers - in other words, if you do it right, it makes your ad stand out.

Why is the meta description important?

The meta description, if well written, helps to improve the click-through rate (CTR) to your website from the search engine pages (SERP). Google says that the meta description does not lead to direct page rank benefits, but there is an indirect benefit, a well-written meta description does lead to a higher CTR and Google does use this metric to determine the position of a page.

Users will click on content that appeals to them and answers their question, so make sure you write your meta description with the user in mind. Searchers will appreciate good content, you just need to entice them to go there first. You do that with a good, clear and enticing meta description.

The following outlines how to write a good meta description and then increase your organic search CTR.

How to Write Meta Descriptions for SEO

Now that you know what a meta description is and why it's important to your site and content, let's talk about how to write one.

A good meta description prioritizes the user experience and has the following three characteristics:

  1. Answer these 2 questions, "What is the page about?" and "Why is the page the best choice for my search?
  2. Contains the primary keyword the page wants to rank for.
  3. Explains the benefits of visiting the page.

To write a good meta description and ensure a higher CTR, stick to these things: Put the most important information first

Each meta description should quickly communicate the topic - and benefit - of the page. If the web page is for a specific product, brand or topic put those terms and keywords at the beginning.

Make your meta description conversational

Write for people, not search engines or algorithms. Natural language communicates better.

Place all content in terms of the benefits to the user Edit your meta descriptions several times. On a second or even third time, you'll often see better ways to put more benefits, details, and value into the available space. Also, don't be afraid to go back and update your meta descriptions from existing pages.

Guidelines for writing meta descriptions

  • The length may be up to 920 pixels on desktop and 680 pixels on mobile. This equates to approximately 158 characters for desktop approximately 120 characters on mobile
  • Use **CTAs ** (call to actions), which will generate additional clicks
  • Make it specific and relevant. Use the primary keyword anyway and long-tail keywords if possible
  • Do not create duplicate meta descriptions
  • Don't mislead searchers, this causes a high bounce rate and therefore worse rankings.
  • Offer a solution or benefit. Create value!

Write this way and meta descriptions become a more than important ranking factor for your pages. It makes clicking on your blog post, product or web page the only practical action. Hello, high CTR!

What to avoid when writing meta descriptions

  • Don't stuff your keywords. If you repeat your keyword too often, you will be penalized by both search engines and users.
  • Don't copy and paste a large portion of the content of the page or post as the meta description. Take the time to write a unique description to give your users and search engines a page description that serves as a mini-advertisement.
  • Don't use the same description on more than one page or post. This confuses the search engine and dilutes the effect.

Missing or unoptimized meta descriptions are one of the most common technical SEO problems.

Examples of good meta descriptions

Below are some examples of good Meta descriptions and why they are good.

Youtube

Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube.

Why? This meta description is written for the end user. It is informative and communicates the idea of fun and community while in a short and powerful way.

Airbnb

Find vacation rentals, cabins, beach houses, unique homes and experiences around the world - all made possible by hosts on Airbnb.

Why? It directly compares the brand to "experiences." It also contains action-oriented verbs, which attract clicks.

LEGO

Explore the world of LEGO® through games, videos, products and more! Shop awesome LEGO® building toys and brick sets and find the perfect gift for your kid.

Why? Again, we see a well-written mini-advertisement with actionable verbs and good keywords.

Wrappin it up

The meta titles and description are a small but powerful aspect of search engine optimization - it's the chance to beat your competitors with it. Too many companies leave this out and in turn miss a crucial opportunity to improve CTR.

Make sure you create an engaging meta description for your pages that convinces end users to click on you instead of your competitors. SEO is ultimately about creating the most positive search experience for visitors, not chasing Google's algorithm.

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