SEO

Maximizing Your Meta Tags for SEO and CTR

Maximize SEO Maximizing Your Meta Tags for SEO and CTRWhile it’s true that you no longer need to optimize your meta description and meta keyword tags in order to get your individual webpages ranked highly in the natural SERPs for your chosen keyword phrases, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore these fields entirely!

In fact, because your page title and meta description are frequently pulled to form the snippet that appears whenever your pages are listed in the natural search results, the content you include in these areas can play a major role in your ability to attract visitors from the SERPs.

With this in mind, here’s what you need to know about optimizing your meta tags for both search engine optimization (SEO) and click-through rates (CTR):

Meta tags should be filled out as completely as possible

The first step to properly optimizing your meta tags is to use as many characters as you’re given access to. Think about your title tag and your meta description tag as being the first introduction that many new visitors will have to your brand, as they encounter this information in your website’s snippet in the natural search results. Given how important this real estate is, why wouldn’t you try to maximize the number of characters you’re allotted?

As a general rule, you should aim to fill up the following character limits within each of your meta tags:

  • Page title – 70 characters
  • Meta description – 160 characters
  • Meta keywords – No more than 10 keyword phrases

Meta tags should include target keyword phrases in a natural way

Now, as you’re filling out your meta tags using the character limits shown above, you’ll want to pay special attention to the way your target keyword phrases are included. Just because the practice of keyword stuffing your meta tags has been long since devalued by the search engines doesn’t mean that these phrases shouldn’t be included in your tags. It just means that you need to be more strategic about how you introduce them.

For example, when structuring your title tags, consider including your page title, your brand name and a phrase that includes your target keyword phrase separated by the “|” symbol, rather than stuffing in as many keyword variations as possible.

Following this formula, a good sample page title tag for the Single Grain “About Us” page might look like:

“About Us | Single Grain Digital Marketing – SEO & CRO Industry Leaders”

A bad example of a sample tag for the same page would be:

“About Us – Single Grain SEO Agency, SEO Marketers, and SEO Consultants”

Although both sample title tags use all of the 70 characters allotted to this meta tag and use SEO industry related keywords, the good title tag version is a clearly written, compelling option that utilizes possible target keywords in a natural way.

The same goes for your meta description. Including your target keywords in this field has the added bonus of causing your phrases to be bolded in the natural search results if a search user enters your exact wording into the engine. But while this might make you want to include as many keyword variations into a tag as possible, stick to a single phrase in order to prevent possible over-optimization penalties.

Finally, when it comes to the meta keyword tag, recommendations are mixed. While adding content to this area won’t help to earn your website higher rankings in the SERPs—or rankings for keyword phrases that you haven’t adequately targeted on your website—the keywords found here may play a role in how well your site performs on second- and third-tier search engines. Include keyword variations here if you want, but don’t spend too much time agonizing over which specific versions to list.

Meta description tags should include a call to action

Now comes the fun part…

Remember, your title tags and meta descriptions aren’t just fields that you’re optimizing in the hopes of receiving some nebulous SEO boost. Instead, these fields often go on to form your snippet in the natural search results, which means that they must be written to be as compelling as possible!

Imagine encountering the two following snippets in the SERPs:

“How to Build Links in 2013

This article talks about link building techniques that will work well in 2013, including email link prospecting, social media marketing and content marketing.”

Versus

“31 Ways to Easily Attract Backlinks in 2013

Are you using dated link building practices that could be harming your brand?  Find out how to effortlessly build links using these 2013-approved techniques.” 

I probably don’t even need to ask you which of these articles you’d rather read, right?

In a way, writing good meta descriptions draws on the principles of copywriting as much as it does SEO best practices. This can take practice, but the reward is a higher click-through rate, increased natural search traffic to your website and potentially higher SERPs rankings if—as some SEO experts believe—it’s true that your overall CTR contributes in some small way to your snippet’s placement in the natural search listings.

If you aren’t yet an expert copywriter, consider the following guidelines when it comes to crafting your title tags and meta descriptions:

  • Add a call to action.  Asking people to do something (as in the case of “Find out how” in the example above) often results in readers taking the action you’ve requested. Other possible calls to action for your meta descriptions include “Discover how,” “Read more about,” “Click here,” or other related variation.
  • Use cliffhangers.  The first meta description show above gives everything away, that is, there’s no real reason for the reader to click through to read the article, as its content is given away by the snippet. Instead, use cliffhangers in your meta descriptions to encourage viewers to click through for the full story.
  • Write your tags for yourself. Once you’ve come up with a possible meta tag, ask yourself, “Would I click through based on this information?” If your tags don’t yet seem compelling, rewrite them until you come up with something more enticing.

Don’t forget, you can always test out and refine the effectiveness of your meta tag content by changing the information stored in these web page fields periodically. If you notice a spike in natural search traffic upon making a change, it’s possible that you’ve hit on a winning combination of meta tag text.

Meta tags can be improved by the use of structured data

One last thing you can do to improve both your website’s search engine optimization and its appearance in the SERPs (and, consequently, your listing’s overall click-through rate) is to use the structured data fields that create rich snippets for your brand.

Essentially, rich snippets are enhanced SERPs listings that display additional information beyond your title tag and meta description.  This additional information could include a picture, the number of people following you on Google+, or other industry-specific pieces of data (as in the case of cook times on recipe website rich snippets).

The following example (from the search query “potato soup recipe”) shows the difference between a web page that’s been optimized with structured data markup, and one that displays the traditional title tag and meta description snippet:

rich snippet example Maximizing Your Meta Tags for SEO and CTR

As you might expect, search users who wind up on this results page are significantly more likely to click the result that’s been optimized to include an image, recipe rating, cook time, and calorie count. As a result, Allrecipes.com stands to gain much more natural search traffic back to its recipe page, compared with the Food Network’s plainer listing.

For complete instructions on how to add this type of information to your own site’s pages, take a look at the tutorials provided by Google and Search Engine Land. Then, get to work implementing these tips and the strategies described above on your website. The difference in both your site’s overall SEO valuation and natural search click-through rate can be significant!

Image Credit: Shutterstock / woaiss

071c63b926025330e9468435427b9f37 64 Maximizing Your Meta Tags for SEO and CTR
Sujan Patel is a passionate internet marketer and entrepreneur. Sujan has over 10 years of internet marketing experience and started the digital marketing agency Single Grain. Currently Sujan is the CMO at Bridge U.S. a company that makes the complex immigration process easy and affordable.

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20 thoughts on “Maximizing Your Meta Tags for SEO and CTR

  1. A great piece of information regarding meta tags Sujan. Can you also let us know whether using rich snippets even though it doesn’t make any sense is a negative seo tactic. For example I have seen people adding interactive rating system on each of their blogs and rating them all by themselves to get a good rating and score to appear on the search result for that blog.

  2. Thank you for all the information. Great article!
    I’m looking at your example regarding the title, and you’re, obviously, right. But if I am a web designer and also a graphic designer, should I use “web and graphic designer”, or “web designer & graphic designer”. Practically, we’re talking about two different skills… Thank you

  3. Great summary article here Sujan, sometimes it just pays to keep the house tidy doesn’t. Despite Search Engines not putting as much weight to Meta Tags and Descriptions nowadays, clients using the searches still rely on well written and relevant wording.

    Snippets are also so important and so often forgotten. Thanks for the post

    James

  4. Great refresher article, thanks. With so many changes in the world of search, and focus on content/social media, we can’t lose sight of telling the search engines what we offer with best practice, keyword techniques. I’m sending this to clients right now!

  5. Hi Sahil

    Thanks for the post, I found it really useful.

    My own SEO site traffic is growing month upon month which is awesome, I am getting some great rankings for some pretty good terms. However…. When analysing Google Webmaster tools my Avg Position is great… But CTR is a lot lower then I would expect. I have always meant to change the Meta Description tag and monitor the resulting CTR improvements via webmaster tools.

    My question is – Is there a better way, or a faster way of monitoring this CTR for the organic results? And how would you typically record the results of a test?

    Thanks

    Andy

  6. Hey Sujan,
    Excellent post. This is true that Meta tags plays an important part in On page SEO. I have seen that many websites are ranking good in search engines due to good On page and Meta tags. you have given a nice example of titles about single grain !
    I am agree with all of your points but i have read some where that Google is not using Meta keyword tag any more in search results, So still we should use it ?
    Thank you
    Ken

  7. Sujan,
    Love the article! I work with small businesses and the art of meta-tagging is very much lost on them. Many do not utilize meta-tags at all and those that do often keyword stuff or copy whole paragraphs from the page’s text. SEOs should never forget the value of what your search results look like. Getting there is obviously incredibly important, but if your results look spammy or incomplete you are shooting yourself in the foot.

    I noticed you have been blogging a lot here at SEJ and I know we all appreciate it! Are you blogging anywhere else on a consistent basis?

  8. Thanks for reminding us about the importance of using the right words, Sujan. Creative content for SEO certainly just don’t cover article writing and blog posts – optimization after all is for the people using the search engines to find what they’re looking for. And being able to come up with good meta tags and description will surely improve your CTR. Great post!

  9. Thank you for this! SEOs too often forget that, though search engine rankings are important, no one will click through if the listing is unappealing. I feel that the SEO field will quickly begin attracting individuals with backgrounds in writing as well as those with background in computers and internet, if it isn’t already.

  10. thanks Sujan for this article, Yes sometime i have experienced difficulties while creating such things well optimized according to every page relevancy & with call to action. .

  11. ALSO,

    0. Use Google+.
    Google is pushing it really hard right now.

    1. Don’t guess at your keywords.
    - use google adwords traffic estimator to accurately plan
    - create emotionally surprising content for that keyword and related alternates
    - compare traffic vs ctr vs conversion.
    (the terms that bring the biggest traffic don’t always bring sales)

    2. If you’re not a professionally trained writer, hire a college student for $35.
    Google reads grammar. You’ll get penalized

    3. Phone call bloggers.
    Ask them to link to you. Offer unrefusable value back. They never get calls. You’ll stand out.

    4. Use a high speed server.
    Google wants to feel fast. They can’t if you’re site takes longer than 2 seconds to load. Use a site like Pingdom or other to test yours.

    5. Join 20 DOFollow Discussion Forums.
    Do NOT use the signature to place links. It’s all duplicate content. Personally write DIFFERENT signatures with varying anchor text links to your site.

    6. Use Reddit under the right SUBREDDIT. It’s DoFollow.
    And bloggers link to Reddit all the time

    7. Don’t use directory links.
    There’s an actually Google HELP doc that say’s you’ll be considered spammy

    Partially stolen from sparkah.com/blog

  12. This is one of those debates i have constantly, should we use the meta tags are not. Personally i think yes, the description, in fact it´s better to have than not to have. As if you do the tags right it´s not going to hurt you in anyway

    thanks again also for the links to the rich snippets

  13. Meta tags are very essential part of a web page. They includes brief summary of the content of a webpage in a way that makes it even easier for users to understand what the page is all about. The meta description needs to be relevant to the title tags to increase website search engine visibility including the click-through rate. Moreover make sure should always include your relevant keywords in them and write short and clear sentences. Thank you for sharing such a clear and comprehensive post about Meta tags.

  14. Hey,

    Question, should I be using meta keywords? I use wordpress seo by yoast and one of the options is to use meta keywords tag but there’s a note below it that says “I don’t know why you’d want to use meta keywords but if you do here it is”

    When I check my site with mozbar it has no keywords listed.

    Thanks, great article too.

  15. Hi Sujan,

    Thanks man for the detailed article.

    @ Lowell: YES. You should definitely use Meta keyword. It is true that from 2009 Google does not consider Meta keyword for the web rank, but other search engines do. Apart from that Meta keywords helps you to build the content with a proper direction. But do NOT over do it. Try to have 3-5 keywords in the tag.