October 14th, 2014

A Lesson in Search Engine Optimization: Meta Data

by Rachel Nell

Optimizing websites according to search engine optimization (SEO) best practices can be a confusing concept for some. Every business owner wants their website to rank well on search engines—that’s a given. And in a perfect world, achieving that number one spot would be simple. But in order to reach that goal, it’s necessary to understand the rules of SEO and how to put those guidelines into action. There are many different variables, but we’ll focus on the most important one: meta data.

So, what is meta data anyway? You may have heard the term mentioned in conversation, but didn’t quite understand what it meant. In the SEO world, meta data summarizes information about website pages. It’s a preview of what any given page is about. Each time you search for something online, you’re viewing meta data the company has provided. And you make a decision of whether or not to click on a page based on what meta data is displayed—it’s essentially advertising copy. By writing a compelling description incorporating keywords related to your services, you’ll easily attract users to your website. The question is, how do you write worthwhile meta data? Lets break it down.

Title Tags and Meta Tags

When optimizing your site’s pages for SEO, you must include a title tag and meta tag. Title tags are the titles for your pages, and meta descriptions describe what the pages are about. Keyword research will help you decide what your meta tags should be. Get into the mindset of your customers, and think about the terms they’re likely to type in when searching for your services. For example: let’s say you own a gym and your main service is personal training. Your customers are likely searching for terms such as “personal trainers” or “personal coaches.” They may even take it a step further and search specifically for “personal running coaches.” Your title tags should be as descriptive as possible, matching the purpose of each page on your site. If you have a page specifically about personal running coaches, your title tag should reflect that. A title tag that reads “personal coaches” is too vague. Users may see that and decide not to click on your link simply because it didn’t include the word “running.” When writing meta data, try to answer users’ questions fully within the limited characters available. Hint: try doing a search for your services, and take note of the results displayed. It’s beneficial to see what types of meta tags your competitors are using when coming up with ideas for your own.

Meta tags give a brief overview of what users will see should they decide to click on a page—it’s an opportunity to “sell” your services. Your description should include your company name (for branding purposes) along with any keywords used in the title tag. The most successful meta tags provide high-level details, benefits and calls to action. Using the personal coaching example—your meta tags should include something about what users will find when visiting your page (personal coaches), explain a benefit of going to the page (personal coaches are certified) and a call to action (learn more about our coaching). Look at the example we’ve provided below.

Title Tag:

Personal Running Coaches | Fitness Fury

Meta Tag:

Fitness Fury certified personal running coaches are invested in you and your goals. Learn more about our training options and practice times.

If you don’t include meta data within your site, search engines will automatically create them for you by scanning your pages and deciding what best fits. Oftentimes they are completely off the mark, which can hurt your overall search rankings. When writing meta descriptions, get creative. You know your company better than anyone—write descriptions that will grab users’ attention in order to attract more website traffic.

Meta Structure

It’s important to keep character limitations in mind when writing meta data. If your data is too long, search engines will insert ellipses (…) following your text’s ‘cut off’ mark. Be sure to write title tags using 55 characters (not letters) or less, and meta tags using no more than 155 characters in order to prevent this from happening. Previously, title tags consisted of 70 characters, however search engine algorithms are constantly changing. With a significant reduction in space for title tags, it’s necessary to name your page in the most straightforward way possible, while still remaining relevant.

Most title tags follow a structure similar to [Primary Keyword | Brand Name]. If you have extra character space, add your company name at the end to reinforce your branding. Your primary keyword can be as basic as “Personal Coaching” or as detailed as “Personal Coaches for Running.” It all depends on your page’s specificity, the amount of characters available and the terms most relevant to what users are searching for.

If you’re not a trained SEO specialist, meta data can be a tricky and daunting task. Our staff of savvy internet marketers understands the importance of high search rankings. If you’re anxious to get your business listed at the top of search engines, give Sage Island a call today!