6 Smart Ways to Improve Meta Titles and Descriptions
Are you struggling to escape from the unexplored depths of page two of Google while your competitors sit in the top spots?
It’s a widespread problem for many business owners and could be the explanation behind dwindling site traffic, click-through rates, and conversions.
However, you don’t have to deal with that problem forever. As frustrating as it may be to linger beyond page one, a few minor tweaks to your site could give you a real chance to reach the top spot.
This article will share some easy tricks and tips to improve meta titles and descriptions by using a proven formula that demands higher rankings and encourages a search to click your result, over a competitor’s.
The SEO value of meta tags
The meta title and description fields of your site, also known as meta tags, tell both users and Google what your page is about.
But do they have a direct impact on SEO?
Like many instances of that question being asked, there are a variety of answers and explanations. In the case of meta tags, the short answer is "yes."
Meta titles are one of the first things that a search engine understands when crawling your page. It gives spiders a simple overview of what the page is discussing, helping to understand when and where it should rank in a search engine results page (SERP).
On the other hand, Google has announced that meta descriptions don't have a direct impact on SEO. Despite this, they still have some form of effect on a site’s rankings – especially considering that a successful meta description will boost click-through rate and user experience. Both of these metrics are recognized as being part of popular ranking algorithms, including Google’s.
Improving meta titles
Meta titles are the blue section of results shown when searching for a term on Google:
You can find the meta information for any page by searching “site:URL.com”.
As mentioned earlier, the meta title is the first thing that a search engine spider uses to assess the topic of your page.
But how do you ensure that this is communicated easily to a robotic software, while also encouraging actual human searchers to click-through to your site, over a competitor’s?
1. Use an action word
Often, the smallest things make the largest impact. This is true with the language you select when improving meta titles – particularly when using action words.
Similar to a call-to-action (CTA), these action words tell the user to do something, but on a much more discreet level. Instead of showering your audience with “buy this because it’s the best thing ever” type sentences, opt for one word such as:
Here’s a great example of this in action:
These short action words subconsciously appeal to a searcher. It tells them to do something without being too aggressive and points them in the direction of a conversion.
Along with subtly encouraging a searcher to convert into a customer, there’s a high chance that the person reading the meta title won’t recognize that it’s a marketing tactic. After all, the best form of marketing is subtle and doesn’t make the audience feel like they’re being blatantly marketed to!
2. Focus on a primary keyword
As much as you should focus on user experience when writing meta titles, it’s important to remember their SEO value. That means you should think about which keyword you want to rank for and use that as the focus of your meta title structure.
A few years ago, site owners would stuff any old keyword into their meta title. Their ideology was “if I mention the keyword, I’ll rank for it,” which is simply not true.
In fact, keyword stuffing has the opposite effect. Using multiple keywords in a meta title reduces the SEO value of each one because it splits the ranking juice. Simply opting for one primary keyword ensures that the term has 100% ranking power – rather than three terms with 33% each.
Here’s an example of a primary keyword being correctly used within a meta title:
Along with the SEO power not being diluted, did you notice how that meta title is so much easier to read and understand, rather than one stuffed with any relevant word? That’s bound to improve your click-through rate and help you to land a spot on the coveted Page One.
3. Reinforce your brand name
Did you know that on average, loyal customers are worth up to 10x as much as their first purchase? That means if you’ve got customers spending an average of $50 during their first interaction with you, they could spend up to $500 if they’re nurtured correctly and have a positive first experience.
I’m not just mentioning this data because it’s an awesome e-commerce statistic. The chances are, you already have happy customers that may be searching for another product you offer, but they’re just too busy or forget to come back to your site.
Enter: the optimization of your meta titles.
Always add your brand name to the end of your meta description, like this example:
In the likely event of a previous customer searching for something you offer, you might be displayed in the SERPs. Because these customers had a great experience with you and are already familiar and trusting with your brand, you’re already in their good books – and are worthy of a click-through, if not a sale!
Improving meta descriptions
Once you’ve nailed the perfect formula for your site’s meta titles, it’s time to move onto your descriptions.
This is the gray section of your search result, and can be found using the same “site:URL.com” search term:
Unlike the meta title, meta descriptions allow more space to play with. The 160-character limit permits sentences to be used, but you’ll need to put some thought into your language, structure and word choice if you want to make them successful!
4. Optimize call-to-actions
Earlier in this article, I briefly touched on the fact that calls-to-action (CTAs) are a great, direct way to encourage someone to do something online. However, unlike meta titles where you run the risk of sounding too direct, you can go all-out in your description field.
After all, it’s likely to be your last chance of getting somebody to click your site, as opposed to one of the nine listed beside you!
Successful calls-to-action don’t just ask you to do something, they have a sense of urgency. They make you feel like you need to do the action immediately, instead of putting it off and running the risk of forgetting.
I love the example by Sainsbury’s below, as it combines two great things: a reward for completing the action (collecting rewards points) and a time in which they should do it (today):
5. Include USPs
Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) are small facts that set you apart from competitors. And, in an environment whereby your website is pitted-against nine others on Google's first page, it can bring massive success if they’re used within meta descriptions.
Clickz found that when a USP was implemented on their client’s site, the overall conversion rate was increased by over 33%. Just imagine the impact that such a massive improvement could have on your search results!
In this example, I’ve highlighted how Macy’s have used their USP and made it obvious to searchers deciding on a site to visit:
Their USP of free shipping is capitalized and used below the introduction to their meta description. That makes it more visible to the searcher, giving them a better incentive to click-through and shop.
If you offer any of the following services, consider trialing that as your USP:
- Next-day delivery
- Fully-trained support staff
- The best quality products
- One-year guarantee
- Free returns
6. Solve your audience’s problem
The final factor that can significantly improve the success of your meta description is overcoming your audience’s problem.
Online shoppers can have many obstacles that may put them off from purchasing from you. From worrying about whether their item will be delivered on-time to debating whether they’re paying over the odds for a product, it’s your job to guide your audience around their pre-purchasing dilemma.
How do you do that, exactly? By telling them you understand their problem and that you’re there to help – before they even visit your site.
Meta descriptions are the best way of communicating with a user before they visit a site listed in their search results. If you’re telling them that you have the solution to their problem, why wouldn’t they choose you as being worthy of their click?
Here’s a great example of this being done by Parcelforce:
Being a parcel courier, their audience’s biggest dilemma is likely to be choosing a provider that is reliable. We’ve all heard of the discouraging stories of precious items being lost in the mail, but they’ve helped their audience to break down this misconception by simply using the word ‘reliable’.
Their audience may also worry that they’ll inquire about a service, only to find that they’re limited – or even worse, prohibited – from doing something by an extensive list of terms and conditions. To get over that hurdle, they’ve mentioned a list of ‘guaranteed services.’ This way, anyone looking to send a parcel will know that if something listed on the page, it’s possible to do.
Now that you’ve mastered the formula of perfect meta tags, it’s time to improve meta titles and descriptions, recording the results as you go.
Don’t forget that split-testing is crucial, and you should always trial different USPs, CTAs and problem-solving tactics to find the best formula for your business.
Record your results and try another combination until you’ve found a structure that works for you.
It’s a bit like finding the numerical combination to unlock a safe – except that the contents of the safe are much more valuable than money…a great organic search presence!