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Optimize Your Meta Titles & Descriptions – How To: Quick Guide

By Cody Warren
Updated November 14, 2019
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Meta Titles And Descriptions illustration
Cody Warren
Cody Warren

Cody is an SEO specialist here at Hook. While it's easy to get bogged down in technical SEO fixes, Cody specializes in finding practical ways to win Hook's clients more business with SEO.

Have this post read to you in a natural voice, so you can do other things:

Having optimized meta-titles and description is probably the #1 thing you can do to increase your website’s traffic from Google.

Do you understand how to grab people’s attention, while still ensuring their keyword optimized?

Learn how to optimize them, grab people’s attention, mistakes to avoid, and how to avoid over-optimization in this quick but comprehensive guide.

What is a Meta-Title? What is a Meta Description?
A meta title and description are what Google shows in search results. You can change these on your site, and the ones you choose can change your ranking for those words when people search them, so ideally you’re targeting commonly used words and topics.

Meta Title Description

How do you change your meta titles and descriptions?
If your website is on WordPress, install Yoast SEO plugin (or RankMath,) and consult the image below for how to change the text of each of these.

How to change your meta titles and descriptions in WordPRess with Yoast SEO

  1. Create headlines that grab people’s attention and use words that promise some kind of instant gratification, or significant payoff.
  2. Give them a special offer in the headline or description. 30% off this month only, Free Consultation, etc. will help the searcher recognize what kind of opportunity they have in front of them.
  3. Grab their click by asking for action. “Get started now” at the end of your description or similar can give you a surprisingly nice boost.

You want people to come to your website from search engines, but first, you have to get them to click the link in the search results. That not only means making your site show up higher with SEO but making your headline and description enticing enough to attract people’s clicks.

Google’s algorithm takes into consideration the click-through rate as part of figuring whether it served you the right things. If it serves up a particular result over and over again and people don’t click into it – it factors that in as not serving the right thing up and changes up the order for the next time.

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This is an over-simplification – but the principle of getting more people to click your result (and fulfilling the reason that they clicked) is sound. We’ll get more into why you need to fulfill their need at the end of how to implement these 3 easy hacks for how to improve CTR for SEO.

How to create headlines that grab people’s attention

You want to use words that incite a kind of immediate reaction in people’s gut. Things like “Free”, “Now”, numbers, special characters, the current year… Go even more extreme “Hacks” like the title of this post, “Soul-crushingly”, “Pure joy”, “Mind-numbingly simple”, “Crazy new tactics”, “The one secret”.

Yes… you could sound spammy somewhat quickly – so measure this with the reality of your post – or better yet, do everything in your power to push your post into the territory your title alludes to. Write your title first! Make it really great and ready to capture the audience and then create the page to exceed the expectations of people that would click that post.

How to insert a special offer into your page’s title and description

You are likely already offering some kind of incentive on your site to get people to contact you or to buy. Either your customer service is super great, you have better deals, or you offer a free estimate or similar. Now… you just need to find a way to throw that in your title, or right before the end of your description.

If you have fewer offerings – like 3 packages or a couple of key products you could update each month for the current promotion. Example: 20% off until the end of January.

How to ask for action and get them to the next step.

You don’t have to be pushy – if you gave them the offer in number 3, then just invite them to get started. ‘Get started today’ is not a bad option, but you could say anything like ‘check out our offers’ if you just want to get them into the page.

With some niches, it will be better to take the soft sell approach – and with others, you might want to be more aggressive. Guage the ideal demographic and what you’d guess they prefer.

Once you get them there – give them a payoff, so they stay on the page: Google factors in “dwell time” as a ranking factor

Dwell time = time the person spent on your site without bouncing back to the search results page. If you bounce back, Google will factor that you didn’t find what you were looking for – so you have to keep people on the page by really inviting them to stay and play on your site.

My tactic – like the beginning of this post, is to hook people with a big visual payoff and then extrapolate on that information so that people can get a more full robust answer if they dive in.

Meta Titles And Descriptions illustration

How to Avoid Over-Optimization in Your Meta Title’s and Descriptions

  1. Repetition can be seen as spammy by Google’s algorithm, avoid it in your meta-titles
  2. When writing meta-descriptions, it’s better to focus on click-through rate than trying to stuff keywords into them.
  3. Ask yourself “Would I click through based on what is written in the meta-title and description?

Repetition is Spammy

Treat the searcher as you want to be treated

I’ve fallen into the trap of saying the same thing twice, only to realize I’m shooting myself in the foot – because to a random observer, it looks like my website has turrets. You don’t have to switch up the wording and stuff a bunch of rubbish into your meta’s.

Focus on click-through rate, rather than SEO

Strangely enough – if you can connect with the audience, you win for SEO too

Do the meta-title half for humans half for SEO – but then just go right into doing the entire meta-description for click-through rate – because if you do this in a compelling way, and the website matches expectations, you’ve got SEO magic.

That is – write something that is intended to hook someone’s interest rather than hook Google. If the click-through rate is high – you’ll hook Google as a consequence.

 

Ask yourself if you’d click through based on only what info is present

If the answer is no, go back to step one. 

Perhaps scrap your whole title, description, business idea, and SEO aspirations. No – just kidding, you’ll get better – but in the meantime, do consider that humans might need a little persuasion, not just the facts.

How to Not Over-optimize your Meta-titles & Descriptions

I share with you the three steps as I understand them that it takes to not overoptimize your metas, when doing SEO.

Factual? Yes. Boring as hell? also yes.

Thus I went with this.

 How to Not Over-optimize your Meta-titles & Descriptions

Did you know that you can really mess up your SEO efforts if you over-optimize? Here are 3 tips to help with your meta description writing mastery. Level up

A couple boring facts about meta titles and descriptions to take us out

  • Page titles should consist of up to 70 characters
  • Meta descriptions can include up to 160 characters
  • Including keywords in a natural way still has a positive effect, but most certainly not if it’s done in a spammy way, or if it negatively affects click through rate. 

Writing the Perfect Meta Description

A meta-description is what Google shows underneath the title of the page in their search results for your site. Meta-descriptions matter because whether or not they’re well-written determines how people perceive your site and, in turn, whether they click through or not. Keyword usage isn’t as important in meta-descriptions because they don’t ‘technically’ affect your SEO. Google and other search engines do bold the keyword in the meta-description so using them might help click-through rate, thus affecting your ranking that way.

Without further ado, here are 5 Steps to Create the Perfect Meta-Description:

Infographic about meta descriptions

Here are the 5 steps along with deeper explanations of the key elements.

  1.  Use action-oriented language
  2. Clearly and concisely say what they’ll get
  3. Limit to 155 characters
  4. Use the keyword or a variation
  5. End with a call-to-action

 Use Action-oriented language

Language is a powerful thing that you can use to your advantage to get people excited to enter your website from the search results. Start your meta description with words like “discover,” “become,” “explore, ” to get started on the right foot and make people think of movement. It’s an invitation to move along down the path of discovery to your site. It may seem like a subtle thing, but it has clear benefits when used in conjunction with the other steps.

Clearly and concisely say what they’ll get

Describe in glowing detail the kinds of information a person can get from your page or post. When you think from the perspective of a searcher and share the main things a person would want from that page, you can be persuasive and get them interested in your content versus the content of the other competition in that search.

Limit to 155 Characters

You don’t want that little … (ellipsis) at the end of your meta description if you can help it in search results because we want people to have a clear call to action at the end. Tools like Yoast SEO and others give clear indications of the cutoff point, but if you create your website from custom code or tools that don’t make it obvious when you’re above this number – you’ll need to use a tool that counts characters to stay under this ceiling.

Use the keyword or a variation

Yes, keywords in the meta-description are said to have no effect on ranking in organic search results, but it is nice to see that bolded keyword if you’re a searcher – and it gets a bit more attention. However, don’t use keywords gratuitously or you may see an ‘over-optimization’ algorithmic penalty, and nonetheless, that kind of ‘keyword stuffing’ isn’t particularly attractive for people reading it.

End with a call-to-action

Lastly, you’ll want to use a clear call to action at the end of your meta-description. ‘Learn more’ or ‘Get started now” will do just fine, but be creative with it when you can and think about something compelling for the particular scenario when you write the meta-description.

Overall, being conscious of meta-descriptions and the formula for writing effective ones will allow you to test and tweak and get better over time. Don’t just ‘set it and forget it,’ particularly for important pages on your website – tweak and perfect, paying attention to how this affects your click-through rate. You can do this with Google Search Console. Mazeltov, and good luck with writing the perfect meta-description for SEO!


 

Watch this quick video to see how savvy businesses save time and hook better leads:
 

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Cody Warren
Cody Warren

Cody is an SEO specialist here at Hook. While it's easy to get bogged down in technical SEO fixes, Cody specializes in finding practical ways to win Hook's clients more business with SEO.

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