The Ultimate Guide to Meta Titles & Meta Descriptions (2017)

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If you ask 20 different website optimization experts on what makes the perfect meta title and meta description you will get 20 different answers.

Some say they are of no importance, others believe well written meta data can be a key cog in your SEO strategy.

For beginners (and even experts), it can get a bit confusing on what exactly you should be doing with your meta titles and descriptions.

This is why the experts at PULSE have pulled together the Ultimate Guide to Meta Titles & Meta Descriptions.

We will answer questions like ‘how long should my meta title be?’ and ‘should I include my keywords in my meta description’. We’ll also delve into why meta titles and descriptions matter, and a few key bullet points you should remember when crafting your titles and descriptions.

To break this guide into bite-sized pieces that are easily understood, we’ll tackle all factors to consider when writing a meta title first, then all factors to consider when writing a meta description. To wrap it up, we have our ever growing list of Frequently Asked Questions at the bottom of the page.

Meta Title Best Practice

Firstly, what is a meta title? A meta title is simply the title of any page on a website. Every page has a meta title, and you can set it to whatever you like. Meta titles appear as the main headline of each page when browsing search engine result pages (SERPs):

meta title best practice

Meta titles are also what appear in your browsers tab for each page of a website:

meta title tab

You can have blank meta titles, meta titles that are the same across dozens of pages, and meta titles that a 100 words long.

However if you want to follow best practice, and get as much traffic to your website as possible, you need to be following a set of basic recommendations.

For example meta titles should never be blank, they shouldn’t be too short, or too long, and they should be unique for every page. They should also include keywords you want to rank well for, and even include your site name.

Because you can do whatever you want within a meta title many website don’t follow best practice recommendations. To tackle this, the PULSE team have explained below everything you need to consider when writing a meta title, why you need to consider it, and what our recommendation is.

Note that our recommendations are simply advice from 15 years in digital marketing. Where appropriate we backup our claims with citations from other experts in the industry.

Let’s get stuck into meta titles!

Two of the most common questions we get asked in regards to meta titles are:

  • How long should my meta titles be?
  • Should I include keywords in my meta title?

If you don’t want to read any further, the quick answers are the ideal length for a meta title is about 60 to 70 characters, and that yes we recommend including your keyword(s) in the meta title.

Keep reading for our reasoning!

Ideal Meta Title Length

Quick Answer: Include 60 to 70 characters in your meta title. The default setting on the PULSE site audit tool is any page with a meta title over 65 characters triggers an alert to the sites admin for review.

Using Keywords in Meta Titles

Quick answer: We recommend you include the keyword you are targeting in your meta title. However, don’t force it if it will appear unnatural. Write for humans first, and Google second.

Including Site Name in Meta Titles

Quick answer: If there is enough room in your meta title to add | Brand Name onto the end, we suggest doing it. This is mainly to help with brand recognition, so if there is no room in your meta title, or you will need to remove characters from an otherwise great meta title to include your brand name, don’t bother adding it. If you already have a known & trusted brand in your industry or city, then adding your brand name to the meta title can also help improve the click through rate from search.

Meta Description Best Practice

Meta descriptions go hand in hand with meta titles. When you have written a great enticing meta title for a page, the next step is to write the meta description.

meta description best practice

Writing the perfect meta descriptions raises some of the same questions meta titles raise.

With meta descriptions, like meta titles, you can also leave them blank, write one word or as many words as you like. They can include none of your keywords, or be stuffed with as many keywords as you can fit.

So what is would we consider the ideal meta description? The best meta description would follow the below recommendations…

Meta Description Length

Quick answer: We recommend the maximum number of characters in your meta description be no more than 160.

In saying that, don’t freak out of it it is 165, 170, or even more than this.

The reason we recommend 160 characters being the best length for a meta descriptions is solely due to the fact that Google truncates meta descriptions over this length. If you are writing a punchy description with a call to action at the end of it, you don’t want Google to snip off your final sentence half way through, which is what they will do if it’s too long.

Keywords within the Meta Description

Quick answer: If you can work your target keywords into your meta description, without having a terribly written description, we recommend doing so.

I always try to place my main keyword near the start of the meta description.

As a small bonus, if the user searches exactly your keyword, and it is in the meta description, Google will bold the word(s) to ensure they stand out This can help a little with click through rate.

Calls to Action within Meta Description

Quick answer: Ideally all meta descriptions would include a call to action of some sort.

What is a call to action? A call to action is a direct prompt telling the user exactly what they should do next. They can be super direct, or a bit more indirect.

Super direct would be ending your meta description with “Read more”, or “Buy online now”.

A more indirect method would be starting your meta description with something along the lines of “Read our in depth guide on…” or “Learn about UX in five easy steps by…”.

Both are examples of meta descriptions calls to action, however one is simple two or three words at the end, and the other is weaving the call to action naturally into the description.

Pick what works best for you.

Do you even need a Meta Description on each page?

Quick answer: Yes, you should set the meta tag on every page of your website.

If you don’t set a meta description you risk Google setting one automatically, which can often be unreadable and will put users off clicking through to your website.

Meta descriptions are the perfect place to make your website stand out from all the others the user has the option of clicking on.

User your limited characters carefully and do your best to entice the user to click on your particular website.

Words like ‘free’ and ‘quick and easy’ can catch people’s eyes, along with other benefits like ‘free shipping’ or any awards you may have won.

Matt G
Matt G

Matt is a Digital Marketing Specialist with over 10 years online marketing experience. PULSE is a byproduct of becoming frustrated with the lack of quality web audit tools available.

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