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Title tags and meta descriptions are important elements of your website’s content. The title tag and the meta description tags should include keywords relevant to the content of the web page they describe. This helps Search Engines understand what the page is about and index your web pages accordingly for relevant keywords or keyword phrases. Learn more about title tags and meta descriptions.

What is a title tag?

The <title> tag defines the title of the document. The title element is required in all HTML/XHTML documents and is one of the key on-page SEO elements. SEOmoz, the largest SEO community in the world believes that it is the single most important on-page SEO element (behind overall content). The title tag appears on the results pages just above the URL (see below) and also appears at the top of a browser.

Titles give users a quick insight into the content of the web page and how it might be relevant to their query. It is often the primary piece of information with the meta description (see below) that is used by potential visitors to decide which search result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality and meaningful titles when you optimise your web pages. Here are best practice guidelines for writing title tags:

  • Title tags generally should be less than 70 characters long so the whole tag fits on results pages when it is displayed and people can read it at a quick glance.
  • Every title tag on your website should be unique with distinct, descriptive titles for every page on your site. The HTML suggestions page in Google Webmaster Tools lists missing or potentially problematic title tags.
  • Use keywords in title tags and place important keywords close to the front of the title tag. Search Engines will “bold” (or highlight) those terms in the search results when a user has performed a query with those terms.
  • Avoid keyword spamming. There is no reason to have the same words or phrases appear multiple times.
  • Google recommends titles include your brand so include your site name at the beginning or end of each page title, separated from the rest of the title with a delimiter such as a hyphen, colon, or pipe.

What is a meta description tag?

Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam announced in 2009 that neither meta descriptions nor meta keywords factor into Google’s ranking algorithms for web search. However, he stresses that it is still important to write a meta description as Google will sometimes use the summary in search results snippets (located below the URL) if the Search Engine believes it is an accurate synopsis of the page.

Accurate meta descriptions can also help improve your click-through rates along with relevant title tags. Here are best practice guidelines for writing meta descriptions.

  • Meta description tags generally should be approximately 150-160 characters long so the whole tag fits on Search Engine Results Pages when it is displayed and people can read it at a quick glance.
  • Ideally every page on your site should have a unique meta description. Google suggests using site-level descriptions on the main home page or other aggregation pages, and use page-level descriptions everywhere else.
  • For a large site, creating unique meta descriptions may be time consuming. Google suggests that at the least, create a summary for the critical URLs like your home page and popular pages. The HTML suggestions page in Webmaster Tools lists pages where Google has detected missing or problematic meta descriptions.
  • The meta description tag should ideally target a unique keyword for each web page but again avoid keyword spamming and have the keyword only appear once.
  • Descriptions are like a short sales pitch or summary for the page. Write keyword-rich descriptions that engage visitors and entice them to click-through to your website.
  • The meta description does not have to be a full sentence. It can include important facts relevant to potential visitors. For example, articles can list the author, date of publication, or byline information – just keep it within the character limit.

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