How To Craft the Perfect Meta Tags

Posted by Mark Thompson - May 18, 2010 - SEO - 37 Comments

I know it may seem very basic when creating Title and Meta tags for your website, but it can be a much more involved process if you are looking to go from good to great.  Many clients are under the impression that as long as they have their keywords in the title and meta tags that they will start to rank well.  That is true to some extent, however they are forgetting one little thing…the end-user is ultimately the one who decides if they should click on your link.

Creating a Title Tag

Before we get started, there are some best practices to keep in mind when creating your title tags.

  1. Try to put your main keywords/phrases towards the front of your title tag.  Search engines (especially Google) will place more emphasis on the beginning of the tag.
  2. Depending on your current brand and position in the market, you will want to put your brand name at the beginning or the end of the title tag.  If you have a well known brand like Nike or Apple, it is best to craft a tag that is more for branding than for search engines.  The reason is that you probably have a lot of domain authority and tons of inbound links, so you don’t have to mess up your tag with lots of keywords.  If your brand is not as well known, putting your brand name at the end of the tag will help in starting to build that brand.
  3. Keep the title tag short, don’t stuff it will tons of keywords just to try and optimize for every term you want to rank for.  I personally try to rank for no more than 2-3 keywords per page (actually most of the time 1 main term per page).

Good Example:

“Golf Company XYZ | Golf Clubs, Nike Golf Clubs, Nike Drivers and Irons”

Great Example:

“Buy Nike Golf Clubs | Nike Drivers & Irons For Sale | Golf Company XYZ”

So why is the great example better than the good example?  In the good example, you miss full potential because the golf company brand is at the beginning of the title tag.  The keywords also looked a little stuffed and is not very easy to read for the end user.

In the great example we have the words “Buy” and “For Sale” in the title tag, which will help to cater to people looking to buy!  Obviously someone who searches to buy Nike golf clubs, is ready to purchase and has their credit card in hand.  So we are able to move the keywords to the beginning of the title tag and cater to ready-to-buy consumers.  Using the Pipe symbol also helps to break-up the tag and make it easier to read for the end user.

Creating a Meta Description Tag

Before we get started, there are some best practices to keep in mind when creating your meta description tags.

  1. Use your description tag to sell the user to come to your page.  Explain what that page is about, some selling points and even a special offer that will entice the user to click on your link.
  2. Utilize different variations of the primary terms you are looking to rank for.  For example, if you used the word “Nike Golf Club” in your title tag, you may want to change that phrase to “Golf Clubs by Nike” in your meta description tag.
  3. Keep it focused to what the page is talking about, not necessarily what the entire website does.

Good Example:

Nike golf clubs, Nike drivers, Nike irons, and Nike golf balls. Golf Company XYZ offers superior selection of Nike Golf equipment, great service, and quality products.”

Great Example:

“Largest selection of Nike golf club sets, drivers, irons, and Nike golf balls at discount prices.  Get Free Shipping on orders of $50 or more, read product reviews, and the guaranteed lowest prices!”

In the good example the term “Nike” is overused and really does not have any type of call to action of incentive for the end-user to click on their site.  In the great example it incorporates different variations of the main terms they want to rank for, while promoting their free shipping offer, product reviews for users to find the best clubs to buy and promote that they offer the guaranteed lowest prices.

About the Author

Mark Thompson

Mark is the creator of StayOnSearch and president of Search Creatively, a full-service Internet Marketing Company located in Raleigh, North Carolina. He also contributes to many industry related blogs including Search Engine Journal and is active on Facebook and Twitter. Follow Mark on Twitter
33 comments
AnnaSeacat
AnnaSeacat

Mark,

I wanted to let you know that when I was just starting to study SEM in grad school, this article was one of the first pieces I bookmarked.  Yet, I find myself reading it and re-reading it all of the time to make sure my title and description tags align with your recommendations.  Thank for sharing such practical and implementable advice.  

Since this article was posted several years ago, are there any updates that you would recommend?  Or, do you feel that "How to Craft the Perfect Meta Tags" is still spot-on?

@AnnaSeacat

SociallyMindedMarketing.com

John Smith
John Smith

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Nicalas
Nicalas

Best article I found on this topic for half an hour! Really good preparation for the blog owner! I really love it ! I will share Carpet Cleaning it with my classmates they will need it, too.

Vin
Vin

This is a spectacular article that I have really enjoyed. Hopefully I can learn more from your valuable experience. Thanks a lot for sharing this and please keep on posting more.

Lake Travis Realtor
Lake Travis Realtor

People often take these SEO basics for granted. I like how yo highlight their importance. The explanation of the examples are very helpful too! Good to know.

tool steel
tool steel

Enjoyed every bit of your website.Thanks Again. Great.

extreme deal
extreme deal

Very useful information and very smart righting straight to the point. I have a question. Someone told me that if you have 1 keyword you are 100% optimizing for that keyword and if you have 10 keywords you are optimizing 10% each is this correct? Is this the reason why you are optimizing for 1-2 keywords per page only? My recent post Artificial Grass

PatriciaJVanderburg - motion activated sprinkler
PatriciaJVanderburg - motion activated sprinkler

Good one, I was checking for a commentluv extension for blogengine. Will have try, but before that i need to check it once again. Thanks for sharing. using this, i will have to compile the Blog Engine.Core i think. Thank for the very good aspect .. more article to publish :) thank

Ayden @ BigCommerce
Ayden @ BigCommerce

I've stopped doing this because it just didn't look good in the SERPs. I can't quantify it with figures but from my Google Webmaster Tool, I've noticed that my CTR has increased when I add a readable title, but obviously this makes my posts drop down in the SERPs... Catch22? My recent post The Guide On BigCommerce Google Website Optimizer

QR Code
QR Code

Perfectly demonstrated! I've been working on getting the most out of my title tags and am constantly tweaking them. I wish i had more characters!

Web Design
Web Design

Hey Mark, well said indeed. These simple tweaks can really make all the difference and I agree with Ann, these should be the basics of web development but are all too often overlooked I think. Also important to create tags that suit both SEO but are also readable for people and not too spammy

Kirsty
Kirsty

Choosing the right keywords is one the things that need to consider and it is also important to select keywords in every webpage of you site.. Focusing to the right keywords to what the page is all about can give you great results than only thinking of the home page keywords. I like your tips of the description and I am looking forward to apply it to my new site :) My recent post XCart Review

munir ardi WP
munir ardi WP

I really happy to find this post I just make blog for one month I am dizzy to make a perfet meta tag ad i found here thanks Komodo Island is the NEW 7 Wonders of The World

tütüne son
tütüne son

Thanks Mark, they are simple things that can obviously make a big difference to clickthru rates. I will definitely be paying more attention to that now :) Cheers.

Alyssa
Alyssa

Great post! I would love to see a follow up this post, Thanks

igoydude
igoydude

great way to attract browsers with a killer meta tag.

Eric
Eric

I understand the title and description areas of meta, but what about the keywords? I am hearing from different sources that they are not relevant, is that true? What is the best tactic to picking meta keywords and how many is enough? Any feedback would be great. I want to add the info to my affiliate marketing training website.

Alice Springs Accomm
Alice Springs Accomm

Thanks Mark, they are simple things that can obviously make a big difference to clickthru rates. I will definitely be paying more attention to that now :) Cheers.

Rob
Rob

Well Explained Mark!

Rob
Rob

Well Explained Mark!

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson

It really depends on the keyword/phrase you are going for on that particular page/blog post. Keep it focused and on targeted.

Sam Ranjan
Sam Ranjan

So ... i should use low competition keywords in the meta tags?

Rob Woods
Rob Woods

Good post! I've had a lot of success including words like "free" in descriptions, adding opening price points, and pretty strong calls to action. I agree with the short title tags, target 2 keywords max and keep them short and sweet. Titles still have a big impact on rankings. Descriptions have very little weight on rankings at this point so you can be pretty fast and loose with what you say in them as long as you stay away from looking really spammy.

Eric Lopez
Eric Lopez

Great info Mark! I like it. This is my first time on your site but I have a feeling I will be returning to see more info you pass! Thanks!

Symon
Symon

A thoughtful, concise and well explained article for an area so often overlooked. I may have made a couple of tweaks immediately. Thanks for the aide memoir!

GWS Media
GWS Media

Thanks for this, sometimes it's really helpful to get a reminder of the basics. Excellent tip about varying the descriptions of the primary terms, too. Readability- and being kind to potential clients' eyes- is the factor in SEO it can be easy to lose sight of. Cordelia@GWS

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson

Mike, typically I try to stay within 160 characters. Personally I try to make sure I can put a special offer/incentive or a reason for them to click, before 160 characters to make the important messaging doesn't get cut off . If your tag is longer than that, I think its ok, it can act as a teaser to want to click and read more.Thanks for the feedback!Mark

Mike Wilton
Mike Wilton

Mark, looking at your meta description example I am curious about your thoughts on length. In most cases Google is only going to show about 156 characters, which would result in your description reading like this "Largest selection of Nike golf club sets, drivers, irons, and Nike golf balls at discount prices. Get Free Shipping on orders of $50 or more, read product..." Do you adhere to the limit or do you have a different character limit that you use personally? I know in many instances Google will opt for longer descriptions in the SERPs, but I have only seen it in a handful of instances.

Ann Donnelly
Ann Donnelly

Good post on something that should be SEO basics (or even web dev basics) that people overlook all the time. Great point about having a call to action in the description tag!

Social Judy
Social Judy

Mark,Thank you for the short, concise and easily understood post on one of the most important basics in SEO. I shared it on my FB. Looking forward to more of your articles. Liked 'Back to Basics with Keyword Search too.

DiKaKo
DiKaKo

Hey, that was something practical! Thank you a lot!

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson

That is true. The meta keyword tag is no longer relevant. Personally I don't even use the tag anymore, but it probably would be a good practice to continue to use it...who knows if search engines will ever factor it in the algorithm again.

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  1. […] How To Craft the Perfect Meta Tags | StayOnSearch Creating a Title Tag Before we get started, there are some best practices to keep in mind when creating your title tags. […]

  2. […] week I read a great article on Meta Tags.  I have practiced some of the things that were covered in this article, but not all of them.  […]

  3. […] · Reply · View mrbra: Top SEO Tip: Creating meta tags that get top rankings: http://www.stayonsearch.com/how-to-craft-the-perfect-meta-tags 2010-06-05 20:06:32 · Reply · View jayenk5: SEO Houston 2010-06-05 20:06:27 […]