Metadata provides search engines with information about the content of a website. Metatags or meta elements are used to specify metadata. For example, the preview texts that search engines such as Google display in their search results pages (SERPs) can be influenced by filling in the metadata. The metadata in the SERP snippet is composed of a title (the so-called title tag) and a descriptive text (meta description) of the respective search result.
Metatags provide the search engines’ web crawlers with information and instructions about a website. There is a wide range of metatags with which website operators can provide information for search engines. The optimal design of meta data is important for search engine optimization (SEO).
The metatags can be written in the HTML code of a page or entered in the respective content management system, for example:
Title: <title>Here is the title</title>.
The title tag tells the search engine what a page is about. Search engines usually use the Title as the heading of the respective search result in the SERPs. Often the terms title tag and meta title are used synonymously.
Meta description: <meta name=”description” content=”…”>
Meta description is a short text description of the website and is usually displayed as a preview of a page in SERP snippets.
There are other meta tags that provide search engine information, but are usually not visible to the user.
With the robots meta tag, for example, you specify which information search engines should or should not take into account. For example, the attribute rel=”nofollow” tells the bot not to follow links from a page.
To remove the website from the search engine index, you can also add the noindex tag. The page will then not be indexed, so it will no longer appear in the search results:
<meta name=”robots” content=”nofollow” />
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” />
Another metatag is the hreflang tag. This tag can be used to indicate to Google that there are multiple language or country versions of a piece of content (such as 2 versions in English, one for US and one for UK).
Ex. <link rel=”alternate” href=”http://www.seo-content.org/” hreflang=”en-us” />
Ex. <link rel=”alternate” href=”http://www.seo-content.co.uk/” hreflang=”en-gb” />
Tips for optimizing the title tag and meta description
Title and meta description are particularly important metadata. The title tag and the meta description are played out as preview texts in the search engine results pages. They serve to distinguish a website from other search hits and to encourage the user to click on it.
The title appears in the SERP snippets as the heading of a search result in blue font. The meta description is displayed below the page title and URL in gray.
The design of the title and meta description significantly influences the click-through rate, i.e. how many users click on the link in the SERP snippet.
According to a study by SEMrush, duplicate or missing meta descriptions are among the most common website errors.
Such meta description issues can have a negative impact on rankings in search engines like Google. Especially when it comes to meta data, it makes sense that those who write the website text also edit the Title and Description.
Tips for the Title Tag
The Title is displayed as the heading of each search result. Google uses the Title to identify the topic of a page and how relevant it is to a search query.
Because Google uses the Title as a clue to the content of a page, it is an important ranking factor. In addition, the Title affects the click-through rate of users in the search results pages.
This is how the Title tag should be designed:
- The Title should not be wider than 512 pixels, as a rough rule of thumb it should not exceed 70 characters including spaces.
- For the mobile view, the title should be even shorter than 70 characters.
- The title should be as short and concise as possible.
- The title should contain the most important keyword, as Google uses it to draw conclusions about the content of the respective page.
- The title should be as meaningful as possible.
- The most important thing should be in front.
- The title should make the user curious.
Tips for Meta Descriptions
Based on the description, the user decides whether a page contains what he is looking for. If the meta description is not filled in or if it is not suitable or poorly written in Google’s opinion, Google will pull an automated description from the respective website. Therefore, website owners should try to attract users to their site with a meaningful description.
This is what the meta description should look like:
- If possible, the meta description should not be too long so that it is not cut off. Meanwhile, Google takes into account not only the number of characters, but also the pixel width.
- As a rough rule of thumb, the description should be less than 156 characters including spaces (920 pixel width).
- The description should be written in a meaningful, interesting and relevant way.
- The most important keyword should be included as close to the beginning as possible.
- The meta description should attract the user’s attention and make him curious.
- The description should pick up the user at his search query.
- Depending on what kind of page it is, there can be a call-to-action at the end of the meta description.
- To stand out from other search results, certain elements can be placed as icons in meta descriptions, e.g. checkmarks, hearts, etc.
And very important: the associated landing page must deliver what it promises. Because Google understands user signals such as the bounce rate better and better and incorporates them into the ranking.
Google displays the keywords that a user is searching for in bold in the title and description. Therefore, it is important that the metadata pick up the user at his search query. It makes sense to optimize the metadata according to whether the user is looking for information (informational search) or has a specific purchase intention (transactional search).
In the case of an informational search, for example, part of the answer should already be provided in the metadata. In the case of an online store, on the other hand, it can make sense to include a call-to-action in the description.
The SERP snippet generator from Sistrix shows how the title and meta description of a website would look to the user.
Metadata informs search engines what the user can expect on a page. Companies should maintain and optimally design the meta data in order to stand out from other search results and increase their click-through rates. For example, the title and meta description metatags should be entered individually for each page and should be geared to the user’s search query. In addition, the title and description should be as short and concise as possible.
The title and meta description should contain the most important keywords, as they provide information about the page content. Depending on what the user is looking for, the metadata should be optimized for keywords for the Informational Search or the Transactional Search.
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