Using keywords in title and meta description tags

This article takes a look at the issue of keywords in the title tag and the meta description tag and suggests best practices for achieving good rankings while also encouraging visitors to click through to your site.

Two of the most important on-the-page elements on any site when it comes to SEO are the title tag and the meta description tag, located in the head section of each HTML page. If you’re just starting out with SEO this should be the first thing you concentrate your efforts on, before even thinking about link building. If you’re not sure what keywords people are looking for you can do some research here or here.

Why are these tags so important to your site? The first reason is because when you page is delivered to the world through a search engine they always see the contents of the title tag (unless you don’t have one, in which case the title is often something on the page, usually the contents of the H1 or H2 tag but rarely something you want it to be), and almost always the meta description too. These tags basically tells the world what your page is about. Write a catchy title and description and people will click through to your page even if it ranks 7th or 8th.

The second reason is that search engines, in particular Google, rely heavily on these elements in their algorithms. If Google finds keywords it likes in your title and description tags it will rank your pages well, even sometimes if there are not a lot of inbound links to that particular page. With lower priority pages and search terms this ensures you don’t need to go link building for every single page on your site with every likely search term, something which is logistically almost impossible.

Taking these two points into consideration it becomes apparent that writing good titles and descriptions is not simply a matter of filling both with keywords (actually that’s more likely to raise a red flag and see your site buried than it is to improve your positions) or about writing the catchiest intros, it is about striking a balance between writing catchy text and using your keywords wisely – frustrated lexicologists get a chance to put their creative skills to good use here!

For a demonstration of how a title and description can be optimized lets take the following example. Bobs Shoes sell a range of different footwear on the web. One page they have offers leather shoes. Bob is convinced his prices are fantastic and lots of people will buy from him. Here is how his title and description tags look at the moment:

Title: Bobs Shoes – Leather
Description: A list of the leather shoes we offer, all are delivered within 7 days. Order online or pop into our shop in London.

This is a very weak set of titles and descriptions. It neither catches the user’s imagination, nor does it tell Google much about what is on the page.

Let’s take this example and jazz it up a bit:
Title: Bobs Shoes – Leather shoes – 35% discounts and free delivery
Description: We offered over 100 different styles of leather shoes with brands such as Gucci, Versace and Armani offered, prices start at £49.99.

Already we’ve achieved 2 things here; firstly the title is far catchier, it tells you more about what the user will find on the page and it also mentions discounts and gives an example of prices, again something likely to attract clicks. Secondly there are now keywords in both the title and the description, with “leather” mentioned twice and shoes 3 times as well as 3 leading brand names. Further improvements could probably still be made with time and thought.

The effects on Google rankings will also very quickly be seen, with sites often jumping many places and appearing high on search terms they were previously invisible on purely with these sorts of improvements. If you’re thinking about improving on the page factors make sure your title and description tags are the first think you get in order.

Finally do not - let’s repeat that again since it’s very important – DO NOT simply fill titles and descriptions with keywords such as in the following example.
Title: Leather shoes, leather Versace shoes, leather Gucci shoes, Armani shoes, cheap leather shoes, buy leather shoes online
Description: We sell leather shoes, leather Versace shoes, leather Gucci shoes and lots of leather shoes. Buy leather shoes and cheap leather shoes and Gucci shoes online.
This is a common mistake from beginners, guess what - there are lots of other people before you who also thought of this idea too and search engines are well able to spot these tricks. Not only is it unlikely to attract many clicks, it’s also likely to get your site buried on your target terms. Write titles and descriptions that are logical and be sensible with how you use your keywords.

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