Now that you know how to optimize your content, optimize images, and optimize links, it’s time to tackle your HTML page titles and HTML meta descriptions — two often forgotten, but powerful tools for optimizing your web pages and blog posts.
To get started, let’s take a look at what a page title and meta description look like in HTML:
As you can see, they aren’t used on your actual web pages and blog posts for your visitors to see. Instead these optimization tools are used in the HTML of your web pages and posts because they are meant for the search engines.
Most experts agree that HTML page titles are a very important optimization tool, with meta descriptions coming in a close second because the results listings in search engines are, at the most basic level, just lists of titles and descriptions of websites that match the searcher’s query. They will then review the listing of results, read (or skim) over the titles and descriptions, and THEN decide which links to click.
What is a Page Title and Meta Description?
- An HTML page title is like signage on the front of a building, telling people which store is in the building. You wouldn’t pull off the freeway, park, and walk into a building if you had no idea what was inside would you? No! Well, neither would search engines! Search engines look for the web page signage — the HTML title tag — to tell them what the page is about.
- An HTML meta description is a brief description about the web page or blog post and what can be found on the page or post. The meta description is like an advertisement for a store. It tells search engines and people more about the page so they can decide whether or not to visit it.
How Search Engines Use Titles And Descriptions
While search engines primarily use page titles and meta descriptions to figure out what keywords and categories to file your pages under, they are also often used in the search engine results pages (SERPs) when a user performs a keyword search query.
Here is an example of a SERP listing for my post when I search “What is Search Engine Optimization / SEO”:
As you can see from the example, my blog post showed up on the search engine results page for my search, and in the listing, it is displaying my HTML page title as the anchor text link (text of a link), my blog post URL, and my HTML meta description as the short description of the post — the same as you see in the HTML example above.
Search Engines Do Change And Edit Things
While search engines often use your HTML title and HTML meta description for the link and description shown in the search results listing, it’s isn’t guaranteed. Sometimes search engines occasionally write their own, especially if a search engine doesn’t think the description matches the page content closely enough.
Here is an example of the edited SERP listing that is shown when I search “What is Search Engine Optimization / SEO Bourn Creative”:
As you can see in this example, the search engine showed only part of the meta description and then added content from elsewhere on the same page.
Titles Are Used Elsewhere Too
The HTML title is also used in other places, such as individual browser window tabs, and the top of the overall browser window. How and where it is used depends on the browser.
Here are examples from Firefox and Safari:
Notice that just the beginning of the title shows up in some cases. You may want to take this into account when writing your titles.
How To Add An HTML Page Title And Meta Description
Now that you’ve read this post, I’m sure you can see just how important your web page titles and meta descriptions are. And, if you haven’t been using them on your own site, I’m sure you’re anxious to add them to your web pages and blog posts right away to improve your search engine optimization.
If your site is powered by the Genesis Framework, or if you’re using the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin — which we use and highly recommend — you’ll see an area to add the title and description below the content editor for each page and post:
Don’t go crazy and try to tackle your titles and meta descriptions just yet!
In my next two posts, I am going to break down everything you need to know about writing an effective HTML page title and a compelling meta description. I’m going to cover best practices and worst practices for each, and give you tips to maximize your results.
So stay tuned!
What About You?
Do you always make sure to use an HTML page title and Description on your web pages and blog posts? Are these two items brand new to you? Did you learn anything new today? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
- What Is Organic Search Engine Optimization / SEO
- How to Optimize Website Content For Search Engines And People
- How to Optimize Images For SEO
- How to Optimize Links For Improved SEO
- Writing an Effective HTML Page Title
- Writing an Effective Meta Description
- Why Keywords Still Matter In SEO
- How to Optimize Blog Posts For Maximum Results And Visibility