Getting your website to the top of search results is great, isn’t it? It pretty much guarantees traffic and potential sales.
Or does it?
Because you see, today, searchers no longer focus solely on first listings. Instead, they scan the Google results page looking for content that promises to answer their questions.
And what goes with it, it’s becoming more important to ensure your search listing communicates that promise to them, rather than focusing on boosting rankings.
Which in SEO terms means improving your meta tags.
In this post, I’ll explain the idea of meta tags to you, and then, show you how to optimize your Google listings to attract more visitors.
Intrigues? Let’s get started.
Modern search behavior
While top results still drive plenty of traffic, it takes 87% longer for the #1 organic search result to be seen compared to the past.
This is largely a result of searchers having to scroll through sponsored content and other listing types. In fact, these often push actual organic results far below the fold. Just take a look at the screenshot below:
With mandatory scrolling in mind, this means good rankings don’t necessarily yield the great conversion rates they once did.
Still, there are ways to capture the eye of your searcher with the right content.
Take the last topic you Googled for instance. Did you enter a keyword or ask a question?
If you also asked Google a question, you’re demonstrating a high need for relevancy in the content you’re searching for. No longer are we searching for a keyword, but looking for an answer to specific questions.
In order to capture your searcher before they’re distracted by other search listings, you’ll need to show that your content contains the answer they need.
Meta tags are great for this because they help convey your content contains the information searchers need. That’s how you can attract their attention.
Wordstream, an online advertising company, defines meta tags as follows:
“Meta tags are snippets of text that describe a page’s content; the meta tags don’t appear on the page itself, but only in the page’s code.”
Today, I’m going to show you how to optimize the meta content type, meta title and meta description tags.
What is meta content type?
Speed is a killer.
According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez:
“Nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds.”
The meta content type tag is necessary for this very reason.
Simply put, this meta tag tells your browser what character set you’re using.
Without it, your webpage just isn’t going to render as quickly.
If you haven’t already, you can add meta content type to your content with a small piece of code.
MoZ, a leading SEO software, suggests using the following options:
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=utf-8″ />
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1″>
Here’s my main piece of advice: stick with common formats like the examples above. This is because additional code and information will only create redundancy.
The last thing to be vary of is ensuring consistency across all your pages. It’s possible that a number of pages on your website run on different character sets.
To check if all your character sets are consistent, simply select ‘View’ > ‘Developer’ > ‘View Source’ to view the source code of each page.
What is meta title?
Searchers want to know what content to expect from your page.
Data from Facebook shows:
”..80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.”
The meta title tag works as your headline in the search results, and communicates that relevance. It’s a short line of code that tells the browser the title of your page.
Most CMS (content management systems) use the page’s headline as the default meta title tag.
However, it’s a good idea to create a custom meta title for each page to make it even more enticing for your potential visitors. Here are a couple of ideas how to do it:
Include the keyword you want to rank for in the meta title
Because the title is the first way searchers can determine whether your content is relevant, including your keyword is vital.
For instance, if your keyword is “MSP company”, include it in your title like so:
“Looking for an MSP company in Vancouver?””
A quick Google of the word ‘software’ will bring up many examples.
If possible, place the most important keyword close to the start of the title
CPC Strategy research shows that Google weights keywords from left to right.
Which means that by including the keyword as close to the left of the title will increase its strength for the search engine.
Using our “MSP company” example, title with the keyword at the start could look like this:
“Vancouver MSP company: IT specialists for small business”.
Note how more relevant does it look for someone looking for IT help in Vancouver.
What is meta description?
As you might be able to guess, a meta description is similar to a meta title. It’s the code that describes what your webpage contains to the browser and your searchers.
Google uses it to display a little blurb about each search results:
Where a meta title catches the eye of searchers, your meta description will seal the deal.
That’s because, while title tags limit the number of characters you can use to describe content, the meta description offers more space to convince someone to click on your listing.
Within the 320 characters that you can include in a meta description, you can sell the benefits of reading your content to searchers that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to through the title.
Here are some ways you can improve your meta descriptions:
Describe the problem your content will solve when your searcher clicks your content
When searchers select your listing over others in the same search, it means they believe your content is going to provide them with the most value.
So let’s backtrack and consider how you can communicate to searchers your content contains what they need.
Within your meta description, always include what readers will take away from your content.
If your content is helping readers make an important decision like “what to look for in an MSP company” include this benefit in your meta description.
For instance, you can start your meta description with, “Learn how to select the best MSP company for your needs…”
Include numbers to help your listing stand out even further
More often than not, meta descriptions are very word dense. This can be overwhelming to searchers mentally and visually.
According to Jakob Nielsen:
“A group of numbers will always stand out on a page, even if it’s surrounded by a mass of text.”
To break things up, try adding relevant numerical figures in your meta descriptions.
Let’s say you know your readers want to “what to look for in an MSP company”, where can I include a numerical figure?
In this case, I would further improve my meta description by saying, “Top 10 things you need to know before choosing a Managed Service Provider (MSP).”
Can you see how guaranteeing 10 takeaways in the article might be appealing to searchers?
Generate curiosity by showing your searcher has missing information or knowledge
Finally, we want to entice searchers with a knowledge gap to generate curiosity.
It’s not uncommon for us to feel more enticed by the unknown.
Whether you’re suggesting you have knowledge your searcher doesn’t or there’s an industry secret; doing so will make your meta descriptions more appealing.
Taking it one step further, I’m going to improve on the same example, keeping in mind there needs to be missing knowledge.
My meta description might now look like this, “Find out the top 10 things you needs to know before choosing an MSP company—we have the answer.”
Now that you have a better idea of how to leverage meta tags, what’s next?
When it comes to improving your rankings with meta tags, the 80/20 rule holds true.
20% of the strategies generate 80% of the impact and vice versa. Most meta tags aren’t necessary.
While it might not hurt to have more meta tags like web author, rating and date, consider this:
Save yourself time and focus on what will make the most impact.
What are meta tags currently in your content?
How effective have they been for you?