Choosing Your Words Wisely: Titles, Descriptions, and Keywords for Content Optimization
You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but search engines put a substantial amount of value on a web page’s title when ranking it. The overall content quality on a web page is the most important factor in SEO because it’s a safe bet you’ll do well in rankings by focusing on what search engines aim to value over all else.
However, implementing a strong title, a good page description, and search-related keywords are all things that can give a site the edge over its direct competition. Sites that hire writers to provide content need to be aware of page title content optimization on two levels: on the writer and editor side to generate titles that abide by strong Search Engine Optimization practices as well as on the programming side to insure that the titles are properly displayed.
The title is among the most important parts of a page’s content optimization. The page title is actually a data tag that appears in a webpage’s “head” code and not as large text on the page itself. Because of this differentiation, content creators can generate two different titles for page content: one that’s optimized for search engines and the other that’s optimized for people.
Any page should only feature one concise and unique <title> tag. Google truncates titles down to between 50 and 60 characters in search results, so any content after the character cut off won’t be displayed. If you’re going to include website branding in the title it’s best to put it after the content title separated by a pipe like this: The Content’s Title | Site Name. Search engines are also not fans of sites that try to jump on to every keyword possible, so combined with the relatively short character title capacity it’s a good practice to focus on a singular keyword within the title. The title is particularly useful to SMBs to get an edge in local searches. Businesses have a lot to gain by including city and locality names in the title.
Pages also implement a metatag description field which acts as a text summary of the page’s content that is coupled with the page’s title in search results that function like advertisements for content. Search engines tend to place less SEO value on descriptions. However, descriptions produce a higher quality search result that typically experiences better click-through conversation rates which boosts SEO rankings. You can use the description to fit approximately 150 characters of additional information about the page content to entice people who see it in search results. A good description is specific about the content on the page.
The keywords metatag itself is not particularly helpful in the content optimization process because modern search engines mostly ignore it. The keywords tag is designed to hold content-related words that people would search for to help index a webpage. However, this field was frequently abused by web developers to host and abundance of unrelated words to bring in any traffic possible. Keyword abuse leads to inaccurate search results, so search engines have dropped using this content as a point of reference.
Spending a little time on content optimization for web page titles and descriptions can significantly boost how many visitors a site gets through search results.
Dan S is a former news journalist turned web developer and freelance writer. He has a penchant for all things tech and believes the person using the machine is the most important element.