What are Meta Title, Meta Description, & Snippets

Ok so I missed my deadline already…. I actually had most of this article ready to roll, but yesterday just got to busy, and I got distracted.

I started a new Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Daily.Featured.Biz, and so far the response has been very good.  The idea being that any business can submit their information, and be featured on the blog here http://seowpb.com/category/business-post/ I am also sharing those post on the Facebook page, and  looking for reciprocal links from the actual business itself. See what I am doing there?  If you don’t understand leave me a comment below, but I don’t think anyone is reading this anyway…..

So my idea for Fridays post (I know its Saturday) Meta Titles,  Meta Descriptions, and Snippets. What are they and what is the importance of them Web Design, Internet Marketing, & Search Engine Optimization?

Meta tags are a special HTML tag that provides information about a Web page. Unlike normal HTML tags, meta tags do not affect how the page is displayed. Instead, they provide information such as who created the page, how often it is updated, what the page is about, and which keywords represent the page’s content. These tags are located in the header before the body of the page. Below is what META tags for this article might look like.

<meta content=”text/html; charset=iso-8859-1″ http-equiv=”Content-Type” />
<title>What are Meta Title, Meta Description, & Snippets | Website Design</title><meta name=”robots” content=”index,follow,all” />
<meta name=”description” content=”Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions, and Snippets. What are they? What is the importance of them in web design, Internet Marketing, & Search Engine Optimization ” />
<meta name=”keywords” content=”Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions, Snippets, web design, Internet Marketing, Search Engine Optimization” />
<meta name=”revisit-after” content=”7 DAYS” />

Meta Titles,  Meta Descriptions, Meta Keywords

A few years ago Google stopped looking at Meta Keywords, and the SEO Marketing world is divided on whether to use them or not. Bing and Yahoo are believed to still use them, but my sites consistently rank well on those search engines with out the assistance of Meta Keywords. I only include them here in this article so you are not confused if you read about them as you are doing more research. Bottom line if your going to use meta keywords, keep the list short and concise to what the PAGE is about.

When it comes to Search Engine optimization, the two most important META tags are the meta title and meta descriptions tags.

These two tags are used by the search engines to determine what the web page is about, and while it is debated about the appropriate length of these tags, the following is widely excepted.

  1. They should be different on every page of your website
  2. Title tags should be kept to a maximum of 70 characters
  3. Description tags should be kept to a maximum of 156 characters
  4. The title tag and the H1 tag on your page should be similar
  5. Words from the title tag should also be used in H2 tags
  6. The words in the description tag should be used on the page (if you noticed in the above example, the description is a sentence in the article, almost word for word)

So what are Snippets?

Snippets are generated by Google from your page titles and descriptions. It is completely automated and takes into account both the content of a page as well as references to it that appear on the web. The goal of the snippet and title is to best represent and describe each result and explain how it relates to the user’s query.

The more information you give Google, the better your search result snippet can be. With rich snippets, webmasters with sites containing structured content—such as review sites or business listings—can label their content to make it clear that each labeled piece of text represents a certain type of data: for example, a restaurant name, an address, or a rating. Learn more about how rich snippets can improve your site’s listing in search results.

Google uses a number of different sources for this information, including descriptive information in the title and meta tags for each page. We may also use publicly available information—for instance, anchor text or listings from the Open Directory Project (DMOZ)—or create rich snippets based on markup on the page.

Create descriptive page titles

Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.

Here are a few tips from Google for managing your titles:

    1. As explained above, make sure every page on your site has a title specified in the &lt;title&gt; tag. If you’ve got a large site and are concerned you may have forgotten a title somewhere, the HTML suggestions page in Webmaster Tools lists missing or potentially problematic &lt;title&gt; tags on your site
    2. Page titles should be descriptive and concise. Avoid vague descriptors like "Home" for your home page, or "Profile" for a specific person’s profile. Also avoid unnecessarily long or verbose titles, which are likely to get truncated when they show up in the search results. (Google only shows 70 characters)
    3. Avoid keyword stuffing. It’s sometimes helpful to have a few descriptive terms in the title, but there’s no reason to have the same words or phrases appear multiple times. A title like "Foobar, foo bar, foobars, foo bars" doesn’t help the user, and this kind of keyword stuffing can make your results look spammy to Google and to users. (Sites have been know to be sandboxed for this)
    4. Avoid repeated or boilerplate titles. It’s important to have distinct, descriptive titles for each page on your site. Titling every page on a commerce site “Cheap products for sale”, for example, makes it impossible for users to distinguish one page differs another. Long titles that vary by only a single piece of information (“boilerplate” titles) are also bad; for example, a standardized title like "&lt;band name&gt; - See videos, lyrics, posters, albums, reviews and concerts" contains a lot of uninformative text. One solution is to dynamically update the title to better reflect the actual content of the page: for example, include the words “video”, “lyrics”, etc., only if that particular page contains video or lyrics. Another option is to just use "&lt;band name&gt;" as a concise title and use the meta description (see below) to describe your site’s content. The HTML suggestions page in Webmaster Tools lists any duplicate titles Google detected on your pages.
    5. Brand your titles, but concisely. The title of your site’s home page is a reasonable place to include some additional information about your site—for instance, "ExampleSocialSite, a place for people to meet and mingle."But displaying that text in the title of every single page on your site hurts readability and will look particularly repetitive if several pages from your site are returned for the same query. In this case, consider including just your site name at the beginning or end of each page title, separated from the rest of the title with a delimiter such as a hyphen, colon, or pipe, like this:
      &lt;title&gt;ExampleSocialSite: Sign up for a new account.&lt;/title&gt;
    6. Be careful about disallowing search engines from crawling your pages. Using the robots.txt protocol on your site can stop Google from crawling your pages, but it may not always prevent them from being indexed. For example, Google may index your page if we discover it by following a link from someone else’s site. To display it in search results, Google will need to display a title of some kind and because we won’t have access to any of your page content, we will rely on off-page content such as anchor text from other sites. (To truly block a URL from being indexed, you can use meta tags.)

 

Create good meta descriptions

The description attribute within the &lt;meta&gt; tag is a good way to provide a concise, human-readable summary of each page’s content. Google will sometimes use the meta description of a page in search results snippets, if we think it gives users a more accurate description than would be possible purely from the on-page content. Accurate meta descriptions can help improve your clickthrough; here are some guidelines for properly using the meta description.

    1. Make sure that every page on your site has a meta description. The HTML suggestions page in Webmaster Tools lists pages where Google has detected missing or problematic meta descriptions.
    2. Differentiate the descriptions for different pages. Identical or similar descriptions on every page of a site aren’t helpful when individual pages appear in the web results. In these cases we’re less likely to display the boilerplate text. Wherever possible, create descriptions that accurately describe the specific page. Use site-level descriptions on the main home page or other aggregation pages, and use page-level descriptions everywhere else. If you don’t have time to create a description for every single page, try to prioritize your content: At the very least, create a description for the critical URLs like your home page and popular pages.
    3. Include clearly tagged facts in the description.The meta description doesn’t just have to be in sentence format; it’s also a great place to include structured data about the page. For example, news or blog postings can list the author, date of publication, or byline information. This can give potential visitors very relevant information that might not be displayed in the snippet otherwise. Similarly, product pages might have the key bits of information—price, age, manufacturer—scattered throughout a page. A good meta description can bring all this data together. For example, the following meta description provides detailed information about a book.
      &lt;meta name="Description" content="Author: A.N. Author, 
      Illustrator: P. Picture, Category: Books, Price: $17.99, 
      Length: 784 pages"&gt;

      In this example, information is clearly tagged and separated.
    4. Programmatically generate descriptions. For some sites, like news media sources, generating an accurate and unique description for each page is easy: since each article is hand-written, it takes minimal effort to also add a one-sentence description. For larger database-driven sites, like product aggregators, hand-written descriptions can be impossible. In the latter case, however, programmatic generation of the descriptions can be appropriate and are encouraged. Good descriptions are human-readable and diverse, as we talked about in the first point above. The page-specific data we mentioned in the second point is a good candidate for programmatic generation. Keep in mind that meta descriptions comprised of long strings of keywords don’t give users a clear idea of the page’s content, and are less likely to be displayed in place of a regular snippet.
    5. Use quality descriptions. Finally, make sure your descriptions are truly descriptive. Because the meta descriptions aren’t displayed in the pages the user sees, it’s easy to let this content slide. But high-quality descriptions can be displayed in Google’s search results, and can go a long way to improving the quality and quantity of your search traffic.

So I know this is alot of inofmation, but I hope you learned something. Please bookmark this page, and comeback to use it as a reference. As always if you have a question, or liked this post leave me some love below so that I know people really are reading my articles.

 

 

 

Written by

Tom Strubinger was raised in the Mid-West and has lived in South Florida since 1995. He got his first exposure to computer maintenance and programming in 1988, and has been the friend and neighbor everyone relied for computer help, ever since. In 2001 after 911 tragedy, he went back to school and started doing IT Support professionally. In 2004 SoFla Networking was incorporated as a LLC and has been thriving ever since. SoFla Networking now offers Complete IT Solutions including Web Design, SEO, and Social Media Marketing.

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