How to write meta tags (that do more than just get you found)

Copywriting Magic Act

SEO copywriting can be a tricky line to walk. You want to be found by search engines so you need to use those keywords and phrases to maximum effect. But you don’t want your SEO to come at the price of customer engagement. After all, Google isn’t handing any cash over!

Your SEO efforts still need to entice and intrigue online customers and, most importantly, they need to convert. When you’re writing meta tags, you’ve got to do all that in 160 characters or fewer.

This post will show you how to write meta tags (and data) that boost your SEO and help you convert searchers to prospective customers.

What are meta tags? 

Let’s take it back a step and make sure we’re all clear about what meta tags are. Meta tags are part of the coding of the meta elements of your website. They work behind the scenes helping search engines make sense of each webpage and ensuring it displays correctly.

As a creator of online content you only really need to concern yourself with a few of these.

Title tag

The text in the title tag will appear in a few places: in the browser bar when you view the page, it’s the page name when your site or blog is saved as a bookmark or favourite, and when it’s shared across social media. The title tag also appears in search results and is one of the key pieces of information search engines can use to match you up to online searches.

So pretty important, right? Oh, and you only have 60-70 characters.

Description meta tag

The text you put in the description meta tag lets you influence the page description that appears in search results and when your page is shared. Search engines can actually pick this up from your page but when you complete the 160-character description yourself, you can put in a bit more pizzazz. Stuffing your description with keywords won’t give you any SEO lovn’ so it’s the pizzazz I really want to cover.

Your meta tags need more than keywords 

Your title tag and description tags in your meta data have traditionally been used to describe the webpage. Because they appear in search engines and when your page is shared, you have an opportunity to turn them into bite-sized chunks of marketing awesome.

Ideally your meta tags should contain:

1. An accurate summary of what your webpage or blog post is about

2. A compelling reason to actually click the link and find out more

3. A call to action

And all in just a little more than a tweet. Writing optimised and effective meta tags is a tough gig!

Tips for writing effective tags for your meta data 

Be accurate about your page content. Misleading search engines and searchers about what your webpage actually contains is bad SEO and it’s bad form. You might get a lot of traffic but they won’t stick around because you fibbed. Nil conversions = FAIL.

Entice people with a benefit. Why should they click? What will your webpage deliver? The main benefit your page offers can be linked in with your page summary using phrases like “Discover how…”, “You will learn….”, “Your ultimate guide to….”.

Include a call to action. If you have a special offer, include it in your meta tags! “Order now to receive…” or “Book before 31 Jan for 40% off”. If you don’t have an offer, draw on verbs to drive some action.

Put your keywords up front. Search engines pay particular attention to the first few words of everything so, if you can, pop your keywords up front in your title and description meta tags. Don’t compromise readability and persuasiveness for SEO, though.

Don’t waste the first 15 characters of your title with your business name. In fact, only include your business name if that’s the number 1 way people find you or you have space left. Your meta tags should entice them with a reason, not a business name.

Show some flair. Remember that people are presented with many pages of search results and they are looking for a way to differentiate them. Don’t be afraid to show some personality!

Juggling it all in a title tag of 60 characters and a description tag of 160 characters is a big ask. When you take some time to look beyond SEO your meta tags will not only get you found by search engines, but also, they will spark a connection from the very first moment.

So go forth and create interesting meta tags that do more than get you found.

The Copy Detective.

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A little bit of magic from Belinda (The Copy Detective)
Belinda is an seo copywriter and marketing copywriter who confidently walks the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand personality. You don’t have to choose between them! Oh and she's also The Copy Detective.

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  • http://lutrov.com Ivan Lutrov

    That’s some sensible advice, Belinda. Through experience, I’ve found that the title, URL, and main header are the three most important SEO components. It’s also worth noting that you need to be consistent in the words you use in all three.

    Google is selective with the way it uses the “meta description” data. Sometimes it uses it, sometimes not. For instance, your own “about” page has a “meta description” which says:

    > “As the lead marketing copywriter at (and owner of) Copywrite Matters Belinda Weaver uses her words to put personality and action into business marketing. Melbourne.”

    But if I search for something that I know exists on your site, for the purposes of this exercise:

    http://www.google.com.au/search?q=why+those+10+dollar+words+make+your+copywriting+suck

    Google shows this:

    > “Your marketing needs to get your target market’s attention and motivate them to act … the right words work and a professional copywriter will make a difference to …”

    See how Google didn’t bother with your carefully crafted description at all? In this instance it decided it was better to use some text from your body copy instead. Go figure.

    Oh, and I’m glad you didn’t talk about the (useless) “meta keywords” tag. This one still gets abused on an awful lot of websites. Presumably it gets put into website templates by designers who don’t know much about SEO, and Google in particular.

  • http://lutrov.com Ivan Lutrov

    That’s some sensible advice, Belinda. Through experience, I’ve found that the title, URL, and main header are the three most important SEO components. It’s also worth noting that you need to be consistent in the words you use in all three.

    Google is selective with the way it uses the “meta description” data. Sometimes it uses it, sometimes not. For instance, your own “about” page has a “meta description” which says:

    > “As the lead marketing copywriter at (and owner of) Copywrite Matters Belinda Weaver uses her words to put personality and action into business marketing. Melbourne.”

    But if I search for something that I know exists on your site, for the purposes of this exercise:

    http://www.google.com.au/search?q=why+those+10+dollar+words+make+your+copywriting+suck

    Google shows this:

    > “Your marketing needs to get your target market’s attention and motivate them to act … the right words work and a professional copywriter will make a difference to …”

    See how Google didn’t bother with your carefully crafted description at all? In this instance it decided it was better to use some text from your body copy instead. Go figure.

    Oh, and I’m glad you didn’t talk about the (useless) “meta keywords” tag. This one still gets abused on an awful lot of websites. Presumably it gets put into website templates by designers who don’t know much about SEO, and Google in particular.

    • http://www.copywritematters.com.au Belinda Weaver

      Thanks for such a thoughtful and insightful comment Ivan.

      Your example reminds me that nothing is certain and that by filling out the tags you’re simply giving search engines another option they can use and hopefully influencing what they use in some instances. 

      You also point out the importance of a good opening sentence/paragraph that catches the reader’s attention and entices them to read on. 

      Welcome to my website does not do that! 

    • http://www.bridiestypingservices.com/ Bridie Jenner

      Very useful Ivan.

      I’ve been confused with meta-tags as so many “SEO experts” say don’t bother with them, then I read something like this and I’m not sure what I’m meant to do!

      I stopped using them a while ago when I was doing some SEO research of my own and discovered how easy it was to see what keywords my competitors were targeting through their use of meta-tags. Now I’m not sure whether that was the right decision…?!

      • http://www.copywritematters.com.au Belinda Weaver

        Hey Bridie. I wouldn’t ignore them personally unless you know you’re really nailing that intro text on your page. 

        What I really wanted to point out here is that they offer more than just SEO benefits.

        The tags are sometimes displayed in the search results so you can really maximise their impact. They also determine the text included when your blog post is shared. That alone makes them worth the effort (in my humble opinion).

        • http://SEO-Website-Designer.com/ Tiggerito

          Belinda, I think you’ve nailed why people get confused. Meta tags no longer have influence on ranking so stuffing keywords in them has no value. This does not mean they don’t have a use, which is to make you look good.

          I’d like to clarify some common errors made on this subject (also made by this article).

          The title tag is not a meta tag. It can be considered as meta data but is technically not made using a meta tag, so it not one.

          On tags (and being pedantic). The tag is the part of the html code. People here are really talking about the meta element which is the whole thing including the tag, attributes, text and closing tag.

          As I stated above, Google does not look at the content of meta elements when considering ranking, so don’t bother keyword stuffing. Just make them read well as this article suggests. 

          The title element is different and keywords do get considered here. In that case its the trick of combining a great title with the keywords you are after. As the article stated, keywords near the start tend to have more influence.

          On the titles length it has recently been discovered that the number of characters displayed by Google also varies on the width of the characters used. 60 to 70 is a good rough idea but the only way to know is to try it and see. There are a few tools around (I’ve made on) that simulate how a title and meta description may look in Google. Search for “Google SERP Emulator” to find them. 

          • http://www.copywritematters.com.au/ Belinda Weaver

            Thanks Tiggerito. I really appreciate the time you took to share your knowledge (and correct mine :))  

            I’ve made some edits to the post based on your comments. Thanks again! 

      • Ivan

        Bridie, I’ve just had a quick look at one of your main pages, and from what I can you’re basically doing it right. The only change I’d get your website manager to make is introduce a main page header, also known as the “H1″ element.

  • PMG India

    really it is great post!!!!!

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