Meta description and title tags have long been an anchor point for a web page’s SEO. In 2017, it’s time to start thinking beyond keyword use.
In 2017, a debate is happening. What is the impact of Rankbrain on organic rankings? (Rankbrain is part of Google’s algorithm that’s a machine learning, artificial intelligence system. Its purpose is to better understand how humans react to online content. Here’s a good FAQ with more detail).
A specific area we can look at is how title and description tags influence organic click-through-rates (CTR). The hypothesis being that a higher CTR would indicate more interest from users.
Testing has tracked metrics on this, with the general consensus being that Rankbrain factors like CTRs are having an impact on ranking. Moz does a good overview:
For meta tags, this indicates a shift in both strategy and execution.
Motivate Action With Meta Description and Title Tags
In the past, we’d identify a keyword phrase we wanted to rank for, and that phrase would get priority in both the title and description tags.
For example, if you were optimizing for the phrase “Toyota repair Orlando”, your meta description tag would probably read:
Toyota Repair Orlando | Toyota Mechanic Orlando FL
It was always best practice to put the exact keyword phrase you were targeting at the front of the description tag. That indicated to Google that this phrase was what your page was about. Then you’d repeat a variation of the phrase to use all characters available in the title tag.
The problem here is that this makes poor ad copy. It doesn’t communicate any value or do anything to motivate someone to click on the listing.
Today, with Rankbrain, this is a concern. If less people click through because the text is not enticing, that metric threatens to lower your ranking.
You need to put some emotional appeal into your title tag, more like you would a PPC advertisement. For example:
The #1 Toyota Repair in Orlando – 15% Off New Customer Special – Call Today!
Which listing would you be more likely to click on?
Same method goes for the description tag. We used to write descriptions like this:
Toyota repair Orlando. Call the best Toyota mechanic in Orlando today to get top repair services on all models of Toyota. Serving Orlando Toyota owners for 20 years. Schedule your appointment today.
This description does a lot to repeat keywords. Today we’d consider this keyword stuffing. It reads poorly and does little to motivate action. Instead try:
Tired of paying too much for mechanics who don’t specialize in Toyota repair? Schedule an appointment with Orlando’s Top Rated Local® Toyota repair service. We specialize in Toyota repair. Save 15% on your first service!
It’s now as necessary to think as much about how people respond to your organic listings as it is to think about how search engines read keywords. Google – more than ever – wants to rank content people respond to.
Natural Listing Ads®
At Marketing 360®, we adopted this strategy several years ago. That’s why we call our SEO services Natural Listing Ads® (NLA).
As that title suggests, we write meta data as an advertisement for prospective clients, a step which goes beyond just optimizing for keywords.
For example, when you search for “free CRM for small businesses”, this is our organic listing:
A search for “Italian specialty meats” brings up our client Battistoni, with an excellent description tag:
A search for bail bonds in Grand Rapids gets you:
Here is a strong example when you search for “best pizza in NYC”
If you’re looking into the “best burgers in London”, this listing will draw you in:
Note that Google often pulls your description tag from your page content, so it won’t always display as you have it in the meta tag. However, that tag is shown when people share your page on social media:
Gain a Competitive Edge
Creating emotional, edgy, funny, appetizing, even scary title and description tags is one of many subtle, refined strategies you can use to get a competitive edge in digital marketing.
The truth is that few businesses – even today – execute this strategy well. Title tags – which are their first chance to get the attention of a prospect – are dry and forgettable.
Look at your meta content as advertising content. Use your keyword phrase, but build an enticing idea around it.
If you get more people to click through to your page and engage with your content, that will help your SEO as much (if not more) than just putting a keyword phrase in the right place.