Writing metadata is often an afterthought — but it shouldn’t be. Here’s how to write metadata that engages users and drives more traffic.
By Caleb Malik
When it comes to SEO, deciding where to invest your time can be an overwhelming process. Do I need to rewrite that section? Should I have a video on this page? What about backlinks?
In the sea of questions, there’s one element to success that you can rely on: metadata. Regardless of the topic, regardless of your business and regardless of the content type, if you want to use a page on your site to drive organic traffic, you need to provide good metadata. Here’s everything you need to know about these crucial SEO elements.
What Is Metadata?
Simply put, metadata is composed of your title tag and meta description. This data is what users see on search engine results pages (SERPs) when they complete a search. You’ve seen it countless times yourself, possibly without realizing:
Of the two metadata elements, the title tag is most important. Google and other search engines use the keywords in your title tag to understand what your page is about and what it should rank for. Google will always use the information you supply in your title tag in the SERPs.
Unlike your title tag, there’s no guarantee that your meta description will get used, and it’s not crawled for keywords like your title tag. Still, it’s important to follow best practices for writing a good meta description because it is served on SERPs in most cases. Plus, any words in your meta description that match those used in the search will be bolded. Sometimes, even words that are similar will be bolded. While this seems like a small thing, it can be the slight edge you need to get a user to click on your page instead of a competitor’s.
Why Is Metadata Important for SEO?
For starters, your title tag is crawled, and the information gleaned from this process is used by Google to better understand your page. Beyond this, your metadata is like an ad for your page. The more interesting your title tag and meta description and the more they align with your desired keyword, the more likely users are to click.
As a result, optimizing these elements can result in a higher organic click-through-rate (CTR), driving more traffic to your site. Not only that, but an organic CTR that is higher than usual tells search engines that your content deserves to be ranked higher.
Let’s say, for example, that an article in the third position for a particular search usually gets a 10% CTR. If your article starts earning a 20% CTR, Google would take this as a sign that your content is particularly valuable for that query. This can result in your content moving into a higher position, earning even more clicks.
8 Ways to Write Better Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Now that we know what metadata is and why it’s so important, let’s look at a few ways you can write more effective metadata and drive more traffic.
1. Keep Character Length in Mind
Your title tag shouldn’t be longer than 60 characters, and your meta description shouldn’t exceed 160 characters. It’s important that you don’t surpass these limits because it can result in important information getting cut off. The one exception to this rule is if you exceed these character limits strategically. For example, you might reach your 160-character limit with a sentence like, “What most people don’t realize is that … ” This could create suspense for users and lead them to click through to your site.
2. Incorporate Your Primary Keyword and Secondary Keywords When Possible
In most cases, your title tag should lead with your primary keyword. This ensures that, if you show up for that term, it’s the first thing users are going to see. This quickly tells them that you have the information they’re looking for. Likewise, you should include your primary and secondary keywords in your meta description — although it’s important that you fit them in naturally.
3. Include Locations for Local Businesses
If you have a locally based business, it’s important that you place your location in the title tags and meta descriptions for your core pages. This helps users easily understand that you’re a business near them, which makes them more certain that they’re not wasting time by going to your site.
4. Add a Call to Action
If there’s an action you want users to take, the best approach is simple — ask them. In most cases, this means ending your meta description with phrases like, “learn more,” “see how,” or something more unique to the page like, “start planning your trip to wine country.”
5. Write Unique Metadata
If you have a lot of pages on your site, you might be tempted to use the same metadata across a subsection of your pages to save time. Resist this impulse. Remember, your title tag is crawled by Google to understand your page topics. If they’re all the same, this creates confusion for search crawlers.
6. Consider Search Intent
You increase your chances of success when you match your metadata to the user’s goals. For example, if you’re targeting the keyword “new homebuyer tips” you could write, “20 Helpful New Homebuyer Tips (Avoid Common Mistakes)” for your title tag. This is better than a generic “20 Helpful New Homebuyer Tips | Your Brand Name” because you’re speaking to the user’s fear of making a mistake.
7. Use Numbers and Special Characters
Your goal is to attract a user’s eyes to your result in the split second before they scroll past. The strategic use of numbers and special characters almost always results in a higher CTR because they stand out from the rest of the text.
8. Review Google Ads for Your Target Keyword
The companies running Google ads for your target keyword have probably been doing so for a while, and it’s likely that they’ve been running A/B tests. You can lean on their experience by reviewing the ads in the SERPs. Look for common language and value proposition statements that you can modify for your own page.