The fundamentals for better meta data optimization.
The meta data of each page are like it’s showcase for users in search engine results. Therefore you need to pay attention on your title, description and URL. If you don’t you won’t attract users attention to click on your result in search. Since Google launched a new design of search results for all users in March 2014 you definitely need to re-think and re-optimize your meta data again!
The perfect page title tags:
Optimize the page title to match the topic and content theme of this page. Since Google updated its search results design and switched from a font size of 16px to 18px the length of snippets changed too. Google displays the data by calculating the pixel width and not by counting characters anymore.
- Reflect the topic of the page with the main keywords used for contents.
- Limit the title length to a maximum of 482px on desktop version & 550px on mobile and tablet device.
- Try to include any call to action to tell users what to do and how to get what their are looking for.
What to avoid in title tags:
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- Avoid using too many capitals unless it’s part of a known brand name.
- Avoid using too many callsigns to attract users attention in an unnatural way.
- Avoid using a bunch of keywords not matching your particular content of the page.
The perfect page description:
The page meta description has to be optimized as well to preview the topic and content to users in search results. It’s still important for your search result ranking but is even more important to improve your click-through rate (CTR).
- Follow the AIDA principle and separate your description in four main parts:
Attention: Get users to take a look on your eye-catching results.
Interest: Awaken the interest of the users.
Desire: Make users think: “That’s absolutely what I’m looking for!”
Action: Get users to click on your result and tell them how to convert.
- Use keywords to attract users attention because of highlighted and bold words matching the search query.
- Use symbols like ♥ ✓ or → to stand out from others.
- Create descriptions that can be displayed properly in search results with a maximum width of 928px on desktop versions, 757px on mobile devices and 1035px on tablet devices. (If you are using rel=”author” on your page you should read on how it affects your description length!)
- Use short sentences to make your description readable easily and quickly.
What to avoid in page descriptions:
- Avoid using enumerations of keywords without any clear statement matching your content topic.
- Avoid long and complex sentences.
- Avoid using a complex language which the average users don’t understand.
Optimizing URLs for better search results:
The URL of a page is not that important for search result snippets but should contain the main keywords and be as short as possible. In case your website uses breadcrumbs I’m going to show you a way to display them instead of URLs. Just read on!
Anchor links in search result snippets for additional detailed information.
Another great way to make your SERP snippets more outstanding is to provide additional anchor links to specific sections of the page’s content. Wikipedia and IMDB use those links for example.
How to get those anchors in search results in 3 simple steps:
- Do a keyword research for each section of your page.
- Use a table of anchor links at the top of the page’s text.
- Use the specific keyword as anchor for the linked section.
Schema Markups & Structured Data to pimp your snippets.
In these days Schema.org and rich snippets aren’t particularly new but still very important ways to optimize and pimp your snippets with structured data to increase users attention. You can either implement the structured data markups into your HTML code or use the Markup Highlighter of Google.
(Notice: If you use Google’s Markup Highlighter the rich snippets will only appear in Google search.)
Breadcrumbs: If your page contains a breadcrumb navigation you should highlight it with microdata to let Google show it in search results instead of a blank URL. Users can also click on another path of your website like the parent page of the shown result.
Ratings & Reviews: This markup will boost the attention of each page significantly by adding stars to your SERP snippet. The number of ratings and review provides more information and makes your result richer. If the page contains a product or a range of products you should include more microdata to show the price, availability, condition or much more detailed information.
Events: If your page is about an event or a list of events you can highlight them to show following ones in search results too. On the one hand this makes your snippet bigger than others and on the other hand it shows more valuable content to users.
Recipes: I guess everybody knows the recipe markup because almost all big recipe websites are using them currently. So if your page contains one just highlight it with Schemas. The snippet can include the image, nutritions, cook time and a lot more recipe related information. It will give you a boost in visibility and attention you won’t imagine.
Video Markups: If your website contains a video or short clip you should definitely use the video microdata to display its thumbnail in search results. YouTube, Mashable and all the other big video providing website are currently using those microdata and if you want to compete with them, you need to do it! I will improve your snippets attention significantly.
There are still some more rich snippets, microdata examples and Schema markups which will display additional information in search engine results but they are not as important as the give ones. Here you’ll find a testing tool for markups and preview snippets with a complete list of rich snippet examples!
How timestamps and dates influence your click-through rate.
A lot of search results contain timestamps and dates before their descriptions. Google and other search engines use this information to show users how recent these results are. But there are some issues you should definitely know when using timestamps and dates.
Information about the release date of a page reduces the length of its displayed description. So it may cut off your description text before it is supposed to end. This issue can have an impact on the page’s click-through rate. But the CTR might not only decrease because of less description length. If a page provides relevant valuable content to a specific query but the date shows that it’s pretty old, users may think that it’s no longer current for answering their question.
If you don’t want the date a page was published or updated to be displayed in search results, make sure the page’s source code does not contain a <time> tag with ISO 8601 format. You need to remove all kind of microdata or Schema markup for date and timestamps too. Otherwise search engines will be able to display them – and they will!
Google Authorship (rel=”author”) integration influences snippet performance.
Since Google removed authors profile image from search Google Authorship lost a lot of optical relevancy for page snippets. Nowadays only the name of the author is displayed in search results and reduces the length of page descriptions the same ways as timestamps do. So using rel=”author” in a page will definitely have some benefits for visibility and rankings but can decrease your click-through rate in search too. So every webmaster has to think about date and authorship integration in meta snippets for search results before creating description texts. You need to care about the pixel width to improve your CTR!
To test and preview meta data and their length I advise using Screaming SEO Frogs software. Since Google’s search relaunch Screaming SEO Frog can display editable data in correct length. If you don’t use it now, you should download it immediately and start optimizing!
Hopefully this article helps you providing the best meta data and preview snippet of your page in search results to attract users and to improve your click-through rate. If so, feel free to share – cheers!
Published by Daniel Herndler on August 14, 2014
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