Optimizing your page descriptions and title tags are critical tasks in improving SEO. Do so also helps with sharing on social networks.
Optimizing Page Descriptions
Have something to describe your page. The page description is your chance to entice a user to click on your page in a search results. Use page descriptions to include your focus keywords — preferably using a call to action. By using a call to action you are directing a user to do something with your content.
Today I was looking at the HTML Improvements section for our site in the Google Webmaster Tools. I saw that we had a short meta description for the site map page. Our description was “Site Map page for Brand Builder Websites.” It properly described the page, but it was far too short. Google didn’t think it was useful so it started to pull from the text on our page. We just had our sitemap module on this page so the only text was basically the navigation. As you can see in the screen shot above Google’s chosen alternative is not too useful. I updated the description to the following text.
Can't find what you're looking for? Review the Site Map for Brand Builder Websites for a list of our pages.
That page description is far longer. It still describes the page but it does so in a far better way. It tries to connect with the user by asking them a question that they may have themselves. It then goes on to offer an answer to that question. Just to reinforce this description I included that text on the page. Now we have the most optimized site map page I have ever seen. 😉
Another things to watch out for with your page descriptions is to make sure that they are unique on each page. If two of your pages come up in a search with the same description the user will not know which page to click. They will instead skip your page for a competitor.
Also you must watch the length. Google will only display up to 150 characters or so normally. It will only show 139 if Google can determine the publication date of the article. Don’t exceed this limit or you’ll see an ellipsis ( … ) at the end of your cut off page description.
Optimizing Page Titles
Make your page titles unique. Each page on your site is unique so why shouldn’t the title be as well? If you duplicate titles than they are competing with each other for relevance in search. By creating duplicate titles you increase the likelihood that people linking to your site will link to the wrong page. Some may link to one and the rest to other. By only having a single page title that is difficult to confuse people will link to the right page on your site and thus you’ll move up in search.
It is very common for a site to throw in as many keywords as possible into their title. Google will only show up to 66 characters in search results. Users aren’t going to see the full result in search and Google isn’t indexing the text. With long page titles you’re wasting bandwidth. This technically makes your page take slightly longer to load and thus hurts your SEO. Don’t go too short either or Google may look at your content for a better title.
Get location of the keyword in your title tag matters. For best results place the focus keyword in the beginning of the title. For this post we are using “page descriptions” as focus the keyword. Notice how it’s in the beginning of the page title? An alternative title I had considered was Getting Page Descriptions Right. That title sounded good but we’re not looking to rank on the word “getting”. With the current title I am focusing on “page descriptions”. I included the “and Titles” because title tags are an important part of this page. Getting extra link juice for that text is a bonus but not something I’m focusing on.
For optimal sharing on social media networks like Facebook and Google+ you must include open graph tags AND microdata as defined by schema.org. To optimize your titles use the following:
<title>Title Goes Here</title>
<meta property="og:title" content="Title Goes Here"/>
<meta itemprop="name" content="Title Goes Here"/>
And to optimize your descriptions:
<meta name="description" content="Description Goes Here"/>
<meta property="og:description" content="Description Goes Here"/>
<meta itemprop="description" content="Description Goes Here"/>
You should also make the following change to your tag (assuming you’re posting an Article and not a WebPage).
<html itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article">
And you will want to add the following tag for articles.
Those sharing optimizations are not necessary. They are highly recommended by Google and Facebook. This means that it’s in your best interest to include them.