SEO over the Summer: Getting your tags right

In the first of my four projects aimed at improving your company website’s performance in the search engines (“SEO”), we’re going to update and improve the titles and descriptions on as many pages as we can. These are the fundamental elements of a web page which tell search engines like Google what the page is about. If you leave the search engines to work it out for themselves, you put yourself at an immediate disadvantage.

Rewriting the titles and descriptions to be more effective is an exercise which can pay for itself very quickly indeed. Maybe you can do it yourself in odd hours over the next few months. Or it’s a job which could be tackled by a marketing assistant. Consultants like us can even do it for you if you wish (just ask!) although the DIY approach is cheaper.

The first thing to know is that the title and description are not something you see on a web page. They exist in the code behind the page. If you’re unfamiliar with this “source code”, go to one of the pages on your website and take a look. How you do this depends on the browser you’re using, but it’ll be available in one of the menus. In Chrome, for example, go to View > Developer > View Source. In Internet Explorer go to View > Source.

To find the title of the page, you need to find where it says “title” in angle brackets. This tells Google what the page is about, and will be what appears in the Google results if your page is returned there. Think of the title like the headline on an advertisement.

To find the page description, look for the words following “meta name=’description’ content=…” if you can find that bit. Like the title, the description will be towards the top of the source code.

The description’s main value in SEO is that if it’s any good, it frequently gets used by Google as the text under your title. If it’s attractiveness persuades more people to click on your result, your result will probably get ranked more highly in future. Here are some examples of great descriptions.

Now you need to find out how to amend the titles and descriptions on your site. If your site uses a content management system, there should be fields where you can enter the titles and descriptions. If your site is just a collection of page files, you’ll need to work out how to edit the code directly.

Finally, you need a plan of action. You need to generate a list of the pages on your site, so that you can go through each one (or at least the most important ones) and assess the title and description. There are some excellent tools to automate this, some of which will even give you the title and description found for each, as a spreadsheet (shown below). If that sounds challenging, we can do it for you (and for free if we’re managing your Google AdWords campaigns for you, one of the many support services we offer).

SEO spider

Then it’s time to start ensuring you have great titles and descriptions. For each page, think about what search term you’d like it to be found for, and ensure that leads off the title (so that it turns bold in the Google results for that search). Make the titles less than 60 characters, and the descriptions less than 160, and they won’t get “cut off” in the Google results. If you have a content management system which is putting in all sorts of nonsense automatically by default (like your company name, the directory the page is in, etc), see if you can get that switched off or overridden.

It’s not the most exciting job in the world, but if Google is giving you the chance to define how your results look, it’s daft not to take it.

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