What is Metadata?
Here’s another common blogging term that confounds most new bloggers (and can also lead to drinking)… metadata.
If you thought the various terms for blog post titles were fun, you’re gonna love metadata, meta tags, meta descriptions, and snippets!
Metadata (or meta data) is a fancy term for HTML code that’s behind the scenes telling search engines what a site or a page is about. This computer language is custom-made for Google (and others) to be easily crawled and indexed.
Metadata refers to both your page title (SEO title) AND the meta description (sometimes called meta tag) which describes the post or page in more detail.
Creating data that’s specifically for search engines is especially good for SEO because, when done right, it announces to searchers that OUR site has what they’re looking for. More clicks and traffic = better Google ranking!
Readers won’t see the SEO title and meta description on our actual pages, but search engines will gather this incognito data, put our content into proper context, and use it to serve the searching masses.
Meta Tags for WordPress
Since most bloggers are on WordPress, this post will only address the WordPress platform. Meta tags and metadata for WordPress can be easily written and edited with the Yoast SEO plugin. It has a free version and a paid version, but the free version is fine for this purpose.
Meta descriptions and snippets are the same thing. The term meta tags may also be used (for a meta title or description or both!).
In Yoast, the metadata section is at the bottom of your post. It’s the section labeled “snippet preview”. So, if you’d like to create a specific post snippet or SEO title for Google to use, this is where you’d go to type that in.
Meta description in WordPress is illustrated in the screenshot below:
Google meta description length
Google has no official stance on how long or short your meta description has to be. However, it will get cut off on the search results pages if it’s longer than their current guidelines.
Their length preferences are constantly changing, so there’s no exact science to it. A recommended average is around 165 characters, but this can go to 170+ if Google chooses. And it can be cut off at 150 or less at times.
My best advice is to get in the important stuff like keywords and a brief, catchy statement about the topic of your post, right at the beginning of your snippet.
Does Google choose a meta description for me if I don’t write one?
Yes, Google will choose a snippet or meta description for your post or web page if you don’t specify one.
And get this: Google may also choose their own snippet even after you’ve painstakingly crafted the perfect one of your own!
It’s frustrating, but there are no guarantees that Google will actually use your beautiful work of art that is your snippet. Google’s primary purpose and dedication is to its searchers.
If it deems that another piece (or snippet) of your post better answers the query of the searcher, that’s what will show up on the results page. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If Google is willing to do what it takes to connect that searcher with my content because it’s regarded as most relevant, I’ll take it!
Why bother writing my own Snippet and SEO title?
If there’s no guarantee that Google will use your custom meta description, why bother?
A valid question. Many times, your snippet and/or SEO title will show up in search results. One advantage of creating a custom snippet is your ability to use handpicked keywords or phrases. These tell the reader exactly what you want them to know about your post.
Another major bonus is being able to add clickable information AND a call to action to your description. A good call to action can be the secret sauce for getting that click on the results page!
You have precious few seconds to catch their eye — so make it good.
Best meta description practices:
- Make your snippet brief, relevant, and to the point.
- Create a snippet that’s enticing and gives a clear answer to the searcher’s question.
- Try using a call to action early in your description: “click here” “learn more” “follow this tutorial” “you need this” “I’ll give you…”, etc.
- Use carefully chosen (relevant) keywords and phrases to maximize search engine efficiency.
- Be descriptive, and consider including details such as branding, pricing, or other relevant information.
- Adding specifics to meta descriptions can improve a searcher’s experience, and might result in great traffic for you as well.
Meta Description Generator
If you don’t have access to the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, there are other ways to create a custom meta description. However, there is some coding involved — which is why Yoast is so handy!
I won’t go into too much detail, but this free meta tag tool can help. It converts your title and description into the necessary HTML code that can be added to the header area of your site.
Learn more about SEO titles, headlines, and blog post titles here.
And if you’d like a video tutorial of this post, click the video below.
Parting words about metadata…
Now that you know about meta descriptions and title tags (SEO titles), you can use them to send strong signals about your content topics to Google.
Try out some of the many headline creators and analyzers to improve your clickability. The more you study and practice, the more skilled you’ll become! I’ve made it a point to study more copywriting lately.
What’s your secret to creating enticing titles?
Please PIN and share!