Posted by Tony Endelman

If you’ve spent any time digging around the back-end of your website or researching search engine optimization, then you’ve certainly stumbled across the terms “title tags” and “meta descriptions.”  And, subsequently, you may be asking yourself a number of questions: What’s all this talk about title tags and descriptions? What exactly are these things? And, more importantly, how can they help my nonprofit?

Without getting too technical, title tags and meta descriptions (often lumped together and called “meta tags”) make up one piece in a giant, algorithmic and basically incomprehensible puzzle that search engines use to determine which results are most relevant to a user’s query. 

Title tags define the title of a document, and are used on search engine results pages to display preview snippets of a given page.  As Moz defines, “the title element of a web page is meant to be an accurate and concise description of a page’s content.  This element is critical to both user experience and search engine optimization.”

Meta descriptions, which sit underneath title tags on search engine results pages, are vital to gaining user click-through.  “These short paragraphs,” describes Moz, “are a webmaster’s opportunity to advertise content to searchers and to let them know exactly whether the given page contains the information they’re looking for.”

Make sense?  If not, the example below shows a search result taken directly from Google and should simplify things nicely.

Title tags and meta descriptions are hugely important to optimizing your site, thus, getting a high ranking in the search engines.   

So, what else do you need to know? 

When writing your title tags and meta descriptions, use keywords that are relevant to your website. Search engines will highlight these keywords in the search results if a user has performed a query including those words.  

Additionally, you’ll want to consider the following recommendations:

Put important keywords at the beginning of a title tag. According to Moz’s testing, “the closer to the start of the title tag a keyword is, the more helpful it will be for ranking—and the more likely a user will be to click them in search results.” 

Avoid duplication. Your title tags and meta descriptions should be unique to each page. In other words, don’t use the same title or description over and over again. 

Be compelling. Title tags and meta descriptions that grab attention will get you more visits. While you’re thinking about optimization and keyword usage, don’t forget about the user experience.