The page title and meta description

It's tempting sometimes to pay a great deal of attention to the sales text or content on a web page, and then just scribble off the page title and meta description. Or maybe you don't write them at all. Maybe someone in IT adds the title and description for you. Big mistake. (Find out what page titles and meta descriptions are, if you're not sure.)

Every page title and meta description on your site is enormously important, from the point of view of both the search engines and your readers.

Writing for your readers

When someone does a search on Google, MSN or wherever else, they'll scan through the page titles and descriptions. While search engines will not always display the description you wrote for the meta description, they often will... particularly if the search term being used can be found exactly in the meta description you wrote.

So let's consider the times when both your page title and meta description are used by the search engines. Because you're in control of writing them, you can quickly signal to your readers that your page is directlyrelevant to their search.

In other words, your title and description should be descriptive and useful. You have just a few words with which to wave your hand and persuade readers to click on your listing first.

Let readers know exactly what they can expect from the page and, wherever possible, include a promise. If your page is going to deliver something useful, say a few words about how the reader will benefit.

And yes, a great page title and description can result in someone clicking on your listing in third place, rather than on a poorly described listing in the number one spot.

Writing for the search engines

Like people, and deliberately so, the major search engines will try to figure out what your page is about. Hopefully you have confined the page to a single topic. That will make it easier for you to write a great page title and meta description, and it will make it easer for the search engines to identify your key phrases.

Search engines are just like people in this regard - they're looking for clues to identify the topic of the page. Keep that in mind as you write the title and description.

And no, there's no conflict between what the search engines are looking for and what people are looking for - they're both looking for clarity. The only difference with search engines is that they have no feelings and are looking for words and phrases to guide them.

However, people do have feelings, which is why you also need to include that sense of promise and success.

Pay as much attention as you would when writing an ad

It's curious - people will often pay experts, test headlines and body text and generally invest a huge amount of attention in their PPC ads. But when it comes to their organic listings on the same page of search results, they scribble down the title and description as if they were of no importance. Never forget just how important they actually are...

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