I received an email a few weeks ago from a regular reader of SEOAndy. The email asked the question posed in the title of this article: What is the best title and description for my site?. The answer I gave back was rather brief and included a link to an old post I wrote about meta tags. But when I read that article I saw a need to update it, and to answer this question a little better - and this article is for the later.
Search engines automatically decide on your SERP listing title and description from that based on your page or within the DMOZ directory if you have a listing there. The title in general will be that you supply as the browser title (inside the <title> tag) and the description will hopefully be taken from your meta description, though if not available it will turn to your content or DMOZ. These listings are also known as "snippets" - and according to Google the more info you give search engines the better your snippet will be, and more accurate.
To get the best results there are 3 vital steps:
Create the Perfect Descriptive Page Title
The premise is simple, the achievement vital, the work can be tricky. The site title is the first thing a person will see when they find your snippet on the SERP's, so it is vital to get it right. It is also the thing that will generally appear on social media and in browsing history, so get it right and you could go viral and be the first site a person returns to if they are researching say web design.Things to avoid: using "home" and non descriptive titles, keyword stuffing (foo, foo foo - gets you no where), using over 60 characters and avoid the same title on each page.Good things to do: brand your title (eg "page focus // brand name"), make each title unique, make each title relevant to the page content and be descriptive + concise.
Create a Great Description
Again this is very important and can be tricky to get just right. This is your "big sell" within the SERP, you've done the hard bit getting some attention, now get that traffic flowing with a great meta description. Again this will appear on social media such as facebook, google plus and digg, so pitch it perfectly.Things to avoid:keyword stuffing, not being relevant to your content (do this and google will just use your content), generation by a machine and do not use the same thing on each page.Good things to do: be concise and focused on your content, use it as a prime selling space, describe a product, include facts about the product (if a book the author name and ISBN may be a good start), ensure each meta description is unique to the page, include a call to action (eg "buy online today"), review descriptions at least 3 times a year for well used pages, ensure EVERY page has a description that is between 100 characters and 160 chars.
Block DMOZ snippets being used
This is a step most people and seo's forget, blocking DMOZ from being used on your SERP snippet can be key to success. If you don't have a description for each page these maybe used and they can often be old and out of your control, so block them and keep control and keep up to date.To block DMOZ or other directories being used for search listings simply add the below to your head section of code.
<meta name="robots" content="NOODP">
Warning: using this tag after the search engine has already listed a directory title or description may mean it can take 3 months before it will update your search listing snippet. So block them early.
Going Further with Titles and Descriptions
One of the sources for information in this article is Google, and specifically the video below in which @MattCutts (head of google's web spam fighting team) talks about this subject. Its a great watch and if you have time do take a look.
If you think you have the perfect page title or the most engaging meta description leave a comment below or tweet @andykinsey.