The most common meta tag SEO mistakes may seem minor but can make a major impact on your digital marketing strategy’s effectiveness. Meta descriptions and page titles are important elements that alert search engines and users to what they’ll find on your website. From keywords to character counts, many variables in these elements coalesce to yield effective meta tags. An error in any one element can be detrimental to your page’s SEO value. Luckily, we’re well versed in common meta tag mistakes—and how to fix them.
What Are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are snippets of text in the HTML that do not appear on a landing page but still provide valuable information to users and search engines. Some are indexed by Google when it ascribes a web page its position (or rank) in the search engine results page (SERP), and others provide context that encourages users to click through from the SERP. For SEO purposes, the most important meta tags are the page title and description.
- Page Title: The page title appears in the search results and in your browser tab. This is the first element users see that identifies your page.
- Meta Description: The meta description appears just below the title in the SERP and should summarize your page and encourage readers to click through. Along with other SEO elements both on and off the page, it communicates to users and search engines what to expect.
9 Common Meta Tag Mistakes in SEO
As an SEO marketing agency, we see plenty of mistakes when it comes to optimizing meta tags. Here are nine of the most common missteps we spot, along with our strategies to fix them.
Mistake 1: Not Including Meta Tags at All
Not including a title or description for every landing page is the first mistake you can make when optimizing meta tags for SEO. If you don’t give Google and other search engines specific meta tags to use, they’ll display information from your page at their discretion. NOTE: Google will also grab language from the page to use as a meta description if it feels the description you’ve supplied does not accurately reflect the content on the landing page, so it pays to compose your meta tags thoughtfully.
Solution: Compose a page title and meta description for each page on your website.
Mistake 2: Meta Tags Are Too Long or Too Short
Finding the right length for meta tags is a delicate balance that can make a big impact on search value. Meta tags that are too long may be truncated in search results, and those that are too short may imply a lack of substance or expertise.
Example: Shop product care and storage essentials for high-quality bedding.
Solution: When determining the best length for meta descriptions and titles for SEO, we aim for a sweet spot between 50 and 65 characters for the title (including a separator and the brand name, if space allows) and 125 and 155 characters for the description.
Example: Shop product care and storage essentials, including dryer balls and comforter bags, and keep your high-quality bedding in top shape for years to come.
Mistake 3: Duplicate Page Descriptions
Many website admins try to save time or simplify processes by using the same meta description for multiple products, categories, or content pages. But duplication of any content across website pages, including meta tags, will negatively impact search value.
Solution: Compose a unique page title and meta description for each landing page on your website. It’s fine to follow a standard format or to use a template, as long as you customize the description for each page to reflect its content.
Mistake 4: Inaccurate or Irrelevant Meta Tags
Clicking through from a page title or meta description that leads a user where they didn't expect to go can result in an increased bounce rate and damaged brand authority.
Solution: Meta tags should communicate the primary topic of the page. A page title should tell readers what to expect through its primary keyword, and the meta description should give them a reason to click through.
Mistake 5: Meta Tags Target Different Keywords
One of the most common mistakes we see is a page title and meta description that don’t match. Sites that target different keywords in an attempt to cover more territory are doing themselves a disservice. Mismatched keywords in meta tags make it harder for search engines to determine which is most important.
Women’s Shirts and Tops | Brand Name
Browse a selection of women’s blouses and find comfortable, flattering silhouettes in premium materials for seasonal style or year-round wear.
Solution: Use the same primary keyword in the page title and the meta description, as well as in the H1 on the landing page. This consistency creates a sense of authority and helps alert the search engines and users to what the page is about.
Women’s Shirts and Tops | Brand Name
Explore our women’s shirts and tops for any season to find fashionable options in cotton, linen, and other comfortable, natural materials.
Mistake 6: Meta Tags Target Too Many Keywords
Some websites may aim to maximize their meta tags by including as much important information as possible. Keyword stuffing not only hurts your site’s standing with search engines, but it also affects the quality and readability of your content for the user.
Example: Shop printed bed sheets, solid bed sheets, and embroidered sheets in our collection; our bed sheets are made with natural materials for all-year comfort.
Solution: Focus meta tags on the crux of the page’s content. Target the primary keyword in both elements, and then use modifying language in the description to try to trigger semantic-match searches.
Example: Browse our collection of premium bed sheets and find printed, solid, and embroidered designs made with natural materials for all-year comfort.
Mistake 7: The Meta Tags Bury the Lead
Creative sentence structure often leads to meta descriptions and page titles with the primary keyword positioned toward the end. Make this mistake in your meta descriptions, and you’ll miss an opportunity to draw users in with the most important information first.
Example: Bring playful style to a kid’s room, a pop of color to the guest bed, or sophisticated dimension to the primary suite with a printed comforter.
Solution: When composing optimized copy, including meta descriptions and page titles, feature the target keyword as close to the beginning of the page element as possible for optimal visibility.
Example: Browse printed comforters in playful and sophisticated prints to bring a pop of color and dimension to a kid's room, guest bed, or primary suite.
Mistake 8: Page Titles Miss Key Information
A well-optimized page title is more than just a primary keyword, and one without a brand, company, or domain name is only half complete. Page titles without this key identifying information have less of an advantage against competitors.
Solution: Best practice in the SEO title format is the primary keyword, followed by a separator such as a pipe (|) and your brand, company, or domain name. While Google has started dropping this identifying information in its SERP, it can still be worth adding if your character limit allows: Including the company name establishes awareness and authority, and provides a recognizable point of entry for customers of established brands.
Mistake 9: Meta Descriptions Don’t Call for Action
Poorly optimized pages often ignore customer intent. Without a thorough understanding of why a user might want to visit your website—and how you’re providing what they want—you cannot compose effective meta tags.
Example: Our high-quality cotton bed sheets are sewn from premium long-staple fibers for exceptional softness, durability, and comfort in any season.
Solution: Ask why a user would click through when composing meta descriptions, and then frame your copy accordingly. For product and category pages, include action words when possible—“shop,” “browse,” or “discover.” For content pages and blog posts, try “learn” or “explore.”
Example: Discover high-quality cotton bed sheets sewn from premium long-staple fibers for exceptional softness, durability, and comfort in any season.
The best meta tags offer helpful information for the searcher and search engines by providing a succinct and strategically optimized preview of what they’ll find on the page. As a core part of our SEO team, our copywriters are experts at avoiding common missteps and composing page titles and meta descriptions that work for—not against—you. Contact us today to learn more about how the copywriters and SEO experts at Eight Oh Two can boost traffic to your website’s landing pages.