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The Title & Meta Description Tag

The title and meta description tags are two very important pieces of HTML markup that should be included on all pages of your website.

What is the title tag?

The <title> tag is a required element on all HTML documents and defines the title of the document or website page to be displayed:

  • in search engine results
  • in the browser toolbar
  • when it is added to favourites

Why is the title tag important?

The <title> tag is a "meta" element, meaning that it gives information about the HTML document but does not appear on the page to users. However, this does not mean that it is not seen at all; the title tag is displayed at the top of a browser window when the web page is open and is often used by search engines in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

What the title tag looks like in the HTML:
<title>The title tag (usually) appears here. Use it wisely.</title>
What the title tag looks like in a SERP:
SERP example

In the context of a SERP, the title (ideally) gives a user an at-a-glance insight into the content of your web page and how it might be relevant to their query. Along with the meta description (see below), it is often one of the first (and potentially only) pieces of information about your web page that a user will ever see; being used by potential visitors to decide which search result to click on. As such, it is very important to use high quality and meaningful titles when creating and optimising your web pages.

Also importantly, the title tag is used by search engines to decipher what the page is about and is used in search engine results ranking. Consequently, the title tag is one of the most important elements for on-page search engine optimisation.

What is the meta description tag?

<meta> tags provide metadata about the HTML document including author, description and keywords. As already mentioned, this data isn't displayed on the web page, but it is "parsable" by machines and used by browsers and search engines.

The <meta name="description"> tag defines the description of the HTML document, for example:

<meta name="description" content="This is the meta description. While Google no longer factors it into search ranking algorithms, the meta description tag is still often used in SERPs.">

Why is the meta description tag important?

In 2009, Matt Cutts (then Google's head of web spam) announced that neither meta descriptions nor meta keywords are factored into Google's ranking algorithms for web searches.

However, it is still important to include and write quality, accurate and meaningful meta description on all web pages because they are often displayed in SERPs.

Title & meta description: make them count.

In conclusion, the title and meta descriptions are the first (and possibly only) pieces of information about your website that a potential user will see when searching the web. Make them both count.

Tags: meta description, title