Meta Description and Title Optimisation – The 5 Most Common Mistakes

The titles and descriptions shown in Google search results are the flagships for your website in search results. In this tutorial, you will learn how to avoid the most common mistakes in snippet optimisation.

In addition to the position of your own ranking, the title and description of the result in the Google search results are the greatest lever to reaching more visitors via Google.

The more compelling the result appears to the searcher, the higher the probability that the user will click on your entry – and ignore the results of the 9 other competitors in the organic SERPs.

In addition to the basics of SERP snippets and the possibilities of influencing the snippet, you will learn which errors most often occur when optimising the meta description and the title, and how you can avoid them.

Search Results Anatomy: The SERP Snippet

An organic hit in Google search results usually looks like this:

In addition to the elements shown here, you can add other elements to your results and turn them into so-called rich snippets ( learn more ). All search results have these four elements:

  • Favicon : this small logo, also known as a favicon after its file name, helps the searcher to quickly recognise your brand in the results.
  • URL : the URL or excerpts of the URL of the hit. Google now also often shows the navigation / breadcrumb structure of the site here.
  • Title: The title of the page is taken from the <title> tag of the web page. Google cuts off titles that are too long and sometimes rearranges the order of individual words. However, it is rare for Google to completely rewrite the title.
  • Description : Google usually selects a suitable text passage from the website as the actual description. You can suggest an alternative to Google by specifying the meta description in the source text of the page. However, this is only displayed if (according to Google’s assessment) it matches the search.

These four items appear in both the desktop version of the search results and in the mobile search results. However, the length and appearance of the elements differ.

For most search terms, the proportion of mobile searches is now higher than the proportion of desktop searches, so that optimisation of display on the mobile phone is an option.

Mistake # 1: Automatically generated meta descriptions

This is a feature provided by numerous content management systems: automatically generated meta descriptions. The title of the page is often taken and also written in the meta description field. 

This example at msi.com clearly shows what Google thinks of a single CMS-generated meta-description used across the site: nothing. Google ignores these automatically generated meta descriptions and selects passages from the website that match the search query. The procedure does not cause any direct damage, but the task of optimising snippets is not ‘job done’ here.

Mistake # 2: Google chooses inappropriate content

No matter how good the optimised snippet is: if Google does not think suitable for the search result, it will not be displayed in the SERPs. And with a bit of bad luck, Google will not find any meaningful text passage on the page, so such results can appear:

In another variant of the same problem, Google shows the file names of images that can be found on the page, but these certainly do not help the searcher. This example from Audi’s German website:

serps snippet and meta description comparison

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for such cases. You have to keep an eye on your own SERP snippets regularly and, if necessary, readjust very important keywords by changing the text of the page. Fortunately, general problems such as the display of the filename of images can be solved page-wide.

Mistake # 3: Meta descriptions that are too short

As a rule of thumb, the more space your hit takes up in the SERPs, the higher the click rate. You should therefore try to fill the maximum available space with your hit. On the mobile phone this means: at least two lines of heading and at least three lines of description. Shorter descriptions and titles lead to less attention:

A single-line headline combined with a single-line description means that users are less aware of this hit than other organic results on the Google results page.

Mistake # 4: The headline is too long

But there is also the opposite: if the heading is too long to display in full in search results, Google will automatically shorten it. And that is not always advantageous, as can be seen in this example:

When trying to include all potential keywords in the title, the result is that Google automatically shortens the title and massively cuts legibility and understandability.

Mistake # 5: Too many topics on one page

A big challenge is to focus on a content topic area such that is as clearly delimited as possible under a URL. This allows all questions to be covered by a single URL. The composition of the SERP snippet helps you to recognize when an additional page might be a good idea. For example:

The article on “topsoil” ranks very well alongside the expected cluster of topics on topsoil, as well as a keyword cluster around the conversion between cubic meters, weight and comparable terms. It would be worth considering providing this information on two different pages.

Write SERP snippets with the snippet generator

As we have seen, the SERP snippet cannot be perfectly predicted, but there are far-reaching possibilities for influencing the title.

To compare the snippet and meta description we used the Compare Snippet feature in the SISTRIX Toolbox. To tune the title and description, we have the SERP Snippet Generator . You can use it to optimise these two fields until they both fit in length and have the correct message.

23.12.2020