Title and description tags are quite important; in fact Google thinks they are important enough to report on problems with these tags in Webmaster Tools. Google likes them because they are a couple of the most important places to discuss the content and subject matter of pages. Why? Because Google displays them in the listings. These tags are your first impression on potential visitors. Tags that are not optimized are wasted opportunity.
The Title Tag
When properly optimized, the title tag controls the blue link you see in Google that points to your site. This is your first real “hook” to capture the attention of your potential visitors. To display properly in Google’s results, you get a width of 512px (about 55 characters, including spaces) to deliver your message. If your tag is too long Google will truncate it with an ellipsis, which prevents the entire message from being conveyed. I see this happen a lot and it really hurts organic click through rates because websites don’t deliver a compelling enough message within the allotted space. This is especially true when some of the results have properly optimized tags – they are the ones that get the clicks.
The Description Tag
The description tag is another important tag, because when properly optimized it controls the two line summary about your site in Google’s results. To properly optimize the tag, the content of the tag has to be unique within your site and topically relevant to the content on the page. It’s also important that the content of the tag is relevant to the user’s query, and about 150 characters long. If it isn’t, Google will choose other content to display that they think is more relevant, and a computer algorithm is not very good at choosing content that will offer an engaging message. Google will sometimes piece together multiple sentences from the page’s content into one tag with several mid-sentence ellipsis. Since the content of this tag is displayed right below your blue link in the search results, it is very important that it is the correct length because if it isn’t, it also gets truncated.
You can see in the image below that even big brands don’t always pay attention to titles and descriptions like they should. The red indicates tags that are too long and being truncated by Google. Title and description optimization is such low-hanging fruit and I’m always amazed when SEOs get it wrong.
You should check out the tags on your own site to see if they are in good shape. View the source code of your page and look for your title and description tags as seen in my screenshot example below. They often don’t appear right next to each other like they do on our site, and sometimes they aren’t there at all.