Longer meta description in Google. Here’s what you need to know.

Longer meta description in Google. Here’s what you need to know.

You may have noticed in search results: at times you will see a longer meta description listed below a link. As a writer or online store owner, it is good to know why that happens. In this article, you will get a short explanation of meta tags, the change in their maximum length, and what they can do for you.

What is a meta description tag?

The black section of descriptive text below the URL in search results. You get to suggest what should appear there in the so-called “meta description tag”. Generally, Google picks up your suggested description, but not every time! For example, when your meta text is too long, Google cuts it down to a certain length.

Until recently, the golden rule was: a maximum of 160 characters.

But that has changed. Google is now showing descriptions up to 320 characters.

What makes a meta description so important?

We’ll go deeper into that change in maximum length, but first this: why are meta descriptions so important?

Click-Through-Rate (CTR)

It helps searchers choose between multiple search results. That makes it important to clearly indicate in your meta text what your page is about, but do not forget to add a certain element of mystery or curiosity. That can boost your number of click-throughs.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

According to Google, building a keyword into your meta text does not factor into your search result ranking. Most experts would still recommend doing so, but maximum one time.

Which limit should I hold myself for my meta tags?

Should you be changing all your existing meta descriptions to a 320 character length? Probably not. Especially for any pages that are already performing well, it would be a shame to change those. 160 characters will often do the trick. There is also no guarantee that Google will show the longer descriptions every time.

For any pages with lower click-through-rates, it could not hurt to play around with the meta text. Certain categories are more suited to that approach than others:

Recipes are a great example of when a bit of additional information would encourage a Google user to click through.

Should I constantly stay on top of changes like this one?

Google’s algorithms are changing all the time. That can have a significant impact on your ranking in search results and the number of visitors clicking through to your website. If you keep a close eye on marketing blogs, you will pick up on these changes as you go.

 With webtexttool, there is no need to worry about any of it. We build every important SEO-update directly into our editing tool. That way you will get live tips as you write to make your content as attractive as possible for Google and your site visitors!

Write a catchy blog title; avoid nasty clickbait [step-by-step plan]

Write a catchy blog title; avoid nasty clickbait [step-by-step plan]

Coming up with a captivating title for your blog is harder than it seems. It is also super important: most people won’t decide to read your piece until after they have seen the title. So it makes sense that most writers want to make the headline as catchy as possible. Full of promises, UNBELIEVABLE superlatives, and you’ll never guess what happened next…

People got tired of clickbait.

Viral website Upworthy – once the “fastest growing medium of all time” – saw its site traffic drop by 75% in virtually no time. Competitor Buzzfeed also got hit with dwindling website traffic in 2017.

Unfortunately, many articles about blog titles are still based on the heyday of the clickbait model. They definitely provide some good tips, but lots of information in them has become irrelevant. This article describes how to write a compelling blog title, even in 2018.

The basics of a good title for your blog post

Writing headlines is a true craft. Newspapers and magazines often have someone on staff whose sole responsibility it is to create titles. He or she will read an article with fresh eyes and then capture its essence in a few words. But, while print media can still get away with a vague or mysterious title (the reader has already purchased the paper, after all), blog titles need to fight for attention with other Google search results. Anything that is unclear will be punished for its vagueness.

The trick is to find a balance between a headline that, on the one hand, clearly describes what the article is about, and, on the other hand, stands out from the crowd and piques readers’ interest in the blog’s content.

Wondering how to achieve this? Ok, here goes.

Step-by-step plan for a catchy title

1. Start off with a working title

A title sits at the top of an article, but that does not mean you have to finalise it before you get started. In fact, it is better if you don’t. Start with a working title, then start writing your post. Let any ideas for a definitive title simmer for a while. In any case, your working title should describe what the article is about. This piece initially had the working title ‘Tips for writing a good title for your blog’.

2. Do some keyword research

There are definitely tons of people wanting to know how to write a great blog title. But knowing is better than assuming. That is why I use webtexttool’s keyword analysis.

Only a few people seem to be searching for “good title”. It’s a good thing the tool offers a few possible alternatives.

The keywords “catchy title” show a much higher search volume. I decided to change my title based on that information: ‘Tips for writing a catchy title”.

3. Describe the length or format

The title above is clear, but not clear enough. It doesn’t tell you anything about the length or format of the article. Lists are a popular way to make that clear. Research actually shows that people have a bit of a preference for uneven numbers: “7 tips for writing a catchy title”.

That list formula still works, but be cautious not to overuse it. Another way to disclose a bit more about a blog’s content is by adding the blog format in brackets at the end of the title: “A catchy title for your blog [step-by-step plan]”.

Research done by marketing platform Hubspot shows that that kind of titles receives 38% more clicks. Especially when you incorporate a [podcast] or [infographic] in your blog, this method comes in handy.

4. Make a promise, but don’t exaggerate

It is time to make the title catchy. Adding a promise can convince searchers to click on your title. This is what a clickbait site would do: “Here’s how to write an irresistible blog title that EVERYONE will click on!”

The problem is that you cannot follow through on that promise. Many readers will be disappointed and disengage. That style is too much hyperbole for the target audience. Be careful with words like irresistible, perfect, very best, etc. (Unless you work for a gossip magazine, that is).

Authority is a great way to follow through on a promise. You can refer to the article’s author, who you interviewed for the piece, or which authoritative source provided the numbers. Also aim to quantify the authority, for example by referring to the years of experience or number of followers: “Write a catchy title? This blogger (250k followers) has tips for you.”

Aside from bringing attainability and authority to your promise, originality is also a factor. When your competitors are making the same promise, chances are lower that a visitor will click on your website. Google your working title to see how closely it resembles existing blogs. Consider what makes your blog different/better and emphasise that difference: “Avoid clickbait, but still write a catchy title for your blog [step-by-step plan]”.

That is how I found out that many blogs about catchy titles still proudly refer to sites like Upworthy, while super exaggerated titles actually stopped generating clicks a long time ago.

5. Place the keyword up front

Google grants higher search rankings to titles with the keyword right up front. Try to adjust your headline accordingly, but do not wade into illogical grammatical territory. One easy trick is to place the keyword up front as a question or followed by a colon.

“Come up with a catchy title? …”

“Catchy title: …”

In this case I went with a contrast: “Write a catchy title for your blog, but avoid annoying nasty clickbait that will bum out your visitors [step-by-step plan]”.

It’s cool to add a bit of emotion in the title (“annoying” and “bum out”). As long as you don’t overdo it (“despicable” and “enrage”).

6. Make your title the right length

I’m sure you noticed the title above is a bit on the long side. In the Google search results, that title would get cut off. Use fewer than 65 characters in order to show the full title.

Webtexttool will give you an automatic warning when your title is too long or too short. And so I adjusted my headline to read: “Write a catchy blog title; avoid nasty clickbait [step-by-step plan]”.

7. Test what works

In closing: coming up with a great title is still a tricky job. It can be hard to predict what will catch on with your specific target audience. So measure the performance of your titles. Don’t just keep an eye on click-through rates (CTR), but also measure how much time people spend on your page (a misleading title will have them clicking away more quickly). Ideally, you will try out multiple titles at once for your most important articles.

Writing understandable content for a large audience. Here’s how to do it.

Writing understandable content for a large audience. Here’s how to do it.

When you’re writing, it’s important to keep your audience in mind. Are they scientists or experts? In that case, it’s fine to use complicated wording and technical jargon. For the average person, though, it’s better to keep things straightforward. But simplicity in writing can be harder than you think. In this article, you’ll discover some handy tips for writing uncomplicated content.

Writing at a grade 8 level

What makes writing understandable? That is subjective, of course. The “average” American reads at a grade 8 level, but so many websites and blogs don’t take that into consideration. Especially government departments and services are experts at making their web content hard to read.

Unless you’re purposely targeting people with a higher education level, it’s better to write your articles at a grade 8 level. The more people are able to understand your website content, the better your chances are of selling them your product or service.

How can you make sure your writing is easy to understand?

The best way to test the difficulty of your content is to present it to your target audience. Do they understand the message you’re trying to convey?

Of course, it’s impossible to run each piece of content by a test panel. That’s where online tools like webtexttool come in.

Is your writing too complicated? This tool can measure that for you!

What is the current level of your writing?

Software is getting better and better at measuring the reading level of written content. The Text Conversion Optimizer makes it easy to check your own writing.

This text should be easy to understand for anyone with at least a grade 8 education. It doesn’t have too many complex words and phrases.

How do you discover words that are easy to understand?

Is your writing too complicated? Try searching Google for alternatives to complex words and phrases.

White space and bullet points make your text easier to read

Are you using enough bullet points and white space?

Equally important for a comprehensible text: make sure you give it some structure. Bullet points can definitely help with that. While you type, the Text Conversion Optimizer will measure in real time whether you’re using enough bullet points and white space.

Don’t go overboard with adjectives

‘Buy this fantastic wonderful super amazing product’

Adjectives can help make a piece of content easier to read. But using too many adjectives can actually complicate things. More importantly, your readers might consider you less trustworthy if you go overboard with adjectives. Thankfully, the Text Conversion Optimizer will warn you of an excessive use of adjectives while you’re writing.

What kinds of words are my customers using?

It can be hard to gauge how complicated your own reading or writing is. That’s because you work with your product and within your area of expertise every day. You might call it an ‘operational lease,’ while your customers just say ‘company car.’ webtexttool’s keyword analysis lets you pinpoint those differences. Choose a topic you want to score high on in Google search and webtexttool provides you with the frequently used search terms.

Don’t oversimplify

Nobody enjoys being treated like a fool. If you go too far with simplified text, your clients might feel like you’re being condescending. Make sure you’re not using overly simple language on your website. Read your content out loud and consider how it sounds. You could even try it out on a few other people.

A clear structure

We’ve covered which words to use and which ones to avoid. But just as important, or even more so, is the way you structure your text. Can someone know what your article is about in the blink of an eye? Are you using an easy-to-read font?

In the blog post Checklist for Easy to Read (Web) Text we dive deeper into some guidelines for writing a well-structured article.

A few of the most important conclusions:

  • Write an intro that explains what the article is about.
  • Use a subtitle for each new topic.
  • Write short paragraphs of 3-5 sentences.
  • Use lists and bullet points when they add value.
  • Avoid passive voice (should/would/could).
  • Avoid weak language (maybe/a little).
  • Alternate short and long sentences.
  • Choose easy-to-read letter type, font size, and line spacing.

Make sure Google ‘gets’ you (SEO)

When you write clear content, that benefits your customers first and foremost. But it’s a great bonus when Google understands what you’re talking about, too! That way they’re more likely to refer people to your website.

Start by using the tips listed above when creating your written content. Google really appreciates it when you write clearly.

Even better is to bring in webtexttool. While you write, the tool offers you tips to optimize your content for Google. At the same time, the Text Conversion Optimizer checks the quality and readability of your text. No prior knowledge of SEO needed. And the best part… you can sign up for a free 30-day webtexttool trial!

SEO trends 2018

SEO trends 2018

In 2018 you still want to rank as high as possible in relevant search engine results. But the developments in SEO-land never cease. Which methods will work just as well next year as they have in the past? And what is set to change? We’ve lined up the most important evolutions in search engine optimization. These are the SEO trends to focus on in 2018.

#1The basics of SEO stay the same

Google has been the search engine with the highest market share for years now. The company’s mission hasn’t changed: to offer its users relevant and high-quality search results.

This means that any long-term SEO strategy should be focused on the (continued) creation of qualitative and relevant content. Clever ‘tricks’ to launch yourself higher in the search results should never be the basis of your strategy.

All that aside, there are a handful of technical and content-based requirements that your presented content should follow. They form the basis of SEO.

  • The page loads quickly (ideally within two seconds)
  • The page is optimized for mobile users
  • You use a ‘meta tag’ to describe the page’s contents
  • You only apply search terms when they are relevant
  • Any outgoing links direct readers to high-quality pages
  • No errors in spelling or grammar
  • The title and first 100 words make clear what the page is about
  • Your website follows the Google guidelines for webmasters

#2 Voice Search

While the basics of SEO remain the same, there will definitely be some changes over the next few years. One of the most exciting new developments is the rise of Voice Search.

In the USA, 1 in 5 search queries is a voice search using a mobile device. In light of the growing popularity of so-called ‘smart speakers’ like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, that percentage is expected to keep increasing.

What does Voice Search mean for the ways you produce your content? It will be even more important to write in a direct and personal way. Try reading your words out loud. Do they sound the way they would if you were talking to someone?

But there is another significant SEO trend linked to the rise of voice searches.

#3 Direct answers from Google

Google frequently offers direct answers to your queries, rather than directing you to a website. For example:

Above is the answer to the question:”Hoe bak ik zalm?’ (“How do you bake salmon?”)

Instead of just a link to a relevant page, Google shows you a ‘featured snippet.’ Sometimes that answer covers what the person was looking for, other times they’ll click through to the website.

Generally, it’s a smart strategy to use the answers to ‘how-to’ and ‘what-is’ questions in an attempt to make it into the featured snippet slot.

#4 User Experience (UX)

Google is getting better and better at measuring user experience.

  • How easy is it to navigate your site?
  • Can visitors quickly find the information they’re looking for?
  • Are annoying ads and pop-ups kept to a minimum?

Aim for the following things when optimizing for UX:

  • Is the content visually attractive?
  • Does the layout distract from the content?
  • Is the text easy to read (font size, spacing)?
  • Are you using paragraph headers to allow for easy text scanning?
  • Are visitors encouraged to click through (call-to-action, links to other pages)?

Read more in our blog post: 5 reasons why User Experience (UX) is important for SEO.

#5 Mobile first

For years marketers have been calling for ‘mobile-first’ websites.

Depending on your sector, you might already be reaching most of your visitors through their mobile devices. Have you followed those tips? Then you shouldn’t have any worries in 2018.

For any organizations who have ignored their mobile audience until now, 2018 might be a bit of a disaster. It seems that Google will finally be rolling out its ‘mobile-first’ index. That means you’ll get bumped down significantly in search results if your pages are full of huge images or if your mobile menu structure is lacking.

#6 Link earning

Link building is one of the basic elements of search engine optimization. Because websites link to each other, Google gets which content is and isn’t relevant.

In SEO’s early years, you could pay certain companies to spread links to your website all over the internet. The effectiveness of those strategies is virtually non-existent these days.

Instead of link building, it’s better to consider ‘link earning.’ Produce truly unique content and let others know about it. The links to your website are sure to follow.

#7 Produce or embed videos

Both Google and Facebook are increasing their focus on video. Do you have the budget available? Then well-produced videos can pull in a significant number of new visitors.

Do you mostly create blogs and articles? Consider incorporating relevant (!) videos in your text. The same goes for infographics and other rich content. Your visitors are sure to appreciate it and so will Google.

#8 Authority is becoming more important

In response to the “fake news” scandals of recent years, Google has started to pay more attention to a website’s authority. How long has your website been around? Which other authoritative sources link back to your site?

A great strategy to gain authority as a commercial party is to get mentioned by (well-known) media sources. Consider organizing a benefit or publishing a research piece. Press mentions will deliver you a higher Google ranking.

#9 Algorithm with artificial intelligence

Until recently webmasters would take important Google updates into consideration when making changes to their website. If an update showed that page load time had become more important, that’s the kind of improvement you would implement on your end.

Nowadays the search engine giant uses artificial intelligence in its algorithms, which has them consistently improving. Think of it as an ongoing update.

Conclusion: SEO in 2018 is hard work

SEO in 2018 will need continued efforts to improve. In order to rank high in search results, you need to keep creating high-quality content. Don’t forget to incorporate the basics of SEO, featured snippets, rich content (like videos), link earning, and UX in your strategy.

To make sure you’re implementing these SEO trends efficiently, give webtexttool a try! Our editor offers up automated prompts to help you optimize your pages. And thanks to our page trackers you’ll be able to monitor your Google ranking 24/7. You’ll receive a message anytime a change occurs.

The Google Hawk Update and the impact on local SEO

The Google Hawk Update and the impact on local SEO

On August 22nd 2017, Google seems to have released a big algorithm update. The update is called  “Hawk” by the SEO community. In this blog you will read all about this update and the impact for your company.

  • What is Google Hawk?
  • What is the impact of Google Hawk?
  • What should I do now?
  • Why is it called Hawk?

What is Google Hawk?

Hawk is the name of a Google algorithm update that was released on 22nd of August 2017.

What is the impact of Google Hawk?

This update impacts the local SEO results. The changes affect the way local search results are filtered. Google tries to avoid having duplicate businesses in the local and the “normal” organic search results. With a previous update (the Possum update in  September 2016) there have been some changes for this. This included filtering businesses offering the same kind of services or products and that are on addresses close to each other. However, in some cases businesses were filtered out a bit too strict and businesses that already had strong organic rankings were given a huge advantage over others. There was also quite some shady ways to influence this and bump out your competitors from the search results… With this new update this filtering has improved. The filtering is less strict and more companies should be visible now. However, companies located on the same address (with the same kind of services / products) will probably not be affected yet.

What should I do now?webtexttool on google maps

Check these important things for your local SEO :

  • Make sure you have a (up to date)  Google Business Listing
  • Try to gather positive reviews for your company (via Google and/or other well known review platforms for your business type)
  • Make sure all the basic SEO things are taken care of. .
  • Consider adding more content, that is focussed on your local market(s) / city. With webtexttool you can easily create effective and optimized content.

Why is it called “Hawk”?

Google doesn’t give official names to updates. They rarely even confirm or deny updates at all 🙂 In this case the update was called “Hawk” by SEO expert Joy Hawkins. The idea behind this, is that it is connected to the Possum update and Hawks like to eat  Possum 🙂