What are meta titles and meta descriptions, and how can I add them to my Enterprise site?

What are meta titles and descriptions?

The meta title appears in search engine results instead of the regular page title; it’s what visitors will click on to get to your page after completing a search. The meta description appears under your the meta title to provide more information about that page.

If you don’t manually update your meta titles and meta descriptions, search engine results will display the default title and truncated text from the page as your title and description.    

By updating your meta title and meta description, you can change (and thereby control) what information is displayed on Google’s search engine results.  

Adding Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions

Requesting Access

By default, Enterprise CMS sites do not have fields for inputting meta titles and meta descriptions. If you want these fields added to your Enterprise site, then you must email ucomm-support@pdx.edu with your request. Be sure to include the site name and URL in your request. Meta title and description fields are added at the site level, not the page level, so just include the site's URL. 

Please keep in mind that meta titles and meta descriptions are entirely optional for your site. Additionally, though the fields will be added to each page, you do not have to complete those fields for every page. This is especially important because in order for them to function effectively, each customized meta title and description must be unique; under no circumstances should they be copied and pasted. As such, if you do choose to request this feature, we recommend focusing on your site's key pages (application pages, program information, etc.). 

Once Your Site has Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions

In the Enterprise CMS, the meta title and meta description fields are visible on the edit tab of each page on your enterprise site. You simply have to complete those sections to create personalized meta titles and meta descriptions for your pages.

Please note that these sections are page specific. As such, you must update each page individually.

Making Effective Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions

Qualities of an Effective Meta Title

Meta titles are quick snippets to catch a person’s eye and pique their interest. There is no cut and dry “perfect” meta title. However, there are a few guidelines you should follow to create a quality meta title:

  • Keep the title concise. It should be approximately 50-60 characters in length, including all punctuation and spaces.

  • The meta title should include your brand. This would include, at minimum, PSU. You might want to include your department, if you have room.

  • Make the meta title compelling. It should be descriptive, persuasive, or inspire curiosity.

  • It should be relevant to the specific page it’s on. The title isn’t for your enterprise site as a whole, it’s for a particular page on your site.

  • The title should be unique to the page it’s on. Don’t just copy meta titles from one page to another since that will confuse search engines and search engine users.

  • Don’t include quotation marks as Google will remove them.  

Qualities of an Effective Meta Description

Meta descriptions give a brief snapshot of your page. These are meant to help a search engine user decide if they really want to visit your page, or continue scrolling to another result. Just as with meta titles, there is no cut and dry “perfect” meta description. However, there are a few guidelines you should follow to create a quality meta description:

  • The description should be short, only about 2 sentences and 130-160 characters in length (including spaces and punctuation). The meta description should not be a complete overview of the page, just a quick snapshot.  

  • The writing should be in an active voice and should encourage the search engine user to take action by visiting your page.

  • The meta description should match the content of the page it’s describing; it should not be a general overview of your enterprise site as a whole, but should be specific to your page.

  • Each meta description you write should be unique to the individual pages. Don’t just copy and paste meta descriptions as that will confuse search engines and search engine users.

  • Include structured content, if possible. For example, if the page is the application page for an SBA program, you might include: “Apply to a business degree program that U.S. News and World Report ranks among the best in the nation.”

  • Include keywords a searcher might use to find the page. This will make Google more apt to include that page in the search results.  

Effective Meta Title and Description Examples

  • Page Title: Social Work

    • Meta title: Online Master of Social Work Degree Programs | Online MSW Programs | MSW

    • Meta description: Earn an online Master of Social Work (MSW) from Portland State’s School of Social Work, ranked one of the top in the nation by US News and World Report.

  • Page Title: Curriculum and Instruction

    • Meta title: Online Master's Degree Programs in Education | Curriculum, Instruction

    • Meta description: The Curriculum and Instruction online master degree program at PSU is offered by the Graduate School of Education, which is nationally ranked and accredited.

  • Page Title: Management and Leadership

    • Meta title: Online Management and Leadership Bachelor's Degree Programs

    • Meta description: Earn your Management and Leadership online bachelor degree from Portland State, and you’ll be studying at a nationally ranked business school.

Additional Information and Support

Are meta titles and descriptions required?

Meta titles and descriptions are not required; you can complete pages on your site without modifying either of those fields. Additionally, those fields do not display anywhere on your page itself and the meta title will not replace your page’s title in the browser’s title bar.

Choosing to fill in the meta fields will simply change how your page appears in search engine results. It will also make the page easier to find when people search for certain terms on search engines.

Will search engines always use my custom meta titles and descriptions?

Google and other search engines will not always use your custom meta titles and descriptions. Sometimes they take time to index your changes to meta info and the changes aren't yet live. Some factors can also cause the search engine code to choose the default title and description instead. If you use the same description or title on many pages, search engines are likely to use the default information instead. If the title and description do not reflect the page text, they may also be ignored by search engines. To ensure your meta titles and descriptions are used, make sure they are consistent with the page's text and make sure they are each unique.

What other resources do I have to learn about meta titles and descriptions for search engine optimization (SEO)?

You can use these resources to read more on meta titles and descriptions, including best practices and information on what not to do.

Are meta titles and descriptions available anywhere else besides pages?

Meta title and description fields may sometimes not be available on some pages that have special technical requirements. Email ucomm-support@pdx.edu to put in a request and the Web Communications team will review the content to see what can be done. Some requests will require changes to the PSU site code and therefore may take some time to be deployed depending on the situation.

For any additional support, please email ucomm-support@pdx.edu