Get access to title tags and meta descriptions instantly, along with a host of other hidden SEO, design & development data – for free. We explain how it came about, and why it’s so essential.

In 2013, Voice Group was well into its sixth year, and demand for new websites was rising steadily. With every website we build comes a need for a minimum level of search engine optimisation (SEO), which had always entailed hours of finding data tucked away amongst other code, and transferring it to the new site. We needed a timesaving tool.

“It came about from a need to copy and paste the title tag and meta description from one website to another, to save our copywriter, Jim, digging around in the source code of a page,” explains Matt, our head developer. “These tags and descriptions are crucial for SEO, as they help both search engines and internet users decide which page is the most appropriate for any given search term. So for Jim, whose job it is to write title tags and meta descriptions, we needed to make them instantly visible.”

Title tag & meta description info, as seen in Blue Button
Title tag & meta description info, as seen in Blue Button

Not finding any suitable extensions on the Chrome store, Matt set about writing some code himself. Although it was only meant to be a temporary solution, he says, “It became obvious how useful it was to have information at-a-glance”. Soon the extension was expanded to include loads of added extras for advanced users, showing data for SEO, design and development – without compromising speed or simplicity. A few versions later, now branded and released on the Chrome Web Store as Blue Button, it has become the first in our series of web design freebies.

The plugin, as it appears in the Google Chrome Web Store
The plugin, as it appears in the Google Chrome Web Store

Why should I get it?

Just a few of the things you can do with Blue Button Chrome extension:

  • Super simple to use, but extremely advanced if you need it to be. So it’s good for luddites and experts alike
  • Check title tags, meta descriptions and Open Graph tags (for Facebook and other socials) on every page of your own website or your competitors’ websites
  • Use it to check you’re saying the right things: keep an eye on keywords; see where your offer differs from the rest of the field; assess how your copywriting measures up to your competition, and get inspiration from sites similar to yours
  • Website owners and SEO managers can use it to quickly identify which of their pages need further optimisation
  • Developers can use it all the time, to quickly view loaded scripts and assets
  • Designers can use it to see how many, and which, photos, videos and Google fonts are on a particular page
  • For advanced users, there are dozens of different properties that the Blue Button holds information on, all available within two clicks
  • Get info structured in a neat, clear way that doesn’t take up your whole browser window – normally only seen by viewing the source code of a page

Get Blue Button

Everything you need to see – instantly

Of course, it’s far from the only Chrome plugin around that offers a glimpse at SEO or design information. So why use ours? The answer is clear for SEO expert Rob Edlin, MD at Niddocks, a leading, Cornwall-based search marketing agency:

“It’s so simple. Other extensions give me the same information but can take up to a minute to generate it. Most of the time, all I really need to know are title and meta description. Even better, Blue Button doesn’t rely on somebody being a geek to understand it.”

Matt Chugg adds: “Having title tags and meta descriptions at the touch of a button makes life much more straightforward for copywriters and webmasters.” Although the whole business of search engine optimisation is often seen as some kind of black magic, it’s all based on common-sense logic and good writing. After all, it’s the job of a search engine to try to think the way a human thinks, rather than how a computer thinks.

In short, if you’re not paying attention to title tags and meta descriptions, you really ought to be. And if you are paying attention to titles and metas – you really ought to be using Blue Button.

The Blue Button, as it appears on a webpage
The Blue Button, as it appears on a webpage

90% of businesses are getting this wrong

For copywriters like Jim, SEO means writing content that’s not only informative and engaging, but is also going to help the site rank as highly as possible in searches. It’s a complicated game when you get to its advanced levels, but the basic idea is to improve your search result ranking by using keywords to match up what you do to what people are searching for. And most importantly, to do it without sounding like a robot, so your content still appeals to searchers when it gets to them.

The problem is that, without something like Blue Button, the most vital, basic SEO – title tags and meta descriptions – remain invisible, or unidentified. In Rob’s opinion, this is what makes both far too readily overlooked.  “I think almost all business owners will have some problem with their site. And with almost all of those it’ll be with titles and metas – maybe 90% or more.”

What are title tags & meta descriptions for?

If you want to get found – let alone clicked on – in any given search engine result page (SERP), you have to make sure the content and keywords of your web page are presented in an easily accessible, relevant and coherent way. And in this game, says Rob, “Title tag and meta data straight away are the most useful things.” They might sound like jargon, but in fact you’ll already be familiar with them from Google: the large blue link below is a title tag, and the two lines of regular, dark grey text underneath it is a meta description.

How Google displays webpage titles & metas
How title tags (large blue text – or purple if previously visited) and meta descriptions (grey text) appear in Google

You’ll probably have seen the beginnings of title tags in browser tabs. They function as page labels, and are primarily written with search engines in mind, to include keywords; although it’s also crucial they make sense to the person who decides whether to click on them.  The recommended length of the title varies according to each search engine, and which version thereof (most undergo regular updates), as well as which device searchers are using, but 65-70 is currently Rob’s official advice for Google: by far the most popular search engine in the Western world. No matter their length – due to their importance in sorting and identifying search results, he describes title tags as: “The most important piece of content on a webpage. Period. In the end, it’s usually better to write a great title that converts and get clicks than it is to obsess over length.”

Why are meta descriptions important?

For most search engines, meta descriptions have only marginal weight when it comes to ranking results, but they still play a vital marketing role: essentially acting as mini adverts for your site when they appear in search results. They’re often the first thing a searcher will read about your services, so make sure you give a great first impression, and entice your potential customers into clicking through to your website. This time, Rob recommends you keep character length to 156-160 for Google, including spaces.

Unlike title tags though, meta descriptions often don’t appear on any part of an actual web page. “Most people don’t see meta descriptions,” Rob explains, “and they forget about them because they can’t see them.” In fact, missing meta descriptions can even be hard to spot on SERPs, as search engines will pull relevant content from a page, appropriating a meta description from various bodies of text to create a sort of Franken-meta. Better than nothing, but in practice the result is often a confusing mishmash of words or sentences hashed together to match search terms. This means visitors are often at a loss to find where their search term actually appears on your page: no way to encourage them to come back.

There’s also a third, very similar revelation made by Blue Button on any web page: open graph tags. These are like titles, but appear as the clickable titles in links on pages, rather than in search results – as often seen on social media sites like Facebook. Whereas titles have to focus on grabbing the attention of search engines, open graph tags can concentrate on piquing the curiosity of human readers, so you with these you don’t need to worry about keywords. Annoyingly, this is what makes it possible for clickbait articles to function so well on Facebook. So please – use this power for good!

How open graph titles appear on Facebook
How open graph titles appear on Facebook

We’re giving away more free stuff…

As Rob says, “Blue Button doesn’t rely on somebody being a geek.” And we’re pretty happy with that review, as it encapsulates what we’re aiming to do at the moment: provide basic but essential info and advice on building and updating your website – aimed at those who don’t have an in-depth knowledge of coding, and don’t have the time to learn. If that sounds familiar, watch out for our free lessons in sharpening up your WordPress website, which will be released over the next few months. For now: get the free Blue Button for Chrome here.

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