The term ‘meta description’ is a phrase you’ll often hear in the world of search engine optimization (SEO). In plain English, a meta description is the snippet of text found beneath a clickable link on a search engine results page (SERP). Technically, it is an HTML attribute that provides a brief summary of the associated webpage.
Here’s an example:
The purpose of a meta description is to provide a brief description of the content on the associated page or post that has the link.
Meta descriptions can technically be any length, but search engines will automatically truncate them at a certain point. To avoid the dreaded “…” and get your actual message in front of potential customers, keep your meta descriptions brief.
In the past, Google has allowed 155-characters. Recent reports show that some searches result in descriptions of up to 385-characters. While we’re yet to see whether or not the longer snippets will stick, we recommend you keep your meta descriptions focused and rich with keywords, with a length of around 200-characters.
The snippet of text that you provide within your meta description is your opportunity to capture the attention of content searchers. It is then the searchers’ opportunity to determine how relevant the content is to their search and if it contains the information that they want.
Here are our tips for formatting your meta description in a way that will improve click-through rates and drive more traffic to your website:
- The content should read naturally. Avoid spammy language at all costs!
- Don’t stuff keywords (back to avoiding spam).
- Draw a searcher in with compelling language. Make them want to click on your link!
- Keep it accurate. Don’t try to bait and switch here!
- Being unique will help your page stand out from your competition.
Won’t Help with Your SERP Ranking!
According to a 2009 announcement by Google, neither meta descriptions nor meta keywords impact Google’s ranking algorithms. While they may not influence how your website ranks for specific keywords/phrases, you should not ignore meta descriptions.
In fact, we recommend that you take the time to craft a meta description that, when correctly written, will entice people to click on your site. Every single one of those clicks (website traffic) does, in fact, influence your SERP rankings!
Best Practices for SEO
A proper meta description helps drive traffic to your website, so you should treat it with the same care as any other ad copy. The addition of keywords may not impact your SERP ranking, but you should take note that Google often highlights the key search terms when they match search queries. This bold text will help draw the attention of a searcher and ideally direct them to click on your site. Here’s an example:
As with anything else SEO related, it is crucial to avoid duplicates. Don’t copy and paste your meta description snippets. Instead, customize the snippet for each blog post or page so that it is an accurate representation of the content located within that space.
Skip the Double Quotation Marks
When you use quotation marks within a meta description’s HTML, Google automatically truncates (or cuts off) the snippet when it appears in a SERP. Avoid this issue by removing any non-alphanumeric characters from your meta descriptions. If for some reason you just can’t live without your quotation marks, try using an HTML entry to avoid an abrupt ending to your meta description.
Skipping the Meta Description (sometimes) is Okay
Taking the time to craft an incredible meta description that reads naturally and includes your most important keywords isn’t always required. But how do you know when you can skip this step and move on to tackle the rest of your to-do list? Here’s the test:
Does your page target one or two keywords with high search volumes?
If so, take the time to create a custom meta description that will get your potential searchers to click on your site. Use this space to target your ideal market and do your best to match the ideal queries with their specific search terms.
Does your page target three or more keywords with high search volumes?
If so, create your page and be sure that the content is on point, then let the search engines generate their own meta descriptions. The reason this option works well is that when the search engines create a meta description, they display the keywords and phrases that match the searcher’s query. That will avoid any limitations established by predefined meta descriptions.
NOTE: Please don’t forget that some social sites like Facebook use a meta description as the preview text that appears beneath the link. If you choose not to include a customized meta description, be sure to write the content on your page or post in a way that will still provide a user-friendly experience in this situation.
Search Engines are Sassy!
There are times where a search engine will completely disregard the customized meta description that you’ve put so much effort into creating. Lame, we know, but true. There is no way to predict when this will happen, but lower the chances of it happening to you by providing an accurate description of the content that is on the page it is referring to.
If you’ve done your best to cover each of the factors described above, and are being honest with the information provided (not trying to come up with click-bait), then you are off to a great start! Apply these factors to every page or post that you publish to your site to get the best results when it comes to improving your overall search engine page results ranking and driving more traffic to your site.
Does your website need a little love? Maybe you’ve read all about meta descriptions, alt text, content tips, etc. but just aren’t sure where or how to get started? If so, we can help! Connect with us, and we’ll come up with a plan that includes best practices for on-page search engine optimization to boost your rankings, drive more traffic, and grow your business. We can’t wait to work with you!