So you feel you’ve optimized your website to the best of your ability using all of the different SEO tactics you’ve learned. Your content is excellent, and your targeted keywords are as relevant as ever, but you’re still not getting clicks. Well, there might be one piece you’re neglecting or even flat out missing. A compelling meta description. A meta description can make or break your site’s chances on the search engine results page (SERPs) and could be causing you to be missing out on lots of quality traffic, leads and new customers. Now knowing how vital a meta description is, you might be wondering, “how do I get started?” Here is everything you need to know to start taking advantage of meta descriptions as part of your SEO strategy.
What Is a Meta Description
A meta description is a short paragraph of text that you place in the HTML code. This text then appears under the URL below a search result. Meta descriptions essentially describe the content that will be found on the page if the searcher clicks on your website. Some people refer to this little paragraph as a snippet.
Meta descriptions are important to catch the searcher’s eye. They can help convince them that your site has what they are looking for. The further down the SERPs page you get, the more essential meta descriptions become. Searchers are less likely to click on a site the further down it is on the SERPs. If you rank lower on a page, your meta description is your last line of defense to ultimately convince the searcher that they need to click on your site. Compelling meta descriptions can improve your click-through rates (CTR) from organic search. This provides an indirect benefit to rankings because Google uses CTR to determine if you’re a relevant result for a given search term.
How to Write a Meta Description
Simply throwing any kind of description in as your meta description won’t produce the results you want. There are certain guidelines to follow that will allow your meta description to drive the results you want. Take the following elements into consideration when developing your meta descriptions.
Keep it under 155 characters
When writing a meta description, the general rule of thumb is to make sure it is no longer than 155 characters. Now, this limitation is somewhat approximate, but it is important that you keep your meta description short and concise. You can think of it as a tweet. Get the most critical information in there in the most precise and condensed way possible. One reason to do this is because people aren’t going to want to read a long paragraph of information when they’re scrolling through Google. Also, Google will cut off your meta description at a certain point when it gets too long. If you had important information at the end of the meta description, the searcher wouldn’t see that.
Include your targeted keywords
One of the primary uses of a meta description is to target specific keywords. You want to include your chosen keywords in your meta description. The best practice is to input them towards the beginning of the meta description. Google will highlight those keywords to the searcher if it is one of the search terms they used. If you did your keyword research correctly, this will help make your site more relevant to the searcher. On top of this, Google will take notice and will be more likely to show your page.
Have a call-to-action
Within your meta description, you should include a call-to-action (CTA). You want the searcher to do something. This could be to just click on your website, buy a product, fill out a form, or just get in contact with you. Whatever it is, you need to make sure you guide them in that direction by using the correct language type. This means using action-oriented language. A good way to look at it is to think of your meta description as your sales text. You have to really sell yourself to them. This means having a clear call-to-action.
Provide the solution or benefit
Providing the solution or benefit of your site goes hand-in-hand with your call-to-action. People aren’t going to do what you want them to if they don’t see a benefit to doing so. The key here is to show the searcher “why” they should click on your site. This means including benefits that align with their user intent. This is even more reason to make sure you get your keyword research right. You want to be targeting relevant search terms to showcase your benefits off of.
Be specific and relevant
To play off of the previous two elements, you want to make sure your meta description is specific and relevant to the page. You want it to align with the content that is actually on the page. Again, this means aligning it with your targeted keywords. If your meta description is not specific and relevant to what’s actually on the page, it will hurt your rankings. Google will see that people are exiting your page right away because it wasn’t actually what they were looking for. Call-to-action, solution or benefit and relevance all come together to make an effective meta description.
Meta descriptions can be an excellent opportunity to build your brand. You can emphasize your brand in your meta descriptions to tie your brand to a specific topic or product. This is especially important if your brand holds a lot of authority. You can leverage your brand to gain more traffic, just make sure you keep it relevant. If you don’t have a lot of brand authority, that’s fine. The best practice would then be to put your target keywords first in your meta description and include your brand name in the middle or towards the end.
Ensure copy is readable
This may seem like a no brainer, but it is important to put the effort in to. You want to make sure your meta description flows well and is easy to read. If your meta description reads choppy and is difficult to understand, the searcher will simply move on without clicking on your site. So be careful not to stuff all the above elements into your meta description and call it a day.
Consider using rich snippets
Remember that a meta description can also be called a snippet? Well, a rich snippet is just a way of enhancing your original snippet. They are elements that can be added to your meta description to give additional information and increase your site’s overall appeal. These can include: star ratings, customer ratings, calories in episodes, length of read and more. As always, make sure rich snippets are relevant for your site. When used correctly, they can be very effective.
Meta Description Don’ts
Now that you know what elements to include in order to make an effective meta description let’s look at some things to avoid when developing your meta description.
Keyword stuffing is when you take all of the keywords you are targeting and put them all in your meta description. By “stuffing” all of them in there, your meta description will read unnaturally. Remember that it is important to create your meta descriptions with the user in mind. Keyword stuffing does not take the user into consideration, and Google can actually sense this. You will end up getting penalized by Google if you do this, so be careful.
Duplicate meta descriptions
Meta descriptions should be unique for each page. While they can share some similarities, you want to tailor them to match that specific page. You don’t want your different pages trying to rank for the same exact keywords. This can cause keyword cannibalization. Google may also penalize you if you mass duplicate your meta descriptions.
This is a reminder to keep your meta descriptions accurate and relevant. You don’t want to deceive searchers just to get clicks. This doesn’t benefit anyone. Google will find out if you are purposely misleading searchers and penalize you. On top of this, you will lose credibility.
Now that you know what you need to create a meta description that will drive the results you want, get out there and give it your best shot. Remember that meta descriptions can always be changed and tweaked to find what works best for you. If you want to know if your meta descriptions are working the way you want them to or if you have any other questions, contact Grade My Website today!