A meta description is an HTML tag that supplies information about a webpage that describes its content. It appears under the page URL on search engine results pages (SERPs) and when the content is shared across social channels and other websites.
An essential part of your SEO strategy is developing an effective, well-written meta description which can influence the user to click on your content, taking them to your website. Though Google says that meta descriptions do not factor in a page’s search ranking, they do influence click-through rate (CTR), which is a ranking signal for Google as part of the user experience score. A higher CTR means a more favorable search engine ranking, which in turn means more clicks and better results for your company.
Follow these 9 tips to get the most out of your meta descriptions for SEO:
155 Characters or Less
The first step is simple – limit your meta description to 155 characters or less. Any more, and it will likely be cut off on the search engine results page just as it would have been had you not created a meta description at all. Keep this boundary in mind when crafting your description to be as clear, concise, and engaging as possible. Make every character count.
What sets your company apart from your competition? Why should someone trust you over “the other guy”? Your meta description needs to be specific, descriptive, and compelling. Provide a solution or benefit – make it clear that your company has the capabilities to solve the users’ problems. Be relevant to the users’ search. You’ve got no room to be bland or passive. Stand out and be persuasive.
The best way to be effective is by including keywords in your meta description. Users are looking for content that’s relevant to their search, so they are more inclined to click on search results that contain the same keywords that were used in their query. As with your overall page content, your meta tags should be optimized around a particular keyword or key phrase. Though a meta description’s keyword placement has no influence on the search engine algorithm, it is imperative to the click-through rate (CTR) of the content.
But No Keyword Stuffing
It’s less overt than in the early days of search engines, but, yes, keyword stuffing still exists. This is an easy one to avoid if you remember that you’re writing for users first, and Google second.
Include a Call-To-Action
Never underestimate the power of clear direction. Tell the users exactly what you want them to do by including actionable language or an offer. “Find Out More” and “Free 30 Day Trial” are both examples of powerful CTAs.
Everything so far is essential in creating an effective meta description, but none of that is going to help you in the long run if it’s not accurately describing the page it’s attached to. Avoid a search engine marketing bait-and-switch and provide the user with the content you promised them on the results page.
Speaking of content…
Create High-Quality, Valuable Content
This tip is a little outside the meta description box, but the more valuable your content is to the user that’s searching for it, the more it will ultimately produce your desired marketing results. The best content gets more shares, and the meta is what is going to show under the title in a social feed on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Be Aware of Paid Competition
If you’re not outbidding your competition through Google AdWords, maybe you can outsmart them. Take note of the ads that occupy the top of your SERP and the quality of their meta descriptions. Is there an opportunity to be more engaging and relevant, while maybe sounding less like a sales pitch? By recognizing what your competition is doing (and not doing), you’ll have an easier time focusing your meta on a clear value proposition and relevant, actionable language.
No Duplicate Meta Descriptions
This is a big red flag for search engines. According to Google, it’s better to not have a meta tag, rather than having duplicates throughout your site.
The downside, of course, is that the lack of a meta description will cause Google to auto-create a snippet, which may or may not include your keywords. It’s best to create unique meta descriptions for each page on your site (including your blog articles).
With these tips you’ll be able to optimize your meta descriptions for maximum impact on your click-through rates and search engine rating. Let us know in the comments when you try these out and what your results are.