Search advantages with SEO friendly meta-descriptions
Do you create an SEO friendly meta-descriptions for every web page and blog post on your site? If not, why not? Given that meta-descriptions are short, quick to create, simple to understand in principle and have such a profound effect on people’s likelihood of clicking on a result. It’s surprising so many site owners don’t bother. Here’s what you need to know, explained in plain language.
What is a meta-description?
A meta description is a 160 character snippet, an HTML tag that summarises the content of a web page. These little descriptions are showcased in the search results, picked up by Google and other search engines when a person searches for a phrase used with-in the description. Look at a page of Google search results and you’ll see the meta-description below the large blue text and green link in each result.
This post is a perfect example. It’s all about SEO friendly meta-descriptions, and we’ve used that exact search term in our description. Search engines will pick it up and put a link to this post in front of people who search for that phrase, that ‘keyword’.
It’s clearly important to optimise your meta-descriptions to maximise your chances of people clicking on your link in the search results.
Why do meta descriptions matter?
Google and co insist there isn’t any actual ranking benefit from writing good meta descriptions. But there’s a lot more to digital marketing than rankings. You could be on page 1 of Google for an important keyword, but if your meta-description isn’t as good as the results further down the page, a proportion of people will click on the link that provides a better description.
There’s another benefit. Google uses click-through-rates – CTRs – to figure out whether your content is worthy of a page one position. The more people click on your result, the further up the search results you will appear.
8 tips to write a winning meta description
It’s actually more about people than about Google. Google’s aim is to provide the best possible search results to users. When you put users first, you automatically please Google. Yoast writes a great guide to why SEO friendly meta descriptions matter – Yoast is always a good place to start. In our experience, what really matters is what users think. Here’s how we make a good job of it.
1. You have 135 – 160 characters to play with.
Any longer and you risk the end of your description being cut off, leaving the message incomplete. If you’re unsure, stick to 135 characters – you can’t go far wrong with that. On the other hand, some people go on for as long as 250 characters and Google sometimes displays them in their entirety.
2. It should be relevant
What was the original search term likely to have been? People tend to search with a question. Does your meta description suggest to people that you have your web page will probably be able to answer their question? A little like a trailer for a film, we need to give them enough and elude to there being great stuff to follow, if they click on your result.
3. Plain language
Like all marketing communications, your meta description should be in plain language, written the way most people speak. There is no point in stuffing to full of keywords or being overly technical. You’ll lose far more than you ever gain in that process.
4. Call to action
It should have a call to action to tell people exactly what they should do – ‘read more’, ‘find out more’, stuff like that. Avoid the classic ‘contact us’ call to action in a meta description; it’s a little like being leapt on as you enter a shop. It puts people off. Get them on their page, sell them on you there and then ask them to get in touch. Remember the point of the meta description is to convert them to a visitor, not a client – that will follow.
5. Direct appeal
It should directly appeal to your target audience, reflecting their search intent. In other words reflecting exactly what they expect to find when searching for the information. If someone uses the word ‘buy’ in their search, for example, it’s more than likely they want to buy something. If they use the word ‘about’ it’s clear they’re probably after information, not quite ready to buy.
6. It must be honest
It’s no good using it to trick people to click through then disappoint them because the information they want isn’t there after all. Google will find you out and penalise the page. You will probably also experience a high bounce rate, where people click on the result then click straight out again, another way Google identifies content that doesn’t fulfil people’s needs.
7. Keyword presence
It should include the keyword you’re focusing on in the content. Joining the dots so Google can confidently present the page to searchers in the sure knowledge it’s what they want.
8. It has to be unique
Some people use the same meta description text for every page, a crazy thing to do because it doesn’t help people find the information they’re looking for.
What happens if you don’t write meta descriptions?
If you leave the meta description field empty Google will do it for you, Creating a short snippet from the page containing the keyword someone has used in their search. Obviously, it’s less than ideal – it’s naïve to expect an algorithm to perform as well as a person. Machine learning might be pretty sophisticated, but there’s still absolutely no comparison to the human brain.
We always take meta-data into account when creating websites. With us as your website design partner, we partner with you to ensure that you know why we’re doing things and how to do best involve yourselves in the process.