What makes a good meta description? And how can you best optimise your own meta descriptions to convert more traffic to your site?
The Content Marketing Team’s founder and director, Paula Alexander, takes a quick look.
What exactly is a meta description?
As described by Moz, a meta description – or meta description tag – is an HTML attribute that provides a brief summary of a web page.
When you search for a keyword in Google, you will often see the meta description of relevant content displayed, giving you a snippet of what you should expect to discover on the page itself.
Here is a good example:
Why are meta descriptions important?
While Google announced in September 2009 that meta descriptions and meta keywords no longer factor in web search ranking algorithms, they can still affect your site’s click-through-rate (CTR).
This in turn can have a positive effect on a site’s ranking, so it is well worth putting plenty of effort into creating your meta descriptions.
The problem with meta descriptions is that because they are not officially ranked by Google, many webmasters forget about them – leaving them empty. And if they are filled out, they are commonly copied and pasted – i.e. duplicated – across multiple webpages, tarnishing a users’ search experience.
To prevent you from making these mistakes, we have pulled together some top tips to think about when writing your meta description to ensure they are fully optimised for your site.
1. Make full use of the optimal character limit for meta descriptions
According to Google, “there’s no limit on how long a meta description can be, but the search result snippets are truncated as needed, typically to fit the device width”.
160 characters is normally about the right length, but the important thing to remember is that the content should actively describe what your page is all about.
The objective here is to get readers to click through from a Google search engine result page to your own content, so remember to add your keywords in full and make it as relevant as possible.
2. Make your meta description copy persuasive
Your meta description should tempt your readers into clicking through to your site.
Try using persuasive language to catch their attention and convince them that they can find everything they are looking for within your page’s content.
You’re inviting your readers in, so think of the reasons why they would want to accept your invitation.
For example, Orbit Media Studios looked at what makes titles and headline effective and reported that “Numerals, not just numbers, are part of the magic. In a line of letters, numerals stand out. So don’t write a headline with “Eight Things,” write a headline with “8 things.”
They go on to advise “The job of the headline is to indicate the benefit and to make a promise to the visitor that it’s worth it. And to do it in less than a second.”
So whether you are creating a meta description or a page heading, consider the reader and what might best persuade them to click on your link.
3. Avoid using quotation marks in your meta descriptions
As reported by Moz, Google cuts off the meta description whenever a quotation mark is used in the HTML.
Avoid using them entirely otherwise your description will fail to appear on the SERP (search engine results page).
If you really need to use quotations, apply the HTML entity instead to ensure your description can still be seen by readers. You can learn more about how to do this at We3Schools.
4. Make each meta description unique
It is well known that Google doesn’t like duplicate content, so treat a meta description like any other piece of content on your page – for example, a blog post or landing page – and ensure the copy on each description is unique.
Otherwise, your meta descriptions will actually compete against each other to rank, as search engines struggle to determine which page is most relevant.
Naturally, this could have a negative effect on your overall rankings.
Not only that, but simply copying and pasting your descriptions means you are not thinking about what your readers are looking for with their Google search, potentially giving up that all-important Click Through Rate (CTR) that could really help boost your ranking on a search engine result page (SERP).
How can I incorporate meta descriptions into my overall content strategy?
For help with creating your overall content plan, including ensuring that your meta data is relevant and engaging, just get in touch with The Content Marketing Team.
And together we will work with you to make sure that everything on your website is as updated and optimised as it can possibly be.
We are a small and friendly team with proven expertise all aspects of content marketing, including:
- website copy
- search engine optimisation (SEO)
- blog posts
- social media
- explainer videos
- case studies
- white papers & reports
- how-to guides
- website design and development
Whatever your requirements, we would be more than happy to talk you through any aspects of our services and products.