When it comes to optimizing your website, it is important to take full advantage of every square inch of online real estate that you can. One opportunity that often goes underutilized is the meta description. Though it’s fairly easy to craft a compelling meta description for your website—and though the benefits of doing so are potentially quite significant—it somehow slips through the cracks or is simply deemed unimportant. In this post, we’ll explain what the meta description is and why it matters, then provide some general tips on writing a good one.
What is the Meta Description?
Here’s an exercise: Conduct a quick Google search on your desktop browser. The search terms don’t really matter. Once you arrive at the search results page, you’ll see the customary list of results—blue links for you to click on for more information. And, underneath each link, you should see a brief snippet of text, describing to you what the site’s content is about.
This is the meta description—a short descriptor that accompanies each page of online content to provide the search engine, as well as search engine users, with a basic understanding of the topic at hand.
Why Meta Descriptions Matter
There are a few reasons why meta descriptions matter. For one, it’s an opportunity to alert search engine users what they can expect to read on your website—perhaps convincing them that the site is worth their consideration. Besides the page title, the meta description is the most important element for establishing a strong, positive first impression.
Another reason to prize the meta description: It allows you an additional opportunity to leverage targeted keywords. We’ll say more about keywords later in the post.
A related, common question about meta descriptions is, are they actually Google ranking signals? While Google’s engineers have stated that meta descriptions are not direct ranking signals, that doesn’t mean they are ineffective or unimportant. Again, a good meta description can boost click-through rates—and that is a significant ranking factor. The SEO value of meta descriptions is really not something that anyone would dispute.
Determining Meta Descriptions
Something else to understand about meta descriptions is that Google exercises some agency over what, exactly, your displayed meta description happens to be. Here’s how it works: When a search engine user seeks information on a particular topic, and your website comes up as a match, Google will scour the page to find good, quality snippets that include the search terms—and if such a snippet can be found, it will be displayed as the meta description.
If such a snippet cannot be found, however, Google may default to the meta description that you have written for the page in question—and that, of course, requires you to actually write one!
Writing a Strong Meta Description
Now, there are a few guidelines we can offer for writing a compelling meta description for your website.
- First, remember that every page of your website will need its own meta description; you cannot just write one for the home page and expect it to blanket the rest of your content. The meta description should always address the specifics of the page for which it is written.
- On a related note, your meta description should always provide an accurate sense of what the page is about; you never want a mismatch of meta description and page content. Remember that Google’s aim is to provide search engine users with relevant answers to their questions, and your meta descriptions should align with that goal.
- While there is no hard and fast rule for meta descriptions, note that Google will cut off your text if it cannot be fully displayed on the device in question. Our advice is to keep it to around 150 characters.
- Your meta description is, first and foremost, a way to provide information to search engine users, so it should be clear and straightforward. You don’t just want to throw in a jumble of keywords that don’t make any sense. With that said, the meta description is a good opportunity for you to insert a keyword or two, as relevant to the page content.
- The meta description can also be an important place to include your brand name or other branded search terms.
- Your meta description should focus on value—why should the reader open your page to see more? What’s in it for them? What do they stand to gain? Along the same lines, you should try to make your meta description end with a call to action, when possible, simply urging people to open the page and see more.
There is no blueprint for a meta description, and these guidelines are not meant to suggest a certain formula; rather, we hope they are useful tips that you can consider to ensure your own meta descriptions are, basically, on point.
Use Every Marketing Tool at Your Disposal
The meta description is a small thing, but it can have a real impact on the overall success of your website—and as such, it’s something to take advantage of. If you need any further guidance in writing meta descriptions, or if you have bigger SEO questions you’d like to tackle, we encourage you to reach out to our team. Connect with enCOMPASS to begin a conversation about your online marketing needs.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE: