If you’re confused about the best way to describe your content with meta descriptions, you’re not alone. Google likes to change its policies in reference to a lot of things, and meta descriptions haven’t escaped those updates.
Here is why meta descriptions are so important for your digital marketing efforts and what you need to know to make them stand out in the current environment.
What is a Meta Description?
A meta description is a section of HTML code containing a short summary of what is on your page. In your website’s code, it looks something like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”Write your page’s description here.”/>
When someone sees your meta description in a Google search, it looks like this:
In general, the purpose of the meta description is to briefly describe what the reader will experience when they arrive at your web page. In other words, it should give enough information about your content that someone will want to click on your link to learn more.
Why is Your Content’s Meta Description Important?
Google announced back in 2009 that meta keywords and meta descriptions were not factors in its search ranking algorithm. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
Your business does get an indirect benefit from having an effective meta description. Consider this: Google uses click-through-rate (CTR) as a means of determining whether your content is a good result.
If you have awesome meta descriptions that are a fair representation of your content, tons of people click on them and don’t immediately hit the “back” button, Google will take notice. These metrics will help show Google that visitors are getting what they want and expect, and your rankings will improve.
How Long Should Your Meta Description Be?
Back in 2017, Google increased the allowable length for meta descriptions to 320 characters. Digital marketers were thrilled and quickly began re-writing meta descriptions to eat up the extra real estate even though several officials with Google advised against lengthening descriptions. The celebration was short-lived.
By May 2018, Google dropped the length back to 160 characters. But, even though length is a focal point for many digital marketing teams, Google warns against this. Instead, the search engine giant wants brands to focus on what works for visitors.
How to Write the Best Meta Descriptions in 2021
As with all things SEO, there are a few best practices you can follow to maximize your effectiveness. Here are some tips for writing the best meta descriptions that will get more clicks on your links and, in turn, improve your overall results.
1. Aim for around 155 characters
There is no perfect length for a meta description. But you can be too short or too long. One short sentence may not cut it. If you are over 160 characters, Google is sure to cut you off. To be safe, keep it to around 155 characters.
2. Use your focus keyword
It’s always a good idea to incorporate your primary keyword or phrase into your page’s description. But avoid stuffing that same keyword or similar ones multiple times into a one or two-sentence meta description. It will just seem awkward, and Google won’t like it.
3. Make sure it matches your page’s content
Since your meta description is meant to summarize your page’s content, it should do just that. Re-read through your page’s content thoroughly and write a one- to two-sentence summary that will give a searcher the best representation of that content.
4. Include a call-to-action
If you can describe your page’s content and still have room for a call to action, be sure to include one. There’s nothing wrong with giving a visitor an extra nudge to click on your link instead of the one above or below it.
For example, yours might be the only one offering a “free consultation” or “free shipping.”
5. List specifications, where possible
If your page includes any technical specifications, include this in your description. For example, searchers might be looking for a review of a certain tv model or version of software. If your page doesn’t cover this, a visitor might be disappointed.
6. Make it unique
Your meta description should be unique to your page. Google frowns on duplicate content, so using the same meta description across multiple pages on your website or, worse, copying someone else’s description, is not a good idea. Take a few moments to create a one-of-a-kind description of your page’s content.
7. Make it interesting
Finally, your meta description shouldn’t be an afterthought. Sure, it might be the last thing you do after writing a blog post or creating a page, but it requires some thought and effort.
Simply put, people don’t click on boring meta descriptions. If your description isn’t engaging, a searcher won’t hold out much hope for what’s on the page.
Google Doesn't Always Use Meta Descriptions
This might be frustrating to hear, but Google can override or ignore your hard work with respect to meta descriptions. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort.
According to a Moz analysis just a few years ago, just over one-third (36%) of meta descriptions are displayed in Google search “as is.” Moz examined more than 70,000 examples, finding that Google matched all or part of a page’s meta description in 55% of cases.
This generally happens because the search engine determines that your meta description isn’t a good representation of what is on the page. This might also depend on what the user has entered as their search query.
Your meta descriptions might not directly contribute to how Google ranks your website, but what you include in them can entice more people to click on your content. Sure, you should spend some time creating engaging meta descriptions, but you also need to have quality content on the page to greet visitors when they arrive.
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Written By: David Carpenter