Website optimization is one of the most critical elements of regular website management required for the success of every website project. One key aspect of website optimization is the description meta tag.The description meta tag is an on-page SEO factor, which means it is within the control of the site owner and is among the tweaks that can be done on the web page to increase its visibility.
Although, as we see in the video above, Matt Cutts. Google’s former head of web spam said Google does not use the description meta tag in it’s ranking, we still find this metadata to be playing a role that is supportive to the title meta tag.
Optimizing the description of your page is therefore something you still have to consider very seriously for the following reasons:
- Description is displayed by Google in the search results and so it can have some impact on click-through rate.
- Click-through rate is a ranking factor. So, if the description metatag will influence click-through, then you should take it very seriously because it will ultimately affect site ranking.
How do you go about meta description optimization, you may ask. That is the focus of this post and we will try to be as detailed as possible. But let’s begin with some background information to give you a complete knowledge of the subject matter.
In this article, we will cover the following:
- What is An SEO Meta Description?
- Is Meta Description Still Relevant?
- How to Create an Optimized Meta Description
- Why Does Google Change My Meta Description?
- Improving on Your Descriptions
What is An SEO Meta Description?
A meta description is the brief lines of text that provides a description of a webpage. This text appears as a meta tag in a page’s HTML code. It is the small snippets that appear below the page title in the Search Engine Result Pages.
SEO meta descriptions along with the website URL, and page title are the content that are displayed in Google search.
Are Meta Descriptions Still Relevant?
While Google has said that meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, we can say that it is not an irrelevant element of your website optimization. It is very much relevant and indirectly affects your website performance. The meta description also plays an important part of driving traffic and improving the performance of your webpage in Google search.
Here are a couple of reasons you should take the description meta data very seriously:
1. A meta description is like a mini ad for a webpage.
A well crafted meta description can truly serve promotional purposes for your page. Descriptions appear on SERPs and social media feeds and can be a good way to promote your page without paying for it. So, it gives marketers an opportunity to put together a message that can drive interests, build confidence and encourage clicks.
2. Meta descriptions look good in search results.
Meta descriptions are part of your presentations and look good when properly crafted. It is important that you take time to craft your presentations. If you do not, then search engines will do that for you. When the search engines enter your description, then they could just pick any piece of content on your page and use it as the description. Such could be too long and get cut in the search display, the piece of content may not be so attractive even though it contains some of the keywords that describe your page but may not drive the desired traffic and click through. When you take responsibility to design your meta description, you give your best and that could turn things around.
3. Strategic meta descriptions increase click-through rates.
We have noted this point at various times in this article. This is one key advantage the meta description offers and should be taken advantage of by developers and webmasters. Words are powerful and the meta description should be crafted to drive click through. Indeed, following several tests, we have found the meta description to influence click-through rates. The key is to properly optimize the page for the right audiences and focus on search intent. Focusing on these two critical elements will come with big results.
4. Higher click-through rates increase search rankings.
This is one big reason to focus on the meta description and it’s impact on search rankings. While an SEO meta description won’t increase a page’s search rankings on its own, the results of a well-crafted meta description can boost the click-through rate which increases a page’s rankings. This is because when a link is frequently clicked on in search results, it sends signals to search engines telling them that the page is important and of good quality. This boosts the page’s rankings in search results.
5. Meta descriptions can be a part of a larger rich snippet plan.
Search engines assess websites on a much larger scale, not restricting itself to just the URL, title and description tags. There are a variety of other tags that can add bonus rich snippets to search engine results. They may be small details such as the data and extra links on the page.
The meta description is a part of these rich snippets that enriches the search engines and how the web page is assessed.
How to Create and Optimize Meta Descriptions for SEO Performance
Let’s review the best practices of creating meta description:
Write a meta description for every webpage. As a rule, write meta descriptions for every page. Ordinarily, if you craft original articles, most content management systems will generate meta descriptions from the first paragraphs of your article.
If you use WordPress, an easy way to create a rich meta description will be to use the Yoast SEO for WordPress Plugin. Once you install and activate the plugin, you gain access to a feature box that allows you to add a custom title tag, slug, and meta description.
Do not use duplicate SEO meta descriptions. Every meta description has to be unique. This underscores the need to have unique content on your page. Duplicate content will most likely produce duplicate meta descriptions.
Write between 90 and 120 characters. The length of meta descriptions that display in search results change based on screen size, device type, and other technical factors, so there is no golden rule for how long SEO meta descriptions should be. But to fit within the most common range of length, write a copy that is between 120 to 120 characters.
Include the page’s targeted keyword. It is an error not to use the target keywords in your description. Ensure that you have your targeted keywords in the meta description.
Don’t use quotation marks. The reason it is recommended that you do not use quotation marks is that meta descriptions are included in the HTML. So, characters like two quotation marks should be avoided because it will break the HTML language. If you must use a quote, use a single quotation mark (‘quote’) instead.
Include value propositions. Use persuasive words to compel user actions. Offer benefits that compel visitors to click. Phrases like “get the benefits of full membership”, try our “founder’s day promo and enjoy great discounts”, “discover why customers prefer our brand” are just some examples of compelling messages that could trigger a trial.
To achieve the desired click-through rate, always give readers a reason to click on a link by explaining the benefits they will receive or value they will get or the discounts they will save or some other things they will gain by visiting the page.
Maintain an active voice. A strong active voice can spur visitors into action. Passive language can be boring. Active language can be easy to visualize and interesting. Active language is easy to understand and act upon.
Include a call to action. A call to action is important to achieve the purpose of the communication. For e-commerce stores, such words like “Get Started”, “Buy Now” and “begin a free trial” can encourage users to take positive steps towards conversion. Do not write descriptions that leave users to decide whether to move forward with an action or not. Attempt to convert the user with a call to action.
Don’t try to trick the audience. One thing you should never try to do in optimizing your websites is to try to trick users or the search engines. Search engines and human visitors hate manipulation. In fact, everyone hates manipulation, including the machines. If you trick your visitors, you can be sure that if you are not caught now, you will certainly be caught in future and the consequences will never be palatable.
Support meta descriptions with strong page titles. Well, we should have said you should support page titles with strong meta descriptions. But here, meta descriptions are our focus so we go the reverse direction by saying you should support meta descriptions with strong page titles. Page titles are the most catchy elements of the meta tags displayed in the search elements and will be the first thing searchers see. You need to build strong meta descriptions and ensure that the efforts you put into crafting a strong meta description is not wasted due to weak page titles.
Here are some tips to help you write strong titles that support your description:
- Use the keyword but don’t overuse it.
- Place the keyword near the front of the title.
- Focus on readers, not just search engines.
- Show benefits and value.
- Include your brand name when relevant.
- Write 50 to 60 characters.
- Write unique page titles for each page.
Please avoid duplicate tags. A good rule of the thumb will be to ensure that no word is repeated in the title but this is not to say that once you repeat a word, you have written a poor title. Ensure that your page title flows naturally and serves your essence.
You can do without meta keywords. Google has made it clear that the keyword meta tag has been depreciated as a ranking factor. It does not affect rankings anymore. Unlike meta description, the meta keyword adds little value to your site and we have found that it plays little role in website ranking.. In fact, we do not bother about using it in our articles. Although some SEO software will generate the meta keywords automatically, we recommend that you simply ignore this meta data.
Use different rich snippets for Facebook and Twitter. That is clear enough. Make every content unique down to the description you use for your social media channels. Write a unique description for your social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
Double-check your work. Check your work for completeness, errors and ensure that its organization is good for your readers and gradually take your readers through the stages you would intend they go through to appreciate your content and act on it. Check spelling errors and ensure you have no broken links.
Review and Improve Your SEO Meta Descriptions
SEO keeps evolving. We advise you to continue to review your published works, improve their quality and ensure they comply with new directions set by Google and other search engines where possible.
Congratulations. You now know how to boost your content with best performing meta descriptions.