Practical SEO: Meta Descriptions
The SEO world is a broad and vast landscape – ranging from the simple to mind-bogglingly complex. It is all too easy to start down the search engine optimization path only to get lost in the deep weeds of redirects, canonical pages, and robots.txt files. Today we’ll take a step back from the technical and look at an aspect of SEO that any website owner can optimize on their own: meta descriptions.
What is a Meta Description?
Meta descriptions are the short paragraphs or snippets that appear below the title in search engine result pages (SERPs). They serve to provide a preview of the page’s content to searchers, allowing them to determine if your page is worth a click or if they should continue scrolling for something better.
Since 2009, meta descriptions are not factored into Google’s ranking algorithms, so their primary purpose is to entice searchers to click on you site. Although searched keywords will appear in bold, it is important to write your meta descriptions for people and not for search engine bots.
Meta descriptions are added to the ‘head’ section of your page’s html and looks like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”This is a short snippet about this page’s content”>
Writing Meta Descriptions
Because meta descriptions are targeted to humans (as opposed to bots), it is important that they are written in a naturally compelling way. Therefore, writing good meta descriptions is like writing good old fashioned advertising copy. Targeted keywords should certainly be used, but balance them with action words and an accurate summery of the page’s content.
Because search terms will appear in bold, it is important to include your targeted keywords – but because the meta descriptions are not crawled there is no need to go overboard and risk keyword stuffing. Including action words presents your content as offering solutions to searchers problems. People are using search engines to learn, acquire, and inspire – use words that convey the goal of your content. And make sure that you’re being honest in your description. While a misleading description may generate short-term click increasing, the high bounce rate will eventually hurt your site.
Most search engines limited description length to about 160 characters – so keep that in mind as you are writing. You want to come close to that 150-160 character mark because short descriptions don’t stand out in SERPs, while not going overboard and risking getting your description truncated by the search engines.
The SEO gurus over at Moz make an important (and surprising) point regarding meta descriptions – they aren’t always necessary! This seems very counter-intuitive, but they make a compelling case. Because search engines will auto-generate a meta description if there isn’t one included in your HTML, leaving the description out can make sense for pages that are targeting many keywords. Given the length restrictions, you can’t include five or six long-tail keywords in a single description, so occasionally the best strategy might be to leave out the meta description and let Google fill it in with whatever content is relevant to the searcher’s inquiry.
Search engine optimization is a critical tool for growing your business and your online profile. But there are a wide range of SEO involvement – from the basics like meta descriptions, title tags, and content optimization to the highly technical. Many of the SEO basics can be handled by do-it-yourselves, but if you’re looking to expand beyond the basics consider a SEO monthly plan from Fusion Group USA. Our budget-friendly plans will help you climb the rankings while freeing you up to work more your business and less on optimizing your site for search engines.