Optimizing the meta description is a very important aspect of On-Page Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but “What the heck is a meta description, anyway?”
What’s a Meta Description?
Meta description is a snippet of up to 320 characters (Google increased the limit to 320 characters in December 2017), a tag in HTML, that summarizes a page’s content. Search engines show the meta description in search results mostly when the searched for phrase is contained in the description.
Here’s an example:
This code goes between the” ” tags of the markup language and isn’t displayed on the visible content that a user would see.
Why is the meta description important?
A meta description will influence the choice of the searcher on whether they need to click through on your content from search results or not. The more descriptive, engaging and relevant of the description, the more probably somebody can click through.
Back in spring of 2015, Moz reported that Google search snippets perceived to be breaking the 160 characters limit, but its data suggested that these cases were fairly rare. At the end of November 2017, RankRanger’s reported a sizable jump with average search snippet length (to around 230 characters). Anecdotally, we’re seeing many long snippets in the wild and got a clear spike in the 300-325 character range in the bar chart.
Do meta descriptions impact SEO?
Although Meta descriptions won’t impact rankings, but optimizing the meta description is a very important aspect of on-page SEO. Google has explicitly that meta descriptions aren’t a ranking signal. But, again, the quality of the description can influence click-through rate, thus it’s important to use this snippet wisely to your advantage.
Google will use a page’s meta description because the Search Engine Result Page (SERP) snippet, which will impact click-through from the SERP.
That’s as a result of a well-written meta description that’s compelling, relevant to the page, and relevant to the question or queries that the page is ranking, will impact organic traffic.
And that will have a negative impact on conversions (the desired actions you would like website visitors to take – fill out a form, get freebie, subscribe to newsletter and so on).
On the other hand, poorly written meta descriptions, if used because the SERP snippet, will have the opposite impact and discourage the user to click through to your page, and instead visit your content.
How to write an Instant killer Meta Description
I’ve assembled herewith 9 best tips to write a good Meta Description:
1. It can be up to 320 characters.
There is no ‘this number is right’ in this. It depends on what Google adds to your search result and how much they want to show. Google might, for instance, add the date to an article, and that will reduce the number of characters. Recently, Google expanded the length of search results snippets to 320 characters
2. It should be actionable, in an active voice.
Of course, it should be more actionable. If you consider the meta description the invitation to the page, you can’t just make it “A mixed metaphor describing a non-existent, nonetheless implicitly high level of qualification.” That’s a uninteresting description.
3. It should embrace a call-to-action.
A Call-To-Action, like Learn More, Get it now, Try for Free, etc should incorporated in Meta Description to encourage your potential visitors to click through your content.
4. It could contain structured content.
Treat the meta description as if it’s an advert for your web-page: make it as compelling and as relevant as possible. The description MUST match the content on the page, but you should also make it as appealing as possible.
5. Consider using rich snippets
By using schema markup you can add elements to the snippets to increase their appeal. For instance: star ratings, customer ratings, product information, etc.
6. It should match the content.
This is important. Google will find the meta descriptions that trick the visitor into clicking. It might even penalize the site that created the meta description. Next to that, it will probably increase bounce rate and is a bad idea just for that. You want the meta description to match the content on the page.
7. It should contain the focus keyword.
Do make sure your most important keywords for the webpage show up in the meta description. Often search engines will be more inclined to use that meta description and highlight it in the search results. That will make the link more related already.
8. Write legible, readable description.
This is essential. Keyword stuffing on your meta description is bad and it doesn’t help the searcher as they’ll assume your result leads to a spammy website. Make sure your description reads like a normal, human-written sentence.
9. Do not duplicate meta descriptions:
As with title tags, the meta descriptions must be written differently for every page. Google may penalize you for mass duplicating your meta descriptions.
So, what ought to be your strategy currently that Google has extended the SERP snippet length?
In summary, you can do any of the following:
1. Do nothing at all
2. Rewrite longer meta descriptions for all of your pages
3. Rewrite longer meta descriptions for a few of your pages (e.g. your top 10 or twenty landing pages, or some pages you identify have low click-thru rates)
4. Delete all of your meta descriptions
5. Audit your site’s content to confirm that the primary text on your page is compelling, uses keywords congruent with how visitors would look for your content, make sure the Meta description contains a minimum of 300-350 characters of text together with space, and front-load the primary 150 characters just in case google changes back to shorter snippets within the future.
What you opt to try to do (or not do) will at least in part hinge upon resources you have available to make changes.
Don’t take a “set it and forget it” perspective together with your website’s content and your meta descriptions. It’s common for businesses to put fair amount of work into their website, then simply let it go stale. Update them whenever time available.
Google actually answers this:
“If you don’t have time to create a description for every single page, try to prioritize your content: At the very least, create a description for the critical URLs like your home page and popular pages.”
Simply take it from there. And be sure to optimize all new meta descriptions from now on.
Please share your experience how do you handle the Meta Description in respect of Google expand its length to 320 characters below. I love to hear it from you.
Best luck in All you DO.