Optimize Your Page Meta Descriptions
When you invest your time, energy and money to create the website of your dreams, you have to put up more than just good content on your webpages in order to rank higher in Google.
There are hidden HTML attributes and metadata that add value and richness to your page and to its SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).
A meta description is one such HTML attribute that can add value to your text snippets and send useful signals to both users and search engines.
What Is a Meta Description?
The meta description is a short snippet of the text put in the HTML of a page which summarizes the page’s content. This provides a brief summary of a web page.
Search engines usually display meta descriptions in search results, more so when the searched-for phrase is within the description.
The search engines display meta description as shown in the figure above. The blurb of text (meta description) is part of a larger snippet, the larger snippet includes:
- Title Tag: Title Tag is a version of the page title; it is added in the HTML of the page just like the meta description. If you so desire, then you can keep this title tag separate from the headline that actually appears on the page.
- URL: Slug (URL) is basically the URL of the page.
If you look at the above image, each search result begins with the Slug (URL) and then is followed by the Title Tag and then comes the meta description at last as a summary of that page’s content.
Meta descriptions not only appear during search results but also appear when your page is shared across websites and social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. When displayed on Facebook it looks something like this:
How to add meta description to a page?
In order to add a meta description to your page, you can put the tag in the <head> section of the HTML of your site.
It would look something like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”Here is a precise description of my awesome webpage.”>
However, if you are using a CMS like WordPress then you will have complete control over your meta description. You can use YOAST SEO Plugin on WordPress to make this super easy.
Especially if you are just starting a blog then it will be best that you use a plugin to do it for you.
YOAST SEO’s Snippet editor lets you create the whole metadata snippet including Title Tag, Slug and Meta Description without struggling with the HTML of the page.
Why is the meta description important?
Your meta description is not a factor for your ranking on search engines. Google publicly announced in September 2009 that it does not take meta description or meta keywords as a variable for Google’s ranking algorithms for web search.
In spite of this, the meta description has the potential to influence the decision of a user.
It can significantly increase your CTR (Click Through Rate). If you have carefully made your description more attractive, descriptive and informative then there is a high chance that a visitor might actually click through your website from the search results.
Improved click-through rates can improve rankings
If you manage to convert a good CTR then google definitely considers your page as a good result. Google’s ranking algorithm takes CTR as a factor in consideration. Thus, the meta descriptions can indirectly improve your ranking on search engines.
Meta descriptions work like mini ads for your webpage
SEO meta description works like a mini promotional blurb while being displayed on SERP and Social media feeds. This copy of the page gives an opportunity to market your web page, it tells the visitor why the visitor should click on it.
Defined meta description look better in search results
When there is no defined meta description for a page, the search engine can pick up anything from the webpage which is relevant to the searched keyword phrases. This might result in a shabby description where the text might be cut off in between or irrelevant page data might appear. A defined meta description will look more attractive and share only relevant information with people. Now without further ado! Let’s dive into exploring ways that can be used to optimize the meta description of your page.
Give Every Webpage A Unique Meta Description
It is a great practice to write a unique meta description for every page on your website. If you already have hundreds of pages without meta description, then start by adding meta descriptions to the most important pages and blogs first.
You can use the YOAST snippet editor to make it really simple for you to edit or create a meta tag without ever having to deal with the HTML of each page separately. How to use a YOAST SEO Plugin has already been discussed in this article above.
Write An Optimum Length Description
You can write a meta description for any length, however, google curtails the snippet to 155 – 160 characters in length. So, it is a practice to write a meta description that is descriptive and informative yet relevant and is under the character limit of 160 characters.
The length might vary depending upon the purpose of the page and description. There is no correct length defined for the meta description. If in case you chose to write a long description with 300 characters then try to put the most relevant and important information in the first 150 characters. ‘=
Also, the length of the description often changes with the change in screen size, device type, and other technical factors.
Write-In Active Voice With Optimal Format
A meta description is not just a snippet of text in the larger snippet, this copy is an opportunity to advertise and market your web page. It is a possibility to intrigue the visitor and let them know that whatever they are looking for is right here.
Passive language, when the subject of the sentence is being acted upon, is boring and drab. Active language, when the subject of the sentence is taking action, is interesting and easy to visualize and understand.
Always be sure to use active voice while writing your snippet as it gives it an alive and actionable feeling. Make sure that you don’t write text which looks spammy or is trying to trick users into clicking your website. If you do then the user will immediately realize once he visits the webpage that he/she has been tricked and will never return to your site ever.
Make your text directly relevant to your web page it describes and keeps it unique from the descriptions of other pages.
Include A Call-To-Action
Including a call-to-action keyword might actually make a difference in your CTR. Leaving keywords like Find out more, Get it now, Try for free can come in handy as invitations for users to click on your site and explore.
It is in one way similar to using active voice while writing but using call-to-action words puts more weight to the meta description and a more actionable and lively appeal. Treat your meta description as a piece of your customer’s journey and use language that guides users to take the next step. Include a call to action that encourages them to act.
Avoid Using Duplicate Meta Description Tags
Always make sure that you do not use duplicate meta descriptions for multiple pages. If you use the same meta description for all your pages, it might end up looking something like this:
If you already have hundreds of pages online and you need to check them for duplicate meta description tags then you can use Alexa’s SEO Audit Tool. Enter your site and run the complete site audit. Scroll down to the section “Duplicate Meta Descriptions” to see how many pages (as well as a list of the exact pages) that have duplicate content problems.
You can find various plugins on WordPress to do the same.
You can also implement a dynamic and programmatic way to write unique meta description tags for automated pages. However, writing an original and unique description has no alternative.
Write Keywords That Match Search Queries
While strategizing your web page’s ranking scheme you must select a keyword you want it to rank for. While writing the meta description, make sure you include this keyword in the copy. Make sure that you also add relevant keywords related to the title and possible search queries.
The reason I am emphasizing on putting correct keywords is that search engines like Google, highlight the keywords in Bold when it matches search queries. This bold text generally draws attention and if it is crafted carefully, then it can also push the visitor to click through the web page.
Don’t Use Double Quotation Marks
Since meta description is part of the HTML of a web page, it is important that you carefully write a description so that it does not break the HTML language. Double quotation mark (“Double”) is the most frequently used character in HTML language and it can create a lot of problems while being used in the description.
If it’s important to use a quote, then use the single quotation mark (‘Single’). You can also use HTML Entity if it is absolutely necessary to use double quotation marks in the meta description.
Write Strong Page Titles To Support Your Meta Description
It is crucial to realize that unlike meta description tags, Title tags have an impact on the SEO ranking quite significantly. Also, it is one of the most important aspects of your larger snippet to attract the reader’s attention and intrigue them to click through it.
Thus, writing a correct title tag can be of immense support to the description itself. It is best to not overuse the keywords as it can create unnecessary redundancy in the copy which might be a turn off to readers.
Try to keep the keyword in the starting of the Title tag. While writing your title, don’t just think about the search engines but also pay attention to what the readers would value. Writing a title between 50 – 60 characters is considered optimum. Including your brand name once in a while in the titles can create brand recall for you and brand visibility for the search engine.
Don’t Fumble Around With Meta Keywords
Meta keywords are terms that are tagged in the HTML of a web page just like the Title tag and meta description. Meta keywords like meta descriptions are not taken as a factor by search engines for their ranking algorithms. But unlike meta descriptions, meta keywords have very little impact on the overall value of the web page.
Major search engines have publicly stated that these hidden terms are not ranking factors. Also, meta tag keywords are not visible to users, so don’t exert energy adding these extra terms to your pages.
Optimize For Rich Snippets
It is great if you can optimize your snippet with icons, star ratings, customer ratings, product information, calorie counts, etc. by using schema markup you can add elements to the snippets to increase their appeal.
It is evident for all of us that meta description can be a turning point for your ranking and CTR. Having a profusely optimum description can convert a large click-through rate which will improve your ranking indirectly.
SEO meta description is more than just bonus text blurbs. You can make the meta description a part of a larger strategy that helps you attract readers and draw extra traffic.
It is great if you can plan out a strategy to write down unique meta descriptions for each of your web pages and ensure that they meet the standards and best practices for SEO meta descriptions.