SEO has changed tremendously over the years. Although SEO rules change from time to time, there are certain strategies that remain static. When it comes to search engine optimization and ranking factors, a lot of confusion exists regarding the term “meta description tags”. When the keyword-phrase a user searches for is included in the meta description, the search engine would show the meta description in its search results. Therefore, meta description optimization is very important for on-page SEO.
To improve the value of web page copy or blog post, it is important to have good quality content, and compelling meta title and descriptions. You may have questions in your mind such as “How to craft compelling meta description and title”? “How to apply these steps to my site?”
This blog details some strategies to craft compelling meta descriptions. But before we get started, let’s see what a meta description is.
What Is a Meta Description?
Also called meta description attribute or tag, meta description is an HTML element that provides a brief explanation of the contents of your page for the benefit of the website visitors and search engines.
Meta tags can be viewed only in the page’s code. You can check them via source code (Ctrl+U).
Now you have a better idea of what meta description is about. And, where it is displayed.
Do You Really Need Meta Description?
In the olden days of SEO, meta description was an important consideration. Though it is not a ranking signal now, it is still important to use it. There is a strong connection between higher rankings and a well-crafted meta description. After all, they contribute to the first impression many people form of your page.
The meta description you use gives a clear idea to the visitors about what the webpage is about, and will convince the readers to read further. It is displayed along with the title tag and the URL in Google’s search results.
In the search results, meta description is shown below the website URL
This is how a meta description is shown in Google search results
Source – https://www.wordstream.com/meta-description
A good meta description can
These benefits are obvious, and so it is important to put some effort into writing good meta descriptions.
How to Create a Great Meta Description
- Keep It Short – Optimal meta description length is between 120 – 158 characters, up to 920 pixels. To ensure it is displayed fully on search results, the meta description should not be very lengthy; use no more than 160 characters, including spaces. On mobile devices, the maximum limit is 120 characters, 680 pixels. In 2017, Google updated their character restriction, increasing the length of the meta description from 160 to 320 characters. In an update in May 2018, Google decided to shorten the length of the meta description again. As of 2020, the length is the same that we followed earlier – 120 to 158 characters. Check to make sure your meta description isn’t too long with a SERP Snippet Optimization Tool.
For e.g.- Google SERP Snippet Optimization Tool (https://seomofo.com/snippet-optimizer.html) is one of the best preview tools, which allows to strategically create good page titles and meta description tags.
- Write Compelling Copy – As the title tag and meta description are displayed in search results, make sure to write compelling copy, which would entice the reader to click the result.
- Put the Most Important Text in the Beginning– Make sure to add the important text at the beginning. Insert the keyword phrase at the beginning or in the first half of the description.
- Using Keywords in Meta Description – Make sure to add primary and secondary keywords in the meta description. By doing so, Google will be more inclined to highlight this description in the search results. When users search a keyword phrase, Google will highlight / bold that keyword, if it is used in the description.
- Make Sure to Provide Unique Meta Description Tags on Each Page – Using Google Search Console, you can review the pages that have duplicate meta descriptions.
Make sure not to add the same phrases for multiple snippets.
SEO Profiler is another tool you can use to view the pages with duplicate or missing meta description.
- Make it Interesting & Relevant – If some discounts and features are offered, make sure to add that in the description.
- Call to Action – You can add invitations such as “Learn more, Get it now, Try for free, Find out more”. If you are writing description for product pages, try to incorporate these terms so as to encourage users to click on the snippet.
- Don’t Use “non-alphanumeric” Characters – Avoid using special characters such as Ampersands (&), plus signs (+), em-dashes (-), and other special characters. Search engines cannot read these characters easily, and these will not be shown in search results.
- Don’t Use Quotation Marks – Avoid using characters (for e.g. double quotation marks), which will break the HTML language.
- Write Meta Description That Matches the Page Content or Blog Post – Do not write misleading descriptions that do not match your page content. If you do so, Google might penalize your site, or the bounce rate may be higher.
- Use Voice Tone That’s Consistent with Your Brand – Each description should be uniquely crafted and tailored according to the brand. The tone of voice should be different for each website. You cannot use the same style or voice tone for a website that sells “shoes” and a website that provides “SEO services”.
- Support Meta Descriptions with Good and Relevant Page Titles – Make sure to have strong page title that supports the meta description. When writing title tags, consider the following tips
- Use the relevant keyword but do not stuff keywords
- Place the keyword at the beginning
- Focus on readers, not just search engines
- Optimal length must be 50 to 60 characters
- Make sure to add unique page titles for each page
Using Your Key-phrase in Your Meta Description
What is Focused Keyword?
It is the phrase or search term for which you want a page or post to rank high. Make sure your most important keyword is inserted in the description. The focused keyword is found after researching the keywords that users are most likely to search for. If you’re targeting multiple keyword phrases, it is essential to conduct an intensive keyword research. There are many tools available to research the targeted keywords. Examples of good keyword research tools are SEO Profiler and Google AdWords.
Meta Descriptions vs. SERP Snippets
Meta Descriptions and SERP Snippets are different things, which some consider one and the same. While meta description is an attribute that you can control and optimize on your own, search snippets are descriptions that Google displays for your web page. In case the meta description is missing, Google will use some sentences from your page, which it thinks are the most relevant for the user.
Search engines use sentences from the pages, if the specified meta tags are too short or too long or when the descriptions are not an accurate reflection of what your page is really about. A research study conducted by Yoast found that Google used sentences from the first paragraph for the snippets, which Google found relevant for the search query. Therefore, while writing introductory paragraphs of your web page, make sure to write compelling and well-crafted content intended for users as well as search engines.
If you’re on WordPress and using Yoast, add a meta description to the ‘meta description’ section to check what the snippet of a page will look like and revise it right away.
Moreover, the plugin helps to check the meta description length and make sure the focus keyword phrase (the search term you want a page to rank with) is used. Yoast SEO checks whether the focus keyword is used in the meta description and provides appropriate recommendations.
Source – https://yoast.com/meta-descriptions/
It’s Not a One-time Process
Writing a meta description isn’t a one-time process. You need to review regularly and rewrite, if necessary, by inserting relevant keywords. Everything must be done appropriately to increase the chances of earning a CTR over the competition. You must perform a systematic refresh of all of your meta descriptions to get new traction on older pages.
As you can see, meta descriptions are a crucial part of a larger strategy that should be implemented to attract readers, improve rankings, and drive extra web traffic.
To ensure better results, make sure to create a plan to add unique meta data to each of your new pages and update existing pages, meeting the best ethical SEO strategies.