Getting a Little Meta: Meta Description Guidelines and Best Practices
When you search a term on Google, you are, more than likely, going to come across an unfathomable amount of results. The same goes for any potential customers that are searching for your product or solution.
You only have a short amount of time to make a huge impression and to convince them to click on your website. That’s why understanding how to craft meta descriptions is of the utmost importance. It’s your elevator pitch to the searcher, and it better be good.
So, what exactly is a meta description? It’s a tiny snippet of text, typically less than 160 characters long, that describes what visitors are going to get if they click on your page.
While meta descriptions aren’t used in the algorithm that Google uses to rank your webpage, it does indirectly influence how high up on the SERP you can climb. A major part of the algorithm is CTR, or click-through-rate. That’s how many times searchers click on your website’s results when they come up on a search engine.
The better your meta, the more clicks you’ll receive. The more clicks you receive, the better your rankings. The better your rankings, the more results you’ll see.
Meta Description Best Practices
Employing best practices will help your meta descriptions shine through on search engine results pages. For the sake of providing examples, we’re going to use “easy desserts” as the search term.
Google truncates any characters that go over their current guideline limits. In 2017, these limits were upped to 300 characters, but were subsequently dropped back down to 150 only six months later. While meta descriptions are dynamic, meaning that Google snips it where it thinks it’s best, you are more likely to get your whole meta description seen if you keep it short and sweet.
A poor meta description will contain too many words and end up snipped, which won’t provide the searcher with the information necessary to convince them to visit your page:
A great meta description will communicate a message about the content that the reader is about to experience quickly and concisely.
While it’s easier to use a default meta description for every page on your website, it’s worth taking the time and effort to create a unique one for every webpage. If you don’t, you’re at risk of doing a poor job selling your content to audiences searching for the search term you’re writing about.
Even worse, your rankings may be hampered, as users will have a more difficult time distinguishing your valuable content from content on your website that isn’t relevant. Without the click-through-rate increase, your content is going to continue falling down the ranks. If you’re at a loss for writing, it’s better to let Google pull a snippet from the first paragraph than it is to use a default.
Despite both pages being on the Better Homes & Gardens website, the meta descriptions are unique to the actual content of the webpage.
Remember that when writing your meta descriptions, you’re selling your page to any searcher seeking your product or service. It’s critical that you avoid sounding “spammy.” Avoid writing things like CLICK HERE NOW TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Not only does that sound very suspicious, but it also doesn’t share what your page really has to offer.
Instead, use an active, natural voice. Tell the reader exactly what they’re going to be able to do when they’re done reading your content. Invite the readers to come on in, put their feet up, and learn something.
Call to Action
This will come naturally if you’re using an active voice when writing your meta descriptions. This is the sales text, where you’re explicitly telling the searcher what you want them to do. “Find out more,” “get started today,” and “Read all about it here!” are appropriate calls to action, once you’ve given a concise explanation for what they’re going to be reading about. In the example below, “Try your hand” is the call to action.
Show the reader that you’re serious about providing them with the content they’re looking for. Include the focus keyword in your meta description. Google appreciates you doing this so much, it goes to the extra trouble of bolding the search term in your meta description to help it stand out to the searcher. Including the focus keyword is a great strategy for metaphorically yelling “Pick me! Pick me!” to readers searching for the content that you have to offer.
Meta descriptions are critical to the process of guiding searchers to your page. While not necessarily a piece of Google’s ranking algorithm, its indirect influence in click-through-rates are undeniable and invaluable. Working with a digital marketing firm can positively impact the effect size of your meta descriptions and create more opportunities for your content to be read and shared. It’s all part of a robust marketing plan.