JUST 160 CHARACTERS CAN MEAN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GAINING A LEAD OR SEEING IT DEFECT TO A COMPETITOR
What Are Meta Descriptions?
Meta descriptions are short snippets of text, typically around 160 characters in length (although the exact amount is variable and Google adjusts it from time to time). They summarize a web page’s content.
The meta description can be seen just below the web pages title in the search results. Google has been clear in stating that it doesn’t use meta descriptions in its ranking algorithm, but they are still a very important part of a successful SEO strategy.
Why Do They Matter?
Meta descriptions serve both an important marketing function and can indirectly improve your rankings because when used effectively they encourage users to click your link. That drives traffic to your site— and increases the click-through rate (CTR) on Google, which does factor into their algorithm.
How Do You Make Them Better?
Now that you see the importance of meta descriptions, you’ll want to know how to better use them to increase your click-through rate from search results pages and increase traffic to your website.
Here are eight ways to use meta descriptions to improve your click-through rate:
1. DON’T REUSE META DESCRIPTIONS
Every page should have a unique snippet. Failing to do so cuts down the impact each individual page can have in search results. Matt Cutts on Google’s Web Spam team recommends leaving a meta description field blank rather than copying and pasting from somewhere else.
Don’t worry, a blank meta description field in your Content Management System (CMS) doesn’t mean you won’t have any snippet at all. Google will automatically generate one for you, typically by using the first few sentences of the page’s body text. But, to have the most impact on your CTR, provide a very exact meta description.
2. TRIGGER ACTION
In addition to summarizing page content, meta descriptions should provide clear and assertive instructions. Use calls-to-action like “Learn More,” “Try It Today,” and “Get a Quote Now” to make plain what clicking will net a user.
3. PROMOTE RICH SNIPPETS
If you add structured data to your website (specially formatted code designed to be interpreted by search engines), Google can turn your standard description into a “rich snippet,” which includes a line of text in between the page title and the meta description.
Rich snippets can show things like business hours, ratings, running times for content, calories for foods, SKUs, prices, and more. They help you get a little more screen real estate on SERPs, which always helps with CTRs, and provide valuable information at a glance.
4. INCLUDE KEYWORDS
Google doesn’t index or return results based on keywords in meta descriptions, but it does highlight them in bold, which helps your snippet stand out and drives home the primary focus of the link.
5. PUT THE MOST RELEVANT INFORMATION FIRST
Within the first 60 characters or so, include the meat of your snippet. That means any keywords, or vital information should always come before calls-to-action, temporary offers, or general marketing language.
6. AVOID UNUSUAL PUNCTUATION
It’s become fairly common to see meta descriptions that squeeze in multiple discrete chunks of information, such as the summary followed by a seasonal deal and then maybe a slogan or phone number.
To aid Google in parsing your meta description avoid hyphens, asterisks, or underscores as separators. Instead opt for pipes (sometimes called vertical bars).
7. SHOWCASE THE BRAND
A meta description is a useful place for marketing information, particularly on homepages. If its relevant to do so, mention your brand promise, include your slogan or a recent tagline, make a valuable offer, and express your culture.
8. BE ACCURATE
Google is the top search engine because it provides the most relevant results. It works the hardest to ensure that whatever you’re searching for, is most easily and accurately found on their search engine. If you use a misleading meta description to bait users into clicking a link, rest assured Google will eventually find out and penalize you. Even if they didn’t, that strategy will only drive up your website’s bounce rate as people quickly realize they aren’t seeing what they expect to.
Meta descriptions are an incredibly valuable opportunity to win a visit from a potential customer at the very moment they could be clicking on one of your competitors.
If you’ve already done the hard work of ranking on Google, make sure your doing everything you can to convert the prospect from Google’s search results page to your website.
Do you need to add search engine excellence to your brand? Talk to us about our Digital Experience services today.