When a new client comes to me for SEO work, the main thing they’re looking for is usually improving their search engine ranking for specific keywords. But a factor that often gets overlooked in that all-important quest for the optimized search engine result is whether or not customers who find your website actually click through to view it.
After all, coming in at the top of Google’s search engine result page doesn’t do you any good if nobody clicks on that link. That’s why I always tell my clients that META descriptions are vitally important, even though they may not directly factor into Google’s ranking algorithms.
So what is a META description?
It’s basically a short sentence telling what your website is about. Think of it like the back cover of a DVD, a synopsis of the content within. It’s the description that shows up underneath your Title Tag on a search engine results page, which means it’s the first place that a potential customer is going to interact with your page’s content, which makes it essential for getting click-throughs.
You should stay in control of what your customer sees.
A lot people are guilty of not taking the time to craft a good META description when putting together a page, thinking that it’s not necessary, since it may not directly factor into ranking. But Google is always going to display something in that space, and if you don’t have a META description crafted, what gets displayed will be an “autosnippet” chosen by Google’s “bots” from your page’s content. Since it will be selected by bots, it may not be very clear, it may not be very relevant, and it certainly won’t be highly targeted to your potential audience. That’s why it’s worth the investment to create your own META descriptions for each page, so that you’re in control of the first thing that the potential customer sees.
Writing a good META description is a lot like writing any other ad copy. It’s important that it be clear, concise, informative, and compelling. This is what’s going to make potential customers click through to your website! Here are some good guidelines that apply specifically to writing META descriptions.
META descriptions have specific length limitations on what Google will display.
One thing to keep in mind is that, while any good ad copy should be concise, META tags have a specific length. A good rule of thumb is that a META description should be about twice as long as your title, and for those who want a clearer guideline, Google will cut off text at around 160 characters, so keeping your META description at or below that character count (with spaces!) is your best bet. Google will also cut off META descriptions any time they use quotes, so it’s a good idea to cut them out. In fact, to be safe, it’s best to try to avoid any kind of non-alphanumeric characters.
Keep your descriptions unique.
It’s also important to keep you META description unique from the descriptions of other pages on your site. This prevents duplicate content penalties that can lead to search engines filtering your page out of their results.
Use targeted keywords in your description.
Finally, while Google may not use the keywords in your META description as a factor in ranking your page, it will bold search query words that appear in the search results, meaning that using targeted keywords in your META description can be another way to make your page pop out from the competition when potential customers are browsing search results.
My belief is that my SEO clients are looking for more than just better page rankings; they’re looking for better overall exposure and opportunities, and one of the ways I help them is with targeted META descriptions. Learn to write relevant META descriptions and let them work for you, too.
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Bill worked with Sweet Spot Marketing in Kansas City, and he enjoys writing about search engine marketing campaigns.