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When you appear as one of the 10 blue links on a white backdrop, there are only 4 factors that can urge the users to click on you.
The ranking, the title, the URL and the meta description.
If where a book is placed in the bookstore equivalates to ranking, the book cover would be the page title, the book spine is the URL while the synopsis at the back of the book is your meta description.
Here’s the thing:
I’ll let you know upfront that no, meta description is not a SEO signal.
But, keep reading
Meta description can drastically influence your click-through-rate (CTR).
And CTR is taken into account for ranking. So if you don’t ramp up your meta description, you’re basically given up on raking those CTRs.
As all things SEO, keyword makes an appearance. If you paid attention to meta descriptions you’ll notice that the keywords are bolded.
Google bolds the keywords you typed into the search bar.
That’s Google way of telling us “Hey, here! This is what you’re looking for right? We got it right here!”
Well maybe in a less enthusiastic and more solemn tone.
Anyways, the thing is it draws attention. And you want that attention.
There are pages and pages that talk about the same thing. Tens and hundreds of other establishments that do the same business.
You want to stand out from the crowd.
If you pride yourself as the best grill in Rapid City, say it out loud. Or as loud as you can through the monitor anyways.
Tell them to dig in to your signature buffalo meatloaf or gourmet mac and cheese.
It is an extension of your marketing efforts after all. Give it your best shout.
The whole purpose of having a meta description is to tell the audience what that page is about.
If the page is an article on how to jailbreak an iPhone X, make sure your meta description is about how to jailbreak an iPhone X.
How-to articles can especially benefit from a structured description that sneak peeks into the full-fledged instructions.
Which brings us to tip number 4.
You can use structured markup to create a rich snippet which is served at the meta description.
An example for rich snippet would be recipes articles which usually boast a picture of the dish and a rating.
Google will be the one who decides whether or not to display your structured markup.
But it’s better to do something than nothing right? So implement structured markup wherever applicable, that way the search engine has more data to pull to create a more comprehensive meta description.
It’s easier to read something when it sounds like they’re talking to you.
It also sounds much more friendly and inviting. You’re not dealing with a stone-faced judge in court, you’re trying to tell someone to come to check out your website.
Loosen up those (metaphorical) lips and start talking without stuttering ok?
Read it out loud after you’re done writing your meta description. If it sounds weird or stiff, revise it until it’s perfectly conversational.
Use phrases like:
“check out”, “you don’t want to miss”, “read more on” etc.
You need to actively tell the reader to do something, and that something is to click in your page.
Using call-to-action is a good way to urge the reader to pay you a visit.
Of course, you need to first lay down the foundation of why they need to check you out. But after you get that nailed, slip in a call-to-action to spur them to action.
Every page is unique, so your meta description should be unique too.
Don’t reuse the same description for every single page.
If you’re gonna bulk upload the same meta description to every single page you have, you might as well leave it blank.
The thing is,
If you leave the description tag empty, Google would actually generate one for you.
They try, they really do. But will a machine generated description really fulfill the purpose? Is that what will drive in more clicks? No, I don’t think so.
The character limit used to be 155, then 300, and back to the hundreds range at 160.
Google won’t tell us how long is too long or how short is too short. That left us playing the guessing game once again.
So how can we know that the meta description is just the perfect length?
The only way we can check for sure is when they won’t use the meta description you have written and instead opting for one they themselves generated.
So I would suggest you to stay in the 160 characters range. If you make it too long, you risk getting cut off and not giving a strong enough impact.
Some good, some bad, keeping that variety going so we can look at a broader picture.
Simple, cohesive, informative, straight to the point.
No big fancy words, they are the best at where they’re at, the end.
Here we see an example of a structured markup description.
From the image to the ratings and the promise of the recipe is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, the meta description is crafted to our attention.
Which makes it much more compelling to click into the page and get the full recipe.
Here we have a meta description that gives a good sneak peek into what’s coming.
They give enough information that you know they are helpful. But not so much that you can know exactly what to do by reading it alone.
They sound friendly, enthusiastic and accommodating. I’d say pretty good for a car dealer.
Another example where the information is presented in a structured way.
We can easily get the most basic information from a glance. While the navigational links is a nice touch if we need more specific information.
On first glance, the summary appears structural.
But look at it, really look at it. Doesn’t it flow a bit unnatural?
On further inspection, we can see that the snippet displayed is not the that’s planned.
I would guess that this happens because of the rather short length of the planned meta description.
The phrase fishing charters are repeated 3 times in 2 lines of sentences.
That isn’t really pleasant to read nor informative isn’t it?
Am I reading a meta description or am I reading some sort of gibberish? Something must have gone wrong for it to show up like this.
Unfortunately for the company, I don’t think the click-through-rate will be really high.
Another unfortunate landscaping service that has their description in gibberish. I’d say it’s slightly better than the other one though.
But that sudden cut off at the middle is really not helping their service to sound that appealing.
It seems like a solid snippet, but look closer, why does step 1 jump right to step 4?
This can’t be right…
To conclude this blog post, let’s have a look at a quote from Danny Sullivan.
“…write short, concise meta descriptions that you think best describe your pages. Don’t fixate on a count, whether your beginner or pro.”
There you have it, the guide to writing a meta description from Google themselves.
Updated: 18 September 2018