The meta description is the 150-250 character snippet in HTML that describes the contents of the page. Search engines use meta descriptions in choosing what to display in search results, especially when the specific keywords searched for are found in the meta description. This is the reason why optimization should not be limited to the content alone. Meta description should also be keyword optimized to ensure that the description shows up in search engine rankings for easy visibility of the main page and its contents.
Why use meta descriptions?
Meta descriptions are a crucial part of visibility and traffic management. They are summaries of what a page contains and are designed to get the reader to click on the link to your page. Meta descriptions are often limited to characters below 200 which means that they have to be persuasive but short enough for the searcher to be interested in.
Meta descriptions are not used by search engines like Google in their ranking algorithm. However, a good meta description is more likely to garner the desired amount of click-throughs, which Google actively measures. The click-through rate is how Google determines whether your description is a good result. This is the reason why it is important to optimize not just your content but also your meta descriptions.
What Makes a Good Meta Description?
There are a number of characteristics that determine whether your meta description works or not. These include:
Number of characters
A typical meta description is 135 to 200 characters long. However, there is no hard and fast rule on how long the description should be, since there are good descriptions as long as 250 characters. However, the description should not be too long that the entire summary cannot be read from the page of search results.
This means that the description should be worded in the present tense so that the reader is encouraged to be an active participant. The present tense is used to describe the product or service. This is often paired with an active call to action. For example,
The Turbo Ultra Porta Light Scanner allows you to scan and print documents on the go. Read on to learn more!
Clear call to action
Call to action is the part of the description urging your reader to continue reading, to find out more about the page, product or service. Meta descriptions may have two call to actions, one urging the reader to read more or find out more about the product, and a second one urging him or her to actively click on a link, subscribe to the newsletter, etc.
Matches the content
The meta description introduces the content of the page, so it must match the content, as opposed to misleading the reader into clicking a link that leads to a page with an entirely different content. Tactics like these are frowned upon by Google and will put the site at risk for penalties. A description that does not match the page content is also likely to increase the bounce rate which is not helpful to the site’s overall visibility.
Contains the keyword
Google likes meta descriptions that contains the keyword used for searches. Having a good idea what keywords are likely to be used in searches for products or services that are similar to yours will help in fine-tuning keyword choices for your meta descriptions.
Since you or your content writer are working with a limited number of characters, it is crucial that the meta description contains all the information relevant to the product that readers are likely to be looking for. Being able to put relevant information in the meta description increases the likelihood that the reader clicks through to the actual page for more details.
Targeted for critical content
Google doesn’t require all pages in a site to come with meta descriptions, although this is doable for sites with a few pages. For sites with multiple pages where it may be difficult to upgrade meta descriptions for all pages all at once, prioritize meta descriptions for critical content such as the home page and the most popular pages to improve traffic to these areas of the site.
The meta description determines what kind of initial impression your page and content makes with search engines and potential customers. It is important to ensure that you create a structured and comprehensive description that is short yet effective if you want to lead readers and potential customers to your site. Now that you know that makes a meta description attractive and effective, you can start making the necessary changes to make the most of the descriptions and content that you already have.