Don’t Neglect Your Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are one of the most overlooked aspects of an online business. What many fail to realize is the significant role they play in search engine results and attracting consumers to websites. This means an online business could be losing a great amount of traffic, sales, new leads, and customers by neglecting them.
What is a meta description?
If you are not familiar with the term, a meta description is the snippet of text displayed in search engine results below the link. The purpose of a meta description is to describe what the page is about and ultimately convince the searcher to click through to the site. Meta descriptions greatly influence click-through rates, but it is important to note that they do not impact search engine rankings.
Google made this very clear in a 2007 post on the Google Webmaster central blog stating “It’s worth noting that while accurate meta descriptions can improve clickthrough, they won’t affect your ranking within search results.” They also reiterated this again in 2009 by stating, “Even though we sometimes use the description meta tag for the snippets we show, we still don’t use the description meta tag in our ranking.”
So, the content in meta descriptions may not factor into the search ranking algorithm. However, don’t forget that Google analyzes user behavior on a site as part of their ongoing ranking process. Google considers the click-through rate user behavior, which factors into search results. And, meta descriptions are the most important feature for improving click-through rates.
What, then, is secret to writing meta descriptions that encourage click-throughs?
As we stated earlier, a meta description should introduce what a page is about. It should tell the searcher exactly what they should expect if they click through on a link. It should be descriptive and not deceive searchers with content that is irrelevant or spammed with keyword-stuffing. The last thing an online business should want is to have searchers click the ‘Back’ button because the site did not meet what they expected or wanted. This also plays a significant role in a site’s bounce rate.
Use Persuasion & Curiosity.
Great meta descriptions involve a touch of persuasion and curiosity. Meta descriptions are a chance for online businesses to sell searchers on what they have to offer. They can also be used as an opportunity to spark curiosity, which is one of the most persuasive things an online business can do. Meta descriptions should provide just enough information to describe what the page is about, but not too much, in order to also incite curiosity about what the page will say.
The right words matter.
In order for searchers to be compelled to click through to your site, they need to see relevant words. The rights words in your meta description make the difference between a search engine result that gets overlooked and one that gets a click. It is a good idea to include relevant keywords or keyword phrases to help search engines understand what the page is about and index your page accordingly. This will also attract searchers eyes to your result in the search engine results page because Google displays the keyword in bold.
Make them the correct length & avoid non-alphanumeric characters
Do not use non-alphanumeric characters like quotation marks, hyphens, and plus signs. Google will either cut off the description or identify the non-alphanumeric characters as HTML code. Meta descriptions can also be any length, but search engines will cut off snippets longer than 160 characters. Generally, it is best to keep meta descriptions between 150 and 160 characters.
Even though meta descriptions do not affect the search ranking algorithm, high-quality descriptions have been proven to increase click-through rates and even time spent on a webpage. And, these metrics do play an important part in the algorithmic rankings. Meta descriptions are a chance to win over prospects and can go a long way in improving the quality and quantity of search traffic. So, don’t neglect or overlook the opportunities great meta descriptions can bring to an online business.