What is a Meta Description?
A meta description is a short summary of the page that the search engines displays in the search results. (See image below)
I know that meta descriptions do not jump off the page like a video or star reviews, but EVERY search result has meta descriptions.
Improving your meta descriptions can improve 100% of the searches that your website shows up in!
Benefits of Optimized Meta Descriptions
1) They appears in 100% of SERP’s (Search Engine Results Page)
The greatest benefit to optimizing your meta descriptions is that they show up in EVERY single SERP!
2) Prepares your searchers for next step
In your meta description you have a lot of text at your disposal to lead your readers to make the next action. Be it to call your business number, get a free quote, or to even just telling them them to click your link!
3) Show your brand personality
Share your brands personality by using slang, acronyms, anything that your community would connect with. People appreciate reading meta descriptions that they can relate to.
4) You have full control
With most of the strategies in this SERP Optimization Guide you are very limited on what you can do. Meta descriptions are one of the few strategies where you have a lot of control tp do almost anything and test it out and see what works with your market.
How to Optimize Meta Descriptions
When it comes to editing your meta descriptions, a lot of websites are built on platforms that allow you to easily customize your meta description. If you use WordPress I highly recommend using Yoast’s SEO Plugin, but if you are hard coding it in you can read this article on setting up a meta description.
Now for optimizing the meta description you need to look at the following things:
- Length – Meta descriptions longer than around 155 characters start to get cut off.
- Keywords – Exact and relative keywords will be bolded in the title & meta description of the search results.
- Personal – Don’t try to keyword stuff your meta descriptions, they DO NOT help with rankings. They are for people to read and then click on.
- Stand Out – Amongst an entire page of words Including numbers, symbols. capitals, etc will help your ad copy stand out from the rest on the page. People eyes naturally go to phrases like 75% off, $25 coupon, and FREE SHIPPING.
- CTA (Call To Action) – Guide the searcher on what to do next. Whether it is to get a quote, call a number, or simply click your link. By telling them to “Get A Quote Today” or “Call Our Experts Now” they are more likely to take that action once they click on the link. Pro Tip: If you just want them to call you can include the phone number in the meta description and they can call you directly from the SERP!
Good, Bad, And Ugly Meta Descriptions Examples
Now that we have a list of what to look for in a meta description lets look at a few examples. We will start with this one from Goodfellas Bail Bonds:
- Length – You see the “…” at the end there? I bet the next word is Vegas, but because its too long it got cut off.
- Keywords – As you can see it has the main word “Las Vegas Bail Bonds” bolded in the meta description.
- Personal – Your telling me when I get locked up in Vegas after a crazy night you’ll show up with a hug, new shirt, and give me a ride home!? You’re like my new best friend! Yeah I think they nailed this one.
- Stand Out – I don’t like the all caps look, but I do like how they used numbers and hyphens to catch attention.
- Call To Action – None, including the phone number for a service like this would be helpful.
Alright now lets look as this meta description from the air conditioning company Kool Breeze:
- Length – You can tell the title (blue words) is too long because it is cut off at the end. But we are judging the meta description which is not cut off at the end.
- Keywords – Reading this meta description I can tell they are targeting awnings in Ogden Utah. They did a good job targeting their main keywords and local intent.
- Personal – Professional, but still personal by inviting them to call and talk with their experts.
- Stand Out -The phone number really catches your attention and if you are from Ogden Utah the 801 area code will really pop out at you.
- Call To Action – Good, I like that they included the phone number and asked you to call their professionals today.
A final test, which of these two e-commerce sites would you click on when searching “Nike Shoes”?
Did you pick 6pm.com? Their title & meta description are a lot better at hitting all of the steps we talked about. EastBay.com on the other hand is all over the place and not really targeting “Nike Shoes”.
Meta Description Optimization Resources:
- SERP Simulator – See what your title tag & meta description will look like in the Google search results.
- Yoast SEO Plugin for wordpress – The go to WordPress plugin for SEO professionals that can help you customize your title, meta descriptions, and loads more.
Meta Descriptions FAQ
Q: Are meta descriptions a ranking factor?
A: No, Matt Cutts talked on this back in 2009! All search engines that I am aware of do not use meta descriptions as a ranking factor.
Q: What about optimizing Title tags?
A: The tips for optimizing meta descriptions also work for Titles (the blue words on the page), but Title tags have been proven to have some influence in search engine rankings so I usually focus the title tag more on getting my site to rank and then the meta description to get them to click.
Q: How long can my description be, before it gets cut off?
A: Unlike a tweet, you do not get warned if your meta description is too long. If you want your full meta description to show in the SERP it needs to be less than 155 characters.
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