Meta Descriptions often feel like a lost art. They’re put on the back burner and thought of last – probably because there is no direct ranking advantage to them. Yet they remain one of the most influential factors on any search result.
This post will tell you why they’re so important, and how to make meta descriptions work for you.
What is a meta description?
The meta description is the short sentence or couple of sentences that appear under the page title in a results page. Whilst they don’t impact your rankings directly, they are nevertheless a fundamental part of any online marketing campaign.
If we look at this example from Urban Element itself we see that the meta description makes up the bulk of the result, providing information about the company including where we are and what we do and how we hope to do it. Hopefully a reader will look at this and think “yes, I want to find out more.”
If you can do this then you’ve got it.
Why a meta description?
If you think of your visitors as fish, swimming around in the google sea. Your website is the fishing rod, catching them and bringing them in. Whilst your page title – the most eye catching feature of the result – is the hook, your meta description is the reel. If done right it can turn into a miniature advertising feature that will draw your readers in and send your viewing stats through the roof.
Why? Because this little description is the reader’s very first impression of your website’s content, and as the Google tech bods are always reminding us, content is king – get it right and the visitors will come.
How to do Meta descriptions
So how do we get it right? It’s easy enough but here are a few steps to guide you along the way.
1. What the reader wants, what the reader gets.
The first thing you need to do is take a look at the landing page from a visitor’s point of view. What is it telling them?
This is the starting point of all meta descriptions. they need to be truthful and accurate – otherwise you risk alienating the visitor before they even know what you’re about. This may seem obvious but it’s worth repeating, you’d be surprised at the amount of dodgy descriptions out there.
2. Get the sizing right.
Too short and you won’t get noticed, too long and It’ll fall off the page. You can go up to about 150 characters if you need to, but realistically you’re looking around 140, just to make sure.
3. Information Vs Invitation.
Yes, meta descriptions are about information, but they’re also about invitation you want to get a potential visitor excited about the page, add context, play with the wording and be personal. For example, no one likes going to the dentist, so if we compare these two meta descriptions:
“Generic Dentists opened in Witney in 1969. Our professional dentists have been trained to generic regulation standards. Book now.”
“At Generic Dentists we know how important dental hygiene is, why not pop into our family run clinic to book a check up now.”
Both have information but there is only one that has invitation.
4. Add a call to action.
Give the visitor something to do. A jazzy call to action will give a reader direction and an incentive, dramatically improving your chances of hooking a visitor.
5. Keep updating.
Nothing is worse than a stale dated website, and the same goes for your content. The internet is fast and fluid so don’t be afraid to do a little spring cleaning and keep things fresh and new.
6. Be Unique.
Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam department recently appeared in a video stating that individual meta descriptions are more beneficial to a website then generic re-posts on different pages. It’s worth bearing this in mind when you’re thinking about cutting any corners.
So there we have it: 6 simple rules for mighty meta descriptions. So take what we’ve learned and see an example written by one of Urban Element’s expert Online Marketers.
Urban Element Online Marketing