You may have heard the term, but don’t really know what a meta description is in relation to your website, or whether it matters.
Well, as we’d like to explain, it goes beyond just being a piece of technical jargon. Your meta description is as important as an advertising text, and can have a significant effect on your SEO (search engine optimisation).
In this article we’ll take a comprehensive look at what a meta description is, why its important and how you can make sure yours are up to scratch.
What is a meta description?
You’ll have seen meta descriptions (also known as meta tags) when you perform an online search. On the search results (SERPS) a short paragraph of text will appear under each headline to describe what the page being featured is about – that’s your meta description.
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You can also find the meta description on any web page by right-clicking on the page and selecting “view source” or “view page source” from the selection that will be displayed. This brings up the page html coding, in which you will be able to locate the meta description tag.
How do meta descriptions affect SEO rankings?
After the big build-up you may be surprised to hear that meta descriptions DO NOT directly impact SEO rankings. They are, though, an important part of SEO strategy.
We’re not being deliberately confusing! While the existence of meta descriptions themselves make no difference to search algorithms they do have value in attracting users to your website. They definitely affect organic click-through rates (CTR) – an important SEO metric.
These brief descriptions matter a great deal because they explain to potential customers what your site or a particular webpage is all about. The better-quality meta description you have, the more targeted will be your audience of searchers, and the more possible customers will be enticed to click through to your page.
How do I create a meta description?
If you don’t consciously go out to create your own meta description for your site pages Google will automatically create one, by picking out a few sentences it thinks are relevant to a search keyword from the webpage.
Obviously, the ideal is to set up a custom meta description, because you know better than Google how to describe your content. We’ll give some pointers about what it takes to craft the perfect meta description later.
To add meta tags to a web page, or change the wording of the ones already there, you need to edit the <head> section of the HTML file. This isn’t something for amateurs to attempt, and is best left to web developers.
Dentons Digital, for example, is an agency which offers a specialised audit service for your meta descriptions and experts who use best practice to create and upload the best possible meta descriptions to your site.
If your website is built on a platform like WordPress which offers you a Content Management System (CMS) which is easy to use, you can certainly create or edit meta descriptions for your web pages yourself.
If you’re using WordPress you’ll no doubt find you have the Yoast SEO plugin as part of the back end, which makes adding a meta description a breeze.
More About Yoast Meta Descriptions.
Does every page need a meta description?
Every webpage has unique content, so ideally each page should have its own unique, compelling meta description. It’s not very helpful to users if individual pages show up in the search results with identical or similar descriptions.
This may seem a laborious task if you have a very large website, but its worth the effort. At least try to prioritise your pages for unique descriptions, starting with the home page and your top-level URLs, for example. On ecommerce sites its best to focus on your bestsellers and top category pages if you can’t put meta descriptions on every single product page.
What should be in a meta description?
A good meta description should be a compelling summary of the content on the relevant webpage. Think of it as an advert for the page, designed to draw searchers in from the search results.
Base your descriptions on researched, targeted keywords, and take a dynamic tone of urgency. Highlight benefits, insert some emotion and use calls to action.
That’s a lot to pack into relatively few words with a maximum of 160 characters being the recommended length for a meta description.
The best way to perfect the art of writing meta descriptions is to learn by trial and error. If your web page traffic increases after uploading your meta description, you’re on to a winner.
Here’s some helpful advice from Google about creating quality meta descriptions, with some examples of what works and what doesn’t.
Why does Google change meta descriptions?
Yes, it does happen. Search engines sometimes just overrule the page’s meta description and displays different text on the search results to that provided within the page html. How very dare they ignore your carefully crafted description?
It happens when Google’s algorithms don’t think your meta description quite answers a user’s query, but there may be a bit of text on the page that fits the user’s search term more accurately. That’s all the more reason to make sure that your meta description includes the heaviest searched terms or phrases related to the page content.
The better targeted your meta description is, the less reason Google will have to change it for some searches.
Meta Descriptions definitely do matter and a frequent review can make all the difference to your Click Through Rate. It’s an essential element of a successful on-page SEO campaign. Give Dentons Digital a call on 01373 580126 to find out how to maximise the value of your meta descriptions.