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Writing effective meta descriptions

13/6/2018

 

Have you ever wondered how to change the text under your site in a search result, but never thought to ask? It’s more important than you think! It’s called a meta description, and not only does it give the intrepid Googler a snippet of information about your site, but it will also influence their decision to click or not to click.

 

The more attractive, descriptive and relevant the description is, the more likely it is they will click through. Additionally, when a link to a page is shared on social media, the meta description will usually show up beneath it – although click throughs from social media don’t help search engine rankings, they will still contribute to your site’s overall traffic.

 

Google has stated that meta descriptions are NOT a ranking signal, but it’s important to remember that first impressions count. The quality of your description will influence the click through rate of your search listing, so neglecting it will do more harm than good – less click throughs means less traffic for your site, and click through rate is measured by search engines when ranking. How often do you click on a search result with no description of the site? Most users won’t – why click on a site when you don’t know what’s on the other side?

 

When it comes to actually writing your page descriptions, here are some tips to follow.

 

  • Keywords: Make sure that your most important keywords for each page show up in the meta description. Search engines will often highlight in bold when it finds the searcher’s query in your snippet.
     
  • Write clear, concise copy: Keyword stuffing your meta description is not good, and it doesn’t help the searcher – they’ll likely assume that your result leads to a spam-filled site. Make sure your description reads like a normal, human-written sentence. You’re not a robot, so don’t make searchers think you are!
     
  • Treat your meta description as if it is an advert for your site: It’s the first thing most searchers are going to see regarding your site, and will probably be the last if it isn’t up to par. The description should match the content on each page, in the most appealing way possible.
     
  • Length: Meta descriptions should be between 50-300 characters long. Don’t push for the character cap if you don’t need it – it’s better to have a description in the shorter side of the range that is relevant, than one that’s long for the sake of using all the characters!
     
  • Try not to duplicate: As with page title tags, the meta description should be written differently for every page. Google may penalise you for mass duplicating your meta descriptions. If you use Google Search Console, you can quickly see how many of your descriptions are duplicates by navigating to Search Appearance, then HTML Improvements.

See below for some examples of the good, the bad, and the downright ugly descriptions of the meta variety:

 

The Good…

 

meta data

 

Concise, tells you exactly what you’ll find on the page, and inspires curiosity – ‘How does __ compare to __? Find out here!’

 

The Bad...

 

meta data

 

Highlighted in yellow are the spelling/grammar mistakes in this short meta description. Always use spellcheck, ask a friend to proofread, or look up a word if you’re unsure – with the internet at your fingertips, there’s no excuse for spelling errors on your site.

 

The downright Ugly...

 

meta data

 

No information! What is this site? What do they do? Will you bother to click through to find out?

 

**Company names have been obscured for the ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ we don’t want to shame anyone!**

 

 

If you'd like some help with your meta descriptions why not get in touch: 01223 873349 or info@catfishwebdesign.com