In the ever–changing world of SEO, it might seem as though there are few things that have remained a constant feature over the years. And with an average of 500 to 600 changes being made each year to Google’s search engine algorithms alone, you would be forgiven for thinking that this might be the case!
Despite the ever-changing search engine trends that digital marketers are having to come to terms with, however, there are a few features of SEO that have remained relatively stable over the years.
One such feature is the meta description.
Ever since search engines began churning out results a few decades ago, meta descriptions have been an essential component of the way that search engines work. And because meta descriptions are simply part of how search engines function, this means that they are unlikely to ever go away.
This is good news for digital marketers, as not only does it give you certainty about the future of SEO, but it also gives you the opportunity to perfect this aspect of online marketing content.
In this short article, we will give you a brief introduction to meta descriptions – what they are, how they work, why you need them, and how to craft the perfect form.
Harnessing the power of meta descriptions: what are they, and how do they work?
Although they sound like something rather technical and esoteric, the core function of a meta description is relatively simple.
A meta description is essentially an HTML element holding a summary of what is contained on the webpage to which you are trying to drive traffic. This summary will be displayed as a small snapshot that lives underneath the title of the webpage and gets displayed in Google’s organic search results.
For the vast majority of webpages, which aren’t necessarily too concerned with driving traffic towards them, these summaries will be automatically generated by the content–sharing system that is displaying the result.
While these auto–generated meta descriptions are perfectly functional in many cases, for those of you looking to get a competitive edge in the search engine results page, crafting a meta description is a way of ensuring that you stay high up in the rankings. This means that when people search for your product, website, or for a topic with which you are associated, they have a greater chance of landing on your page.
Do meta descriptions matter?
Although Google famously announced all the way back in September 2009 that meta descriptions and meta keywords won’t factor into their search ranking algorithms, meta descriptions are still important.
Meta descriptions help to direct people to your webpage by displaying text that will help them to decide whether to click or not.
Additionally, as Google measures the click–through rate (CTR), the meta description might have an indirect impact on your ranking by improving your organic CTR.
As such, while meta descriptions aren’t strictly an extension of SEO, getting them in order will help to optimise your webpage, and this in turn will increase click–throughs and conversion rates. Regardless of whether they are attached to a blog or an editorial piece, meta descriptions are an important tool in the fight to stay relevant in the search engine rankings.
Crafting the perfect meta description: does size matter?
Size has always been an issue when it comes to meta descriptions.
In December 2017, Google increased the maximum size of search descriptions to 320 characters, which created a lot of excitement in the SEO world! However, this was dropped back to 160 characters in May 2018.
While these changes in size have created a lot of buzz within the SEO community, the fact of the matter is that Google has never expressly advised the perfect or appropriate length for a meta description. In fact, Google’s unwillingness to come out and state the perfect length has created much consternation within the SEO community.
In light of this, the best approach is to focus on the quality of the meta description and what useful keywords and descriptions it contains, rather than focusing on a particular character limit. Arguably, this makes sense given that meta descriptions are intended, first and foremost, to entice users trawling through search results, rather than to service the desires of search engine algorithms.
How to write a captivating meta description
With 160 characters to play with, how can we use this optimally?
Although there aren’t necessarily any hard and fast rules – with the flexibility of meta descriptions being one of their main assets – there are some basic principles that you should keep in mind:
- Mind the length: Meta descriptions may get shortened or cut off when displayed in the SERPs, so make sure that the most important element of the description is contained in the first 120 characters.
- Utilise keywords: Try to include natural keywords.
- Be enticing: A meta description needs to hook the reader. Use the active voice and try to work in an organic call to action. Try to target a particular emotion as a way to entice the reader to click – for example, excitement, nostalgia, happiness or curiosity.
- Don’t mislead: Use accurate descriptions – misleading meta descriptions can leave users disappointed and frustrated, and can harm user engagement in the long run.
- Don’t recycle: Try to make sure that each meta description is unique and crafted for that page. Avoid using generic or re-used meta descriptions.
With all this in mind, you should now have a much firmer understanding of the function of meta descriptions, as well as how they can help your business, and how to craft the perfect description.
To take this one step further and work towards creating a fully fledged digital marketing strategy, feel free to reach out to one of our content creation consultants today. By booking a consultation with a member of our team, you are on your way to creating a bespoke digital marketing strategy that will see you shooting up the Google search rankings.