Why meta descriptions matter, what they are & how to use them
Hands up if you know what a meta description is! No hands? But guess what - you probably actually DO know what they are! Because chances are you click on meta descriptions every day. You read them, consume them and use them to make decisions. So guess what (also) - your customers are using meta descriptions too... and that's why it's good to know about them. And more importantly how you can use them.
Now before we get started - don't worry! This is a jargon-free or jargon-busting SEO guide to meta descriptions.
You can continue reading now...
So let's answer the first question:
What is a meta description?
Well, to explain what a meta description it's probably easier to look at the image below first.
Think of it as a snippet or an overview of the webpage on Google.
They are part of the HTML of your website.
Sound scary? Not really - most CMS (Content Management Systems i.e. the things you edit your website in) have areas where you can fill this information in.
So. don't worry - you're not expected to be a coder (yet)!
So, why is a meta description important?
Ah, the most important thing: understanding the big WHY!
Otherwise, what's the point in worrying over meta descriptions?
First things first meta descriptions are NOT directly linked to technical SEO.
(Technical Search Engine Optimisation is basically the HTML tags/ little bits of info we NEED to put in our website to help it perform better on Google - code, essentially).
Meta descriptions are not part of Google's algorithm directly.
It has a BIG impact.
Meta descriptions improve your CTR
Having a clear, enticing and overall well-written meta description will encourage people to actually click on your link - and arrive at your website!
And therefore, your CTR (click-through-rate - aka how many people click on your link) improves because more people are clicking on your website. Simples.
Google measures CTR to decide how useful your website is for the search results. More clicks (due to your awesome meta description), the more likely Google will see you as a high quality result and bump you up the search pages.
Page 1, here we come!
Okay, so how do we use meta descriptions?
We write them. And we write 'em well.
Like I said above - most CMS (Wordpress, Square Space, Wix etc.) will have areas where you can fill in your meta descriptions, for each page.
So in terms of practically doing it, it's pretty easy.
The key to them working?
Well we need to answer this...
How do we WRITE meta descriptions?
That's what I'm talking about!
When you write meta descriptions well they can work wonders.
Here are my top tips for writing meta descriptions:
Keywords - as with many SEO tricks it's important to remember your keywords. In particular, your focus keyword. One word that this web page is all about. So if you're describing your product page for candles, make sure the meta description includes 'candles'. Sound simple? Yep. Sadly, often missed!
Match the content, though - c'mon no one likes spammy content! Especially Google! So yes use keywords, but make sure it's relevant and does actually match what this web page is about. If Google suspects a spammy meta description they will just replace it with their own from your page. All your (spammy) hard work will go to waste.
Get active - talk to YOU, your customer. Let them know the benefits of clicking on this link. If it's a blog post, for example, tell them what they will learn.
Make sure you have a call-to-action - a CTA is simply what you want your customers to do. Much like the above 'active' language, tell them to 'learn more', 'download for free' or 'try this'. Don't be afraid to tell the user what to do.
Keep 'em short & sweet - the official recommendation for meta descriptions is 155 characters long (Google does change this time to time so keep an eye on it by keeping up-to-date on websites like Moz). If you need to go a little over, don't worry too much - just try to get all the important info within 155 characters.
Bonus tip: think human! One of the easiest ways to get good at these things is to imagine yourself on Google, searching for the thing you are talking about on your page. What would entice you to click on the link (in 155 characters, or less, of course).
For more tips on writing for your audience check out my blog post about writing Instagram captions - there are lots of tips that can be applied in many areas of online marketing!
The time is now to (re)write your meta descriptions
If you're reading this and you're a small business owner it's probably because you're making the decision to shake up your SEO & maybe your online marketing in general!
And that is great news!
Getting started can be a little overwhelming (especially if you've had your website for a few years and have amassed over 50 pages - eek!).
So, my advice?
Think priorities! Make a list of the 10 most important pages on your website and start UPping those meta descriptions and UPping your chances of ranking well on search engines.
Want some help with writing meta descriptions?
If, however, you are now thinking, "I haven't got time for this!" you could consider getting some help.
I can help you with writing effective meta descriptions that boost the amount of people clicking on your links in Google.
This means more people on your website and Google thinking "YAAAS! This website is GOOD sh... stuff, I mean.".
To find out more get in touch.
And don't worry - I don't bite! ...And I'm flexible to your budget & needs so you don't have to feel like SEO is some big scary & expensive task. It really doesn't need to be.
To read more easy SEO tips for your small business check out the rest of my blog posts in my Easy SEO tips for small businesses series.
Did you know I also offer an SEO audit service from only £50? Find out more here.