It is no secret that meta descriptions are important for ranking well in search engines. However, many people don't know how to optimize them correctly and make the most of this powerful tool. Understanding the basics of meta descriptions is crucial for laying the foundation for effective SEO. We’re here to highlight five essential tips on how to make sure you're optimizing your meta descriptions correctly, and send you off in the right direction for your future search engine optimization endeavors.
First and foremost, let’s talk about length. A meta description is limited to 160 characters, but it’s not necessary to make all of your meta descriptions reach this max character count. The ideal length for a successful meta description is between 140 and 160 characters. This will allow users viewing the search engine result pages (SERPs) to see them in their entirety without having to scroll horizontally or vertically. Keeping your meta descriptions within this character window is ideal for providing users with just enough information to intrigue but not bore them, and encourage them to click on your site for more information.
2. Target Keywords
Meta descriptions allow search engines and humans to know what your webpage is about, so it's super important that they’re written well in order to rank high in search results. When writing and optimizing a meta description, it is very important to choose your target keywords to include wisely. A good first step to take here is to do some initial keyword research to find out what it is your target audience is actually searching for, and then optimize your meta description with those keywords and phrases. This does not mean keyword stuff. Effective SEO puts the users needs first, and search engine crawlers know this too. Keyword stuffing will only hurt your rankings in the long run, as both people and bots will catch on quickly. We suggest writing your meta description in a way that is catered to your target audience first, and then adding in those target keywords where it makes logical sense afterwards.
3. Call to Action
One of the most important aspects to keep in mind when writing meta descriptions is the call to action. This could be as simple as “buy now”, or you could provide more specific directions such as “get in touch today by filling out this form”. Including an enticing and clear call to action will help increase your rankings within search engines because it encourages visitors to take action and click on your webpage. Add the call to action in a way that feels genuine, so the viewer feels a sense of trust rather than hesitation due to fear of being scammed or ripped off. Keep it light and friendly, and you’re golden.
4. Be Unique
Though including a call to action, target keywords, and reaching the correct length may seem like simple steps to nailing the perfect meta description - you must also ensure that your meta description is unique. You want to be the best possible result out there. Don’t ask yourself “how can I make a better meta description than my competitors?”, ask, “how can I make the best possible meta description out there?”. Crafting a meta description that is unique from other search results your target audience is seeing is so important, because meta descriptions really are the ‘first impressions’ of the virtual world. What to take away from this, is that while your meta description should follow the above criteria, remaining true to your brand’s tone and goals should always be a priority. Search engine crawlers and humans both can spot when content is genuine and user-first, and your rankings will be there to show for it.
5. No Duplicates
Last, but certainly not least, is the importance of avoiding duplicate meta descriptions on your website. This means checking to ensure that no two pages on your website have identical meta descriptions, as this will only confuse search engines and add extra work for them- not exactly what we want! Running a site audit on your website is a good way to do routine ‘check ups’ on your website as a whole to avoid this from happening. And, if it does, a simple edit to keep each description unique will set you back on course.
In addition to the guidelines laid out above, we figured it might be helpful to provide some examples on some good (and not so good) meta descriptions.
Not So Good
This is what a bad meta description looks like. It lacks keywords, does not meet the ideal character length, and has no credibility or call to action. This meta description is not likely to rank well in SERPs, and should be further optimized.
This is an example of a meta description that meets minimum requirements, but still has room for improvement. This meta description connects with the reader in the first sentence, provides a broad context of what the content will be, and gives a concise call to action. Still, we can do better!
This meta description is better than the above, and would likely appeal to users and perform well in SERPs. It meets the keyword length recommendations, presents a few problems that the readers may be having, and provides a solution with the call to action. Relating to users is a great way to build engagement and increase your click through rate. Search engines and humans love genuine, relatable, and quality content.
This is what we would call the ‘best’ meta description (of course, SEO is ever-changing and there is always opportunity to improve). This meta description is by far the most credible, outlines exactly what the content of the webpage is, and provides a call to action that benefits users. This meta description includes keywords, is an appropriate length, is specific about what the content has to offer, and puts the user’s needs first.
Always Room to Improve
If you take away anything from these examples, let it be this: There is no such thing as the perfect meta description. At the end of the day, following every standard practice will certainly not hurt your rankings, but SEO is truly ever changing and extremely user-focused. We suggest trying out these techniques, and paying close attention to how your users and analytics respond. Refreshing your meta descriptions and watching the effects on your rankings will truly allow you to better understand your audience’s needs, and help guide you in exactly how to meet them. You’ve got this.
Here’s what we learned about today, and what you’ll want to take with you as you move forward in your SEO endeavors:
- Length: Aim for 140 - 160 characters.
- Target Keywords: Do your keyword research and make sure to include some of the high-performing keywords in your meta description.
- Call to Action: Provide a call to action for users so that they are more likely to actually click on your website from the SERP.
- Be Unique: Be creative. Be the best possible result out there.
- No Duplicates: Check to make sure that there are absolutely no duplicate meta descriptions within your website, as this can seriously damage your rankings!
- Always Room to Improve: Try a few things, and pay attention to how your webpage’s analytics and your users respond. Trial and error is your best friend when it comes to effective SEO and truly knowing your audience’s needs.
While there’s an infinite number of adjustments you can make to your website with SEO, these five tips for crafting the perfect meta description are essential in laying a strong foundation for all of your optimization efforts and increasing your rankings. If you’ve got website questions, are looking to run a site audit, or just want to say hello - get in touch today! Onward and upward.