There are plenty of articles out there that offer the basics and structural guidelines on creating strong search engine optimization (SEO) for your website. If you are new to the topic of SEO it can be quite overwhelming to start thinking about all the possible changes to your website's SEO and page structure. With that, I wanted to take time to explain a very important singular part of SEO that I feel sometimes can get overlooked: Meta Descriptions.
With recent changes to Google, everyone is hammering home the idea that quality content is the best option for your SEO building and while that is very important and should be your central focus, don't forget about the small yet effective features of meta descriptions for your pages. The power of a meta description is as powerful as the design cover of a book, it is your most important chance of giving a great first impression after your strong page title.
Take Time To Create Your Meta Descriptions, It Will Pay Off
Now that keyword stuffing is looked down upon with search engines it is time to pay attention to the details. As +Augusta Nissly explained about the Importance of Quality Content, it is time to really put effort for your visitors and customers, not just the search engine robots. Once you have grasped the idea of writing for the quality of your content, it is time to focus on the importance of having a strong meta description to correspond with your great content-filled page.
"These short paragraphs are the webmaster’s opportunity to advertise content to searchers and let them know exactly what the given page has with regard to what they’re looking for. The meta description should employ the keywords intelligently, but also create a compelling description that a searcher will want to click." - Moz
First Impression Is Everything
Your meta description is your chance at grabbing your audience after they have seen your strong page title. What they see below your page title should be organized looking and a sneak peek into what they can expect on your site. It should be easily scanned and not be crowded with large words.
The above examples are bad meta descriptions. The first one seems to have an online path text through the first line and doesn't offer any unique description of what to expect. The second is better but the biggest problem I found with it, is that it doesn't use all of it's potential space. Which brings me to my next point.
Use Everything The Search Engines Gives You
On average search engines will display the first 160 characters of a meta description. Use that limit as an opportunity to fit in the most relevant information in that space that describes what can be expected when visiting that page. You also want to stand out in that space with buzz words that relates to the focus subject.
The above search results for "cheap airline tickets" is a great example of using relevant words to your topic. The meta description not only includes the words that I searched for but also synonyms that relate like, "flights", "lowest fare", and "deals". They also did a great job of using all of the space provided and then some with the continuation at the end. This can be interrupted by the viewer that there is more valuable information on that page.
This above example also great because of the content they decided to use in the meta description. While I think it is a bit short at the end, I really like that they included words that would also be relevant with the search phrase like, "hotels", "vacations", and "rental cars". This is a good way of offering your visitors other topics that would naturally relate to their search, which could lead to them seeing a higher value in the site.
It's Ok, Get Specific
When you are creating a meta description, remember you are creating an explanation of what your visitors are going to see on the landing page that they are clicking through to. So don't try to squeeze everything about your brand and what you do in that small space. Show the user what they are searching for and more. Answer their query and you will be rewarded with great click through numbers.
Too many times I see businesses use the same description for several pages on their website. Your pages should be different entities of your business. So get specific and use the meta description to deliver the best message about that page.
Use Your Meta Description Checklist
- Use all the 160 characters you are allowed
- Describe what your page is about, get specific
- Using related terms and phrases create a more dynamic experience
- First impression is everything, so make sure it is organized
- Create phrases so it is easy to scan and catch a visitor's eye
- Avoid using large words and instead use strong industry buzz words
- Use keywords in your description that matches your page's content
I would love to hear what other SEO professionals have to say about the importance of meta descriptions. While content is now king even more, it is still important to get people to the page with the great content. That starts with a strong page title and a meaningful meta description.