Search engine optimization has changed a lot over the past few years. You have to pay attention to SEO guidelines to make sure your website shows up competitively in the search engines, like Google. The good news is that WordPress is built as an SEO-friendly content management system (CMS) to help make your life easier.
But, SEO is only the beginning of how searchers find and want to click-through to your web pages. You need to pay special attention to your meta descriptions, as well.
What is a meta description?
The meta description is the short paragraph of text placed in the HTML of a web page that describes its content. The meta description appears under your page’s URL in the search results. This is also known as a snippet (not to be confused with Google’s Featured Snippet Box).
Here is an example of Solamar’s meta description that comes up when you search for our organization on Google:
By the way, the meta description will also often appear when people share your articles across other websites and social channels.
Search Engine Watch says that, “You can add a meta description in the <head> section of your site’s HTML.” It should look something like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”Here is a precise description of my awesome webpage.”>
You will have complete control of your meta description in WordPress or through your own CMS. And, you can preview how it will look in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Why is the meta description so important?
A meta description helps the searcher decide whether or not to click-through on your content from search results. The more descriptive, attractive, and relevant the meta description, the more likely someone will click-through, continue to your web page and, hopefully, to your entire site.
Meta descriptions are more about click-throughs and luring searchers to your web pages than SEO. Think about meta descriptions as a conversion factor instead of an SEO factor.
Also consider that top social networks use meta descriptions. According to Kissmetrics, “Whenever you share a page on Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn, each site will pull either the meta description or the first sentence or two of the post as the description to show in the share. The meta description will usually be shown in its entirety, while the first sentence or two of your post will end up cut off with ellipsis […].”
6-point checklist for writing awesome meta descriptions
- Keywords—Make sure your most important keywords for the webpage show up in your meta description. Often search engines will highlight in bold where it finds the searchers query in your meta description (snippet).
- Write understandable, readable copy—As a copywriter, I love that the power is in the language. Searchers won’t understand keyword-stuffed meta descriptions. They’ll assume it’s a spammy website and steer clear of it. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your description reads like well-written content…in a normal, human-written sentence that shows value and is in an active voice. Being cleverly written is as helpful in meta descriptions as it is in any well-written content, to draw the reader in with appealing, emotional language, like this one that came up on a Google search for burgers in London:
- Treat the meta description as if it’s an actionable ad for your web page (because that’s exactly what it is!)—So make it as unique, compelling, welcoming, and as relevant as possible. The description must match the page’s content. Plus, it should also make it sound as interesting as possible and have a call to action or offer (like, “To learn more click here” or “Get your 3-day free trial”).
- Length—Keep in mind that a meta description should be no longer than 135 to 160 characters long (although Google has recently been testing longer snippets). Any longer than that and most search engines will chop off the end, so make sure any important keywords are nearer the front.
- Do not duplicate meta descriptions—As with title tags, the meta descriptions must be written differently for each and every page on your site. Google may penalize you for repeating your meta descriptions.
- Test meta descriptions— Consider testing different variations of meta descriptions for the same web page to see if you can get a lift in click-throughs. Try different description lengths, phrasing, and positioning of your keywords. Be sure to monitor your test results and adapt and change your meta descriptions, as necessary.
Meta descriptions can rock the SERPs
When it comes to writing compelling and action-oriented meta descriptions for your individual web pages, it’s vital that you always write for the user FIRST and the search engines second. This is always true. There is no gray area here.
A well-written meta description can give your site an advantage in SERPs, resulting in more click-throughs to your site, where you have more chances to convert that visitor into a lead or new customer.
Want your meta descriptions (as well as your website graphics and content) to rock the Web? Talk to the Rockin’ Web Experts at Solamar!