Meta Descriptions are simply the preview snippet of the page content displayed in search results by most search engines. Here’s an example:
So exactly what is a meta description?
An HTML tag that describes the current web page, your page’s meta description gives search engines and their users a quick summary of what your page is all about. If it’s relevant and compelling, your chances of earning a click from a search engine user are pretty good.
Why do meta descriptions matter?
There are two primary reasons for you to care about your meta descriptions:
- Search Engine Ranking: While consistently producing quality content that meets the needs of your target audience is easily the best thing you can do to earn high marks with Google, Bing, and the rest of the search engine family members, your meta description plays into your search engine results page (SERP’s) rankings as well.
- User Click-Through Rates: Users click based on your rank, page title, and meta description. You can’t be spammy, you can’t be unrelated, and you can’t be boring. It’s simple: better descriptions = higher click-through rates = more traffic for your site.
What are some meta description best practices?
Each page of your website or post on your blog should be targeting a specific keyword phrase (example: this blog post is targeting the phrase “what is a meta description”). Without being spammy or unnatural, do include that keyword phrase in your meta description.
Meta Description Length
Limit your meta descriptions to between 150-160 characters in length. Search engines have slightly different permissible limits – Google cuts you off between 156-160, Bing shows 150 characters, Yahoo is slightly more generous at 161, etc.
It takes some work to communicate a snappy message in a limited space, but that’s where your Twitter training comes in handy 🙂 Maximize the characters you’re allotted, but don’t get greedy!
Again, don’t be spammy. Write a quick sentence or two that captivates users and communicates that your content is exactly what they needed. No exquisite verbiage, just the meat and bones to convince someone to click.
No Fancy Characters
Don’t use any non-alphanumeric characters other than a period or comma. Quotations marks, @ symbols, and other funky stuff may cut off your meta descrip…
You get the point.
Don’t confuse Google – and, in turn, your users – by cutting off your meta descriptions with fancy characters. Doing so leads to non-sensical descriptions, guaranteed to attract zero quality visits.
Please, please, please don’t inflict search ranking pain on yourself by using the same meta descriptions on multiple pages. You’ll only hurt your rankings, plus you’ll communicate that you don’t care enough to take the time to distinguish between your garbage blog posts.
Bottom line: put in the extra effort to come up with unique, concise meta descriptions that accurately describe your page in a compelling manner.
Users will be happier, Google will be happier, and I’ll be happier.
I think you’ll be pleased with the results as well.