SEO is not an easy subject to master! I am the first to admit this. The rules for search engine optimization are constantly changing. One minute you think you have done everything correctly and the next many of the rules has changed.
Change and SEO are synonymous in the digital marketing world. Thankfully, there are elements that are not likely to change and will never become entirely irrelevant, which means you can incorporate and keep them in your strategies for the long term.
One thing that we estimate will never change is the meta description of a website. The meta description, for as long as I can remember, has been an essential element of a search result page. To help you capitalize on your SEO efforts, we will be outlining how to write one that is actionable to readers and keyword rich enough for Google and search engine bots.
The Power of Meta Descriptions
There is only one purpose to meta descriptions in the search engine world and that is to provide a succinct description of the content on a given webpage. And even if your web designer has not keyed in a description, most content sharing systems (i.e. WordPress) will automatically generate one for you.
Your meta description acts as “organic ad text.” What this means is that when your ad ranks for a keyword, Google and other engines will often show the meta description as a summary of the page. A compelling meta description also has the power to raise the click-through rate of your organic search results. This means that more of the people who see your web page in the search results will actually enter your website and do something with your content. That means more traffic for your website!
How to Create a Winning Meta Description
Step #1: Don’t Put as Much Emphasis on the Character Count
Focusing on the character count alone completely negates the point of SEO. Your focus should be on human behaviour, the content that the meta description is describing, and making it interesting for readers.
SEMRush recently published the results of its experiment, which tested the principle that character count is irrelevant. They found that the meta descriptions that exceeded the 320 character count performed better and ranked higher. In fact, the longer description that continued above the character count limit saw an impressive 36% improvement in overall click-through rate from its shorter competitor.
This is a fairly novel approach with data to back it up. In the past, it was considered a Google standard for the maximum limit to be in the 165 character range.
Step #2: Be Authentic!
Mediocre, mundane descriptions will not help you get clicks or move up in rankings. Given that most people who invest in SEO want those clicks, being authentic and unique in your descriptions should be a common practice.
So how do you innovate and find ways to get people to click? First, it is important to avoid being boring by using juicy and action-filled verbs that will ignite consumers’ critical thinking skills. Second, you want to be very specific about the content you have written. The meta description should accurately match the content in the links.
Step #3: Keyword Placement
No surprise here! You should be spending some time combing through Google Keyword Planner and Google Trending Topics to see which keywords can be best used in your campaign. Not including a keyword in your meta descriptions could prove fatal. It serves as an early signal for the searcher that the result is useful to their research. If they do not see the keyword, they will move on to another result that has it.
The only other step you have to take is to make sure that you also use the keyword naturally in the copy, htags and alt tags of your actual page. Keyword stuffing can get you de-ranked (or penalized by Google) as it is considered part of black-hat SEO. My recommendation is to naturally add keywords without making it look contrived to the human reader. If the meaning of the text changes because of the number of times you have written the keyword, the meta description will not achieve optimal results.
Step #4: Add More than a Copy
Google also allows you to implement structured data that lets you “beautify” your description on the search engine results page by adding additional details (i.e. reviews, contact information, address etc.) Google uses structured data that it finds on the web (on various pages on the website) to understand the content of the page, as well as to gather information about the web and the world in general. Not every result has this information included. However, if you do reach the first two results, having this information structured would be helpful.
Please see an example of structured data in action below:
“name”: “Digital Marketing Academy of Canada”,
“contactType”: “Customer service”
DMAC | Final Thoughts on Meta Tags | SEO Training
The best practices for creating good meta descriptions are a lot like those for writing great ad text:
- Use researched, targeted keywords in your meta descriptions.
- Prioritize quality of the meta description as opposed to character limits.
- Make sure they are very relevant to the content on each page; never use the same meta description on more than one page.
- Communicate benefits and urgency.
- Compel users to click by showing them value and appealing to their emotion.
For more information about SEO and what methods are appropriate for your campaign in 2018, our online digital marketing academy invites you to enroll in our Digital Marketing Fundamentals course. If you would like to discuss our online courses or customized digital marketing training modules please contact us today.