Every page has a brief description outlining what your page is about. This description the normal human will never see on the website itself. You will see it within the search results if the search engine believes your description portrays an accurate representation of your page. Having a poorly crafted description could turn off a wood be customer off while a well-crafted description will not only bring them in wanting to know more but be your first step in the sales process. Let's delve in and learn what the META description is and how it can help you increase your visitor traffic to your website.
What is the META description?
There are truly two META fields that are needed for every web page of your website. The title which is like a chapter of a book and then the description which explains what the page you are viewing is about. When you are on the website you never see the META description unless you view the page source but that is for computer nerds like us. Your site visitors will never look at this information.
10+ years ago the META description helped in moving your search engine results up in ranking. Now the description is just that – a description of what the page is about and doesn't directly affect your search results. It does affect whether someone wants to click on your website link. This doesn't mean all search engines are equal. Although Google and Bing don't use it as a ranking factor today when you go overseas to China the search engine that is the leader is called Baidu and does use information from the meta description as a ranking factor.
META Description Example
Below is an example of a properly crafted META Description.
Let's define the structure of a META description
Your META description should contain some of the following attributes to be considered successful.
Describe your page accurately
Your description should be clear, concise, and most importantly enticing to others. The description will make people click onto your site. A point we come across often is a lot of businesses have their own naming convention where they abbreviated the words. Unless your abbreviation is truly well-known spell out your information. If the abbreviation is important include it with the non-abbreviated version.
Be human readable and not stuffed with keywords (but use keywords)
All too often people will repeat the same words over-and-over to try and move up in the search engines. Although you should utilize the keyword in your description you should not stuff your page with keywords. Matt Cutts a former Google Software Engineer stated back in September 2009 that the description is no longer used as a ranking factor. Source: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2009/09/google-does-not-use-keywords-meta-tag.html
Be between 150 and 160-characters in length
The target length for your description should be between 150 and 160-characters. If you go over 160-characters you will have ellipses (…) added and be cutoff which is not an ideal user experience. Some search engines have shorter description than others. We have seen some in the past that are cut off at 140-characters. The 150-160 range is what is recommended by Google. This length equates to 25-30 words that your description should be.
Be unique on every page
The description on every page should be unique and different. If you have a 3-page website you should have 3 unique META descriptions. If you are like us with a 200+ page website each of the 200 pages should have unique descriptions.
Tips & Tricks of META Descriptions
- A key piece of information we are always striving for is to increase the click-thru rate of users to drive traffic to the site. We often tell our clients, and ourselves for that matter, to not think about search engine optimization when it comes to the META description. Based on it's not a ranking factor the key to the description is making it so that your users want to click through and want to learn more about you.
- Our second tip is to change and look at your description on the search engines. You may be within the recommended length yet you still get the ellipses or you learn that it doesn't read well for the keyword phrase that brings up the information.
- If you notice no traffic on the search engines it could be your description isn't enticing people to click through. Change it up and see what is working and not. Utilize your analytics software to determine which pages are working and see what is different between the pages.
- Start providing a value in your descriptions. Your vistiors to your site want to gain an answer to a question they have. Start their learning in the description if at all possible by answer part of their question and enticing them to come into your internet world to learn more.
- Some words that you can use are help, learn, discover, grab, and gain results to bring people in.
- Don't use "fluff". You are already limited on your space. Don't waste it with fluff. Get to the point.
When it comes to your website the search engines use your META description to display to your potential site visitors. This is your first step in the sales process to convert visitors "window shopping" into paying customers and paying customers for you to retain their business. Take the time to make this information relevant for your users.