A good meta description can have a dramatic effect on your SEO and consequently your blog traffic. But what exactly is a meta description, and how does it affect your SEO? Find out how to write the perfect meta description to maximise search engine traffic and grow your blog…
What is a meta description?
A meta description is a short paragraph of text that provides a brief summary of a web page. Search engines typically use this summary in search results to give searchers more information about a search result, before they click on it.
How your meta description will help your SEO
Google has repeatedly said that meta descriptions are NOT a ranking factor. However, meta descriptions do have a HUGE effect on click-through rates (the % of people who click on a search result after seeing it). And click-through rates ARE a ranking factor.
In other words, if your meta description is compelling, more people will click on your search result. If lots of people click on your result, Google will see that as a positive signal and move you up the rankings.
So, the better your meta descriptions, the better your click-throughs – resulting in more blog traffic. And the better your click-throughs, the better your search engine rankings, resulting in EVEN MORE blog traffic. For this reason, writing a good meta description is a hugely important part of SEO.
How to write the perfect meta description
Since writing a good meta description can have an enormous effect on the amount of traffic that blog post receives, it’s important to write a good one. Here are 9 tips for writing the perfect meta description.
1. Keep it short
Although there is no official word length, a good meta description should be short and snappy – around 120 to 150 characters. All it needs to do is grab your potential readers attention and get them to click on your link. Writing much more than this is a waste of time anyway, since longer meta descriptions – over 155 characters – usually get cut off when they show up in Google’s search results.
2. Be compelling
The job of a meta description is to get a searcher to click through from your result in the search engine results page to your website, so make your meta description compelling. Try and give a good reason why they should choose your result over all the other answers to that search query.
3. Research the competition
This is a brilliant trick – but one that many bloggers fail to do. Google the keyword phrase (or phrases) you are targeting in your blog post and see what meta descriptions other bloggers have used. Now try to think how you can make yours better!
4. Try to get into your potential reader’s head
Imagine you are a potential reader of your new blog post, who has typed your target keyword phrase into Google. What is that potential reader looking for as they glance through the search results, what will make that person click on your result over all the other results? Now write a meta description that tells that potential reader that they will indeed get what they are looking for on your blog post.
5. Make sure it matches the content
It’s important to make sure that your meta description is compelling enough to attract your target audience, but it mustn’t be inaccurate or promise something that your blog post doesn’t deliver. Your meta description must match the content of the blog post it describes.
For a start, a misleading description is likely to increase your bounce rate, which will hurt your search engine rankings. But also, Google takes a dim view of such practices and is likely to penalise you if you use meta descriptions to trick visitors into clicking.
6. Include your focus keyword phrase
Google is more likely to use your meta description if it includes the exact words used in the search query, so make sure you include the keyword phrase you are targeting in your meta description for that blog post.
Any words in the search query that match the words in the meta description will be highlighted in the search results, making your result more compelling and more likely to get clicked.
7. Make it easy to read
Remember you are not writing the meta description for a machine, you are writing it for a human being who is trying to make a quick decision about which search result to click on. So whilst, keywords are important, legibility is more important. If you attempt to ‘keyword stuff’ your meta description, it will come across as weird and spammy and won’t get many click throughs.
8. Answer the question ’What’s in it for me?’
Remember, a searcher is not especially interested in you or your blog, what they want to know is ‘Is this web page the best answer to my problem?’. So you need to make it clear in your meta description that ‘Yes, it is!’.
As you are writing your meta description, ask yourself, ‘What can I write that will make it clear to the searcher who searched [your focus keyphrase] that this is the best answer to that search query?’.
9. Make it unique
All meta descriptions should be unique. You should never use the same meta description for more than one blog post or page. If you use the same meta description for multiple posts (or pages) this is likely to trigger a Google Search Console warning telling you to fix this problem, or even a Google penalty.
Where to put the meta description for a blog post or page?
Technically, the meta description goes in the HTML code in the header of your post or page. However, you don’t need to worry about that! The easiest way to add a meta description to a blog post or page is by using the Yoast SEO plugin.
You can add a meta description to a blog post or page in the Yoast meta box, which can be found at the bottom of the post (or page) editing screen.
Do search engines always show the meta description you have written?
The short answer is no. Search engines will choose the text they consider most appropriate, depending on what exactly the searcher typed into the search box. But if you have crafted a good meta description, you will probably find that search engines use your meta description more often than not.
Over to you…
How do you write your meta descriptions? Have you learnt any tips or tricks from this article? Do you have any extra tips to add? Let me know in the comments below…
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