You may not have heard of meta descriptions, but these little snippets pack a powerful punch. Whether you are trying to start a new website or gain traffic to an existing business page, you need to know what meta descriptions are and what they can do for your business. Read on to learn all about meta descriptions.
Meta Titles and Descriptions Are Right Before Your Eyes
Even if you haven’t heard of meta titles or meta descriptions before, you probably interact with them on a daily basis. These tiny but mighty descriptors are the clickable information that shows up after performing a search engine query.
For example, if you search for “dog parks near me,” you will likely pull up a list of results. What you are seeing is the meta information for web pages that match your search query. Here’s an example:
- Meta titles are sort of like HTML headlines that search engines read to understand and display your web page.
- The web page URL is a clickable link to your website with the slug at the end, a descriptor that helps you name and organize your web pages.
- The meta description is a short summary of your web page.
Why Are Metadata—Titles and Descriptions—Important?
Meta tags are like digital fingerprints of your website’s pages. These descriptors help search engines identify and understand what your page is about, and this data helps users find your website and web pages. In addition to being useful for documenting your page’s content and summarizing what is on the page, meta information can also contribute to your website’s SEO (search engine optimization). Google, Bing, and other search engines use this information when determining your web page’s relevance to a searcher’s query, and searchers use meta information to determine which website they want to click on.
How to Write Metadata
When you are performing a query in a search engine, you will receive a search engine result page (SERP). All of those results are the metadata from different websites. Chances are you read these little descriptions every day. You decide which link to click based on the information in the metadata.
Even though metadata is short, it’s extremely powerful. What’s described here will either get internet users to click the link and go to a website or it will keep the searcher scrolling. If you want people to come to your website, your metadata needs to be well written, compelling, and descriptive.
The metadata has to convince someone to click on your website. It should also contain keywords that help search engines categorize your website and web pages. Here’s an example of keywords you may want to include in your meta title and description if, for example, you ran a hair salon.
Hair Salon in Kansas City | Hair Cuts & Color | Jan’s Beauty Parlor
In need of a haircut, hair color, or hair styling? We offer hair care services to Kansas City residents. Click here for 20% off your first hair appointment at Jan’s Beauty Parlor!
As you can see, keywords related to hair and hair care have been included in the meta information. It’s important to be descriptive in your metadata because it’s easy for search engines to confuse websites when metadata is not specific. For instance, if you run a store that sells hair care products you want to be careful with your wording so you aren’t getting website traffic for people looking for a hair salon.
It’s vital to your website’s traffic that you get these small HTML attributes right if you want your website to perform well in search engine rankings. You also want to update them as appropriate to ensure they aren’t outdated or no longer accurate to the page.
Tips for Writing Good Meta
Because meta descriptions are so necessary for search results for your website, you want to take the time to do this right. Here are a few tips to writing good metadata:
- Keep it short and sweet. Meta description length shouldn’t be too long—230 characters maximum for descriptions. It also should not be less than 70 characters.
- Be persuasive. You want your meta to persuade a search engine user to click through to your site. Use calls to action and action words to increase your CTR (click-through-rate). You may have to try several versions to ensure your meta descriptions are working.
- Use keywords. Remember, keywords help search engines and their users understand what your website is about. Be selective when choosing keywords. Do keyword research if you can or think carefully about what you would type into a search engine if looking for the same thing. Don’t engage in keyword stuffing (cramming as many keywords as possible into a description), though, because that can hurt your page.
- Incorporate branding. Include company branding in the description or title if possible, such as the company’s name or tag line. This can help people identify a well-known company quickly. If the company name has related keywords in it, all the better.
Google Rewrites Meta Descriptions
One study has found that Google rewrites meta descriptions about 70% of the time. Although this is only one study, it’s clear that Google is rewriting meta descriptions for specific reasons. We can speculate that Google is doing this for a few reasons:
- To better rank a page that Google finds useful
- To boost pages with low search volume (SEOs tend to focus on meta descriptions for pages with higher search volume)
- Long-tail search “snippets” may better encapsulate what the page is about
No matter what Google’s reasons are for rewriting meta descriptions, you should still prioritize writing them.
Don’t Count Meta Descriptions Out
If you want to follow best practices for SEO, don’t neglect your meta information. You want to appear in search engines’ results pages, and search engines’ algorithms include this key information. It’s easy to forget to update your metadata, but it should be done from time to time. If you don’t have a content writing team handling this for you, make sure you keep up with this important task.