The What, Why, and How of Meta Descriptions for SEO
Q. What the heck is a meta description?
A. The short, technical answer is that a meta description is the brief text explanation that appears below the title link of a search result. It was originally used to tell search engines more about your website’s content. Now, the meta description also tells people why they should click.
Why baby goats? Because they’re cuter than cars, though less effective as transportation. And internet goats are the new internet cats – send pictures of them (preferably wearing sweaters) to all your friends. By the way, the green boxes are the meta descriptions.
Q. Interesting. Why should I care?
A. While the importance of meta descriptions to actual search rankings has declined, they now are so much more. What used to be strings of keywords stuffed together for the benefit of search engines has evolved into a free sales pitch to everyone who searches for what you’re selling. If it isn’t compelling, readers will likely scroll right by you.
Q. How do I make mine good?
- Less is more. No matter how good it is, your description will be cut off after a designated pixel width. As a general rule, try to keep it under 155 characters.
- Use keywords strategically. They’re still important, but write for human readers and use keywords in context. Words in your description that match the searched terms will be in bold to signal relevance – don’t send a false signal.
- Tell them what to do. Think of your search result listing as a landing page and make your meta description your call to action.
- Give them a reason to do it. Let searchers know what they’ll get if they click through to your website – and if you care about your bounce rate (which we know you do), you’ll make sure it’s true.
Your meta description is your online first impression, and often the one chance you have to win over prospects. Think of it as your short sales pitch for your website. So give it the thought it deserves, and you’ll be impressed how your click-through rate improves.