In part one of our Learn SEO series, I discussed Title Tags and how to optimise them for your website. Today’s post is all about the Meta Description tag and how to use it correctly to improve click throughs from the search engines to your webpage (that’s right, click throughs – more on that in a minute!).
So, let’s start with the basics.
What Is The Meta Description?
The meta description is a tag which is placed in the head of your html page to provide a synopsis of the content contained in the document. The tag looks like this: –
Why Do You Need It?
The content of the meta description tag is often used by google and other search engines as a summary (or snippet), underneath your title link
It looks like this (the black text).
I say often used as, depending on the query, google may decide to display other text from within your webpage as the summary if the algorithm decides it is more relevant.
How Should You Optimise Your Pages Meta Description?
In the early days of SEO, the content of the meta description tag was used as a primary ranking factor – so using your keywords in the tag would help to boost your rankings for the phrase. This was easily manipulated and subject to abuse, so things quickly changed and these days the meta description tag has no direct effect on rankings.
That’s right… the tag doesn’t effect your search engine rankings in the slightest, but you should still take your time to optimise each and every one. Here’s why!
Lets say our web page sells red table tennis bats. If we were lazy we might pop in ‘buy our red table tennis bats’ to the Meta Description box in our CMS and move on to populating the next product. This would give us a search result like this: –
Buy our red table tennis bats
Our competitor also sells red table tennis bats and is ranking at position two in the search results (we’ll say we’re at number one as we’ve done everything else right SEO wise). So, you would expect our result to get a lot more clicks than our competitor right? Surely higher rankings = more traffic? Well, lets say they have taken the time to write a proper meta description tag for their web page and their search result looks like this: –
Our range of finest quality red table tennis bats, available in 5 different styles. Free next day delivery on all orders.
Which result is more enticing and likely to generate more clicks?
Hopefully you will agree it is the second one and unfortunately, even though we are outranking our competitor, they are ending up with way more traffic and sales. Sucks to be us!
A Meta Description Is An Advert
How Long Should A Meta Description Be?
Best practice is to keep the meta description to between 150 and 160 characters as anything above this length will likely be truncated in the search results. Doesn’t sound much, but you can say a lot in a couple of sentences, as anyone who is on twitter (140 characters per tweet) will attest to!
- A pages Meta Description is often displayed as the snippet in google’s search results
- Does not directly effect rankings, but –
- Think of it as your advert in the search results
- Maximum length of 160 characters
Take the time to write well crafted, enticing meta descriptions and you should see a good increase in your pages click through rate and traffic.
That’s it for part 2 of our Learn SEO series. Next time I will be discussing other on page ranking factors. As always if you need any clarification, have questions or want to add your own advice, drop me a comment below.
Also In Our Learn SEO Series
Learn SEO Part 1: How To Optimise Your Title Tag
For more on SEO and how it works, read my guide to SEO in 2014.[bigsignup]