From the start, meta descriptions have been an essential part of a search engine results page and that isn’t likely to change. The power of a meta description In general, meta descriptions have one very important function on a search engine. And if you look further at the HTML on my site, you’ll notice that it’s there with all of the other metadata to help show Google what the site is actually about. Because of all of the elements of your metadata and the search engine results page, the meta description is the most potential-filled part of how you can start optimizing user experience while users are still off-site. So if you only focus on creating an optimal character count, you might see good results. But as you can also see, some of these pages ranked with as few as 150 characters. Here’s a look at what including a good keyword might look like: This is a top-ranked search for meta descriptions I found while researching this post. The keyword is used naturally and in a way that educates the reader about the page’s content. And if you think you’ll have a hard time ranking for this tactic, you’ll be surprised to learn that 57% of major companies don’t have structured data set up for their site. Since meta descriptions are a part of the overall user experience of your site, Google takes them very seriously when it comes to your SEO.
SEO is a tricky subject.
One minute you think you have it nailed and the next everything has changed.
And when you consider the fact that Google reportedly changes its algorithm 500 to 600 times per year, you start to see the problem.
The only constant in SEO is change.
This creates a never-ending pursuit of the coveted number one ranking.
But thankfully, there are elements that aren’t likely to become entirely irrelevant, which means you can focus on doing them well in the long term.
One such area is the meta description.
From the start, meta descriptions have been an essential part of a search engine results page and that isn’t likely to change.
So to help you capitalize on this important aspect of your SEO, I want to teach you how to write one that’s compelling and helps you boost your ranking.
But before we get started, let’s talk a bit more about how powerful these meta descriptions really are.
The power of a meta description
In general, meta descriptions have one very important function on a search engine.
That is, they provide a succinct description of the content of your webpage in conjunction with the rest of the metadata in your site’s HTML code.
And even if you don’t set one up yourself, most content sharing systems will automatically generate a meta description for you.
But that’s definitely not what you want, because it almost certainly won’t be as good as the one you create.
Before we go any further though, if you’re still unsure of what it looks a meta description looks like, here’s the one on my site to help clear up any confusion:
As you can see, it’s just a short and simple blurb on the content I offer to my site’s visitors.
And if you look further at the HTML on my site, you’ll notice that it’s there with all of the other metadata to help show Google what the site is actually about.
Every single page of every single website has the ability to contain and share metadata, including the title, URL, and descriptions.
If they’re optimized correctly, they can be used to help Google rank pages.
And while this is just one element to highlight with your SEO, it’s important to understand why your meta description, in particular, makes a difference.
That means knowing how it affects your SEO and what elements are the most important to consider.
To help answer that question, you should start by knowing that not all elements of your metadata actually affect SEO.
Namely, Google has long held that the meta keywords tag doesn’t factor into SERPs.
These tags are embedded in the HTML of your site like everything else, and once upon a time, they factored greatly into SEO.
But the practice of keyword stuffing from previous decades killed this trend long ago.
But everything else, including the URL, title, and especially the description can affect your page’s on-site SEO.
And surprisingly, the reason for that isn’t incredibly technical.
Because while Google does take into account your portrayal of your site’s pages, the real marker they look for is user behavior.
You see, they don’t just want to know what’s on your website.
They want to know if people are actually using it.
And since user behavior is affected by user experience, you start to see why meta descriptions actually matter for SEO.
Because of all of the elements of your metadata and the search engine results page, the meta description is the most potential-filled part of how you can start optimizing user experience while users are still off-site.
And with Google going into mobile-first mode, optimizing the user experience is more important than ever.
They want you to be able to provide turnkey moments that deliver on needs by educating, instructing, or showing off what you can do.
And even though it might be easy to miss, your meta descriptions are the frontline of that effort for organic search.
It’s a small part of your website that acts as a first impression, and that means everything when you’re talking about SEO.
Forge and Smith prove this with some fairly impressive results in an SEO case study of their client Sweet Georgia Yarns.
By helping craft different elements of their SEO like meta descriptions, they’ve provided a 215% year over year increase in value.
All with just some words inside a line of code.
Think about what that could mean for your site, too.
And according to Google, this trend toward meta descriptions is only logical:
The general assumption under such an approach is that searching users are often the best judges of relevance, so that if they select a particular search result, it is likely to be relevant, or at least more relevant than the presented alternatives.
Google really wants to know what actions people are taking and why they are taking them.
Because they believe that users are the best measure when finding content that’s actually useful and relevant.
And it seems like they’ve found their answer in meta descriptions.
So you can rely on whatever content publisher you’re using to generate it, but that will only create gibberish.
Here’s an example that a marketer caught of an early iteration of Pepsi’s UK homepage:
As I said, this was a very early iteration of this site, and it’s since been fixed:
But how much more interested and educated are you by the second as opposed to the first?
The second description gives clarity about what’s on the page and even provides helpful links to popular pages on the site.
And if Pepsi can go back and change its meta description, so can you.
You can also start writing good ones as you go, which will only make your site that much better.
As long as your focus is on making your meta description appealing so that users will want to click, you can’t go wrong.
Your goal should be to master this art so that you can do it quickly.
That’s why I’ve compiled a very short checklist for you with only four steps.
I believe that if you follow these guidelines, you can start creating the kind of meta descriptions that will help boost your rankings in the long run.
And to start things off, I want to talk about how long your description should actually be.
Step #1: Stop focusing so much on character count
Google recently updated their character limitations.
And if you didn’t know any better, you would have thought they set the world on fire.
Article after article has been published since then to analyze and break down what these changes mean for SEOs and businesses.
But in my opinion, focusing on character count alone completely negates the point of SEO.
Again, this is about human behavior, not just an authoritative word count.
So if you only focus on creating an optimal character count, you might see good results.
But I believe you’re better off focusing on the content itself, and there’s recent evidence to back this up.
SEMRush conducted an experiment to test this principle and found the variation of the meta tag they used that exceeded the 320 character count performed better and ranked higher.
As you can see, the iteration of…