A meta description is shown to search engine users when your site appears in the results page.
Sometimes Google will replace your carefully written description with something they come up with on their own.
So do you write a description for your pages? Should you leave it up to google?
What makes a good meta description anyways?
I’ve got 3 words you need to know: Click Through Rate.
Your click through rate or CTR is a metric that Google uses to determine if your site is relevant or not to users searching for your products and services. For example let’s imagine that you sell small around objects, commonly called “Balls”.
When a user arrives at Google and is asking for “Balls” your site appears – this is good news, you are getting your chance to shine!
Google sees that your listing is appearing to many people but very few people are clicking on it.. this could be because the meta description is terrible and doesn’t really represent your site in the way that it could.
Google lowers your rankings down and removes you from page 1. You had your chance, but you can do better with a little work you can improve your click through rate and get those browsing users engaged and hopefully turn them into shoppers.
Remember this is for humans to read. Words like Best, Great and Excellent will help drive clicks, so will Cheapest, Low-Cost, Affordable etc if you are catering to a down-market crowd.
If you are selling a red ball, mention the red ball in the description, maybe you offer red ball accessories, perhaps you have really good ratings and reviews… all of these things are helpful to include to persuade people to click through to your page.
Meta Description checklist
- Keywords: Make sure your most important keywords for the page show up in the meta description. Often search engines will highlight in bold where it finds a searchers query in the description text.
- Write legible, readable copy: This is vital. Make sure your description reads like a normal, human-written sentence. Keyword stuffing your meta description is bad and it doesn’t help the searcher as they may assume your result leads to a spammy website.
- Treat the meta description as if it’s an advert for your web-page: Make it as compelling and as relevant as possible. The description must match the content on the page and you should also make it as appealing as possible. Remember those tiny classified ads? Like that.
- Length: A meta description should be no longer than 135 – 160 characters long. Any longer and search engines will chop the end off, so make sure any important keywords are near to the front.
- Do not duplicate meta descriptions: As with title tags, the meta descriptions must be written differently for every page. Your content management system may have some good tricks here including inserting product names, categories and prices in a dynamic way. Google could penalize you for mass duplicating your meta descriptions so be careful.
- Consider using rich snippets: By using schema markup you can add elements to the snippets to increase their appeal. For example: Star ratings, customer ratings, product information, calorie counts etc.
Search engine journal has a good article on Meta description mistakes.
Themeisle has a few good examples of meta descriptions over here.
Even Google has an article on the importance of meta descriptions.