Meta descriptions are an important part of the SEO jigsaw and can have a serious impact on page performance.
The meta description field is your first opportunity to sell your content by giving your audience a snippet of what’s to come. If you ignore them or do not give them the attention they deserve you will be missing an opportunity.
What are meta descriptions?
The meta description field allows you to provide a short description of the contents of a page. Its aim is to help searchers understand what they will get if they click on a link.
Google often uses meta descriptions as the descriptive ‘snippet’ in the results. So, it’s your chance to show searchers that your content is better and more relevant to their query than the competitors’ content.
Do meta descriptions help SEO performance?
Absolutely yes! There’s little doubt that effective meta descriptions help SEO performance. However, what they don’t do is carry direct algorithmic weight. Confused? Let me explain.
Not that long ago meta descriptions did carry direct algorithmic weight (along with meta keywords) therefore spammers would use this to try to cheat the system.
Google’s response to this was to devalue the tags. However, they continued to use meta descriptions as snippets in the search results. Webmasters soon realised they had direct access to valuable advertising space and began to take meta descriptions more seriously.
An opportunity to increase CTR
So, we know that carefully written meta descriptions can increase Click Through Rate (CTR) and as every SEO knows CTR is an important ranking factor. The main reason why meta descriptions that mirror search queries increase CTR is that the page is likely to contain what the searcher is looking for. However, there’s also another subtler reason.
When a results snippet contains any of the words included in the original search query then Google displays them in bold. For instance, if you search for ‘Kentico Gold Partner’ you’ll get the following result for Ridgeway with Kentico Gold Partner in bold (ranking just behind Kentico).
Research has shown that reinforcing the searchers’ aim in the results by emphasising keywords substantially increases CTR, which is why it’s essential to get your keyword research right. Increased traffic to your website is an obvious benefit, but you’ll also take advantage of better click data.
Google has acknowledged they use click data to refine their results, hence a low-ranking site that receives a lot of clicks will soon climb the SERPS.
While meta descriptions don’t directly affect search rankings, they do affect CTR which feeds Google’s algorithm, so it’s a no brainer, take time to get them right.
How to write effective meta descriptions
- A meta description should be a concise and clickable description of the page content.
- Meta descriptions should be kept short as search engines rarely display more than 160 characters (920 pixels) which means they shouldn’t be more than 20 words.
- Every page on your website should have its own unique meta description duplicate or leave it up to your CMS to decide.
- Include primary keywords, but make sure you write for searchers, not spiders.
- Don’t use speech marks (double quotes) as they will truncate the meta description.
Adding effective meta descriptions to your pages is important for your website’s SEO. If you don’t write meta descriptions, a copy will be pulled from somewhere on the page. This means the results could be unfocussed and put searchers off from clicking, resulting in a negative impact on CTR and your SEO performance.