META descriptions are an oft-neglected element of SEO. But why? Let’s start by looking at what search behemoth Google has to say about META descriptions. The Google Webmaster Central Blog has mentioned on more than one occasion that META descriptions “won’t affect your ranking within search results”. So you will often come across people who say “Google said they [Meta Descriptions] don’t carry any weight in terms of rank so don’t worry about them too much”. This blasé approach is actually a result of ignorance but one could also argue that some of the blame for this widespread neglect rest with Google.
As a result, we now have a situation where many people fail to give META descriptions the love and attention they truly deserve. This is often because they fail to realise the true power of a well written META description.
Google do actually speak of the benefits that can be gleaned from the proper utilisation of META descriptions on the Webmaster Central Blog. But many people, including those in the SEO industry, will not have read what Google actually have to say about META descriptions. Rather they will have been taught they carry no weight, or had that idea force-fed to them via forums, blogs etc…
We now know why META descriptions are overlooked by many but how can we unleash the true power of a META description?
Why should I care about META descriptions?
Given that Google stated META descriptions don’t have a direct affect on rank then why should you use them? Well, let’s look at the bigger picture.
We know META descriptions have no direct influence in relation to rank, but we know that the Google search algorithm factors in user behaviour, we also know click-through rates are factored into the search algorithm, and we know a well written META description is the most effective way to improve click-through rates within search result pages. Therefore, META descriptions actually wield an enormous amount of (often unrealised) power.
Once you understand this you will realise the true power of a META description.
How do I make META descriptions work for me?
To unleash this power, improve your CTR and (hopefully) in turn your sales all you need is a well written META description. So, how do you write an effective META description?
1) Know your limits
Your description should never exceed 156 characters and if it does Google will truncate it.
2) Know your audience.
Knowing your audience, what they are searching for, and what will influence them enables you to develop an enticing description using words and/or terms that will lure them into clicking on your link.
3) Speak their language
Use terms relevant to your audience and what they are searching for. This doesn’t necessarily mean keywords. But, the use of the right words in the right places can greatly improve your click-through rates.
4) Speak with authority.
Your description should encourage the audience to click your link. Speaking with authority can help persuade people to click your link. Examples of this are calls to action, provocative descriptions, and the use of questions.
If you know your audience, the search terms they are using, and what exactly they are looking for you can design your description to tease the audience into clicking your link. Appeal to their inquisitive nature by using your description to suggest your link contains new information relevant to your audience or answers questions pertinent to their search query.
As you can see META descriptions are a useful element of SEO and making them work for you is not too hard. If you update your META descriptions be sure to monitor the updated pages via your analytics tools. This will give you a great insight into how effective they are, if they have increased CTRs and, more importantly, sales!