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Meta Descriptions: The Missing Piece of Your SEO Strategy

You’ve gone through a website refresh, defined keywords, written blog posts with the help of Google’s keyword planner, and have been back-linking like a boss. Yet, your site still struggles to pop-up on the first page of Google. What are you missing?

A common mistake that web teams and businesses make while trying to improve a site’s SEO strategy is not taking the time to focus on writing great meta descriptions.

Meta descriptions have always seen the short end of the stick when it comes to SEO. Everyone gets caught up in keyword strategies that they usually end up writing a poor description – or in some cases, none at all. Don’t blame yourself though. There is a reason this behaviour has developed over the years and is a result of Google not using descriptions in its search ranking algorithm.

But, meta descriptions do have an impact on search ranking.

Neil Patel, a contributor to Search Engine Land, explains the relationship between meta descriptions and search rankings in four points:

  1. The content in a meta description does not factor into the search ranking algorithm;

  2. User behavior is factored into the search algorithm;

  3. Specifically, click-through rate (CTR) is part of the algorithmic ranking process;

  4. The meta description is the most important feature for improving click-through rate from search result pages.

To sum it up – the more people who click through your site, the higher Google ranks it. Having a great meta description helps drive the user behaviour to click through to your site as users rely on meta descriptions to make that judgement call. Therefore, meta descriptions matter.

When improving and monitoring SEO for clients, marketers need to look at a number of aspects. Part of this involves us using the HubSpot marketing grader tool to get a sense of what improvements we need to make to a client’s website.

Just recently, I ran a number of websites with a vast amount of marketing collateral and content through this tool, and was surprised to see that these sites were hitting between the 80-85 mark. This is a great grade, but I’m always curious to know what is preventing these sites from a grade closer to the 100 mark. As it turns out, HubSpot recognized that these sites are missing unique meta descriptions for each page.  This was just another validation point as to why it’s necessary to spend time on meta descirptions.

Just like any other component of SEO, meta descriptions require strategy. Here is a list of tips and tricks I’ve gathered to help you write great meta descriptions:

  1. It’s all about your writing. The majority of SEO tactics (keywords, links, headers, etc.) are generally cookie cutter algorithms defined by Google. When it comes to meta descriptions though, it’s doesn’t require SEO finesse as much as it does writing skills.Ramesh Ranjan, a blogger for HubSpot, says “I see writing meta descriptions as a legitimate exercise in effective sales copywriting. It should do everything possible to drive someone to make that decision and click.”

    Therefore, each description you write needs to be seen as a unique piece of content based on the blog/page your assigning the description to.

  2. It’s a Call-to-Action. A search engine results page (SERP) entry is comprised of three main features: the page title, the URL, and the page description.The description is the longest and most compelling piece of information for users as it explains what information a user will receive if they click through. A great meta description will be persuasive and will entice users to click through. Consider using action-oriented language such as “Read,” “Discover,” or “Learn.”
  3. Make it honest. Write out exactly what users are going to receive once they click through to your page. If they land on the page and the content isn’t what they expect, users will quickly turn to the ‘Back’ button.This will raise red flags as Google focuses ranking results based on good and bad behaviours and might consider your site lacking in relevant and great content if this becomes a trend.
  4. Don’t make it keyword heavy. A common mistake that many make when writing out a meta description is filling the space with as many keywords as possible. Keywords are meant to pull up the search engine results page. Meta descriptions, on the other hand, are design to affect user behavior. What is written in the description is the reason someone clicks through to your website. Besides, the user already knows that the results on the page are related to the keywords they have typed in.
  5. Target your desired market. Write out a description that is going to resonate with who you want to have visiting your site. John Clark demonstrates a great example with two meta descriptions from Unbounce. The first description is targeted and the second is a general write-up on the topic of landing pages. Unbounce experienced a drop in its ranking almost immediately by having a bland description.

VS.

6. 155 characters is your sweet spot. You don’t want Google to cut off your well written description. With this in mind, you should aim to have your descriptions to be between 147 – 160 characters (not words, characters).

7. No Quotation Marks. Google will cut them off.

SEO is tricky. With the right marketing team by your side, they will do all they can to get your site on the first page of Google.

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