Meta descriptions have no ranking value… right?
If you take Google’s word for it — they don’t have value. But, if meta descriptions don’t affect a website’s ability to rank and don’t help you at all when you’re competing for the click of the customer, you may wonder, “What’s the point?”.
What if I told you that despite not being a direct ranking factor, a meta description can still change a user’s perception of website value or it could indirectly affect rank. To unpack this, let’s talk about what meta descriptions are and why you should bother with them after all.
What’s a Meta Description?
Go into Google and type in a query. When you get the search results back, take a careful look at them. Under the blue clickable link and URL, the text that shows up is the meta description. In essence, a meta description is an HTML attribute providing the summary of a web page’s content. Its recommended length is anywhere between 50-300 characters, depending on the situation and page in question.
How Do Meta Descriptions Work?
Whenever you post content through your CMS (Content Management System) of choice, you can choose to input your meta description or allow search engines to pull the meta description off the page.
Most people don’t bother optimizing their meta descriptions and go with what they get automatically. However, that’s a missed opportunity to increase the click-through rate by describing the relevance of the content. A good meta description tells the users what they can expect to see on the page, and that can be invaluable.
How to Write a Good Meta Description?
Is there a formula for accomplishing the desired results? No exact recipe, but there are a few valuable pointers to remember when crafting a meta description. According to SEO best practices, you should always employ keywords in your meta description. Of course, it can’t be done in a spammy, unnatural, keyword-stuffing way. That’s what kills the click-through rate, so avoid it.
There is also one caveat to writing your descriptions. If you’re using long-tail keywords, it might be a better choice to let the search engines pull a meta description together. Then the meta description automatically displays the long-tail keywords users searched for.
How Do Meta Descriptions Affect Website Rank?
A good meta description changes the perception of website value for the better. Think back to your habits, and you’ll probably realize you click on websites with optimized meta descriptions more than on those who pull a generic sentence or two from the page’s content.
Why? Because in most cases, you look for the keywords you typed. That’s how an optimized meta description can help increase the click-through rate of a site. Of course, CTR is one of the metrics that affect the ranking of a website in the Google search, and this connection makes meta descriptions far from irrelevant for ranking.
When it comes to meta descriptions, a little can go a long way. In and of itself, not having good meta descriptions will not ruin you. However, a lack of proper meta descriptions is often connected with the lack of SEO knowledge, and that can be problematic. If you need help with your SEO strategy, contact me and let’s discuss how I can help you see results much faster than you would on your own.
Rob Dunford is a Marketing Consultant in the Great Toronto Area with over 20 years of experience in implementing marketing plans for small businesses.