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How to Optimize and Use Meta Descriptions Effectively

What are Meta Descriptions?

Meta DescriptionsA meta description is an HTML tag for pages within your website. This description is shown under your website URL when someone is searching on Google for a specific phrase. If your meta description includes the searched for phrase, you are more likely to be shown higher up within the search results. This snippet, of about 155-300 characters, is a summary explanation of what the page includes. You want someone to be able to search for what they are looking for, read your meta description, and click through to your page because they have found it relevant and useful.

SEO Importance of Meta Descriptions

There is no direct benefit when using meta descriptions. Search engines do not include meta descriptions in their ranking algorithms. However, they do consider click-through rates. To help increase your click-through rates, you want to have a fully optimized meta description. The idea of a meta description is to help users see your website is going to give them what they are searching for. The higher your click-through rate, the higher your page will be ranked on the page. The goal is to be ranked what we call “above the fold”. This means when a search is made, your website is shown in the top 3-5 websites listed. These positions are the most clicked. The likelihood of someone scrolling down further, or to the next page is quite slim.

How to Format Meta Descriptions

When creating a meta description, you want to keep it short and sweet, but on-topic and useful. Usually, you want to keep the description around 155 characters. If your description is too long, the full message won’t be shown on the search page. Do your best to include the most crucial information within these first 155 characters. Again, you want the search user to see your description and say, “This is exactly what I need”, click the page, and convert to a customer. Use an active voice and try to include a call to action and the focus keyword for the page.

This description is an invitation to the search user to come to your page. Make sure your meta description matches the page content! The last thing you want to happen is for someone to click-through to your page to find what they were looking for, and was told was going to be there from the meta description, and it is not on the page. This will cause them to click out of your page and go to a competitor’s page. Your bounce rate will increase and your ratings will suffer.

Where are Meta Descriptions Placed in a Landing Page?

The public view of a landing page will not show the meta description on the actual page. Meta descriptions are an HTML tag within the source code. This code is found in the header above the closing head tag. The meta description can be hardcoded into the HTML code using the following code or you are able to use a plugin to create your meta descriptions:

<meta name=“description” content=“A page’s description.”/>

What Tools Can You Use to Install Meta Descriptions?

Some website themes automatically include the option of creating your own meta description. If not included, you can easily search for your website’s platform and an SEO plugin to see what is available. Below we have listed some plugins that we have found that work great.

Yoast SEO

If you are using a WordPress website, one of the most used and easiest tools to use is Yoast SEO. This is a plug-in tool you can install on your website. With the Yoast SEO tool, you can easily use the snippet editor on the page you are working on. This tool allows you to edit the SEO title tag, slug, focus keyword, and meta description. A really handy feature of this plug-in is you are able to see a preview of your created meta description. It will show you if it is going to fit within the allowed framework. When using a focus keyword, if used within the meta description, the focus keyword will be bolded for users to see.

All in One SEO Pack

This SEO plugin was originally created in 2007 and has been downloaded over 50,000,000 times since then. It is easy to use for beginners but includes many advanced features for the seasoned user. Amongst the many features included in this plugin, the creation of automatic meta descriptions is one of them. Titles and keywords are also automatically optimized for Google with this plugin. You are able to override this feature and create your own meta description, title and keyword if you desire to.

How NOT to Use Meta Descriptions

Believe it or not, meta descriptions can end up being harmful. We have gathered some mistakes to avoid when creating and using meta descriptions.

  • Duplicates – Even though meta descriptions are not directly used in your site’s rankings, you want them to be useful. If you have similar, or exact descriptions, for each page of your website, this can be very misleading. You want the meta description to accurately reflect what is going to be found on that page if clicked upon.
  • Keywords – You want to be sure to use a focus keyword to optimize your page. However, you want to be sure to avoid keyword stuffing. Don’t overuse the keyword within a meta description. This can make the description messy, hard to read, and potentially end up looking spammy.
  • Boring – Meta descriptions should be eye-catching to searchers. You want to have an active voice and be informational. Using numbers and symbols help your meta description stand out on the page. Talk about what your page has to offer to the user.

Examples of Both Good and Bad Meta Descriptions

If you are new to the world of writing meta descriptions, it can seem stressful. It doesn’t have to be that way. Follow the guidelines we have outlined above and you should be just fine. Here are some examples of what to do and what you shouldn’t do when it comes to writing meta descriptions. Hopefully, these will help jump-start your creative ideas.

Good Examples

These examples of good meta descriptions were pulled from yoast.com

The following examples are appropriate lengths, include focus keywords, are descriptive and use an active voice.

Meta Descriptions

Bad Examples

The following examples we found on Search Engine Journal.

These are bad examples because they are flat, boring, don’t give you enough information and are just downright useless. You would be better off leaving the meta description blank and allowing Google to self generate one for you.

Meta Descriptions

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