When you pull up a search result, you’ll see a list of links that correspond with your topic. Underneath those links is a small paragraph that describes the content that you’ll find within the link. That small paragraph is your meta description. Although it isn’t 100% required to have these descriptions in place, it can be what closes the deal on you getting a click over your competitor. Here are some of the best practices that have been developed to make sure that you can get the most out of your meta descriptions for every page and post.
1. Don’t Let the Data Default.
If you don’t put anything in as a meta description, you’ll receive 1 of 2 outcomes. You’ll either have the first paragraph be used in search results or you won’t have anything displayed on the search engine results page [SERP]. You’ll have no control over your optimization if you let the data default. Put something in there.
2. A Two Sentence Approach Generally Works the Best.
You could write one massive run-on sentence. You could also chop up your meta description into 3 or 4 short sentences. Both circumstances create an awkward reading experience, however, and this could stop a click from happening. The two sentence approach generally works the best because you can create an intro with the first sentence and then put in a call to action in the second sentence.
3. Shorter is Generally Better.
You can write a meta description of any length. The SERPs will just cut off the description like this… If you can keep your description under 155 characters, give or take a couple, then you’ll generally see better results. Short, precise information that is delivered in the meta description will communicate that clicking the link above will provide the same opportunity.
4. Avoid the Copy and Paste Method Whenever Possible.
If you have multiple results for your brand that come up on the SERPs consecutively, then it is important to have varied meta descriptions. If everything has been copied and pasted from your social networks, your website, and other places on the web where you have a presence, then the duplication will speak to a certain laziness to the users who have been given these results. It’s only 155 characters that you’re writing, so don’t be tempted to take a shortcut that saves you 30 seconds at most. It’ll cost you clicks in the end.
5. Don’t Use Quotes Within Your Meta Description.
Google cuts off the meta descriptions where the quotation marks will be. This will leave you with sentence fragments and an awkward viewing experience on the SERPs. The algorithms don’t generally give optimization boosts for sites with meta descriptions, so one that is cut off isn’t going to take you off the first page. It might mean a search user will click elsewhere. Don’t use any characters in your description except for letters or numbers to avoid this small, but potentially devastating problem.
6. Make Sure Your Site is Properly Configured.
When you pull up the SERPs for a specific search, sometimes you’ll notice a phrase under the link that says something like this: “This site’s robots.txt file is not configured to display a meta description.” You can avoid this by configuring the site to display that meta description.
7. Think About the Social Implications.
The meta descriptions will usually populate into the social media posts that are shared by others. These descriptions may be the only thing that someone sees of your content and could be the difference between a click or deciding to scroll on past. Even a one sentence thesis-style summary is better than a blank box on a news feed.
8. Add a Keyword When it Makes Sense.
Packing a meta description full of keywords isn’t going to do anyone any good. The search engines don’t generally care, but there is a small chance a penalty could be handed out. Keyword packing isn’t going to win you any friends when the SERPs show results. Having a keyword where it makes sense, however, is helpful because if there is an exact match in the meta description, it will be highlighted with a bold font on the SERP. That bold font is a major attention getter.
Can you let a search engine scrape your site? Sure. Sometimes that might even be beneficial. When you use these meta description best practices, however, you’ll help to create a positive first impression from the very first moment of contact. Implement them today and you may just see an increase in clicks headed your way.