Meta descriptions have been made irrelevant for so long.
Google once stated that Meta descriptions has no impact search engine rankings. From a 2007 post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog:
[I]t’s worth noting that while accurate Meta descriptions can improve click-through, they won’t affect your ranking within search results.
Google restated this point again in 2009 in a post mentioning that the meta keywords tag is not being used as a ranking signal:
Even though we sometimes use the description meta tag for the snippets we show, we still don’t use the description meta tag in our ranking.
For a long time now, people have long ignored meta descriptions, pushing them to the back burner or assigning their creation to the lowly intern. Once written, meta descriptions are barely considered further or given a second look.
Meta descriptions get short shrift because well-written descriptions won’t help your site rank.
Or will they?
Important For Search Engines Optimized Meta Descriptions.
In this case, I can make meta descriptions important for SEO. I will be taking some time to expatiate on this, because the essence of this article is to help you write “killer meta descriptions”. The moment you recognize that meta descriptions do have an impact on search ranking, it will inspire you to write better meta descriptions.
Meta description and search engine rankings association can be described in four points:
*** The search ranking algorithm is not influenced by the content in a meta description.
*** User behavior is influenced into the search algorithm.
*** Specifically, click-through rate (CTR) is part of the algorithmic ranking process.
*** The most important feature for improving click-through rate from search results pages is the meta description.
- The search ranking algorithm is not influenced by the content in a meta description.
Based on what we know – and we’re believing Google on this one – meta descriptions is not considered as a factor for their search engine ranking algorithm. Thus, from a strict algorithmic view, it’s not compulsory that you put your most important keywords in the meta description.
- User behavior is influenced into the search algorithm.
In ranking a site, there are numerous (hundreds) of algorithmic factors involved. It’s easy to forget that user behavior on a site is critically being analyzed by Google as part of their ongoing ranking process.
But it does. As revealed in Google Analytics, Active analysis and measurement of user behavior is done by Google – even demographic information – and factoring that into search results.
Think about this on the widest level: location-based search. Search results based on location is a user-dependent metric. A user in South Carolina who search for “weather” using Google is going to get this result, even if not logged in to his/her Google account:
A very different result will be displayed to a user in Anchorage Alaska:
That is much clear (and pretty straightforward).
But the algorithm is way more advanced than that. It goes further, not only does it gets user information/location, but it measures user behavior in the subsequent rank of a particular website.
- Specifically, click-through rate (CTR) is part of the algorithmic ranking process.
An article written by Dr. Pete Meyers of Moz back in 2012 which is still very relevant. He clearly stated his point in the article was that Google makes sue of two user metrics in search ranking.
Those two metrics are: (1) search engine results page (SERP) click-through rate and (2) dwell time. Here’s how he explained it:
The first metric I think Google makes broad use of is direct Click-Through Rate (CTR) from the SERPs themselves. Whether a result gets clicked on or not is one of Google’s and Bing’s first clues about whether any given result is a good match to a query. We know Google and Bing both have this data, because they directly report it to us.
Undeniably, both Google and Bing seem to make use of this metric, since both data points have always been available in their reporting platforms:
Google Webmaster Tools (Image from Moz.)
Bing Webmaster Tools (Image from Moz)
Meyers summed it up perfectly: “Relevant results drive more clicks.”
This is a key point, which goes to prove my final point:
- The most important feature for improving click-through rate from search results pages is the meta description.
Google considers user behavior, specifically the click-through rate. So, how can we improve CTRs on our SERP entries?
By writing killer meta descriptions.And the more people who click through those SERP entries, the better our site will rank in Google.
Look at an average SERP. There are three main features in a SERP entry apart from Knowledge Graph information and rich snippets, we have: the page title, the page URL, and the page description.
These three factors determine a user’s decision to click through. Among these three, the meta description make use of the most space — a full two lines. It has the most amount of information, and thus gets viewed longer and read more.
It shows that a great meta description actually does improve click-through and site ranking. It’s enough point to make the meta description an SEO factor after all!
But it’s one of those “fuzzy” SEO factors due to its indirect impact. Furthermore, improving meta descriptions does not require SEO diplomacy as much as it does with the writing skill, which leads me to the main essence of this article: how do you write a meta descriptions that get click-throughs?
Advanced Guidelines For Writing Killer Meta Descriptions
So, how do you unleash a click-through-compelling meta description?
Be Descriptive. Your meta description should introduce the user to what the page is about. In general terms, draft out the page’s content. If the user is going to click on it, he or she wants to be sure that the page really is about his/her interest.
Be Convincing. Great meta descriptions involve a touch of the convincing. To get clicks, go ahead and jerk a little bit. . I’m not convinced what some SEOs believes using a call-to-action in the description. I don’t think that this is necessary. Nevertheless, I recommend that you create a meta description that invites a response, even if it doesn’t directly call for it.
Stimulate Interest. One of the most convincing things you can do with your meta is to spark interest. This is mainly true for informational queries (as opposed to transactional queries). By the time a user is done reading your description, they should be curious about what the page will say about the topic. Enough information is needed to explain what the page is about but not so much that it ruins the Interest factor.
Use The Right Words. The keywords do matter for users, but they may not matter for search engines. In order to be forced to click, the user needs to see relevant words. These words should be related with his or her search query. Using the right words in the right places make the difference between a SERP entry that gets overlooked, and a SERP entry that gets a click.
Make Them The Exact Length. The standard accepted length is 156 characters long. Google will truncate any meta description that is too long. Unlike page titles, meta description cut-offs do not seem to be pixel-based in the same way that page titles are.
Do Not Use Quotation Marks. Google will cut them off.
At last, meta descriptions are still a worthy thing to focus on in your overall SEO efforts. At the very least, meta descriptions shouldn’t be neglected – your meta description is the only thing standing between a visitor and a search result.
What do you do to create great meta descriptions?