A meta description is a small portion of text shown to users on search engines in order to summarise what a page’s content is about. For example, when you type ‘Bishop & Sewell’ into Google the meta description for their homepage is displayed below:
Will a good meta description help you rank in Google?
Google announced a few years back that meta descriptions no longer pay a role in search engine rankings. However, this doesn’t mean they should be ignored – they still have a use.
Having good meta descriptions can help to encourage customers to click through to your website. So by taking some time to write eye-catching and enticing meta descriptions, you have a better chance of increasing your Click Through Rate (CTR) from Google. The more click-throughs you get to your page, the stronger the signal to Google that your page is what users are looking for, increasing your chance of appearing higher in the natural listings. This means that even through meta descriptions don’t directly impact search engine rankings, they can indirectly impact them through the amount of click-throughs to a page, which is a positive signal for Google.
As an example, we have taken a screenshot of the Tela website’s meta description. You can see from this, if someone is searching for a digital agency they can clearly see what we are about, so will be more likely to click through.
How do you write a good meta description?
When writing your meta description you need to think about lots of factors including the format, length and call to action.
Focus on the customer
Focusing on the customer in your meta descriptions is important as they are the users that are going to be looking at this text following their search in Google. Making sure that the homepage meta description is displaying what your customer wants and needs is important to gain click-throughs to your site which then eventually end with a lead.
Your meta description should give a brief overview of exactly what the user will be clicking through to. They want to know that the page is going to show them, the information they are looking for, and not something that is completely unrelated. The meta description is the chance to ‘sell’ the page to the user, and encourage them to click through.
Include a Call to Action
A clear meta description may include a call to action which can show users that there is something for them to gain by visiting the website. As mentioned before, visitors should be clear on exactly what they are going to gain from clicking through to your page.
For example; some law firms are very customer focused and use their meta descriptions to illustrate this. If you take a look at the example of Fladgate, their meta description describes exactly who the firm is in a short sentence.
Optimal meta description length
A meta description’s ideal length is between 50-160 characters, depending on how much you think you need to describe the page to users. If you write a meta description that contains too many characters, Google will cut off the end part and users may not be able to read the whole description. On the other hand, if you write a meta description that is too short, people may not get all the information about your page they need to encourage them to click through.
Not writing a meta description
More often than not, if you leave the meta description for a page blank, Google will take a section of the page they feel is suitable to sit in this area. If you have written a meta description, there are also cases in which Google may decide that a certain part of the content on the page is more suitable than the meta description you have provided, so will use that instead.
If you are unsure of whether you need to write a meta description for a page, then you should assess the amount of keywords you are trying to optimise the page for. If there are more than two keywords, then you should probably consider writing a meta description. If you have less keywords, then you could just leave it to Google to decide on a meta description. The same could be done if the keywords you have chosen as long-tail, as Google can easily assess the content on a page and decide on a meta description that is appropriate.
It is important to use meta descriptions for your website and to personalise them for each specific page in order to help better guide the customer into finding the information that is relevant to them. Although they don’t have a direct impact on SEO, it is worth putting time into writing good meta-descriptions in order to increase the CTR to your pages which will have a positive impact on SEO.