Essential SEO is about people who “Click Through” and look at your site. This guide is about using Meta Descriptions for SEO! Good rank is not enough.
Many of the so called SEO experts focus solely on getting the highest position on the SERP (that would be Search Engine Results Page, not licking an ice cream!). The problem with this thinking is that it focuses on getting the position on the page or the impression. What really matters is the Click Through!
Real SEO is getting people on your website, via a search engine! SEO is NOT about getting the #1 slot on the first page of the SERP ONLY!
Consider of a person finds you at position one, but your description is so boring and uninformed that you do not click through? You could work all day on becoming #1 on the SERP rank, and never get any traffic! That is really bad SEO!
SEO Meta Description Cheat Sheet
Here are a few simple guides to follow in writing quality SEO based Meta Descriptions every time, even for beginners!
A quick summary of the content
A reason to read the content
By following these quick and easy rules, you can assure yourself that people will love you! However, there are exceptions and we will take a look at why you may want a longer or sorter Meta Description.
Shorter Meta Description
Keep it short and sweet. Try 80-120 as a target! Avoid your human inclination to use all 156 characters. A short meta description could attract more attention in a group of keyword-stuffed, lengthy descriptions. By virtue of its novelty, you may get more action (click through) in the midst of all the same sized, maximum length descriptions that are out there. Remember, people are in a hurry to find the information they want, by having a meta description that is 80-12 characters some people will read your description first, just because it is short!
Shorter for Blogs
Google adds a date for blog posts. This date is 14 characters long and is counted as the first 14 characters of the meta description. In other words, instead of being 156 characters long, it is only 142 characters for dated blog posts.
Notice that following the above cheat sheet will work all the time!
Having less than 50 characters in your Meta Description will throw a “Short meta description” in your Webmaster Tools area. Likewise, as you build pages to say 1,000-2,000 Google seems to seriously limit impressions on pages with short meta descriptions. The point is, keep your meta descriptions at least 50 characters.
Longer Meta Description
There are reasons today for Longer Meta Descriptions. For example, social media marketing may dictate using longer meta descriptions. Take a look at this list…
- 60-140T8s.org Optimum Meta Description Range (Try midrange 80-120!)
- <40 Bing “Short meta description” in Bing Webmaster tools (Ten less than Google)
- <50 Google “Short meta descriptions” in Google Webmaster tools
- 142 Google (for Blogs – 14 less for the date)
- 151-156 Google Extra
- 156 Google Maximum
- 166 Bing (Ten more than Google)
- 200 Google+
- 255 Some CMS
- 337 Facebook
- 500 Estimated “Long meta description”
Google Extra means you are going to write a meta description longer than 156 characters and you want to guide Google as to what to put on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
The way you do this is craft your description to have a full stop “.” (dot or period) in dome position around 150 to 152. This allows room for Google to add the four characters ” …” For dated blogs this should be around 137-140. Google will then basically ignore the rest and you can use this for Google+, Bing or Facebook.
Bing displays a meta description up to about 165 characters, or ten more than Google. It seems a waste to try to use these to me. Put your best effort in a Google sized meta description and Bing will use it nicely. See Google Extra above!
Google+ gives you a little more description room (200 characters) and for those users of this media, it may be good to on occasion to add a longer meta description, just follow the Google Extra advice above.
Facebook is by far the most generous in in meta description use. I have actually seen 337 characters (your mileage may very!). The same rules apply, follow the Google Extra example (above) if you wish to use this larger meta description.
Size is NOT all that Big!
In most cases it is by far better to just follow the cheat sheet rules above!
Honestly, I have never had a “Long meta description” in either webmaster tools (Google or Bing). I have heard of a lady who got one with a meta description of about 300 words (note – that says words!).
Writing SEO Stronger Meta Descriptions
Below I will add some tips for writing better meta descriptions for SEO. These will give you something to think about as you improve your website,
Promote A Reason To Read
A gentle (or not so gentle!) call to action increases the likelihood of a click through. How will people benefit from reading your content? The meta description is an ideal place to tell them! Here are some examples:
- Learn the essentials about…
- Discover why…
- A complete guide to…
- Order by January 31 and receive…
Use Page Relevant Descriptions
A good meta description provides a quick overview of the page’s core message and purpose. Descriptions should be fully relevant to the information you will see on the page itself: There is nothing more detrimental to conversion and reputation than setting up people to click through to a link that contains some content other than what they are expecting. You really never want to mislead users and leave them feeling abused and used. It has caused Google to block some whole sites who did this.
Your Credibility Leverage
I know of a man who increased traffic to his home remodeling service home page by adding, “BBB approved” to the meta description. For brands that are not well known, some phrase like “since 1975” or “more than 10,000 satisfied customers” may strongly persuade searchers to click on your site.
Make it Truthful and Specific
The meta description examples listed above are powerful because they are specific, truthful, concrete and, therefore, meaningful. Empty words and phrases like “innovative” and “world class” are a dime a dozen. They do not inspire people’s confidence, and can even be counterproductive in terms of getting a click through. Make sure you speak to the real benefits that your content provides to readers, in terms of what they really want — not what you want them to do.
Default Meta Description
Take a look at the first two lines of this post. You will notice that it is my crafted Google based Meta Description. Regardless if a search engine accepts my Meta Description or uses the first two lines – it is the same! This is a great way to “prime the pump” with a Default Meta Description!
This tip even works on Blogger! – Leave the site description off and make the first two lines the Default Meta Description using the same Meta Description rules above!
Uniqueness and SEO
I have long said that whatever Google watches, a web-master would be good to watch! Every blog post and every site page should have a unique meta description. It is better to have no meta description than to have a duplicate. Duplicate meta descriptions influence Google to ignore them globally on your domain.
Meta Description Rewriting
In closing let me add these ideas and thoughts:
- There is no harm in rewriting, or adding, meta descriptions to previously published content. So feel free to do it as needed or as you want!
- If you have an exciting new offer, consider adding it to the meta descriptions of your high traffic pages. It is more reason to visit your site!
- It is helpful to add persuasive elements to meta descriptions, especially on pages with high search rankings, but low traffic.
- You can even recirculate old blog posts, and old web pages, on social media with new meta descriptions! This will result in making them fresh to both old and new social connections.
Keywords and SEO
While it’s a good idea to include some high value keywords in the meta descriptions you create, for pages that are optimized around high-volume terms, this actually a less important consideration in most cases. Considering the more consistent and controllable display of meta descriptions on social media sites, the best practice is to focus on persuasiveness over keywords.
Final Thoughts for 2014
In conclusion, the simple, easy and essential rules for Meta Descriptions for SEO, is just to follow the above cheat sheet, and do not worry about it!
Edit due to Google Hummingbird
I was asked if I thought these recommendations still held true now that Google has started using Hummingbird. This is the answer…
First, I have always held the TRUE SEO was not about SEO at all, it is about good, well organized, useful content. TRUE SEO is REAL WHITE HAT SEO, it is not about getting a better position on the SERP, it is about providing something better for your readers / clients. TRUE SEO is about VALUE for your clients. That said…
Since Hummingbird came online, across my active websites, I have seen an average 20%-30% Increase in both Impressions and Clicks in Search Queries in Google Webmaster Tools!
Real White Hat SEO
I attribute this to what I call TRUE SEO or Real White Hat SEO! This is about concern for you reader, your clients or customers who come to your website. This website, aLanTait.net, came into being because I started posting my own solutions to my own programing problems. It was my own scratch pad, my own cheat sheet, that I wrote to remind myself. It just happened that search engines picked it up.
I believe the future is not in keywords as such, and not even in SEO. It is in quality and excellence. The proof of this is in the last few improvements to the Google algorithm and the increase in Impressions and Clicks at a time when high SEO sites are taking hits of 50%, 80%, 90% or even 100% Google is looking for excellence, integrity and quality to serve to their customers.