What are Meta Description Tags?
Meta Description Tags are HTML attributes which provide you with brief information of the website. The Meta Description will appear in the snippets of Search Engine’s search result. The Meta Description can be seen below the page title, on the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
Meta Description Tags are not that important to gain Search Engine rankings but they help in getting CTR’s i.e. Click Through Rate. CTR is a method to measure the success of an online advertising campaign for any particular website which is donated by the number of users, who clicks on that particular link. These short descriptions of the page help the users and the Search Engines to easily locate the website by the content mentioned on the web pages.
One of the main factors in On-page optimisation for successful Search Engine Optimization is Meta Descriptions tags.
In Meta Description, keywords used should be accurate i.e. those keywords should be used which are related to the website. Make sure you are not doing keyword stuffing; it will bring you no good as Google says that it never uses Meta Descriptions as a ranking factor.
Meta Descriptions should be applied in such a manner to attract the attention of the viewer and force the searcher to click on that description. The description should be related to the page and should be between 150 to 155 characters. The keywords must be placed very smartly in the description so that it’s easy for the Search Engines to crawl the pages.
The highlighted text in grey is Meta Description of rankwatch.com. The description/snippets are generally given to brief the user about the website. Plus, it acts as a marketing strategy.
The main aim of the snippets/ Meta Description is to convince and persuade the user’s to click on your website. If there is any word which matches your query, it will be bolded.
<meta name=”description” content=”The content of the meta description.”>
If Google does not use Meta Description as a ranking parameter, then why do we need it?
Meta Description Tags are considered important because when a user searches a query, the Search Engine provides the user with the result. The Meta Description helps the Search Engines to trace the keywords which are similar or exact, matches to the query so that the results which are provided to the users are accurate.
It’s also important to avoid the users to be misled by the websites which are not useful for them. The Meta Description will help you to understand and get an idea about the website. Remember, even if you create perfect Meta Description tags, it is not necessary that Google will show you the Meta Tags. There is a possibility that Search Engines may not show you any because some Search Engines do not assign value to the Meta Description Tags.
Meta Description brings in a treat for everyone! (i.e. the Search Engines, the Webmaster’s and the users)
Meta Description Tags helps the:
1) Search Engine to understand about your website: You need to write really good description about the page so that the Search Engine understands what your webpage is all about. The Search Engines are smart enough, that is, if the Google’s algorithm interprets that the description provided by the webmaster is inaccurate or missing, it will automatically replace that particular description with its own version of description.
It is always better to decide about the description which you want to be displayed on the SERP instead of Google picking it for you.
2) Website owners to get CTR’s to their website: The main idea of writing a nice description is to influence people to click on the website. If the description is boring and monotonous, there are fewer chances that the people will really click your website. A well written description will attract more people, thus increasing the CTR.
- Adding a good Meta Description to the web page will help the searcher to understand about the web page and also to figure that the page is relevant to the searcher’s query.
- You can notice that in a SERP, there are many results. There are very less chances of the user to scroll down to the bottom of the page and check or click the result. The user always wants best result for himself, and will click the ones which are more famous and ranking well on the SERP. If there will be a good and attractive Meta Description, there are the chances that the user might want to click your website. And, even if you are ranking on the top in SERPs, you still need to have a great Meta Description so that the user does not scroll down to another result. The chances of the clicks drop as you go down with the results.
Remember, the better your Meta Description, more possibility of your website to get CTR.
In the above image, you can see the search query and the Meta Description of Rankwatch.
How to write a great Meta Description Tag?
Writing a great Meta Description is really necessary as the main motive of the Meta Tags is to drive traffic or let’s say CTR’s. The main focus is laid on persuading the user to come and click on the website, i.e. to get the visitor in Google to click the link.
There are some points to be taken care of while writing a great Meta Description. Your Meta Description Tags should be applied in such a manner so that:
1) It should tell the users who you are! : The description should be well written, such that it tells the user or the audience about the web page and provides with the summary of the entire page in few lines. The description should be such that it forces the user to click the website’s link.
2) Persuasive in nature: It should be tempting enough for the users to click your Meta Description. The description should be influential in nature. It should convince the searchers to click the website. Meta description should be such that it invites a response.
3) Use correct keywords: Generally, keywords don’t play an important role for Search Engines, but it plays an important role for the users. When the user types a keyword to be searched, he wants the best results to be displayed on the SERP, which are relevant to the search query. The keywords should be correctly used on the webpage so that the user can easily locate your website.
4) Length of the description: The description should neither be short nor too long. The ideal length of the description should be somewhere between 150-155 characters, otherwise if the description is long, the description will be truncated by Google and if it’s too short, the message won’t reach out to the searchers. So, the best way is to use the length which gives the user brief information about your webpage.
5) Unique Meta Description: Don’t be a copy cat! In Meta descriptions tags, it is very important to have unique description and different Meta descriptions tags for every page to help the user to reach out to your website quickly.
6) Don’t use quotation marks: In the Meta description, quotations marks are a big NO. As soon as you use quotations marks in the description, Google automatically cuts the description. If it’s really important to put something in quotations, it’s better to use single quotes rather than double.
7) No keyword stuffing: Don’t overdo with your keywords. We know that keywords are important to make your website easily traceable by the searchers. One should remember that by stuffing the keywords, you will only deceive the searchers. Spamming the keywords by keyword stuffing will do no good to your Meta description.
8) Attractive Description: The description should be unique and should attract the eye of the searcher. The description should be interactive so that when the user reads the description, he feels that he will get his answers to his questions. If the description of the Title is boring, definitely there are quite chances of the searcher to jump on the next website.
9) Use your Meta description as your Marketing strategy: Meta descriptions are one of the ways to market your products/service, or simply providing information to the user. You need to tell why people need to visit your website. The Meta descriptions should be used as marketing message and make sure that the user is benefited by visiting your site.
Basic Format for Search Results
Let’s have a look at the basic structure of the Google search results. The organic search results will show you three things:
- Title: The first thing in the particular search result you will see is the Title which is specified in your HTML. Google extracts your Title from the page source and shows as the Title for your Webpage.
- URL: This is the second element in the search results. Google always works towards making user’s experience good. So, it tries to modify the positions of URLs by using the site’s navigational structure to provide a rough idea to the users about the sections they are heading towards.
- Description: This is the third element in the search results. Google refers this as snippet but, others (SEOs) refer to this as the ‘Meta description’ or just ‘description’. Generally, Google picks up the description you have written in the HTML Meta tag of your page but if the description does not match the query of the user, then Google automatically picks up the information from the content available on your web pages.
Some Special Elements
Google is its own master. Google can display any additional information it wants to put in and for that it doesn’t need your approval. The extra information shown by the Google is:
- Date: You may have seen in the articles that Google automatically displays a date before your short excerpt.
Here you can see the dates, as they are automatically taken up by the Google and are displayed in the Meta Description.
- Rich Snippets: Also, there is a concept of rich snippets which are given by Google. The detailed information provided to the search result is rich snippets. This information is extracted through your micro data codes which are added to your page. Rich snippets can be an image of the author, name, video or any other details of the information.
* The name of the author cannot be directly uploaded in the Google search results. To add a picture in it, one needs to add an image to a website with a description.
If you don’t have a website then:
– Upload your picture to a social network like Google+
– Add your picture to a blog with the help of Blogger
– And, you can also create your website using Google sites.
How to create a Meta Description Tag?
As we have already mentioned, Meta Descriptions should be unique. Try to provide unique Meta Description of your website for every page because if you don’t do that, Google will automatically create a Meta Description for you by extracting the information related to the search query typed by the user.
Creating or changing the Meta description does not involve much time as it is a simple process. This is due to Content Management System, meaning that to every new page we make, we can simply add the description into a Meta description box.
Your Meta description code will look like:
<meta name= “description” content= “your meta description”/>
In the image below the description you see is the default meta description which is set by the webmaster:
In the image below, the description which is shown to you is the description which is taken by the Google according to the search query typed by the user. This happens when the search query is not relevant to the default Meta description, Google automatically extracts the relevant description, giving the user best results which match with the searcher’s query.
For example, the user puts the query as “Identify and optimize keywords bringing traffic but keywords you are not aware”.
Problems faced by users in Meta description tags:
1) What If Google doesn’t pick my description?
At times, Google may not pick up the Meta description of your webpage. This could happen due to a various reasons like:
- Keywords– The keywords used in the Meta description don’t match with the keywords which are in the content on your website or if the keywords are stuffed.
- Duplicate description– If you submit the same Meta description for more than one page of your website, Google will regard it as duplicate and will instead automatically pull out some other descriptions related to the query typed by the user from your website or from the directory.
- Open Directory Project (DMOZ) – Google displays the Meta description taken from DMOZ, if Google feels that the description submitted to DMOZ (AOL Open Directory) is more appropriate than the Meta description given by webmaster for the site. We have an option to block Google from using this description by giving the following Meta Tag to the <head> section:
<meta name=”robots” content=”NOODP”>
- We can also use the WordPress SEO plugin.
*Generic– If the Meta description is very generic and not too specific to the content on your site. Generic Meta description may make your site appear unimportant to the user or even spammy.
*Summary– Meta description should not be a summary of the content on the web page. It should be unique.
Basically, the Search Engines pick up snippets from three places:
– META descriptions
– On-page copy
– Open Directory Project (ODP) data
The last thing you could do is to leave that at Google because Google always concentrates on good user experience and until and unless you are doing that, you have nothing to worry about.
2) How can you use another description for social sharing?
If you want to use any other description for social sharing, you need to check the social tab in the box on edit pages of WordPress SEO. By any chance, if you don’t have, you can add OpenGraph tags or Twitter Cards to your website and you are all ready to use any description you want to use.
Tools to find problems in your existing Meta description.
Google Webmaster Tool
RankWatch Site Auditor
Tools that generate snippet previews
SEO mofo : The URL for SEO mofo snippet tool is http://www.seomofo.com/snippet-optimizer.html
RankWatch : The URL for RankWatch snippet tool is https://www.rankwatch.com/snippet/optimizer.html
Do’s and Don’ts of Meta description:
- DO WRITE META DESCRIPTION: Just because Google doesn’t use Meta tags, as a ranking parameter, the act of not writing a Meta tag would be a mere loss of prospective traffic that you could have gotten, if you had written Meta tags! So always remember- META DESCRIPTION IS A MUST!
- DO PUT KEYWORDS: Putting keywords in your Meta Description would help the Search Engines to find your page easily, whenever a query related to it is typed in by the user.
- DO USE A LANGUAGE THAT CALLS OUT FOR ACTION: Use a language that calls out to the users, and compels them to click on the site and go for the purchase/related action. Always remember, if the content is beautiful, it will automatically sell itself.
- DO PROVIDE A SOLUTION OR A BENEFIT: Frame your Meta Description in a way so that when the users see it, they get a reason (they should get a benefit out of it in terms of the satisfaction of their needs/queries) to click on it.
- DO LINK YOUR WEBSITE WITH GOOGLE+ PAGE FOR RICH SNIPPETS: It makes it look attractive and of course, DIFFERENT. Now, that’s the whole point of SEO that it should make you different from the thousands of websites out there. These little tiny tricks can work wonders for you.
- DON’T OVERDO THE KEYWORDS: Excess of anything is bad! Suppose you have dog grooming business, and in your meta tags, you put, we have amazing dogs grooming products, check out the amazing dog grooming products and a couple of other same stuff, do u think as a user, you would give it another look?
- DON’T EXCEED THE WORD/PIXEL LIMIT: You don’t want to look incomplete! Always remember incomplete information does you more harm. Suppose you have an amazing meta tag, but on the SERPs, its only displaying what product/service you are offering and not showing what benefits your product/service can do to the user, it might lead the user to go on to some other site.
- DON’T DECEIVE THE USERS: They are smarter than you think! You play with them once, and they are never coming to your website again. So, write authentic content which is actually related to your site. Inspire curiosity, but always take the right path.
- DON’T DUPLICATE YOUR META CONTENT- Keep different Meta contents for different pages. Reading the same thing again and again is the last thing that the user wants.
- DON’T USE QUOTATIONS: If you are not a programmer, this thing is not for you. The saying- ‘Something is better than nothing’ doesn’t work here. So avoid quotations, if you are not tech savvy. The reason to not use quotations marks in the description is that Google will automatically truncate it. If it’s really important to put something in quotations, it’s better to use single quotes rather than double.
In the end, it has been concluded that Meta description tag is a strong factor of On-page optimization as it improves overall rankings of SEO. We should not neglect Meta tags as it is the only medium which can link the search query with the user. It is an only connection between the search result and the visitor.
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Great read! Love the details in has gone into.
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