Choosing effective meta description tags is a lot like crafting conversion-friendly titles, in that the driving quality is no longer skewed towards gaming search engine algorithms and is now more cleanly focused on enticing readers to click through. When Google, Yahoo and Bing display snippets below your title tag on the search engine results pages, they draw this content from one of two places: the meta description tag that you provide specifically for this purpose or an excerpt from your page’s content. It’s preferable to you, the search engines and your customers for you to craft a readable, descriptive and accurate snippet to accompany your search engine listing and writing a good meta description tag is the first step in achieving just that. Here are a few essential tips for creating clickable meta description tags:
1. Follow HTML Conventions
While not absolutely vital, it’s best to feed search engine spiders information in the manner they are accustomed to reading it. This means including the meta tag within the <HEAD> tag and just after the <TITLE> tag. So, it might look like this in your HTML editor:
<TITLE>On-site SEO: 5 Tips for Effective Meta Description Tags</TITLE>
<META name=”description” content=”A quick guide on how to craft click-worthy search engine snippets.”>
If you change this up a bit, it’s unlikely that the search engine will completely miss it. But it’s better not to chance it.
2. Avoid Ellipses
If your meta description tag is too long, it’ll be displayed with ellipses, making it look like an incomplete thought and a poorly crafted description. The major search engines will only display around 150 characters of your snippet. However, with that in mind, note that Google has officially stated that it doesn’t care if your snippet is 260 characters or 74 characters long as long as its descriptive and relevant. They’ll still use it, but just the first 150 characters. So, if you’d like to include a longer meta description, feel free. But just make sure it cuts off at a logical point around the 150 character mark.
3. Include Keywords Strategically
Keyword density in your meta tag won’t affect your search engine ranking (according to Google), but including key phrases in your meta description where it’s logical and natural has a couple benefits:
- Key phrases are bolded when snippets are displayed in Google search results, which makes your listing stand out a bit more.
- Having a key phrase in your meta description increases the chances that your meta description will be used as a snippet, rather than an excerpt from your page.
- If you’ve chosen good keywords, using them in your meta tag will help create a descriptive, relevant snippet.
With that being said, avoid keyword stuffing your meta description at all costs. Doing so won’t benefit your search ranking, click through rate or your chances of having your meta description used as your snippet in the least. On a related note, make sure you don’t unnecessarily repeat any words from your title. Your snippet will always be displayed along with your title, so doing so is not only redundant, but clunky and potentially spammy.
4. Create Unique Descriptions
This means unique to other listings and unique to your own website content as well. Don’t reproduce boilerplate content for each page, as this will lessen your chances of having your meta description displayed as well as make it more difficult for search engine users to discern what each specific page is about. Take time to create a relevant, specific and descriptive tag for each page. For example, instead of making all of your meta descriptions about how great your company is, tailor your “About Us” meta description to highlight an interesting fact about your history, promote your sales on your “Products” description and include your phone number in your “Contact Us” description.
5. Include a Call to Action
This was hinted at above, but it bears repeating. Just like your title tag is an opportunity to include a pitch or tagline, so too is your meta description. Treat your meta description like you would a one-line, 150 character ad in a magazine or newspaper. Tell them what you do, promise that you’re the best (or make some other compelling offer) and tell them what to do to get what you offer (call or click).
If you take nothing else away from this lesson, remember this: crafting your meta description tags with care pays. Although it won’t appear on your actual webpage, a descriptive, useful description tag is smiled upon by search engines and resonates better with potential customers. Give each page’s meta description the attention to detail it deserves.