Why You Should Be Working on Meta Descriptions
You know what a meta description is, right? It’s that line or two of text, describing a web page, that appears below the title and URL of a site in search engine results.
And it’s important.
When you’re creating content marketing, it might not seem that important. You’re wrapped up in putting a catchy title on your content because that’s the first line, what searchers will initially see and what search engines will seize on for keyword relevance.
So you come up with a catchy title for the content you’re about to host, and you hurriedly fill in the meta description field. If you’re SEO savvy, you might pause for a moment to make sure you include the keywords in the meta description.
And you will have made a mistake.
Maybe you were taught wrong. Maybe you just made assumptions. So maybe it’s not entirely your fault. But here’s something there’s no maybe about: Keywords in the meta description mean nothing, but the meta description means more than some content marketers probably know.
Algorithms don’t care about your keywords here
You cannot improve your search engine rank by stuffing your meta description full of keywords. Google’s algorithms do NOT take into account keywords in the meta description. In the title, or headline, yes. But in the meta description, no.
This might seem counterintuitive, but it doesn’t matter. The Golden Rule is “He who has the gold makes the rules,” and this is how Google, which holds all the gold, rules. In fact, there is no part of the meta description that Google cares about.
So if your search engine ranking position (SERP) is not dependent at all on your meta description, then why should you spend valuable time crafting it? The answer is simple: Those doing the searching care.
It’s been estimated that about 22 percent of searchers determine whether or not to click on a result based on the meta description. Think about your own search habits. Aren’t you more likely to click on a result with a meta description that confirms relevance or draws you in?
The title of the page and even its URL rank it up via the search engines, which means this is where keywords matter, but human behavior dictates that almost 1 in 4 people decide to click on it based on the meta description. That makes it important, if only because of the circular nature of SERP – your ranking improves with more clicks, and your clicks improve with a higher ranking. So meta descriptions can be the linchpin in content marketing that relies on SERP.
How to capitalize on this
You now know you can’t keyword-stuff to improve the performance of the meta description. So what can you do? Here are some tips:
• Use active, not passive voice – Example: “The best content marketers write great meta descriptions.” The subject performs the action on the object. The passive-voice example would be: “Great meta descriptions are written by the best content marketers.”
• It’s a slightly longer tweet – Posts on Twitter are 140 characters, which means you have only so much space make something compelling. In a meta description, you have about 155 characters. It should be at least as compelling.
• Treat it like a subhead – You’ve probably read a news headline that made you kind of want to read more, but you’re not quite sure if it’s worth your time. Then you read the subhead, which reveals a little more and makes you more curious, and you are drawn in. That’s what a meta description should do. Tease, but don’t give the goods away completely. Explain, but don’t explain everything.
The internet is always changing, and marketers have to keep adapting. Right now, meta descriptions don’t directly drive the machine behavior you might be after, but they DO drive human behavior. And humans, not machines (probably) are your customers or clients.